The original table was one of the first pieces of furniture we purchased together: it came from Conran's on Astor Place (New Yorkers who remember Astor Place In The Day raise your hands). It has been with us for eighteen years in four apartments. Perhaps dining tables like to work but they also speak of respite: what is more comforting than slowing down to share a meal together? This table is a wonder of design: it folds into thirds and can be stored in a space no more than six inches wide -- necessary in a first apartment where the cooking, eating and living areas combined were smaller than most hallways. Neither of us could bear to part with the table, and who knows what ways we may find to press it into service in the future! But for now it is allowed to rest, out of the way but within access.
The dominant feature in the room is wall cabinets in stained oak, so we took that tone into account when deciding upon new furniture. The pieces we eventually decided upon were available in three finishes: unstained birch, honey and espresso. The honey finish we decided upon showcases the warmth of the wood, while the modern design keeps the pieces from looking precious. The finish harmonizes with the kitchen cabinets that are an arm's length away, as well as the occasional shelves and a storage table that were already in the dining area, which we knew we were going to continue using.
The table seats four; with the extensions, eight. We decided not to buy the matching chairs because we both like the black vinyl diner chairs we already had, and in color and style they anchor the area. Black provides visual relief from the wood tones while carrying through to the color scheme in the kitchen area. Black, honey and orange are the colors for both areas; a subtle line of demarcation between the two is achieved by the introduction of cream and autumn gold in the kitchen area.
Though it is sizable enough to navigate comfortably, the dining area is compact, so displays have to be judiciously edited. We chose a china hutch with frosted glass doors, so that the items inside would only be part of the visual dialogue when in service. The generously-sized upper shelves house water- and wine glasses, carafes, and coffee and tea service. Eight formal china settings are separated by felt rounds and stacked on helper shelves; there is still room to store holiday dinnerware and a set of dessert plates.
On the lower shelves are a collection of Russell Wright serveware in my favorite glazes of nutmeg and black chutney, as well as additional serving pieces. I love to collect these pieces during weekend scrounges at tag sales, church sales, flea markets and internet auctions. The bottom shelf is the right size to house two wine racks: one for red and one for white. As it frequently is in city home bars, liquor is organized on butler trays -- straight liquor on one, cordials and liqueurs on the other.