Etsy's prediction for 2023? The formal dining room's return. A welcome relief or waste of space?

After the open-plan revolution, it looks like our dining habits are shifting back to a more traditional dinner-time setup

Grey and white dining room with retro chairs and table with tablecloth laid with spring flower displays
(Image credit: HELEN CATHCART)

A return to formal dining rooms is not something we would have predicted this time last year, but according to the global online marketplace Etsy, more people are looking to create a more traditional sit-down dining space in 2023 than ever before.

Interior design trends aren't always borne out but because Etsy (opens in new tab)'s are based on our buying habits, their annual predictions often come true. But a return to formal dining? We're not – entirely – convinced.

Sure, the way we use our homes continues to evolve in the wake of years of uncertainty and more of us are looking to host intimate gatherings at home than ever before. This is what Homes & Gardens' editors think about the dining room trend for 2023.

Dining area by Albion Nord at 80 Holland Park

(Image credit: Patrick Williamson / Albion nord)

It's a 'yes' for formal dining

‘The trend for a home aesthetic that’s both maximalist and nostalgic has been growing this year,' says Millie Hurst, Section Editor for Homes & Gardens. 'We’ve had “Grandmillennial”, which sees people embracing retro ornaments you’d find at your grandma’s, and Pinterest’s "Hipstoric" trend, blending G Plans with contemporary neon lighting. So I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this interest in the past translates to our dining habits – whether that’s eating in formal dining rooms rather than the kitchen table, or simply hosting at home more often. 

'Who doesn't love making a simple pasta dish more of an occasion with napkins, chargers, handwritten cocktail menus, and a slightly chintzy tablecloth?' she asks.

Set dining room, table and sofa

(Image credit: Carolyn Barber)

It's a 'maybe' for formal dining

Jennifer Ebert, Homes & Garden's Deputy Editor (digital) agrees: 'For me, the return of the formal dining room is a welcome relief, but you'll want to curate a space that can be used more often than just on special occasions,' she says. 'After all, what is the point of a room that doesn't have regular usage? Every dining room should have an inviting and convivial atmosphere. It should be a reflection of the homeowner's personality and character, not a soulless space that doesn't bring joy.'

'In a small home with limited square footage, a dining room has to work hard to earn its keep – and that requires careful planning,' Jen continues. 'Elements such as closed storage to hide office and schoolwork clutter are crucial, so bear that in mind if a formal dining room ranks high on your wish list.'

white dining nook with dark wood chairs

(Image credit: Reid Rolls )

It's a 'no' for formal dining

Not everyone is thrilled at the idea of traditional dining rooms returning, however, as Lucy Searle, Global Editor in Chief for Homes & Gardens reveals. 

'The words "formal dining" fill me with horror. While I regularly entertain and always make an effort to make my dining room look beautiful, my main aim is always to ensure my guests feel relaxed. They are, after all, my closest friends, and they work hard all week long, as do I. So, I don't over-dress the table, I make the room feel warm and welcoming with pretty napkins and twinkling candlelight, and I encourage them to swap seats after courses to ensure everyone gets to catch up. And my main efforts go into the food, which is in itself hearty and often self-served.

'I regularly attend what might be called "formal dinners" for work and what is notable is how much more relaxed these have become since the pandemic,' Lucy reflects. 'Because of the business I am in, the dining rooms are always elegant and the table settings look fabulous, but the hosts are much more likely to encourage an informal atmosphere now. I went to a fabulous dinner with a well-known wallpaper and fabric brand at a gorgeous hotel when I was attending High Point Market this fall, and it ended with a karaoke. You don't get more informal than that!'

Lucy Searle
Lucy Searle

Lucy Searle has written about interiors, property and gardens for over 30 years, starting within the interiors departments of women's magazines before switching to interiors-only titles in the mid-1990s. She spent five years as Associate Editor on Ideal Home, one of Britain's biggest and oldest interiors titles. In 2018, Lucy took on the role of Global Editor in Chief for Realhomes.com, taking the site from a small magazine add-on to a global success, with a large US audience. She was asked to repeat that success at Homes & Gardens, where she has also taken on the editorship of the magazine, which is the UK's oldest interiors magazine at 103 years old. Lucy is a serial renovator and also owns rental properties in the UK and Europe, so brings first-hand knowledge to the subjects she oversees.

Dining room with black and white chairs

(Image credit: Photos: Raquel Langworthy / Design: Colette Interiors)

Will you be embracing a more formal dining room setup? We would love to hear from you via our social media outlets.

Source: Etsy Marketplace Insights (opens in new tab)

Formal dining rooms may become popular once again but in a slightly different iteration to the past. As friends and family come together to sit down and eat together more often, having designated place to set and enjoy a meal without the distractions of a television have risen in importance but might not be as formal as a closed off dining table. Instead, kitchen island seating and banquet nooks have become more popular allowing for more social iterations at dinner without the pressure of formalities. 

Is a formal dining room a waste of space?

Although not as popular as they once were, formal dining rooms are becoming less of a waste of space and more a convenient place to sit down to enjoy a meal with friends and family without external distractions. A formal dining room may be a waste of space in your home if you don't find yourself hosting groups frequently, however, or if you have a kitchen large enough for adding a conventional dining table and seating or a banquette.

Chiana Dickson
Junior Writer

Chiana is a junior writer for Homes & Gardens having joined Future plc as a new graduate in 2022 after achieving a 1st class degree in Literature at university. She first became interested in design as a child after spending her summers helping her parents redecorate her childhood home. As a long-time reader of Future’s homes titles, Chiana is constantly finding new inspiration at work as she focuses on emerging trends, how-to’s, and news pieces.