Dining Rooms City and Country
No animal should ever jump up on the dining-room furniture unless absolutely certain that he can hold his own in the conversation.” Fran Lebowitz, the well-known writer and humorist, knew that even the family pet would want to get in on the action in the dining room. It’s the place not only where friends and family gather to enjoy everything from an everyday dinner to a special holiday meal, but also where good conversation happens. This time of year, the dining room plays an especially important role. It provides a stage for holiday entertaining. Whether your “stage” is a city dining room that is sleek and modern like Rene Bergeron’s in downtown Manchester, or resembles something at a country estate like the place settings and tables available at Gilberte Interiors in Hanover, the important part is a memorable dining experience. If you’re in the market for a dining room set, start with the two most important things — form and function — says Karen Handley at C.A. Hoitt Furniture in Manchester, the country’s oldest furniture store. “Keep in mind how is it going to fit in the space, and how you are going to use it.” Will it be the spot where you eat your meals everyday, so you want it to be more casual? Or do you want it more formal, for entertaining purposes? “The style comes out of function,” says Handley. She adds that it’s also important to consider what type of woods they like, the type of chairs for seating comfort, etc. “One thing we always recommend to people is not to be afraid of veneers,” she says. “Many people confuse veneers with laminates. Veneers are a fine quality and can even be preferable to a solid wood top.” Even twin antique experts Leigh and Leslie Keno would probably agree. “If you ever watch ‘Antiques Road Show,’ and look at the pieces that have survived hundreds of years, it’s almost always a veneer,” says Handley. A dining room set is not purchased as often as, say, a sofa. “It’s sometimes a once-in-a-lifetime purchase,” says Handley — especially given the fact that most better-quality dining room sets (including table, chairs and a china cabinet or other side piece) will run you anywhere from $7,000-$18,000. She says the most popular styles for dining rooms in New Hampshire are mahogany sets (which always make a classic statement), and “retro style.” She points to Thomasville’s Bogart collection, with its sleek lines, as an example. Cheryl Boghosian of Gilberte Interiors, says she is seeing trends that are being reintroduced as well. “People are being more adventuresome in their dining rooms. They’re not afraid of color on the walls, and being more dramatic.” She says modern or transitional seems to be more popular than in the past. Whether your dining room is country, modern or somewhere in between, you could say it is the theater of your house. Stage dressings such as lighting, linens and centerpieces can be used to create a scene to act out your own event. And while indeed it can be the set for much of the “drama” — not to mention “acting out” — that occurs during some families’ stressful holiday meals, there’s also the the opportunity to raise the bar, to turn the ordinary everyday look of the dining room to one that sparkles and gives a sophisticated flair for this time of year. Continuing with our “room as theater” theme in the pages ahead, we offer suggestions on the best ways to seat a crowd. So just sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.