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What to do with my formal dining room


Aspasia
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If your house has a formal dining room, do you use it as such? Part of me thinks it would be nice to have a really pretty dining room, but most of me thinks it wouldn't be a very good use of our space. I mean, we aren't very formal people. We do love entertaining, but we only do it once or twice a month (what is that space for the other 28 days, you know?) and we don't mind entertaining in our kitchen.

 

At our new house, we were thinking of using the dining room as a library, and maybe putting French doors on the entrance from the center hall. We were maybe going to put the computer desk in there, too, but I don't think there is enough room for that AND all of our books (I need 18-20 feet of wall space, floor to ceiling, for our books). Now that I've decided against the computer desk, dh doesn't love the library idea. He says that just makes it one more room that's just for sitting (like living room).

 

If we don't put our books in there, where should we put them? We are going to use the "library" on this floor plan as our school room. I was thinking maybe the master bedroom, which is honestly just ridiculously huge, and we don't have the furniture to fill it up. The only reason I don't like that is that all of us tend to think about our books less when they're out of sight like that. The other option is to maybe use that wall in the family room that backs up to the stairs. I don't think it will be quite long enough, but I could make some adjustments to my book plans. I like putting the books in their own special room, though, because as much as I love looking at all of our books, sometimes the visual clutter can get to be a little much. I like clean, open spaces. So putting them in the formal dining room is nice because they're in their own room, but it's a room that people walk past, near, and through frequently.

 

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Anyway, what do you all think? You guys are good at pointing out considerations that I may not think of.

 

*Sigh* First world problems.

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The formal dining room in our house currently hosts our dog crates. Classy, huh? Eventually it will be part of the kitchen, and the formal sitting room that is the playroom will be a library/formal dining room with built in bookshelves all around. I want to do a section with glass doors for a china cabinet, but the rest will be books. I've always wanted a library with a rolling ladder...

 

There's an informal dining area that's part of the family room/attached to the kitchen, so we're not eating off the dog crates or anything. ;)

 

Edited: To answer your question, you could do built-ins in the formal dining room and use it for both a library and a dining space. The one in my head has a mix of chairs and a table with removable leaves. Oh, and there's a built in cubby to store the leaves.

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I like the idea of a room "for sitting" that is focused around books. That doesn't mean it's only for books. In my (imaginary!) dream home, I see a room that has walls of books, but also a craft table and art supplies, and an enclosed computer cabinet.

 

I like the view of a wall of shelved books -- well-shelved books are not clutter to me. Other things that get shoved onto the shelves just 'cause... yeah, that's clutter; but the books themselves, in good condition, side by side and maybe some pretty book ends -- that's decor. In my opinion even if it is going to be a 'dining room' with a table etc, a wall of bookshelves is a perfectly acceptable decorative accent wall.

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I have thought of putting the book shelves in there with the dining table. I have looked at lots of Pinterest pictures like that and I like it. I've also seen pictures where there's a wall of books and a big curtain that can be drawn across it. That's good for me, because sometimes the big wall of books can feel heavy in a room. It would be nice to pull a flowy white curtain across them sometimes.

 

But I've always loved the idea of having a library, with some comfy chairs and an ottoman. Ahhhhh. And this room has a huge window and gets really good light. It's perfect for a library. Ultimately, dh let's me do whatever I want to do, but I do like him to be happy, too.

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It's a bad idea for any homeschooler to have books in only one room.

 

I'm pretty new at this, so could you expand on that?

 

I am planning to put books that are very much "for school" (like children's science, history, foreign language, etc) in the school room. The library would have all the adult non-fiction books (not "adult" books!), fiction books (both adult and children's), adult reference-type books, and all the kids' picture books facing forward on the bottom two shelves, with board books in baskets. I just want to have a place that says, "Hey, come hang out in this cozy room and pick any book that calls to you--they're all right here in this place, with comfy chairs and good lighting."

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I love our formal dining room. We only use it once or twice a month, but I don't feel it's wasted space. It's the room where we celebrate holidays and special occasions. It's the room where we break out the white tablecloths and china. It's the room where we make memories.

