For a recent study, UCLA-affiliated researchers in fields ranging from anthropology to sociology used cameras to record in great detail how 32 dual-income families living in the Los Angeles area used their homes. Their findings link real data to something about which I have been yelling into the void for years: Nobody is actually using their formal living and dining rooms. Families actually spend most of their time in the kitchen and the informal living room or den.
Yet we continue to build these wastes of space because many Americans still want that extra square footage, and for a long time, that want has been miscategorized as a need.
The ironic inefficiency of hyper-exaggerated high-end entertaining spaces belies a truth: These spaces aren’t really designed for entertaining. They’re designed for impressing others.
I live in a ’70s-era house, one that doesn’t have a lot of room, but does have one of these formal dining rooms. It’s a stupid waste of space — but you know, the last house I owned, a 1990s-era house, had the same thing (we used it as a home office). I really hate these rooms. What a waste! If I were able to design my own house, I would combine the dining room with the kitchen, and make it a larger than usual space. In our current house, we have what is called a “breakfast nook” attached to our kitchen. It’s not big enough for all of us to gather there to eat, but we spend way, way more time as a family in the kitchen and breakfast nook than we do in the formal dining room, which functions pretty much as a storage facility for books (on bookshelves) and a dining table.
Most people I know have formal dining rooms in their houses. I’m trying to think if any of them actually use it more than a few times a year. In our house, you have to leave the kitchen and take a few steps down the hall to the dining room. It’s such poor design, but it’s common.
(Via The Browser, which you should be reading daily.)