The Demise of the Formal Dining Room vs. Outdoor Living

Real Estate Agent with Spencer Group Realty

With the uptick of the housing market in Boise, Idaho , I've had the pleasure of taking a number of clients through new construction vs. existing homes more so than in the previous five years. This is due to the lack of inventory of existing residential property leaving buyers no other choice but to look at both. In my travels I have observed a growing trend among builders, which I'll assume is a reflection of buyer taste, and that is very few homes the lower and mid price levels ( $ 150,000-$275,000 ) have any semblence of formal dining rooms.

Is the trend toward more outdoor living- patios and balconies, large walk through door ways from kitchen space and more open less formal dining where people can mingle, eat and enjoy one another's company in a more free flowing layout? I think so. The demise of formal dining room as we traditionally have seen it in smaller homes is being replaced with free standing counter tops and more space granted for foood preparation and cabinet areas. 

That is not to say as Americans we are abandoning formal dining. Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner will remain the hallmarks of formal dining. However think of it as a trade off- formal dining space that used maybe twice or three times a year for a more relaxed space for informal eating. Small foot prints of home just cannot do both and builders are echoing the drive toward social gatherings and not sit down dining. 

Blame FaceBook, or maybe it's the other way around. FaceBook is a direct reflection of our emerging culture to have many acquaintences and friends with whom we share our lives. Why not extend that same rationale to the home with get togethers with larger numbers of people in our homes?

My wife and I will still host formal dinners or celebrate with a close few friends and put out the best China, prepare a special dish topped with first class wine, but these indulgences will take a back seat to standing around in shorts, a beer in one hand and a chip in the other talking over vacations and wha the kids are doing. 

Comments (44)

Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED
RETIRED / State License is Inactive - Portland, OR

I have a formal dining room and living room . . . which I never use.  But that's just me at my present lifestyle.  Years ago, YES they were used.  A home needs to provide the lifestyle of the current owner. 

Aug 03, 2013 04:29 AM
Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089
Hawai'i Life Real Estate Brokers - Haiku, HI
Maui Real Estate sales and lifestyle info

I hope this doesn't mean that traditional meals and cooking are becoming a thing of the past.

Aug 03, 2013 06:26 AM
Tom Bailey
Margaret Rudd & Associates Inc. - Oak Island, NC

Interesting post. We see a lot of large spaces that serve as living and eating areas.

Aug 03, 2013 08:28 AM
Carol Zingone
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Florida Network Realty - Jacksonville Beach, FL
Global Realtor in Jax Beach, FL - ABR, CRS, CIPS
Outdoor living space is HUGE here in Jacksonville Beach, FL !
Aug 03, 2013 10:04 AM
Tom White
Franklin Homes Realty LLC (615) 495-0752 or - Franklin, TN
Franklin Homes Realty LLC, Franklin TN

In our area we still see dining rooms in new construction even at the mid level homes. We do see the elimination of "living rooms" in favor of open concept great rooms.  Terrific post!

Aug 03, 2013 10:13 AM
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

It's amazing how things have changed.  Both formal living rooms and dining rooms are things of the past.  Instead a large kitchen with a "hand out" area opening in to a great room (instead of a living room) opening to the 4 season room.. .It is a new way of living.

Aug 03, 2013 11:51 AM
Jimmy Faulkner
Florida. Homes Realty & Mortgage - Wantagh, NY
The Best Of St. Augustine

An open floor plan generally does not include a Forma Dining Room. The kitchen is the centerpiece of any home and the bigger the kitchen the better the home. The kitchen is linked to the rest of the home. If it has a fireplace, WALLA! Kitchen is KING.

Aug 03, 2013 11:55 AM
Myrl Jeffcoat
Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Realtor - Retired

As much as I love the outdoor dining rooms that have become so popular in recent years, I would hate to see formal indoor dining disappear outright.  I will say however, I'm more fond of the great room concept which allows options for space usage in homes.  I have a large family, and when they come home for Thanksgiving dinner, outdoor dining isn't usually an option in late November.

Aug 03, 2013 12:06 PM
Tammie White, Broker
Franklin Homes Realty LLC - Franklin, TN
Franklin TN Homes for Sale

We are not seeing the demise of the formal dining room here. What you don't see here is the formal living room. Most homes have a great room or family room, whatever you prefer to call it. I, for instance, have a great room, eat-in kitchen and a formal dining room. But our dining room is casually furnished. More like something you would see in Pottery Barn than a formal room.

Aug 03, 2013 12:29 PM
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

I find it is sad that the Formal Dining room is fading into the sunset along with family values and families staying together at least for one meal of the day.....I am still seeing a lot of Formal Dining Rooms in the high end market.,Endre

Aug 03, 2013 12:52 PM
Ralph Gorgoglione
Maui Life Homes / Metro Life Homes - Kihei, HI
Hawaii and California Real Estate (310) 497-9407
More open floor plans with island counters for informal get togethers is a hot ticket item; outdoor living areas also rank high.
Aug 03, 2013 01:09 PM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

Both have their places but A nice breeze on a prorch on a pretty day does wonders! :)


Love and light,


Aug 03, 2013 01:43 PM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher



Meals are universal and forever im my opinion. :)

Aug 03, 2013 01:44 PM
MichelleCherie Carr Crowe Just Call...408-252-8900
Get Results Team...Just Call (408) 252-8900! . DRE #00901962 . Licensed to Sell since 1985 . Altas Realty - San Jose, CA
Family Helping Families Buy & Sell Homes 40+ Years

Clients who entertain on a grand scale still want a formal dining room; however many families like the open kitchen/dining concept.

Aug 03, 2013 04:54 PM
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M
Liam -I think that there are far fewer people these days who at looking for formal dining, especially in smaller homes.
Aug 03, 2013 04:56 PM
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
EXP Realty 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce

I guess it depends....the upper end of the price spectrum demands a formal dining room....many people prefer an open concept that is not likely to include one.

Aug 03, 2013 08:41 PM
Ed & Tracy Oliva
West USA Realty - Arizona - Fountain Hills, AZ
The Oliva Team Arizona Agents

God Morning:  Yes the formal dining room as come and now gone!!  Keep up the good Info and good luck with your sales,  E

Aug 03, 2013 10:09 PM
Marco Giancola
Beachfront Realty - Miami Beach, FL
Realtor (305)608-1922, Miami Beach Florida

Hi Liam, it can go right along with the never used formal living rooms! From my experience all that real estate only to be used for a few hours per year is a total waste!

Aug 03, 2013 10:23 PM
Michele Connors
The Overton Group, LLC Pitt & Carteret County - Greenville, NC
Your Eastern North Carolina Realtor

Out door entertaining is the best... and the interaction is so much more personal and relaxed. Throw in a game of cornhole and some music and you have a party !    You do have cornhole in Boise right  ??

Aug 03, 2013 11:11 PM
Margaret Mitchell
Coldwell Banker Yorke Realty - York, ME
Seacoast Maine & NH Real Estate

The limitation on outdoor space...  The weather!  Kind of like a swimming pool in Maine.  Unless it is indoors, it is a short season.

Aug 03, 2013 11:48 PM