 

If you don't want a dining room, though, I love the idea of a beautiful formal library. I'm picturing quality floor-to-ceiling bookcases and a couple Queen Anne armchairs (maybe on either side of the window to capture the natural light).

 

Is your family musical? Another idea would be to create a music room. I have seen several homes where a beautiful grand piano was put in that space, and it was really striking.

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I like having books in several areas of the house, not just one. We have a large office with two walls of books, but we also have bookshelves in each -four bedrooms--and what used to be the schoolroom.

 

I did have a friend who made the dining room into a library. When she sold her home, she put in a beautiful dining table and a lovely stack of books on it as a centerpiece. She had a border of wallpaper in a book pattern (back when borders were popular). She had remove able bookshelves and just packed up the books and shelves when she staged the house.

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Yes! The plan is to have the two chairs in front of the window (which actually covers almost that entire wall on the elevation we chose).

 

We are musical, but we're going to put the piano, guitar, and flute in the living room. (Not a grand piano yet, but that will look lovely someday!)

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I use my formal dining room, but we have a formal living room directly across from the dining room. We use the formal living room as a school room, then we have the dining room table (which is sturdy pine, not something I have to worry about kids ruining) to use for extra space if/when necessary.

 

Eta: I have books all over the house. My bookcases would not actually fit in one room.

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Hmm, this goes counter to your desire for open, clean spaces but I think I'd use the Formal Dining Room as the homeschool room. I say that because it's central to the areas you're more likely to find yourself (kitchen, laundry). I'd still do the french doors off of the foyer, maintaining that library feel. If you're a messier homeschooler (as I am, especially with younger elementary-aged students!) you could put a cinched sheer against the french doors, or even use contact paper to make a temporary opaque view on each pane of the french door.

 

Then I'd use the library as a library, complete with computer desk. It'd be nice to have that area a bit more removed from the heart of the home to relax and retreat to in those comfy armchairs and wall of books. Maybe pay bills or email in peace or enjoy a private phone call or adult conversation ... sort of a sitting room, but help DH see it more for what it really could be: an adult retreat. Sitting, optional. ;)

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We would end up using the Dining Room on your floor plan as the Office/Home school room with the computers. The "LIbrary" would probably end up being a Gaming/Work out room with the treadmill and the kids Nintendo in there with a couch. The dining room has that nice long wall on the garage side for a white board and bookshelves :)

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Our formal dining room serves as a library (8 book shelves, a small computer desk, a full-size pull-out sofa, and a very small table with 4 chairs.) I like it that way :D We actually do most of our school in our morning room (off the kitchen), which has two large bookshelves...our family room has 5 additional book shelves...and there are a few more shelves in the kids' rooms...lol. The office we use as dh and my office (4 more book shelves in there).

 

i keep regular school books (in use, all of our math, dictionaries and art books) in the morning room. The dining room holds all of our historical fiction, and most of our non-fiction, science curricula and resources, history curricula and resources, English/Speech curricula, Latin & foreign language as well as political books, Religion and Church history are in the family room (along with my scrapbook albums), the little kid books (board, picture, short-stories, and miscellaneous books I don't consider "literature...ha!) are on one book case in family room by the upstairs play area for Boo and Blondie. The kids keep special series and books in progress upstairs in their rooms (special series include my set of Little House books that are 30 years old, or a series the kids got for their birthdays). Books in the office are related to either my work or dh and my hobbies. Cookbooks are on the shelves in the kitchen island...but I got rid of half of those!

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We use our "formal dining room" as The Music Room. We keep the piano, flute and toddler music instruments in there. The living room became The Library and it now serves as the school room (since we gave up the "Conservatory"/4 Season room as a school room because we could not keep it cool enough for summer school).

 

I just love having a "Music Room" and a "Library" in an otherwise "modest ranch.":smile:

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I'd go with an informal dining room/library combo. Decorate it like an old library with a big, distressed table. Treat it like a much-loved, well-worn library . . . antique maps on the wall . . . a pretty globe. USE it as a library/school room and when you DO have company, it can be a charming place to host dinner. A big table, comfortable seating, and comforting surroundings make for nice dinner parties. We actually eat in the dining room more than in the kitchen. I'm a messy cook and I don't want to see the mess while I'm having dinner. We can easily spend an hour at he table with just us. Company lingers there for hours. Big comfy seats are key.

