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The formal dining room has a long history.

Let’s face it, we’re all getting mighty familiar with the nooks and crannies of our homes this year. As you work from home and shelter in place, perhaps you’ve found yourself using your dining room as makeshift office or classroom instead of just home to the occasional fancy family meal or dinner party.

But, before the coronavirus outbreak may have sent you searching for new places to work in your home, some designers were asking if formal dining rooms were on their way out altogether. And, depending on the size and style of your space, perhaps you’ve forgone the formal dining option already.

Interior designer Jane Lockhart noted in a blog post on her website that the recent trend toward open floor plans has made the designated formal dining room less of a staple in homes. However, the room has a long history, which is why we dug through the Private Quarters archives to bring you a variety of dining rooms we have featured throughout the years in a wide range of styles.

Lockhart notes that in medieval times, the dining room was a very important status symbol, where families gathered for strict, formal meals. In more recent times, most homes had a designated dining room outfitted with either a round or rectangular table, matching chairs and a china cabinet and buffet.

However, in the last couple decades, Lockhart notes that this trend has changed. This is, in part, because of the rise of technology.

“Distractions like radios, TVs, commuting, busy lives, almost everything seemed to take attention away from the eating together, conversing … and making eye contact,” Lockhart writes. “With fewer diners at home at the same time, the dinner table became a symbol of neglect.”

For most busy Americans, their formal dining areas became reserved for special occasions like a holiday meal. Perhaps you’d break out the special dishes and set the table a couple times a year, if that.

“The dining room table became a desk, a sorting table for laundry, almost anything but a place to dine,” Lockhart writes. “Every holiday or special occasion meant clearing off the debris on the table, dusting off the fine china, only to see it go back into disuse after the meal was over.”

As lifestyles have become less formal, so has the style of gathering to eat in our homes.

Today’s dining rooms are more likely to come in a variety of styles. Rather than a matching set of dining room furntiture, many homeowners now look to colorful chairs, funky lighting options and bench seating to make their dining table a centerpiece in an open floor plan.

But, despite the change, Lockhart notes that trends tend to rise and fall.

And now, as folks may be desperate for community and connection, the rise of the dining room may well return.