What’s The Best Layout For A Pass-Through Dining Room? Caitlin Explores In Her Own Home


I have made a mountain out of a molehill. I have thought myself into a corner (literally. Twice!). I HAVE GIVEN UP. (Well, almost, at least.) The culprit behind my impending demise and omnipresent tension headache? My apartment’s 10′ wide, 15′ long pass-through dining room. She’s beautiful, she’s enormous, and y’all, she is FILLED TO THE BRIM WITH DOORS AND OPENINGS AND WINDOWS. Every time I’m like, “oh, maybe this is a good dining room layout to try,” there is an architectural feature in the way!!! (Such is life when you have a pass-through space, I guess.) But here’s the thing: even having a dining room in LA – much less one of this size! – is an incredible privilege, and I’M TOTALLY BLOWING IT. So today, I am throwing my hands in the air and humbly asking for your layout feedback. I’m breaking out some embarrassing, unstyled, unfinished photos of a room whose aesthetic can currently best be described as “Toontown-meets-flea market…but, like, not in a cute way” in the hopes that, well, maybe we can talk through my final three layout options together. THE INDECISION ENDS TODAY. Ready?

Current Layout

Some context: The dining room is the heart of my railroad-style apartment. There’s a 6′ opening that connects it to the living room; there’s a wall of windows with a door to the balcony; there’s a swinging door that opens to the kitchen (usually closed); there’s a door to the hallway (ALWAYS open because I’m STILL obsessed with ogling that paint color). You ready to see some actual progress shots?

AHHH. Sometimes I hear politicians say things like, “wow, I’m so humbled by (award/honor/something that would be an ego boost, if anything)” and I think ALL of those people should have to post photos of their in-progress houses for critique because THIS IS ACTUALLY HUMBLING. I can get kind of touchy and embarrassed about sharing my space as it is right now (like, in person, too) because I feel insecure about the discordance between my job and my actual life. It feels weird (and sometimes fraudulent, if I’m being super honest) to write about design while sitting in the middle of a room that doesn’t look cohesive or finished yet, you know? BUT I DIGRESS. Gimme a second to pull my head out of my literal butt and then we can talk about what’s working and what’s not. Got a little too earnest there for a second, huh???

My main gripe – outside the haphazard collection of much-loved vintage chairs and case goods that have been relegated here as placeholders – is that the furniture layout just kinda sucks. And by “kind of,” I mean that THIS LAYOUT BLOWS CHUNKS, guys. If there was a textbook about how not to arrange furniture in a pass-through dining room, my current dining room configuration would be a contender for the cover shot. You know what happens as soon as anyone sits down at ANY of the chairs? ADIOS, WALKWAY. Catch ya later, ability to open doors. And since my credenza is so big, my dining table is sliiiightly off-center from the light fixture above. There’s more that drives me nuts, but it’s reductive. The TL;DR: It’s like death by a thousand little design agony cuts in here. BUT…

There have been good parts, too! I’ve been REALLY slow in purchasing for this room, but I’ve also been much more intentional with what comes in here. It’s not glamorous (she said, staring at a sea of 1980s laminate – I had a long postmodern phase, y’all) and collecting pieces for this long is VERY anti-climatic – I wish I could be a One Room Challenge type! – but deep down, I know it’s going to lead to a result that I’m much happier with in the long term.

Case in point: I purchased this lucite ribbon chandelier for a song at the Long Beach Flea in July of 2019 and from the moment I saw it, I knew it would live in my dining room one day. 3 years have passed, but I’m just as excited about hanging it up today as I was back in 2019. (“My affections and wishes have not changed” – technically Mr. Darcy, but also my internal monologue when I think about this light fixture getting installed.) I love how its tubular ribbons speak to the chimes of my doorbell and how the brass echoes the gold in the wallpaper. If taking a long time to design a space means that all of these elements I love will get to shine together, well…I’m glad, I guess 🙂 To that end, I’ve landed on 3 final layout configurations and I’m ready to get all of these pros and cons out of my head…READY?

Option 1: With A Twist

GROUNDBREAKING STUFF, I KNOW. In this layout – the easiest switch of the three – I’d nix the larger credenza, center the dining table and chairs in the middle of the room, and I’d opt for a smaller storage piece near the window (ideally probably about 40″ wide and fairly narrow, if I’m putting wishlist specifics out into the universe).

The Pros: This is pretty easy! I’d probably keep an eye out for the burl version of my current dining table on Facebook Marketplace (the stark white is pretty jarring to me against the wallpaper – does it stand out to you, too, or am I too in my head?). I’d reclaim my vintage waterfall bench for seating – it’s currently in the corner next to the window and it looks SO good with the curve of the table base, guys!!! – and while I’d love to search for 4 new chairs to tie everything together, I thiiiink I’d just reupholster the 1970s Italian chairs from above in a punchy seat fabric (got them for $1 each on Craigslist about 4 years ago – still can’t beat that price!!).

