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Angie's List: America's disappearing dining room

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Published: Feb. 15, 2017 at 9:05 AM CST
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Most of us grew up with a dining room in our house and a lot of us still have them. But fewer and fewer of us are using that space for its intended purpose.

Whether you call it dinner or supper, only 23 percent of us are spending our evening meal gathered around a proper dinner table. Seven percent of us still have dining room furniture in the room, but rarely even go in there, according to a new Angie’s List survey.

“Formal dining rooms seem to be disappearing. Kitchen tables are still around … generally … but dining rooms, are, wow, you know, those are, those are becoming studios. It’s an office. It’s a work-out room. It’s anything but a dining room," Surroundings (remodeling company) owner, Randy Sorrell said.

Sixty-two percent of survey respondents say they still have dinner with the family almost every night. Angie Hicks is one of them.

“We’re a family that eats right in the kitchen so our dining room goes unused. When our kids were younger, we used it for homework and now we only go in there to change the thermostat,” Hicks said.

Two-thirds of the respondents haven’t redecorated or re-designed their dining room but use it for office or homework space, an unorganized storage area, even space for the dog. But 13 percent are so sure they won’t ever eat there again, they’ve ditched the table and chairs. The Vielees are one example.

“The first thing that happened when the table left was it became our storage unit. But really, my kids love yoga. So having that floor space, most nights you can find them there, doing yoga,” Lisa Vielee said.

When the Vielees moved into their home eight years ago, they had six busy children at home and thought the dining room would be a routine gathering spot. Total times they actually gathered there for a meal: 10.

“On average, our family does not eat dinner together. I really try to get as many people together on Sundays, but during the week, it’s just too hard for all of us to eat at the same time," Vielee said.

Vielee says when all the kids are out of the house and the yoga stops, she wants to redecorate the space into a quiet, restful reading room.

Many dining room re-uses can be done as a D-I-Y project, but Angie cautions against getting the sledge hammer out without a plan and professional help. Taking down walls can create structural issues if they’re load-bearing. Removing wainscoting or wood trim can be tricky, too.

The Angie’s List survey included responses from 1,245 members across the country. It was conducted in January, 2017.