Q. Dear Andrew, with winter approaching I would like to entertain more at home but I need to make my dining room more welcoming. How can I do this?
A. Dedicated dining rooms have gone out of fashion in favour of open-plan living arrangements, however with more people entertaining at home, the desire for dedicated dining spaces has grown.
If you have the luxury of a separate space you can use a rich bold colour, which will look good if well-lit. A rich red paint or a bold wallpaper can add to the sense of drama and colours from the hot palette stimulate the appetite so they are great choices. If the dining area is part of a larger open-plan space, then the decoration ie, a different colour on the walls can help define the area. With tiled or wooden flooring, consider using a rug under the table to create definition, but make it large enough to pull out chairs.
Lighting plays a major part in setting the correct mood – a feature pendant over the table can add a dramatic touch and create a pool of lighting onto the table. Remember to make sure the lighting for the dining room can be dimmed; this can be supplemented with candle light in the evening.
Round tables are more sociable and suitable if you expect to entertain up to 6 people. An extendable table is a great option if you want to entertain large numbers but generally require a small table day to day. Chairs not only need to look good but they need to be comfortable. Before you purchase any chair, sit in it for at least 10 minutes. Upholstered chairs will soften the look and a bold fabric will add colour. If you have a young family or are worried about spillages, ensure that any fabric can be easily cleaned.
If possible include some practical storage near your dining area for crockery, cutlery, glasses and table linen – sideboards are very on trend at the moment.
Q. Dear Andrew, I’m about to install a new solid floor and have heard how good under-floor heating is – do you recommend it and how do I install it?
A. Under-floor heating is a great choice to provide heating in both a specific area and throughout the whole house. Although it is relatively unknown here, it is widely used in Europe and Scandinavia. I have a water-based under-floor heating system in my own home so I can highly recommend it. It is a common misconception that it is expensive to install and run. The combined costs are comparable to traditional radiator heating.
Under-floor heating means there are no restrictions on where you can place your furniture and you get a more even heat.
You can either have an electric or a water-based system. The electric is easily installed and suitable if you want a small installation. The water-based system involves laying pipes and enclosing them in a screed so it is more suited to larger renovations.
With under-floor heating, the heat will be ambient throughout the room and it will suddenly make a tiled floor more attractive in the winter and it takes just a small trickle of heat to take off the chill. Remember that under-floor heating won’t provide instant warmth so try not to switch it on and off. It is best if you can maintain a constant heat.
Most floor finishes will be suitable but check that any wooden floor you intend to use is suitable for under-floor heating.
Andrew Dunning is head designer at APD Interiors, an interior design consultancy, www.apdinteriors.com. Follow his design tips on Twitter: @andrewdunning