The dinner party is dead, long live the dinner party.
For those of us threatened by TV shows such as Come Dine With Me where we are all meant to cook like Michelin-starred chefs, the news that the formal dinner party is dead has to be good news.
With the more easy-going kitchen supper the new superstar in home dining, gone are the days of the dining room and doing complicated things with foam, according to a survey by Sussex University. But is the golden age of the dining room over for good, or is there life yet in this prescribed room still beloved by some?
If the posh dinner party is not yet dead, it should be firmly murdered believes Ian Marris from Knight Frank's London Residential division. "How we live has changed and a multi-functional room for entertaining, relaxing, eating and doing homework is preferable to a cold, rarely visited dining room."
Marris, who has helped advise developers on how to lay out new homes, says there are clever ways of incorporating a dining room into a space that also has another purpose. "Partition walls that semi-separate the kitchen and using the shape of the room to create different areas are the way to go," he suggests.
When you consider that a large London family home valued at £2,000 a square foot might have a 180-square foot dining room, it is astounding to think that this room costs a whopping £360,000: "an awful lot of money for a room that only gets used one day of the year for Christmas lunch," points out Charles Smith from Sotheby's International Realty.
He says dining rooms were a Victorian invention and, as we no longer have staff to prepare dinner for us today, "families prefer a big open-plan kitchen/breakfast room for relaxed meals".
People spending £12 million on a house expect a smart dining room. They won't be disappointed then by Nightingale House in London's Mayfair, with its gentleman's club-style formal dining room. Sotheby's International Realty 020 7495 9580.
Despite this, Smith believes formal dining is set for a comeback and an impressive dining room could sway the sale of a luxury property. The 'new' dining space needs a service area linked to the kitchen, a chilled pantry and even a dumbwaiter. "With so many ex-investment bankers starting new ventures, the home is the new office. Instead of taking people out, restaurant-style home entertaining could be the next big thing."
House finder Robert Bailey, from Robert Bailey Property, agrees with Smith that as the recession bites, everyone will eat at home.
"Diplomats, who can't be seen to have huge houses any longer, are getting round the problem by buying mansion flats with big reception rooms and a dining room. This is cheaper than owning a £20 million house that just sits there most of the time," he says.
The dinner party is anything but dead in the Cotswolds, argues Charlie Comber from Hayman-Joyce's Broadway office. "Buyers of large country houses still want a formal dining room," he explains, "but they also want a large kitchen/breakfast/orangery space that they use during the week."
One difficulty is that the formal dining room can lack character. If it is too large, it feels unwelcoming. And because it is seldom used it lacks the personal touches that make a kitchen warm and cheerful. "Clever interior design can get round the problem," says Comber, "and don't be tempted to fill the dining room with furniture and furnishings that have started to lose their appeal."
Mulberry House in Gloucestershire has a 30-foot open-plan kitchen/breakfast room, but if you are pining for a dining room you could convert one of five reception rooms. £2.3 million, through Hayman-Joyce 01386 858510.
The reincarnated dinner party – shepherd's pie and champers in the kitchen – means living in a less formal way, with children coming and going, guests contributing food or helping with the cooking and the evening progressing like a play with a single set – the kitchen – says James Greenwood from Stacks Property Search & Acquisition.
Interestingly, 90 per cent of Greenwood's clients are looking for open-plan kitchen/living/dining space, while only five per cent request a separate dining room.
However, he adds: "The desire for open-plan living tends not to extend beyond the kitchen/dining room, with clients wanting contained spaces in a study, playroom, computer or games room. My advice is to resist knocking down too many walls on the ground floor. The concept of family togetherness is lovely, but the reality of different family members pursuing different interests in the same room can be impractical and unharmonious.
"The space can look beautifully contemporary and uncluttered and shows off the lines of a good building, so it's easy to be seduced. But even the most modern families need a bit of privacy – or when tempers flare, a door to slam."
A certain amount of open-ness has its advantages, however. Throwing dinner parties where the hostess is no longer stuck in the kitchen has to be a good thing, believes Martin Bikhit of Kay & Co in the smart central London enclave of Marylebone.
A mews house for sale at £2.85 million in Radnor Mews, Marylebone has a terrific open-plan double height kitchen/dining area. Kay & Co 020 7262 2030.
"Most people want to interact with their guests while they cook. With this in mind, open-plan kitchen/dining spaces are very popular. Almost all prospective buyers bang on the walls between living and dining rooms when viewing to see whether they can easily take out a wall to create a more practical open space," he says.
At the same time, he is noticing the rise of wealthy high net individuals who are increasingly keen on entertaining formally at home. "They want the dining room to be separate from the kitchen, so the housekeeper or professional caterers are hidden away."
To each his own, proclaims Bikhit. While some dance on the grave of formal dining in a proper dining room, others are celebrating its rebirth. So, hurrah to the death of the dinner party and long live the dinner party!
With so many ex-investment bankers starting new ventures, the home is the new office. Instead of taking people out, restaurant-style home entertaining could be the next big thing