Ways to create a casual dining space

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Casual Dining Table
Meal time should be inviting, not intimidating
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Casual dining space can be created with just a few key elements

The idea of converting a formal space into a casual dining area, or of simply creating a casual dining space from scratch, may seem intimidating, but it’s easier than you think. Here are a few simple elements to keep in mind when lightening up the mealtime experience.

Think Durable, Not Fragile

One of the quickest ways to take the “casual” out of dinnertime is to have it in an area that screams “do not spill or break anything.” The floors in this space need to be easily cleaned. No stuffy, expensive Persian rugs or white carpet here. If you do have light colored carpet, cover the eating area with a durable, stain resistant area rug. And, if you have the choice, go for hard woods or some warm stone tiles. 

Chair covers will turn your high back formal chairs into less intimidating seating places which impart comfort and leisure. On the flip-side, table cloths can feel stuffy and rigid (a throwback to our formal dining days), so it’s better to let the table go bareback in a casual setting. If you do opt for a table covering, chuck the fine white linen in favor of something colorful and less likely to show stains. If pulling together a rustic look, you can even use burlap tied at the ends with pretty ribbon.

For dishes and flatware, go for sturdy plates and bowls and thick glasses for drinking, along with a nice set of stainless steel cutlery you won’t need to polish. This is not the time for the fine China and crystal. 

Mix it Up

One of the best ways to make a space feel comfortable and interesting is to loosen up the décor. Mix and match furniture pieces for a more eclectic look. Choose two different, yet complimentary, styles of chairs to go around the table. Think benches on the long sides with high back chairs on the ends, or classic dining chairs alternating with upholstered chairs (leather or covered for easy cleanup). Even wood and rattan can work together with the right accents. Dispense with the old claw foot table and opt instead for a more rustic style with distressed wood, or a cozy round or bistro table in a smaller breakfast nook. 

And don’t forget color! Cloth place mats in varying colors can liven up the table, while a bouquet of wildflowers can add life without the formality to any room. Mismatched dishes and drink ware can add an interesting touch, along with wall art to fit the room’s overall theme.

Let the Sunshine In

If your dining area has windows that are heavily curtained, open up those heavy drapes to let in some natural light. Take it a step further and replace those dark curtains with pretty sheers that will let in light while still offering privacy. If the weather is nice, open the windows to feel the breeze and hear the birds sing. 

For other lighting options, opt for funky chandeliers that defy the standard cut glass and crystal. String white lights for a festive look, and place hurricane and jar candles artfully on the table and surrounding area. 

Whatever decorative ideas you choose, be sure to keep things light and easygoing. What matters most at mealtime is good food, good company, and good conversation, after all.

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