Thinking about designing your dining space? This Q&A with our Design Manager Padraic Ward will set you on the right path. 


What are the key things to consider when designing your dining space (whether a separate dining room or a space adjoining the kitchen/living area)?

Your lifestyle influences your decision. If you have a growing family, practicality will be your key priority whereas if you are an entertainer, a larger dining space will be at the forefront of the decision-making process.

Always ask yourself the following questions;

  • What number of people will your dining space typically need to accommodate?
  • Will it need to cater for dinner parties i.e. large numbers of people and if so how often?

These questions will influence your decisions in relation to what type of dining space you create. For example, a large dining table will require a large, open space and a breakfast bar will cater for young families. When creating this space, consider how you want to feel when you are in the dining area and how you plan to use the space.

At Cairn Homes, we have a diverse mix of customers, from first time buyers to people who are downsizing.

We continually conduct research and ask for feedback from our customers on their needs, we look at market trends and we work with cutting edge innovative designers to ensure that each home design and layout answers the needs and requirements of that target market for that individual site.



With living rooms ever more integrated with kitchen and dining spaces, what are your top tips to homeowners who wish to create dining spaces that connect well with cooking spaces and living areas, both functionally and visually?


My best advice would be to create zones; think about the various functions that need to occur within the room and space, and how those functions will need to relate to each other.

Establish separate zones for each of those activities and position them according to how they may relate to each other functionally.

There are subtle things that can be done then to define each zone from one another such as variation in floor level, variation in floor finish, variation within the wall finish or furniture.

“Free standing furniture can be used to contain or define a zone”


It is important not to vary them too drastically, as you want to ensure that they will all sit together well as a whole. Free standing furniture can be used to contain or define a zone. By incorporating open shelf furniture within these areas, it will define the zone yet not block the visual connection between them.

When we design showhouses at the Cairn Homes sites, we aim to best showcase how the different areas can be used to optimise the space and area available.



When it comes to layout, what should we bear in mind to ensure we maximize the feeling of space in the room?

This is one of the most common questions I am asked. My advice is to be try not block the views into the open space or from the space out to the external space beyond. It’s imperative that you aim to get as much daylight as you can into the space, as a light bright space feels much larger.

Try and avoid clutter. Use fewer but, if necessary, bigger pieces of furniture when designing various spaces. Using multi-functional pieces of furniture will help reduce the number of items that you need. One frequent mistake that many home-buyers make is over-filling rooms. Try to avoid this where possible, as the more floor you can see the room will look and feel bigger. Incorporate furniture that sits off the floor as this will help give the illusion of more space. Light, open skeletal furniture should also help as they are not as visually intrusive within a space.

Again, with our showhouses at the Cairn Homes sites, we work with interior designers such as Roisin Lafferty to showcase how the home could look and inspire our customers on different layouts and uses.



Whats your advice to clients when it comes to selecting furniture, lighting and storage?


Before selecting furniture, it’s important to understand the size and shape of the space that you are working with.Ensure that the items of furniture will fit and function well within the space and sit well together as a collection. Before buying note the dimensions, map out the size of them where you would intend to place them within the space. You can do this either on a scaled drawing or by mapping them out within the space itself using masking tape. This will give you a good understanding of how they will sit within the space.

When it comes to storage and the furniture you need to accommodate it, it’s best to note down all the items you will need storage for and ensure that a space will be provided for them. Be clever about your storage choices, rather than purchasing large, bulky pieces of furniture look for neater and sleeker options that could potentially be incorporated into existing units.

With lighting, it’s important to set the right balance throughout the home. For the living room, this is a space which is usually flexible and used for entertainment but also as a place to relax. Consider using permanent fixtures but also take into consideration floor lamps that create a warm ambiance.

The kitchen requires more complex lighting as there is no single focal point in this room. Fitted overhead lights are a key component for the kitchen, however to highlight casual dining spaces such as a breakfast bar or island, consider low hanging lamps that will create a diverse setting.


What homework or preparation should homeowners do prior to consulting their interior designer about redesigning their dining/kitchen space?

Before you speak with your interior designer. Sit down and try to clearly define your brief as best you can. Ask yourself:

  • How do you intend to use the space?
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • What is your budget? These are the types of questions you should be able to answer at your first meeting with your designer.

If you have specific ideas as to how it should look or feel, then bring along images that express these ideas to your initial meeting.

A good idea might be to create a Pinterest board, which you can share with the designer. Include your colour schemes, inspirations, soft furnishing and design concepts. When deciding on the images to include on your board, ask yourself what it is that you like about each image and why. Once you identify a common theme within your design, this will help progress the discussion.