Organizing 101: Dining rooms
Today's underused (or misused) dining room holds enormous potential. Could yours double as a library, kids' craft room or home- organizing centre? If you clear out clutter and pick the right storage pieces, your dining room could function as any of those as well as a special place for meals.
Define your dining room
List all the activities you do or would like to do here, such as entertain, do kids' homework, pay bills, read. Then list the supplies and furnishings you need for those activities. Keep supplies close to where they're used, so there's a better chance they'll be put away. What kind and how much storage space do you need? Can you use furniture that serves more than one purpose to accommodate a function other than dining?
Clear out clutter
What kind of stuff ends up on your table? Set up an organizing system for each item so that when it comes into the house there's a place to put it.
If you only use your good china once a year, don't store it in prime real estate. Keep a few pieces on display by hanging plates on the wall or placing serving pieces on a side table; pack up the remainder in padded china containers (available at organizing and department stores) to keep it chip- and dust-free and store it in the basement. That will make room for the arts and crafts supplies or papers.
Move special-occasion or infrequently used linens to the linen closet. In her book Organizing Plain & Simple (Storey Books, 2002) Donna Smallin suggests hanging tablecloths on a towel rack suspended on the inside of the closet door.
Remove extra chairs; hang them on pegs in the basement (rotate chairs in use with those in storage to maintain optimum conditions for fine wood furniture and to ensure that pieces wear evenly).
Buy storage-smart furnishings
Choose a table with drawers for stationery if you'll use it as a desk, or for silverware (line with a protective anti-tarnish cloth) if it's primarily for dining. A rustic antique table is great for kids' projects – no one will notice a few more dents.
Invest in built-in storage; you can hide any configuration of shelves, drawers and cubbies behind doors. Fit cabinets with adjustable components to accommodate a wide range of items, like china, linens, a computer, micro sound system and art supplies.
Retrofit a secondhand armoire with cubbies or shelves as an alternative to costly built-in shelves. Separate glassware, platters, craft materials, stacked linen and more into their own cubbies.
Replace three chairs with a wooden or upholstered bench with storage underneath the seat. It's a good spot for linens or toys – and kids like squeezing onto a bench cafeteria-style, too.
Dedicate a stand-alone piece of furniture to the secondary function of the room: an armoire for home office supplies, a small three-drawer chest for art supplies, even a filing cabinet for household financial papers (just slipcover the cabinet and top with a slab of glass).
Install an extra-deep shelf at table height that can be used as a side table for showcasing items or serving buffets.
Look for unusual antiques to repurpose; for example, line the drawers of a vintage library card catalogue with anti-tarnish cloth and store forks, spoons and so on in dedicated drawers, or hang a salvaged glass-front cabinet and display glassware and china.
If your living and dining areas are combined, divide the room with a specially designed cabinet, or a side table with storage underneath (keep stuff looking neat with a row of attractive baskets).
Place melamine bookshelves along an entire wall and organize china and glassware, books and whatever else you store there; hang curtains in front to hide items from view and to keep the room from looking cluttered.
Make the room special
Invest in a signature item like a Venetian chandelier or a unique piece of furniture that gives you great pleasure and also lends personality to the room.
Display a favourite work of art – it will provide the room with a source of beauty and act as a conversation piece.
Install dimmer switches on all lighting. Add a floor lamp or a small table lamp so you can vary the mood.
Wire the dining room for sound.