Some of the old books I’ve collected over the years have rightfully been culled, or “weeded” from libraries because their subjects are not immune to the whims of fashion and time. I pick them up because they are a hoot. But more seriously, because skimming through them, reading how certain the writers were that this will never go out of style, seeing them try to justify calling cowhide upholstery ‘beautiful’, reminds me that things do often change for the better.
What follows is a blog post I wrote in 2016. All of the images and un-cited quotes about dining rooms are from Better Homes and Gardens Decorating Book (1975). Note the holes in the image. The book is a five-ring binder, making it easy for the homemaker (lovely word) to remove a page and take it to her local furniture, rug, or paint store.
An article by Jennifer Graham at Acculturated made the rounds over the weekend. Titled, “Why Millennial Home Buyers Want Play Rooms Not Dining Rooms,” the article looks at the “decline of old-fashioned adulthood.” It was an interesting article with the obligatory troll who said,
What a load of crap. The concept of a “dining room” did not even exist for 99% of humanity until the late 19th Century. For most of human history people lived in 1-room shelters, if they were lucky enough to have that.
[2022 NOTE: the site doesn’t exist anymore; the Wayback machine has the original article which is all in favor of dining rooms]
Now, I have sworn off the habit of commenting online. But you see what’s wrong here, right? If I’m not mistaken it’s the genetic fallacy: the value of X is based on the history or origin of X. Just because 99% of humans didn’t have a dining room means you shouldn’t have one either.
So I said,
And speaking of crap, as in a place to do so without freezing your tushy off, neither did bathrooms, hot water heaters, furnaces, K-cup coffee and many other things I’ll bet you have in your crappy little apartment.
Dining rooms represent the height of civilization. They are spaces where friends and families linger long after they’ve finished eating. To have this sort of leisure at the end of the day– in your own home– is the very essence of what humans have worked and sacrificed for for thousands of years.
If you don’t understand that, I feel sorry for you.
Anyway… . As we all know, old stuff is good. Rooms in which families and friends dine are among the best of the best old stuff. I appreciate that kids put a real chink in having a nice dining room where one can display one’s shiny things. I understand circumstances may be such that you cannot have a dining room at this time. But making a home with a dining room is a worthy goal for a young family.
And to that end, I give you several inviting dining areas– spaces “outfitted with all the accouterments that make [them] warm and inviting environment[s] conducive to good discussion and good digestion.”
OT: I have a book in the (early) works, An American Four-Square, where a young work from home wife and home-schooling mother wants to convert the dining room of their home, built in 1909, into an office. It’s up to the (talking) walls of the Dining Room to convince her otherwise by telling the stories of the other families who’ve lived in the home.