The ‘period’ look is usually personified by Victorian or Edwardian décor, so if you are looking to style your dining room in this way, these are the eras you need to be mimicking.
The Victorian or Edwardian dining room was the key ‘masculine’ room of the house, the direct opposite to the female orientated drawing room. Also in contrast, the dining room would usually be situated during this era at the front of the house, with the drawing room at the back. Gentlemen would also use the dining room to receive guests, so its front situation would work well, and the décor would be geared towards impressing, whilst being practical.
The middle classes of these times would certainly not be seen eating in the kitchen, although they may have had a parlour for informal occasions. The dining room however was definitely the place to be when entertaining guests.
Style wise, Edwardian and Victorian dining rooms would generally follow British trends rather than embodying the French designs that had been dominating previously. Light décor would be the option of choice up to the 1840s in line with the delicate Regency style, and then from the mid-Victorian period onwards there was a turn towards darker, richer colourings.
Deep reds, sage greens, mustard yellows with bird print, friezes and stencilling plus complementary mahogany furniture took over offering greater warmth to the dining scene, especially during the Gothic revival and with the advent of Art Nouveau styles. The look of this time was certainly more in line with the masculine feel, in contrast to the increasingly feminine, floral adorned drawing room. Lines were certainly being drawn in the home to mark out respective territories!
Dining Room Layout
Victorian and Edwardian dining rooms would be based around a large centrepiece table. This would either be a circular, rectangular or square table with a plain top, covered with a cloth and set off with an ornate floral arrangement in the centre. Upright chairs would surround the table, and these would usually be crafted with leather upholstery so that they proved easy to maintain. The carver would have his own ‘carver chair’ with arms to assist in his duties at meal times, and further diners’ chairs would be placed around the perimeter of the room for any unexpected guests.
Important Dining Room Furniture
One notch down from the table and chairs in the importance stakes for dining room furniture came the sideboard. A Victorian or Edwardian dinner would involve numerous dishes, which were placed on the sideboard during serving. This most useful piece of furniture would incorporate shelves, drawers and cupboards to keep dining paraphernalia conveniently at hand, and it would usually be a beautifully crafted piece with carvings designed to impress guests.
The Victorian or Edwardian dining room would almost always feature an ornamental fireplace with a mantel decorated with lots of candelabras and ornaments such as artificial plants. This was also the room for displaying family portraits and other artworks that guests would stop to admire.
A typical period dining room would be adorned by lace and satin curtains and windows would usually be punctuated by a large plant.
Hints in Household Taste
British architect and furniture designer Charles Eastlake (1836-1906) wrote in his book Hints in Household Taste:
“It is an old English custom to hang family portraits in the dining room, and it seems a reasonable custom. Generally large in size, and enclosed in massive frames, they appear well suited to an apartment which experience has led us to furnish in a more solid and substantial manner than any other in the house. Besides, the dining room is especially devoted to hospitality and family gatherings, and it is pleasant on such occasions to be surrounded by mementoes of those who once, perhaps, formed members of the social circle which they have long ceased to join.”
If you are looking to create the period dining room look in your home, why not take a browse through our range of dining room furniture and dining sets? At Oficina Britannia