Every time I watch HGTV, I giggle at the “must haves” of the young couple searching for a new home. Everybody, it seems, needs a large formal dining room for entertaining.
Now that Thanksgiving is over and many of us are staring at leftovers and wondering how long a pumpkin pie will last if properly refrigerated, I’m wondering instead about all the TV people and whether their dining rooms went to good use.
So many House Hunters also seem to live close to their extended families and if that’s your situation too, I understand the need to set aside space for dinner for 12 a few times a year.
In fact, I have a friend in Alexandria who graciously hosts up to 30 people who would otherwise be alone. Her dining room is only 10×10, but by inserting two table leaves and adding five card tables, she can stretch her seating area in an L-shape from the dining room into the living room of her 1,100-square-foot condo.
But most of the time I find that because of our urban environment, we tend to travel to visit our families in other states during the holidays instead of hosting such events here.
Thanksgiving dinners are very popular at our local restaurants too. Perhaps you had a traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings as I did. Maybe you opted for the more exotic pumpkin hummus and chestnut gnocchi. Ordering brunch at home via UberEATS or Grubhub was also a good plan.
I have lots of clients who ask for the “chef’s kitchen,” even though they freely admit they don’t cook anything but quinoa and avocado toast. For many the clean, white cabinets, marble countertops, and stainless steel appliances define success.
For several years there has been a trend among our local builders and renovators, particularly in condominium development, to eliminate the traditional dining room in favor of open living spaces and breakfast bars.
Rather than designing floor plans that include a room likely to remain empty for 95 percent of the year, we have found alternative uses for the space. Here are some suggestions.
The Bring Your Work Home Room. Who among us hasn’t yearned to leave the office with a briefcase or backpack full of work to do at home? Dump those papers on the former dining room table, change into something more comfortable (like underwear), and pour yourself an adult beverage. Then you can open your laptop and alternate screens between spreadsheets and porn without the boss looking over your shoulder.
The Lousy Day Room. Lousy days. We’ve all had them. We struggle with horrible bosses, promotions that go to someone less experienced, learning that a coveted vacation has been canceled, and of course my personal favorite, traffic. Pick your poison and wash the day away by installing a wet bar with wine refrigerator or turn the unnecessary dining room into a grow room. You can buy a personal use tent with ventilation kit and lighting for under $1,000.
The Beefcake Room. Whether it’s bathing suit season in Bali, a marathon run in Manhattan, or just dining at Le Diplomate, we all want to look and feel our best, so grab your favorite narcissist and plan this room together. You’ll probably want to include a stationary bike, a treadmill, and a set of free weights. Add a tanning bed, then decorate the room with mirrors on every wall and, of course, your before and after pictures.
The Binging Room. For that “big screen” experience at home, you can purchase and install an upgradeable 98” 4K Ultra HD TV for a mere $9,000. If your budget has no room for bona fide theater chairs (with cup holders, of course), you can always use your leftover dining room chairs. And don’t forget to get a home theater popcorn machine – they’re available online for less than $300.
The Petting Room. Do you have a small, furry friend (or a large one)? Well, now they can have their own room where you can both enjoy a game of Cat and Mouse followed by the Downward Dog and other yoga poses. You’ll need a cat tree, a dog collar, and a harness. Be sure that your pets have a supply of water and treats – you may have to lock them in their room if they’ve been bad.
I’m sure you can come up with many more uses for the antiquated dining room, but for now I must run. HGTV is featuring the shower vs. bathtub debate. Stay tuned.
Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C, Maryland and Virginia and Director of Education & Mentorship at Real Living| At Home. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.