The dining table (as you know it) is dying
Matchbox sized-apartments aren't the only reason the dining table is out of sight in modern homes. A need for multi-usage pieces and a desire for innovative designs are leading urban couples and families to say goodbye to the bulky table for six
Varun Jha uses the bar table that separates his living room from his
kitchen for everything, from serving drinks to eating dinner.
Pic/ Santosh Nagwekar
Twenty nine year-old Varun Jha is in a surprisingly good mood for someone who's just braved the maddening traffic on the last night of Navratri to get home from the airport after a week-long business trip in Dubai. At his rented Chembur flat where he lives with his writer wife, the marketing executive with Piramal Glass Ltd. unwinds over a glass of whisky and a light sandwich at the bar counter that separates his open kitchen from his living room. "It's convenient, especially when we are entertaining, because even if you are busy making a drink or whipping up a snack for your guests at the kitchen, you still want to be part of the group. When it's just me and my wife, the counter doubles up as anything from a breakfast counter to a dinner table. Plus, it saves a whole lot of space," says Jha.
The Xtend Centre table goes from a compact piece to an expandable
one with storage space. Rs 31,000
Look around the tastefully done up one-bedroom apartment, and you know he is right. What will a just-married couple with busy lives do with a bulky six-seater dining table that could take up close to half of your living room?
But it's not just couples. Across the city, as an upwardly mobile, upper middle-class population juggles maddening work schedules and a demanding personal life, while placing personal style at a premium, the old family home fixture is finding itself transforming into innovative and multipurpose designs.
More than food
Ratna Waghani, a resident of Vile Parle and mother of two, is busy on most days taking care of her kids and looking after her home. Even though her nuclear family is privileged to live in a bungalow with a terrace, Waghani found an unusual location for their dining table -- the terrace.
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This functional coffee table with storage and extendable panels for food
is available at Bo Concept for Rs 44,750. Pics/ Shadab Khan
"We travel a lot, and have erratic work hours. And so, everybody ends up eating at a different time. We realised the dining table was lying unused most of the time. That's when we decided to move it out onto the terrace 15 years ago, where it's now used as a buffet counter when we hold parties for friends, or a game unit when the family gets together. Sometimes, it transforms into a study table for one of us looking for some peace and quiet," explains Waghani.
That's a far cry from the time the dining table used to be the centrepiece of a home -- a fixture for the family to commune over food and stories of the day. As P Rama Krishna Rao, Associate Senior Faculty, Furniture and Interior Design, National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, explains, "The idea of a house has changed, at least across urban centres. The living area and dining room used to be a matter of pride for the homeowners, and a show of affluence for Indian families. While that is still the case, now, people are looking for innovation in furniture and interiors, in ways that reflect their personality and taste. Furniture has come to be linked more with function than the way it looks, at least in urban India."
Table Side Folding Mango available in the new Fab India furniture
collection for Rs 3,900. pics/ santosh nagwekar
Only when I need it
If you look hard enough, the change is apparent. At Versova-based 'handcrafted' store Tribal Route, the demand for a six-seater dining table has gone down by 50 per cent in the past two years, says proprietor Nihar Mehta. "We sell low, long centre tables that double up as dining tables, by throwing a couple of floor cushions next to them. Tables with foldable legs that are easy to put together and dismantle are popular too. People want something that can work as a dining table when needed, and then go back to being an unobtrusive piece of furniture used to study on or to hold objects."
That's exactly why Bliss, the fashion and d �cor store at Versova, stocks cool 'Occasion Tables' that slide neatly under your couch or sofa set, and can be hauled up when you want to eat or study. "It's large enough to hold a single person's meal, and takes up very little space when kept aside. It works much better than a large static dining table that can only serve one purpose. Our tables can become anything you want them to be," says owner Mallika Desai, even as she shows a few customers around.
Mehta puts the requirement for multifunctionality down to the rising cost of food and drink at restaurants, as well as the yearning for a younger, personal feel to furniture. "People now prefer hosting parties at home; it's economical. But the lack of space doesn't allow for a massive dining table. We sell everything from folding bars with storage space to bookcases that double up as buffet tables."
Agnello Dias (above) pulls down the rubber wood table to share breakfast
with his family (below). pic/ Pradeep Dhivar
A table for all occasions
For Asim Merchant, partner at contemporary furniture store Red Blue & Yellow at Mahalaxmi, the demand for the six-seater has not disappeared, but transformed. "The demand for extendable tables that become six-seaters from say, four-seaters, is on the rise," he says, explaining, "Dining tables are becoming multi-utilitarian. People want to use their tables for cooking (chopping), storing cutlery, to study or work on, to hold bar accessories, and of course to eat on. So, we have dining tables with in-built storage for cutlery and table mats and tables with in-built bars."
That's probably why the most popular piece of furniture currently on sale at FabIndia is the folding dining table, confirms Aneeta Shah, Store Manager, Kalaghoda & Nagpur, Fabindia Overseas Pvt Ltd. At an exhibition of their latest collection, the AUZZRO furniture range, at Coomaraswamy Hall, Prince of Wales Museum, the hot seller is a folding dining table that goes from a three to a six-seater in a few swift moves. Shah says, "Customers are constantly looking for compact designs. We have a stool that can become a side table, while our low coffee tables can be converted to floor dining by adding floor cushions."
Innovation is key
Surjit Singh, Brand Director of BoConcept, a Danish design furniture brand, demonstrates the use of two uber-cool folding dining tables that transform, almost magically, into larger pieces with nothing but a deft touch-and-turn. "Innovation is key. While functionality is important, a piece of furniture that goes from serving one purpose to accommodating another is often a topic of conversation in modern homes. And that's what we try to offer," he says.
Sure enough, in one corner of their spacious store at Lower Parel mall stands an unassuming, low centre table. Apply slight pressure at its centre, and two side panels slide out and rise to reveal storage space within, simultaneously offering two extra eat-on surfaces.
Explains Merchant, "The emphasis on home entertaining and informal dining, both functions of our casual lifestyles. Living rooms have become multi-functional spaces for the family, weekend entertaining with friends and an extension of offices. Everyone wants their house to look more modern and exclusive. With the contemporary design revolution that's unfolding in construction and interiors, coupled with the growth in number of young house-proud individuals, the creative and clever use of space has become more exciting. It demands thought and engineering, making it challenging."
Nandini Dias, a media agency head, wanted a piece of furniture that out of the ordinary. At her Wadala home, which she shares with her husband and two grown boys, pride of place is given to a pull-out dining table crafted out of rubber wood. "We thought of it not because we lacked space, although it does make the living room look spacious. We were looking for something that was fresh rather than a replica of the assembly-line wrought iron furniture that was everywhere about eight years ago."
Dias hunted down a furniture designer who created a table with no legs. When it's pulled out during mealtimes to reveal a cabinet that holds bar accessories that it covers, it looks like it's floating mid-air. "It's got a balance beam mechanism that the designer achieved by using a set of weights to balance it without the legs."
When the lady sees the look of surprise from guests she entertains, she knows she doesn't miss the legs.