Domestic dining areas translate in diverse design solutions, from dedicated rooms to small nooks inside open-plan interiors.
Regardless of size and style, the dining area is a very important space in a home...more important than one may think...
So let’s explore the role of the dining area, looking at it through the lenses of biophilic design!
A new heart of the home?
Dining areas have a very specific name, but are they ever used only for eating?
The one ingredient that every dining area has is a table. A table that – in many homes – fulfills multiple functions during the day: work table (especially now that working from home is so common), crafts and homework table, board games table...and finally, dining table.
Eating is then only one of the many things happening in this space, and what’s called dining area is really much more than what its name would suggest!
Looking closely at the activities that take place around the dining table, these are mostly moments that bring people together, putting the dining area at the very heart of domestic life.
Such a crucial role will inevitably reflect into the design, and a biophilic dining area will integrate elements of the natural world at the same time.
Floor plan considerations
If the dining area is (or we want it to become) the heart of the home, it cannot be placed in whatever corner of the floor plan, away from where people usually hang out.
How does this connect with biophilic design?
Well, one of the key objectives of biophilic design is creating the best experience of the space. That is, making occupants feel at their best in a space.
Now back to the dining area. Hosting so many social activities, a dining area is more likely to function when located right where it’s needed: at the bustling heart of the home!
Along the same line, a big table (in proportion to the available space) will encourage people to take a seat and do what they have to, creating occasions for those little shared moments that make family life so rich.
A changing space
Thinking of a dining area as the heart of the home requires it to adapt to different uses and atmospheres throughout the day.
Light (both natural light and artificial lighting) plays a huge role, setting the conditions for concentration or a cozy ambiance for dinner.
Storage is another crucial element. The fact that one same space is used for many different activities doesn't mean that everything needs to be at sight at all times! Having a good amount of storage available nearby will make it easy to transform the dining area according to the task at hand while keeping the space neat.
Not less important, tucking away the supplies connected to a certain activity will help to mentally close that chapter. This seemingly irrelevant act is in fact an important mental clue to be more focused on the here-and-now. A condition that has become even more relevant during lockdown, with so much time being spent at home!
From the user's perspective
As a general rule, the dining area is used for long periods of time – be it for working, playing, or eating. It then becomes particularly important to consider the view of those who seat at the table.
A view onto nature creates a connection with the ever-changing outdoors, provides sensory richness, enhances the experience of the space with unpredictable stimuli, and keeps fresh air within arm's reach.
A different yet still enticing biophilic view can be created with a vertical garden or the wise use of natural textures in the various elements of the interior – textures that could recall the local ecological surroundings at the same time.
Despite its very specific name, the dining area is often a multi-functional space in the home.
Its design should reflect this role and – from a biophilic perspective – create the conditions to connect its occupants to each other and to the natural world.