Decor and Design: How to create the perfect dining room

A thought experiment: Cast your mind back to your most-cherished memories at home with your loved ones. It could be a conversation over a glass of red wine and a slow-cooked stew, a board game night on a cold winter's evening or something else entirely. Whatever you recall, I'll hazard a guess that some of those recollections happened at the kitchen table.

Informal dining areas have always been important - but now that many people in heritage houses are converting their formal dining rooms to home offices or forgoing the space entirely in new builds, they have become indispensable.

If you're pressed for space, a round table can work well, as it allows for the maximum amount of seating in a small area.

The Eero Saarinen pedestal table, also known as a tulip table, is a mid-century classic that is enjoying a resurgence in popularity.

Many companies, including IKEA, produce similar-looking designs if the price of the real thing gives you sticker shock.

Pair one with the sinuous curves of bentwood chairs such as Le Corbusier's B9 armchair, another classic, for an on-trend look that will also stand the test of time.

Another direction is mix-and-match seating - for example, a combination of different styles such as bentwood and spindle-back chairs with timber stools, or the same style of chair in different colours.

Lighting is all important for a cosy, convivial mood.

For pendants, the general rule of thumb is that the bottom of the light should be 75 centimetres above the table top, but this can depend on personal preference, ceiling heights and furniture sizes.

One of my favourite designs is Poul Henningsen's PH lamp. Launched in 1925 following a decade of experimentation, the PH has layered shades to create a soft, diffused light. The inner side of one of the elements is red to bring the harsh white of the electric globe back to a warmer hue.

Fiona Parry-Jones, of Von Haus Interior Design Studio, says there is a move towards oversized pendant lights in informal dining areas.

"Oversized lighting adds a bit of drama and creates conversation," she says. "It's a talking point that brings the audience together."

Materials are another important consideration. For those with young children, hard-wearing laminate tabletops can be a good option (check out Hay's T12 table for a great-looking version).

That said, timber and marble tables can develop a beautiful patina over time, if you're the sort of person who can handle a bit of wear and tear.

Sally Bevan, founder of online interior design and styling service Milray Park, says that the desire for materials that show marks and stains is itself a direction in interiors.

"People are looking for things that have a bit of character," she says.

"The preference is for something that has been banged up a bit."

This story Decor and Design: How to create the perfect dining room first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.