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Decorating for the holidays

By Leslie Whatmough

The season for entertaining is upon us. Although I enjoy taking time out of my regular routine to get together with friends and family, I find the thought of entertaining a little daunting. It is not the menu or the music that concerns me, rather it is simply the concern of how to fit everyone in, comfortably.  Indoor entertaining raises a host of logistical problems for many households . Homes that easily accommodate the everyday functions of a family may be inadequate for entertaining larger groups. The secret to a holiday of stress-free entertaining this year may just be a little creativity.

For me, food and drink are the backbone of every great get together, so my holiday preparations focus on the dining areas of my home. Our kitchen has a small breakfast counter which can double for a serving area for buffet functions. Otherwise we use the dining end of the great room. This grandiose term does not adequately describe the unused end of the living room that we chose to use for a dining room.  When we first planned the room arrangements of our new house we realized that our home office needs would be best suited by reassigning the dining room. Then we divided the overly large living room into two separate spaces, visually, to gain a dining area with  a lovely view of the backyard. The space is compact, but functional for everyday use. We chose an oval table with sentimental value as the heart of our room. My father built the pine table top when he and my mother needed space for their five children and they couldn’t afford to purchase anything fancy. It has been the centre of many a celebration.  I am a big fan of oval tables, especially ones with a pedestal base. There are no legs to get in the way of the dining chairs and no one feels like they are hanging off a corner. The one drawback with them is that they do not easily connect with another table if more seating is needed. Should you be in the market for new dining furniture, current trends in design feature tables with leaves or other expandable designs to solve space problems.

Another trend that appeals to me is the demise of the matching dining suite. It appears that more people prefer to find individual pieces that suit their unique spaces. Mismatched chairs around the dining table are becoming common, though there is a preference for matching the two end chairs. My first consideration for a chair is comfort, second is size. Tiny chairs are not practical or comfortable for most people, but space does dictate that smaller chairs will allow more people around the table.

The dining room needs to be a functional food service space, so additional surfaces are needed to store dishes and act as the traditional sideboard. Non-traditional pieces are my preference for this function. Old hutches reflect a country decorating style while dressers and other low pieces like old stereo cabinets could be incorporated to evoke a retro feel in a more modern setting. The choice of lighting also helps to define an era or evoke a mood. Chandeliers are popular right now and as a result there is a wide assortment available, from traditional to modern.

I have noticed that many people seem to be afraid to treat the dining room like other rooms in the house. There is often either a lack of decoration or an overly formal mood that does not match the rest of the home. I find it helpful to examine the decor in my favorite restaurants when I think about decorating the dining room. I believe that form follows function. If the room is inviting people will naturally gravitate to it. A room does not have to be large to be effective.

So as this holiday approaches I will have to make some decisions about whether we follow the tradition of a sit-down dinner or perhaps a buffet will be more practical. I prefer to sit at a table so maybe I will rearrange my “great room” to accommodate a number of smaller tables and really go with that restaurant feel. The possibilities are intriguing.