A few years back, Forbes reported that the formal dining room was making a comeback in America. Younger families building new homes from scratch were requesting formal dining room spaces where they could entertain for holidays and family gatherings. Fast-forward to 2019 when Apartment Therapy reported a renewed interest in dining room furniture, even among consumers whose homes didn’t have formal dining rooms.
The trends lead to an interesting question: is the dining room table making a comeback? Not in the sense of maintaining little-used formal dining room space, but in the sense of families making a concerted effort to gather around the dining room table in the evening.
Dining Together Used to Be Normal
At the risk of sounding too Leave It to Beaver, dining together in the evening used to be normal for American families. The kids would come home from school while mom and dad returned from work. Everyone would gather around the table to enjoy a good meal and a discussion of the day’s events. This was pretty normal until about the mid-1980s. Then something happened.
We call the 1980s the ‘decade of excess’ for a reason. A rebounding economy and quickly fading memories of the Vietnam War gave Americans a reason to go out and do things. It motivated us to spend more time away from home and more time on outside leisure activities.
Unfortunately, work and school time didn’t give way to leisure time. Parents still had to put in 40 hours on the job while the kids labored away in school. All of that extra leisure time had to be taken from somewhere. The family dining room table was expendable. So were family game nights, chats on the front porch, etc.
Coronavirus and the Dining Room Table
Neither the Forbes nor Apartment Therapy pieces were written with coronavirus in mind. Both preceded the pandemic. Yet now, more than a year after it began, coronavirus is still keeping plenty of fearful people trapped inside their homes. Could it be that the dining room table is offering therapy to some?
Salt Lake City’s Modern Craftsman says that the demand for custom dining room tables is as strong as it has ever been. Perhaps coronavirus has something to do with it. Then again, perhaps not. The question that really demands an answer is whether or not this new appreciation for dining room furniture translates into families actually spending time around the table.
More Than Holiday Furniture
Would it be that the dining room table was seen as something more than just holiday furniture. Sure, dressing up the formal dining room at Christmas is a heartwarming and exciting experience. Having family members over to enjoy a formal dinner in a formal space is an expected part of the holiday season. But shouldn’t the dining room table be the dinner table, too?
The dinner table used to be where parents and kids could actually sit down and have a good conversation. It was where husbands and wives hashed out their problems; where the kids told mom and dad of their hopes and dreams. The dinner table was always open for grandma and grandpa, aunts and uncles, and as many cousins as you could fit in the house.
Perhaps the dinner table isn’t making a comeback. Maybe nostalgic thoughts of what it used to represent are causing people to invest in tables they may rarely use. If so, that is a shame. Even a custom dining room table made by Modern Craftsman deserves to be more than a piece of furniture.