The Cons: I hate this plan. I mean, it’s…fine? It opens up the space a bit, but it’s pretty uninspired. It also doesn’t solve my current pain point of “OH MY GOD, why did I put a table in the middle of the room and now I have to speed walk and zig-zag around an obstacle while trying not to drop 30 bottles of Kombucha, oh no oh no oh no.” I really, really, really wanted to find a way to connect the living room entrance with the hall and kitchen doors to make my schelpping (of food, but also of suitcases and decor and furniture and goods of all kinds) a bit easier. That brings us to…

Option 2: The Banquette

NOW WE’RE TALKING. This one’s a little harder to grok (seeing as you don’t also, you know, live in my apartment with me while spending hours every day thinking about my dining room layout), so let me show you what I’m dreaming of a little more closely, yeah?

I’ve been obsessed with this banquette for a minute – it was actually the piece that spawned my dissertation on banquettes – and I’d love to see it right underneath the doorbell. It feels fun and a little more intimate than the previous layout option – I like that the idea of the dining area being tucked away a little bit, instead of just floating out in the middle of the room. (Why am I writing this like I live with a ton of people and need privacy???) I recently ordered 10 fabric samples, but I’m most leaning towards a nice lil’ pink shade – the living room is gonna be pink, too 🙂

Here, I’d love to see a tall dry bar with two visually lightweight stools…though literally anything would be a massive step up from this ill-sized bench, which was moved to this spot for a shoot and remains because (a.) my cat loves napping here and (b.) IT’S SO CUTE WHEN SHE’S NAPPING HERE. Anyway – I’m on the hunt for a dry bar like this one above in particular – I love the brass details, the mix of rattan and steel, and the sheer and delicate framing. I like that it’d be the primary piece visible from the living room – it feels inviting, like it’d draw folks into my apartment – and I also love how it speaks to the color palette from the doorbell. The kicker? The shipping alone for this piece is $1,500 (she wrote, weeping) – if anyone spots a similar piece in the continental US…well, I’ll be here, sitting and waiting, with my uShip account at the ready.

The Pros: I am going to copy this verbatim from my own personal notes: “I like it. I like bars. I want to be able to lay down while eating.” SIMPLE. THOUGHTFUL. COMPELLING.

The Cons: I can’t find a freakin’ table, you guys. In a dream world, I’d find a pedestal table that’s around 40″ x 52″. In reality, that does not seem to exist (in my price range, at least). I have considered a few other options to make it work – getting a vintage table base and cutting my own top is the frontrunner right now, but I’m also intrigued by the idea of 2 smaller round tables – but that’s actually not my only concern: is there going to be a weird and/or off-putting amount of space in the center of the room now? I have to admit that I do kind of like that from a functional perspective – I have a rower and my air conditioner is in the dining room, so it’d be great to have a space big enough to work out in next to the A/C – but I worry that guests will look at my rower-less space and be like “uh, hey, why is there a literal ballroom’s worth of empty space between your furniture, dummy???”

Option 3: The Other Banquette

Which brings us to the final possible configuration – an ~8′ straight line banquette, paired with a standard ~6′ table and two regular dining chairs. I’m still not totally sure how I feel about this – I’ve been thinking about it for weeks and I still can’t figure out if it’s my favorite option or if I totally hate it.

The Pros: A full-sized table could fit and the whole setup could hold WAY more people than the L-shaped banquette (like, twice as many, I think). I think this one may be the best use of space (if my goal is seating as many people as possible, which it seems to be). The path to the kitchen and hallway is super clear, too, which would make pushing furniture around the apartment SO much easier.

The Cons: And again – I will quote this straight from my personal notes: “Still too much weird space in the middle? Will chair backs be close to the door? I think I’m spiraling.” (Pretty self-aware, at least.) I’m still concerned about the gaps in the middle of the room, but the general flow of these banquettes just feels better to me – what do you think? I know we’ve gone over a lot today, so I want to leave you with a full overview of where we are and where we’re going – ANY feedback, thoughts, ideas, suggestions, questions, comments, quips, well-wishes, etc. will be VERY appreciated.

WHAT SAY YOU??? Please help. What kind of layout would you opt for, if this was your home? Any furniture suggestions? Am I overthinking? (Maybe don’t answer that one. We all know that I absolutely am!!!) Anyone else struggling with an unassuming room that has slowly but surely morphed into a design agony? Let’s all commiserate. I can’t wait to get outta my head and into the comments – SEE YOU DOWN THERE 🙂 xx

The post What’s The Best Layout For A Pass-Through Dining Room? Caitlin Explores In Her Own Home appeared first on Emily Henderson.


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