Formal Dining vs. Casual Eating Spaces

August 25, 2021

Do you need a formal dining room? Will you use it?

These questions come up more and more when we start the design process for a renovation or new build. Separating the eating area from the “work” space, particularly for large family gatherings and holidays, has its benefits – no kitchen mess on display and less noise traveling between rooms. Still, formal dining spaces are becoming less of a priority for many families.

Dining room section with lots of windows - renovation

Open-concept design is very popular; homeowners can eat, cook and entertain all within the same space. Island seating, breakfast corners, and kitchen tables, designed within the perimeter of the kitchen and living areas, create a less formal, relaxed, and inclusive feeling. By simply facing the living area furniture away from the activity in the kitchen, some separation is created but without the confines of walls, and the open concept stays intact.

Interior Architecture Design Photo in Weston, MA

But what if you like the idea of a separate dining area, just not the formality? Recently, we created a nice compromise of the two – the kitchen is in one room and the dining area in another–but with generous doorways, less formal lighting, and casual furnishings. It’s a perfect marriage of both concepts.

Architectural Insights for the New Decade

So, what’s a suitable space for you? Is it the formal space, the open concept, or maybe even a perfect blending of the two! Here’s out pro/con list.

Formal Dining Spaces:


Distinct and separate rooms to host gatherings
An intimate space that can make guests feel special
The kitchen mess is kept from view


Separates the cook from the party
Will likely not be used on a day-to-day basis

Casual Eating Spaces:


Often, open concepts are lighter and brighter spaces
A more open and less formal feel
Allows the cook and guests to gather in the same space


Cooking and entertaining in the same room can be hectic!
Noise travels easily between the living and kitchen areas