 

EAF6B892-B97A-4951-96D1-F38CE71B8206-7987-000016EEC3BB56A6.jpg

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So, why wouldn't you put the books in the room you're using as a school room? :confused1: Having always had to school at the kitchen table, I'm trying to imagine why your school stuff would take up a whole room such that you couldn't put books on shelves in it. :confused1:

 

I love having a formal dining room. I use it whenever possible.

 

ETA: Honestly, the floor plan makes me drool with envy. To have a separate, formal living room *plus* a formal dining room *plus* a family room *plus* a library that opens onto the family room, such that most homeschool stuff could go on in there but still be close to the rest of the house would be heaven to me. :-)

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So, why wouldn't you put the books in the room you're using as a school room? :confused1: Having always had to school at the kitchen table, I'm trying to imagine why your school stuff would take up a whole room such that you couldn't put books on shelves in it. :confused1:

 

I love having a formal dining room. I use it whenever possible.

 

ETA: Honestly, the floor plan makes me drool with envy. To have a separate, formal living room *plus* a formal dining room *plus* a family room *plus* a library that opens onto the family room, such that most homeschool stuff could go on in there but still be close to the rest of the house would be heaven to me. :-)

 

Well, that was the original plan, to put the books in the school room, but there just isn't room. I'm definitely kicking myself for not getting that 6' extension. And honestly, most of our books (like 90%) are of no use to elementary age children. About a third of them are really dense international relations and economics books (dh's field and passion), and then the others are philosophy (again, very dense), parenting books, etc. We do have quite a bit of fiction, too. I just don't think that books that have no use to my kids deserve space in what will already be a tight school room.

 

Our school stuff that will be taking up space includes lots of math manipulatives, art and craft supplies, maps and graphics for the walls (which bar bookcases), globe, space for ongoing science projects/subjects of observation (like the butterfly habitat, for example), a white board (which again bars bookcases. Oh, and we need a table to work at in the middle of the room. All of that stuff along the walls, combined with a rather large window occupying an entire wall, doesn't leave room for book cases.

 

And this floor plan is definitely heaven for me! I'm still pinching myself, because it feels too good to be true.

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Wow. We live in 1200 sq ft and I sometimes wish I had these problems. (Not saying that in a snarky way at all! It looks like you are building a great house here!).

 

I was going to say to get that 6' extension, use that room as the library (and/or music room depending on your family culture) and see if you can open that room to the family room instead of the hall or whatever. Then school in the formal dining room since that is bigger and, I'm guessing brighter, and more central.

 

Sounds like it's too late for the extension but I'd probably still do that plan. Or maybe school in the living room and make the dining room the living room?

 

I also really like Kung Fu Panda's idea. We have a "formal dining room" but our kitchen isn't big enough for all of us to eat in. I can just barely feed the kids lunch in there on an organized day. The dining room is also the library and school room. Down the road we'll be using more of our multi-family house for our own family and we'll have then a (still very small but slightly bigger) eat-in kitchen. Which will really just allow me to feed a couple more kids for lunch. And a dining room. But the current dining/school/library room will still be the school/library room and I like that those things are a central part of the flow of our home.

 

We love entertaining and do it a lot and I love the formal dining room for seating a lot of people at one table. But it's definitely not everyone's thing. You can always switch the rooms down the road. Once your kids are grown and having families you won't need the school room and you can convert it to a big dining room to use when everyone comes home.

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I'd go with an informal dining room/library combo. Decorate it like an old library with a big, distressed table. Treat it like a much-loved, well-worn library . . . antique maps on the wall . . . a pretty globe. USE it as a library/school room and when you DO have company, it can be a charming place to host dinner. A big table, comfortable seating, and comforting surroundings make for nice dinner parties. We actually eat in the dining room more than in the kitchen. I'm a messy cook and I don't want to see the mess while I'm having dinner. We can easily spend an hour at he table with just us. Company lingers there for hours. Big comfy seats are key.

