The word commensality refers to the act of eating together, sharing a meal. Much more than a mere function of essential human need, sitting at the table is a practice of communion and exchange. An article by Cody C. Delistraty compiles some studies on the importance of eating together: students who don't eat regularly with their parents miss school more; children who do not have daily dinner with their family tend to be more obese and young people in families without this tradition can have more problems with drugs and alcohol, in addition to poorer academic performance. Evidently, all these issues raised are complex and should not be reduced to just one factor. But having a suitable place to have meals, free from distractions, is a good starting point for at least one moment a day that is focused on conversation and food. This is where dinner tables come in. In this article, we review some projects to classify the most common ways to deploy these important pieces of furniture.
The idea of having a separate room for meals is increasingly rare in contemporary homes. Christine Baumgarthuber points out that the Greeks were the first to recognize that eating in a secluded and comfortable environment reinforced class status and cohesion. According to the article 'No Place For Discontent': A History Of The Family Dinner In America, one of the first American houses to have a room specifically designed for dining was Thomas Jefferson, built in 1772. The dining room, with the center dining table, began to be incorporated into wealthy homes across the country, eventually reaching the middle class and becoming an almost indispensable piece of furniture.
Looking at projects published in ArchDaily over the past year, we see that contemporary homes commonly opt for the functionality of having the dining table as close as possible to the area where food is prepared. Varying in dimensions, materials and number of seats, we can categorize them by how they are organized in relation to the organization of the layout.
Placing the table parallel to the countertop and the sink is a solution often used in projects that do not have much space. This is the case of Stilt House, in Japan, where the table occupies a small space between the kitchen and the structure of the house. In Weekend House in Downtown São Paulo and at Casa 1101, by H Arquitectes, among many other examples, the dining table is placed parallel to the countertop, leaving adequate space for circulation, but taking advantage of the small space between the two pieces.
Another very common option is to place the table parallel to the kitchen island. This, in turn, works as an effective integration between spaces, including a sink, stove, or work space. This is the case of the Brunswick Bush Shack, Syshaus Residence and Sunshine Canyon House, by Renée del Gaudio. This solution is an interesting option for rectangular plans, where the elements are positioned perpendicularly to the greatest extent.
When the plan has dimensions closer to a square, often the most suitable solution is to position the dining table perpendicular to the main bench. In this case, using an L-shaped countertop is a solution that allows you to achieve a larger countertop and work area in the kitchen, allowing the table to remain at a very short distance. This is how the projects Goatbarn Lane and at Te Horo Bach, in New Zealand are structured.
Also perpendicularly, but to the kitchen island, the project of Casa da Rua Madalena, from Garoa, which manages to solve the irregular plan by implementing a living and dining room vertically to the kitchen, allowing for a good circulation area with sharp angles due to the challenging terrain.
When the floor plan is narrow, but there is still an island in the kitchen, one of the solutions used is to integrate the table with this centerpiece. In this case, you should pay attention to its height, as work benches are generally about 10 centimeters taller than tables. The option of taller seats or of reducing the height of the piece in the seating part can both solve this issue, making it a solution that achieves total integration between the functions if such a space. Some examples are Casa Modelo, by Pitta Arquitetura and Jacaranda House, by SP Studio, among many others.
In Brazilian luxury homes, however, we observe a unique configuration. Where space is not necessarily a restriction, we see that dining rooms end up being more related to the social section of the house, than to the kitchen. Examples such as Casa C+C, Casa Branca or Casa Pipa, by Bernardes Arquitetura include dining tables segregated from food preparation areas, separated by walls or movable panels.
Discover many more examples of dining room setups in this My ArchDaily folder.