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From Home Furnishing Business

Dining In


By Sheila Long O’Mara

Formal dining rooms and casual dining areas are being used for things other than simply eating and sharing meals. According to a Home Furnishings Business consumer survey conducted last month, people are using their dining areas as a central hub of their households. All sorts of activities are taking place around dining tables, including sitting around the table and talking, homework time, watching television, paying bills and catching up on office work. The dining area and the dining table, formal or casual, has become the work center for many households. The kitchen and dining table have become quite the hub.




According to our survey, families seem to be heeding the advice of the experts who encourage bonding over the dining table. Nearly 84 percent list table talk as their top activity at the dinner table in addition to dining. That chatter is followed by all the buzz of work time. Most likely as it’s an easy location for parents to keep an eye on studying children while multi-tasking with dinner and after-meal, clean-up duties.

A key marketing tool to growing sales in the dining category could be for retailers to emphasize other activities that take place at those all-important tables. Not surprisingly, nearly 70 percent of our consumer panel said the dining furniture they just bought was for a casual dining area, and not a formal dining room. More than 50 percent of them said the casual dining area in their home was a separate area outside of the kitchen.

About 45 percent of those casual dining area’s are now the proud home to contemporary furniture. Another 23 percent of the consumers bought traditional dining furniture, and about 14 percent of the consumers described their purchases as rustic country.

Most of the casual dining purchases were crafted of wood (78.1 percent) while another 21.9 percent were of mixed materials. Of consumers who classified their dining purchase as formal dining, more than 40 percent put it into the traditional category. The style classification drops off significantly to 28 percent contemporary; 15.6 percent rustic country and 9.4 percent European country.

Those buying formal dining, most (84.4 percent) bought wooden furniture.



Creature Comforts

When it comes to additional features and function available in casual dining tables, 64 percent of the consumers list a protective finish on the table top as the most valuable feature—one for which they’re willing to pay. That finish is followed by a leaf storage within the table at a distant second place with 42 percent. For the casual dining sideboard or cabinet, consumers weren’t as much in agreement as on features for the table. However, a few features rose to the top, including felt-lined silverware drawers (30 percent), built-in wine racks (23 percent) and hidden storage for small appliances (23 percent).

In their formal dining table, consumers are a bit more demanding. Two expandable table leaves are at the top of their wish list at 56 percent, followed by leaf storage within the table (54 percent) and a protective finish for the table top (47 percent). When looking at the sideboard or china cabinet for formal dining, consumers top wants include a felt lined silverware drawer (50.1 percent), hidden storage for appliances (31.3 percent) and a built-in wine rack (25.1 percent).

What Retailers Say




It’s made in the U.S.A. of solid cherry with high-quality, Amish construction. It’s an easy story to tell that the customer appreciates and understands. After the story is told, the customer understands the value that this heirloom quality furniture really is.” Maynard’s sells the table with chairs from the company’s Prestige collection. Table with six chairs retails at $2,599.

Alderman Maynard

Maynard’s Home Furnishings

Belton, S.C.



“The mango color seems to be in right now, and it goes with a wide variety of dining room and home environments. This group has a great look for the money, an exceptional value.” The seven-piece set in mango retails at $798.

Dave Harkness

Harkness Furniture

Tacoma, Wash.





“Part of City Furniture’s propriety brand, this group’s classic design brings casual elegance to a dining space.” Retail is $2,299.90 for table, four chairs and credenza.

Vanessa Northrop

City Furniture

Tamarac, Fla.

Quail’s Run from Winners Only

“It is a light wood table set, offered in different colors choices, with multiple chair styles and table heights.”

Sheryl Ouimette

Rotmans Furniture

Worcester, Mass.

Selva’s Waldorf Table

“The piece embodies classic elegance and modern splendor that captivates the essence of hospitality,” said Philipp Selva, president and CEO. “The inspiration for the stainless steel base came from the Waldorf Astoria in New York. The clear lines of the table legs intentionally form the W of the Waldorf Astoria. It is a distinctive piece that captures the Selva touch in the design.”
Retail is $14,266.