 

EAF6B892-B97A-4951-96D1-F38CE71B8206-7987-000016EEC3BB56A6.jpg

 

I would totally go with this idea if the dining room were a little bigger. Given the number of square feet in that dining area, I would feel claustrophobic with a wall of books. Also, if you were ever going to try to use the space for dining, you'd want flat surfaces for the dishes, a side table or buffet.

 

My preference is to have the books I'm currently using, plus reference books, in the school room, and all the other books in our (very teeny tiny) library. So if this were my house I'd use the smaller library as a library, then use the dining room as the school room.

 

Wow, I'd love to have this challenge!

 

Oh, and something else to think about his light. Our "living room" is the largest space in the house, but on the north side, and poorly configured for use as a school room. You walk in the front door into that room. So we use it as our dining space and use the "dining room" as a living room -- although, actually, it's more like a "reading room" because it's adjacent to the school room (12 x 12) which was added on to the house.

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If you don't entertain often, I'd be inclined to make the formal dining room your school room and use the butler's pantry space as storage for school supplies...put the printer on the countertop and use the above shelves for art supplies, dangerous chemicals, and other things you definitely don't want little kids getting into.

 

I'd work the lighting so that your dining room table is between the kitchen and the living room...like you see in a lot of IKEA layouts.

 

I'd leave the library as the library.

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What about putting a big bookshelf on the wall where the stairwell is? You can't put much of anything else there. Seems as if you could put another bookshelf on the wall between the family room and the library.

 

I've thought about putting them on that family room wall that backs up to the stairs. I don't think it would be quite long enough, but I could put some books somewhere else, too. That other wall, between family room and library, is where the TV will be. But it is long enough, I suppose we could put some books there. Hmmm...

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It's a bad idea for any homeschooler to have books in only one room.

 

 

 

I might have books all over the house, but I want to know where the books I use for school are.

 

We have different types of books in every room. My dh has his shelves of Bibles and other religious texts, plus works of literature he likes. I've got shelves of stuff on homeopathy and herbal medicine, shelves of cookbooks, etc. The kids have shelves in each bedroom completely filled. Oldest ds has filled 3, four foot Billy shelves, plus he's got a laundry basket full and did you know dressers are not for clothing (his drawers are full of books). He really needs to thin out his books, but he is pained to think about getting rid of any of them.

 

But I know where the school books are. I know where the literature my dd needs for English is, etc. If you have a school room I'd keep the school books there. Sure the kids may take the books into other rooms at different time do there work, but at clean up the school books have a specific home. Doing that makes it a lot easier for me.

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I've thought about putting them on that family room wall that backs up to the stairs. I don't think it would be quite long enough, but I could put some books somewhere else, too. That other wall, between family room and library, is where the TV will be. But it is long enough, I suppose we could put some books there. Hmmm...

 

Surely the TV won't take up the whole wall?

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Is this a photograph of your own home? I'm trying not to drool all over my hands as I type (out of envy, I mean). That photo is BEAUTIFUL !

 

 

 

I'd go with an informal dining room/library combo. Decorate it like an old library with a big, distressed table. Treat it like a much-loved, well-worn library . . . antique maps on the wall . . . a pretty globe. USE it as a library/school room and when you DO have company, it can be a charming place to host dinner. A big table, comfortable seating, and comforting surroundings make for nice dinner parties. We actually eat in the dining room more than in the kitchen. I'm a messy cook and I don't want to see the mess while I'm having dinner. We can easily spend an hour at he table with just us. Company lingers there for hours. Big comfy seats are key.

 

EAF6B892-B97A-4951-96D1-F38CE71B8206-7987-000016EEC3BB56A6.jpg

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I would use the dining room for a school room. I would put book cases on part of the walls, and make that the 'kid library'. I would make part of the shelves extra deep to hold things like manipulatives, games, etc.

 

I would line all the walls in the library with bookcases that have doors for everything else. I would put in the kids toys in baskets and use it to hold those things that I wanted to put away when I wasn't using it. The kids easel, exercise balls, ride-on-indoor-toys, etc.

 

Right now it is 11x10. If you line 3 walls with bookcases, your room will be only 9x10. That is pretty small for homeschooling active young kids, to me. It doesn't look like it has a lot of light (unless that window is really tall) and I would feel a bit cramped in there. Especially as the kids get a bit older and you need larger furniture for them.

