You’re lucky if you’re one of the fortunate few who still have a dining room to call your own. The ownership of this rapidly disappearing delight obligates you to large and lavish banquets for all your dining-room-less friends. But you can also find many other uses for this room.
My dining room is used as an auxiliary work center. The table makes a marvelous place for spreading out my work between meals. Ample light from the overhead fixture helps for doing close work. My computer is on a rolling stand. When I need it, I roll it from a nearby storage closet, and hammer away.
One musical family had a large dining room and a small living room — so small that their baby grand piano would only fit into the dining room. I placed the piano at the far end of the room, adjacent to the windows, and kept the table and chairs nearer the kitchen door.
In much the same way, a dining room can double as a greenhouse. You can build a shallow tray of galvanized metal (with welded seams to keep it leak-proof), locate it next to the window, and fit it with white marble chips. Plants of all sizes, from eight-foot trees to flowering shrubs placed in their own pots, on the chips, will retain enough humidity to have a greenhouse effect.
Floor-based floodlights strategically concealed in the lower foliage and illuminating the leaves from below, can turn the greens into an elegant illuminated environment for evening dining. By day, the greenery provides a cheerful bit of the tropics to keep you happy on the coldest winter day.
The dining room can also be used as a library. In one such room for a book-loving family who wanted a room for relaxing, reading and listening to music, as well as homework, I built a wall-to-wall storage unit to hold books on the only unbroken wall of the room. This was the long wall of a rectangular room, which meant that the dining table was shifted off-center, even though the table was long and narrow.
To conceal the now-asymmetrical windows, the entire wall was covered floor to ceiling with vertical white blinds, to match the new storage wall. In addition to the shelving for books and two speakers, spacious cabinets held art books, an antique typewriter, stationery, DVDs and such table-top necessaries as placemats, napkins and silverware.
The old French refectory table and antique wicker chairs added natural textures to the white shell. Dark stained wood floors contrasted with the library shelving, while the back of the storage wall and the walls between the tall windows were painted in a soft lavender-gray. A continuous light strip concealed in the shelf, and wall washers to illuminate book titles are joined with the chandelier over the table to provide working light for this handsome and comfortable library.