Category: House & Heart

Why We No Longer Have a Dining Room

We spent a large portion of this summer unsure if we were going to move or not, courtesy of Uncle Sam. We’ve since received word that we are staying put for the time being and we recently learned that there is a possibility that we could be staying in the area even longer.  Not a big deal, right? After all, we love the Washington DC area, we adore our neighborhood, we love the East Coast, etc… And while there are somethings that we’d change about our house if we owned it, we really do feel at home here and have no major complaints.

However, when we moved in – we did so with the understanding that we’d be living here only for one year. Therefore, furniture placement wasn’t a huge deal because we knew we’d be packing up all of our worldly belongings approximately 365 days later and schlepping them somewhere else in the world. And the fact that the designated dining room didn’t really fit our beloved harvest table wasn’t terribly concerning because we could make anything work for a year, right?

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dining room – fall 2017

“It’s a little tight…” 

Pictured is the dining room a few weeks after moving in. It’s hard to tell from this picture but it is almost impossible to walk around the table and in order to so, one must turn sideways and shimmy by the chairs. Clay’s parents gave us the table when they retired to North Carolina soon after our wedding. It was handmade in New England and used in their Ohio home for years and we’ve been happy to call it ours for the past 14 years. During our time at Fort Leavenworth, I purchased the six chairs for $100 from a PCS-ing military family and refinished the chair backs myself with discontinued fabric.

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living room/dining room – spring 2018

We never used the dining room because it was pretty much impossible to do so. That’s why back in the spring, I rearranged some furniture (one of my favorite activities – not even joking) and moved the dining room table into our oversized living room and made the dining room into a quasi-office.

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office – spring 2018

Give me hygge. 

This solution was better than our previous arrangement but the table still felt like it was just in the way, rather than a functional piece of furniture. Our house simply wasn’t hygge. Have you heard of hygge (pronounced hue-guh)? For those who haven’t – the trendy word has infiltrated the design landscape over the past few years. It is a Danish concept described as “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” Basically it is a way of living/decorating that celebrates coziness, shared meals, and intentional interactions with family and friends (for those wondering, I haven’t forgotten about my Year of Intention, I promise!).

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living room – fall 2018

Last week, when Clay and I learned about the possibility of staying in our home for longer than we originally anticipated, we discussed ways to make our house feel more like a home, rather than just a temporary stop-over on our way to more grand adventures. We debated the merits of just eliminating the formal dining space all together because we eat all of our meals in the kitchen. In fact, the idea having a huge table eat up valuable square footage for the rare times our entertaining involves fancy sit-down meals seemed silly the more we talked about it. So we sold the chairs (they were too big for the table anyway), removed the table, and completely flipped the living room around. We love it. I still have some finishing touches to put in the space but it just feels so much more like us than it did before.

What about our harvest table? 

Our storage space is limited in this house so we knew we’d have to get creative. We explored the option of removing the legs and sliding it underneath our bed but after some quick measurements, it was apparent that option wouldn’t work. We knew that we didn’t want to sell the table because we really do love it and because it is a harvest table, it can be quite versatile. For those wondering, a harvest table is a type of table that dates back to the Colonial days. It often has drop leaves on the sides, which is the case with our table. Therefore, it can be narrow or wide. However, our table can’t be used to dine at with the drop leaves down because there isn’t enough clearance for a chair.

That is when I had an idea…

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You see – I’ve been wanting an extra-long desk for years but their cost and the fact that they’re cumbersome to move have prevented me from biting the bullet.  I’ve also been wanting the kids to have their own computer station in the office. So I moved the harvest table to the office, dropped one leaf down and unscrewed the other leaf from it’s hinges. I taped the hinges in a baggie to the 7 foot by 8 inch piece of wood and moved it to the small storage space in the basement. And before I knew it, I had a 7 foot long and 25 inch deep work space.

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office – fall 2018

Is it perfect? No. Is it 100% functional and free? Yes! My old desk and computer (which just sat on a shelf previously) is now the kids’ computer and workspace. I want to add a gallery wall above my desk and add a few more pieces but it is for sure a major improvement from what this room was when we first moved in. It took us a bit of time and a couple of furniture arrangements to get to this point but like most things in life – furniture placement is rarely nailed on the first try.

Channel your inner-Tim Gunn and ‘make it work’.

We no longer use our formal dining room as a dining space. Heck – now we don’t even have a formal dining space (on a related topic – check out this Cubed article about how we don’t need formal spaces anymore). Moving around as much as we do has forced us to get creative when it comes to decorating with furniture purchased three, seven, or ten homes ago. We don’t always find a house that meets all of our needs and we tend to settle for ‘good enough’ in order to get the components that are most important to us. Our beloved harvest table simply didn’t fit in this house, no matter how hard we tried. And the lack of storage space meant we had to get creative if we wanted to keep it to have for a future home. And that is how I channeled my inner-Tim Gunn and ended up with the extra-long workspace that I’ve been wanting for quite some time.

So that is the story of why we no longer have a dining room. And I couldn’t be more tickled.

Thumbs Up for a Good Year

One of the many benefits of our children attending a true neighborhood school is that the majority of the student population are walkers. This means that every weekday morning and afternoon during the school year, the neighborhood sidewalks are filled with kids, parents, and family pets. There is something so comforting about being a member of a community – regardless of how well you know each member individually. It’s nice to just see familiar faces and be able to wave hello without needing to necessarily know their name.

first day of school, third grade and kindergarten

Today marked the first day of school. Despite the record heat index and soup-like humidity, members of the community poured out into the streets this morning. Clay was able to delay the start of his workday and join us on the walk to school. We waved to familiar faces, carried on conversations with people we knew, and even met a few new neighbors. We are so incredibly proud of our not-so-little third grader and eager kindergartner – we pray that their school year be filled with curiosity, compassion, and community.

At their school, a thumbs up confirmation system is employed when picking up kindergartners at the end of the day. Parents mill around the front of the school – laughing, discussing, and gossiping – waiting for the final bell to ring. I was alone for the bulk of the day – absolutely relishing in the silence and taking full advantage of being able to cross-off items on both my work and personal to-do lists without being interrupted by anyone but myself. I even spruced up this space!

I found it fitting that I ended my first child-free day with a thumbs up in a crowd. I have no doubt that it means that it is going to be a good year.