Ask Nicely: How do I merge my kitchen and dining room without completely abandoning either the traditional or modern style?

Dear Evelyn:

For years I’ve been toying with the idea of knocking down the wall between my kitchen and dining room (instead of squeezing into the tiny breakfast nook). I find that my family rarely uses the dining room, and as much as I love having a formal dining room, I also love the idea of opening up the space. The question is how to merge a modern kitchen with a traditional, antique-laden, “boxy” dining room. Clearly, I need to do some serious planning to ensure cohesion and continuity between the two rooms. Do you have any suggestions for merging the two spaces without completely abandoning either the traditional or modern style? Your advice would be helpful and much appreciated.

Dear Ditching the Dining Room:

You are not alone in perceiving your formal dining room as a slowly dying design concept. When we ask our kitchen redesign clients how many times they’ve used their dining room in the past year, most can count on one hand the amount of times they’ve had meals at the dining room table– and many of our clients are a bit frustrated with the wasted dining room space as it does not serve a purpose nor fit their modern lifestyle.

With dining rooms being used less frequently (at most, twice a year for formal holiday gatherings) it seems that dining rooms no longer lend themselves to the more up-to-date way we live, eat and entertain. As opposed to holding onto to your existing outdated and confined dining room, you are wise in thinking that family would benefit from a more spacious, casual living area that they can use every day.

You’ve proposed a great solution to resuscitate the demise of your wasted dining space by knocking down the wall between your kitchen and dining room. This could potentially double your kitchen space; creating a more open, casual environment. An open plan will not only allow more interaction between the kitchen- the hub of the home- and other rooms, it will also enable more interaction between the family.

Repurposing the dining room is a popular design trend, especially in older homes with families that prefer casual living. When planning for a remodel that ditches the dining room, you must come up with a plan that considers the best way to transition both spaces while seamlessly blending style and architecture. If you are rethinking your space or looking for ways to repurpose your dining room, start with our top 5 considerations for your dining room-volution:

  1. Function and Purpose. Consider the way you operate in your current space. Think about what works, what is lacking and what is on your wish list. Your new kitchen design should represent the way your family lives. Maybe you want to enlarge the general area, create an open concept for your home or update a less efficient layout.

  2. How to keep balance. How do you knock down walls for a merge without drastically changing the existing style of either room. There are certain design techniques that designers can suggest, such as incorporating traditional or even “transitional” style cabinets in the kitchen to better blend with the formal architecture or decor of the dining room. However, if you love stark, sleek modern kitchens you may have to completely ditch the traditional, antiquated dining room style for a totally new sleek, modern or minimalist space. Working with a designer can open up your mind to the scope of possibilities

  3. Gather Inspiration. Scroll through Nicely Done’s website portfolio, look at magazines and online sites, such as and Pinterest. Start compiling ideas, photos, appliances, layouts and floor plans you like. This is a great place to start if you are undecided on how to shape new ideas for the space.

  4. Think of your budget. I’m sure there are concerns about the cost inherent to your kitchen renovation. Blowing out walls, and moving gas lines, plumbing connections and electrical wiring can add up. Generally renovations are less costly. It is less expensive to remove walls than to build out or add on new rooms.

Our “Design Review” is a very thorough process, in which clients receive one/multiple design ideas, a full showing of potential materials/cabinetry/accessories/ plumbing, and then a full presentation of the proposed budget. This enables you, as the client, to have a really thorough presentation as you make your decision about financial expenditures, and ultimately making a commitment to the project with us.

  1. Lastly, have fun. It’s your space! Repurpose and reimagine your dining room for how you want to uniquely live. How about adding an area for: a cook book library, office nook or coffee bar. How about an area for cafe style seating, or adding a large butler’s pantry, or oversized kitchen island. Re-envision the possibilities in a manner that not only makes your kitchen functional, but also more fun and enjoyable.

Claiming your dining room space for a kitchen update may pay off now (for your enjoyment) and later when it comes time to resale. Our designers would love to assist you in designing the concept of merging your rooms. The fact that a room is called a dining room or kitchen area does not mean that’s the only functions. In fact, I propose that buyers and owners alike might want to spend some time rethinking and rearranging the wasted spaces in their homes to maximize efficiency and live to the very edges of your home’s precious square footage.