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I love the idea of a central library -- you still might have books in other places, especially schoolbooks in current use, but a quiet space with comfy chairs/couch where people can read. . . That is nice. We have a space in our house that is a large-ish hallway -- not enough space to be a full room but too big to waste as just a hallway. So it is our library; it houses most of our books and a couch. The kids definitely do spend a lot of time just looking at or reading random books up there.

 

In your case, I would probably make that open space from the "dining room" to the foyer more of a wall. The floor plan looks pretty open, and you have the openness from the foyer to the living room to keep the foyer from becoming dark and tunnel-like. So if you made the wall between the dining room and foyer a wall (rather than French doors), you'd have more wall space for bookshelves/computer desk. However, I'd probably want the computer desk closer to the homeschool room, so with that floor plan, I might indeed use the dining room as a schoolroom and the library as a library.

 

I do understand the general books not fitting in the schoolroom; that is definitely the case here. But as your kids get bigger, they may need some space from each other, and you may find yourself with one doing math in the schoolroom, one working at the kitchen table while getting help from you as you prep a meal, and one reading quietly in the library. I would plan for that (as you're doing) and have several places that can accommodate a young learner.

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Library for sure! Especially with those windows. Line the walls and under the windows with book cases, get a nice rug, some comfy chairs....ahhhh... My dream room.

 

As for the computer, it depends on its use. Is it for school? Put it in the school room. Is it for family use? Put it in the family room. Is it for your personal use? Put it in your huge master bedroom.

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We eat every meal every day in our formal dining room. The "eat in" part of our kitchen is a craft room because tile floors make it a place where it's OK to spill.

 

This.^

 

It drove our real estate agent bonkers because a large formal dining room was one of our deal breaker requirements. Not many houses have them as large as we needed.

 

I could totally go for a formal dining room like the one pictured!

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Your children are still so young. I would keep the dining room a dining room so that you can have one room for entertaining that has no kiddo stuff in it, especially with this open floor plan. The room you have chosen as a school room, I would also use as the playroom. Then the babies would have something to do in the same room as the older kiddos during school hours. In regards to the books, I would chunk most of them. It sounds like you will never have the time to read ALL of them again, even in retirement. And new books will always be wanted. If there is some book that you threw away that you just have to get again, download it to an Ipad to save space.

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Our dining room is our homeschool room, library and dining room in one. we have a couple of tall bookcases and a desk on one wall and a small book case and small antique china cabinet on either side of the front windows. The china cabinet also holds books and school supplies. The room is decorated like a regular dining room, except for the world map on the wall.

 

Dh and I keep our personal books that will never be used for school or general reading in a back room similar to your library room. That is also a home office/sewing room.

 

The kids each have a book case in their rooms with personal books.

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I should probably mention that my formal dining room has a table that extends to seat 10 people because I have 3 siblings that are all local and for about 10 years I was the only one able to host Thanksgiving for everyone. It's also next to the foyer that opens into a formal sitting room which is where my extra tables and chairs can go when the whole gang (usually 24-30 people) is here. Open floor plans allow for spill over entertaining.

 

Right now the formal sitting room is our schoolroom and has a love seat for reading, a desk with a laptop, a small child sized desk, an easel, a world map, a US map, and a time line. She'll move around the house as she likes during homeschooling, but this base camp. All of this could be easily moved out for entertaining.

 

craft room: (eat in side of kitchen) cabinet full of craft supplies, drawers full of craft supplies (I quilt, lapbook, quill, and embroider) two large fold up tables and sewing machines

 

We have over 2,000 books in our home so we have books everywhere.

 

The downstairs bedroom: has the piano, bookshelves full of school books, a file cabinet for 36 week file folders of school assignments, and toys in the closet.

 

The loft: a game room entirely lined with bookshelves full of books and board games. There's an octagonal game table in it surrounded by chairs.

 

The home office bonus room: lined with my husband's technical, science and math books, and his own personal books, a couch, a coffee table, a bed and several computers and equipment.

 

bedrooms: every person has several bookshelves full of their own personal books and the usual bedroom stuff.

 

everything other room: standard usage in the living room, dining room, bathrooms, and bedrooms

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