Guest Post: Reading between the lines: home design inspiration from grand dining rooms in literature

We often say that the kitchen is the heart of the home, but in truth, traditionally only the cooks and maids would enter the kitchen – haven’t you seen Downtown Abbey?

Back in those days, the dining room was one of the most important rooms of the house, second only to the parlour. While we embrace minimalism today, it used to be considered poor taste to show your guests into a bare room.

As such, great dining room furniture, such as the sideboard, played a major role and was often made the focal point of the room. Even the walls were adorned with the owner’s prized possessions, as portraits of ancestors hung proudly on display.

The rise of Downton Abbey may have brought this period look back into fashion, but dining rooms have been taking the centre stage in literature for many years. Let’s take a quick look back into some of the world’s most famous books for some


In literature


Written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and recently turned into a motion picture, The Great Gatsby features a magnificent regal dining room. Set in the 1920s, when the new art deco style was taking the world by storm, it features a spectacular fireplace and oversized oval dining table.

In Pride and Prejudice, the Bingley’s home, Netherfield Park, is like many of its time; large and spacious. The difference being that rather than the usual oversized dining table this one features a rather small breakfast table – something which can easily be replicated in the modern day.


These examples of grand dining rooms in literature are a stark contrast to the type of room described in more modern books.

The Hunger Games is a current best-seller and has also been turned into a movie. In the scene where the tributes get to indulge in a feast before the Games, the dining room is empty, save for a huge glass table and bright green space-age chairs.

Who knows, in a few years time, we might be looking back on the The Hunger Games and trying to recreate the look in our dining rooms!


Getting the period look


If you’re restoring a period dining room and want to achieve the same elegance and luxury as those found in some famous literature, here are some top tips.

  • Furniture

The first thing that anyone should look at when they walk into a period dining room is the furniture. A large dark wood table will set the scene but make sure you’ve got enough space to get around.

Don’t got mixing up different eras and make sure the chairs match the table- high backs will add to the drama.


  • Dressing the table

Your table has to be dressed to impress so invest in a high quality set of cutlery. You can opt for something dishwasher proof as long as it is finished well and perfectly weighted.

Formal dining is all about drama, so make sure you’ve got plenty of decorative items on your table: from brass candelabra to stainless steel goblets and a crystal vase.

  • Walls

If you want to ensure that your period dining room looks as though it’s been pulled off the pages of a Dickens novel, you’ll need to think about the décor.

It was unheard of to just give the walls a lick of paint – you will need to choose fabulous patterned wallpaper. Ideally, choose one with rich, dark hues and hints of gold or silver as this will be the perfect back drop to all the portraits and landscape paintings hanging on your walls.

These are just some of the ways you can draw inspiration from literature. When reading, let your imagination run wild and allow your design ideas to bring your favourite books to life.

Search for dining room furniture at Sainsbury’s and get started on recreating your favourite fictional dining places in your home today!

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