Waverly From Cresent Fine Furniture

Industrial Modern design meets everyday durability in the Waverly dining collection,” said Richard Tomkins, director of sales and marketing. “Crafted in sustainably forested solid acacia with a wire-brushed finish, Waverly is perfect for growing families and the centerpiece of family get togethers. The versatile dining bench can also be used in other areas of the home where space is at a premium.”


Artisan Home’s IFD962

“This table’s value makes it a great success for us,” said Diana Zaldivar. “Solid poplar tops, hand-painted finish and wrought-iron base at a suggested retail price of $499.

  Universal Furniture's Paula Deen Home Kitchen Island

“Islands that offer accessibility from both sides work well in the open floor plans of today’s homes. More than ever, the rooms in our homes are used for many purposes, and there is a need for items that are also multifunctional,” said Kevin Miller, director of marketing. “For example, consoles and desks are often found in the living rooms as the homework or bill-paying center. Likewise, this kitchen island with pull-out table, tons of storage, and stainless steel top serves as a great place not only to prepare food but also to eat meals, do homework, crafts, etc.” Approximate retail is $1,299 to $1,699.


Somerton Dwelling’s IMPROV B

“The transitional dining group appeals to consumers across multiple tastes, regions and age groups,” said Rita Ho-Bezzola, president. “Key to its popularity is Somerton’s Freestyle Living concept. Eight basic units include open shelf cabinets, glass or solid door cabinets and chest units that stack and restack to form servers, china cabinets, display cabinets and non-traditional cabinetry showing up in home today. The optional teal shelves add an elegant color accent to Improv in B’s warm walnut veneers. Whether it’s all storage or all display or something in between, Somerton Dwelling’s Improv in B dining delivers a broad spectrum of options.” Suggested Retail for table, four side chairs and two armchairs is $1,795 to $1,995.


Century Furniture’s OMNI Dining Table

“The Omni dining table has been one of our best-sellers for years,” said Comer Wear, marketing director. “The combination of a beautiful, sweeping silhouette with the gorgeous veneer work across the top makes this table stand out. In addition to selling it as it is shown, we have built it custom over 50 times—at 220 inches long, round versions as well as custom veneers across the top. It really speaks to customers.”


The Aspen from Simply Amish

“The Aspen’s namesake was the town, not the tree. But the town was named after the tree, so it’s a bit ironic that our most popular dining table is available in red oak, soft maple, cherry, character cherry, hickory, maple, quarter-sawn white oak, and walnut, but not aspen,” said Charles Curry, sales manager. “The dining table top gets three coats of catalyzed varnish, all stain is hand rubbed, the bottom of the table is finished so you won’t snag your clothes; the chair has a comfortable scooped seat and lumbar profile, real inlay, and a style that implies rugged sophistication. Standard options like a butterfly leaf, ball bearing slides, self-storing leaves, along with a myriad of size and stain choices make The Aspen our most popular dining table.”

 Greenington’s Currant Dining Collection

“Flexible in size with the extra leaf, the Currant’s clean design and smart scale fit well with many different home interiors,” said Mary Settle, marketing. “The beautiful grain and natural coloring of the solid bamboo make it a clear winner. Featuring elegant lines reminiscent of Mid-Century Modern, the collection is crafted in 100 percent solid Moso bamboo.” Suggested retail is $1,499.

Pastel’s Quanto Basta

 “The rectangular table with glass top features clean-lined Sonoma veneer wood frame and stainless steel base in a unique, yet simple design,” said Amber Chen, marketing coordinator. “The Quanto Basta side chair exemplifies handsome proportions and a bold design. With simple lines mixed with curves for comfort, this chair adds style and elegance to the dining experience.” Suggested retail for table and four chairs is $3,570.

The Zen Dining Collection from Creative Elegance

“It’s a clean and architecturally appealing design with a lot of options,” said Mark Popel, co-founder. “Since we make it in our own factory in Southern California, we do a lot of different size and configurations as well as offer a variety of woods and finishes.”
42 x 84-inch tables range in price from $3,000 to $4,000.

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