I don’t have the space in my kitchen to make a family room, so I was delighted to learn that the separate dining room is making a comeback; once more I am ‘on trend’. To ensure I remain so, I spoke to local companies to find out which key pieces they recommend for the dining room.

Dan Tanner from Prestige Furniture near Newton Abbot says that while traditional is still popular, the company has been exploring more contemporary designs with some success. Styles include glass and high gloss as well as a more industrial appearance using darker woods, steel and resin tops. Far from making a dining room feel clinical, Dan says, “An industrial-style dining collection can bring a sense of warmth to the room. Fabric and dark leather chairs perfectly complement the concrete look of resin tops.” Prestige’s Petherton range encapsulates this industrial trend, and includes cabinet pieces with matching resin tops. Appleby, meanwhile, features solid distressed oak and metal frames, contrasted again with leather chairs.

For a distinctive look, try Eros to achieve a light, clean dining room with straight lines and high gloss. This Scandinavian style, featuring white gloss finishes with stainless steel and frosted tempered glass, is increasing in popularity. “I’d call this a simple, sleek and stylish collection – it’s very modern,” Dan explains. The gliding, extending action on the dining table is, apparently, second to none.

Oak dining furniture, unsurprisingly, is the main feature at The Oak Loft, which has Devon branches in Torquay and Topsham. Mark Oxenbury agrees with Dan that customers are still keen on the traditional. “Our ranges use North American White Oak, or European Oak, and, overall, we find that a chunkier style is more popular.” Mark adds that an extending table is still high on the shopping list for the majority of customers.  

The most popular choices at The Oak Loft are the regionally named Seaton, Somerset and Modbury ranges, as well as Classic. “But we’re also trialling a shabby chic look using reclaimed pine; it has a New England ‘washed’ feel to it, and has gone down really well with customers.”

If reclaimed wood is your preference, then Exeter’s Chunky Monkey is worth a visit. The company only uses reclaimed pine, often from demolition works across the South West. The result is an organic triumph – where wood really is wood. Owner Nigel Plowman says that their furniture is very popular for people wanting to give depth to a dining room. “Houses tend towards the clinical these days, with straight lines and minimalism that can sometimes seem a little sterile. Customers like to use our furniture to offset this, and create more of a balance.”

Chunky Monkey stocks seven different ‘house styles’, but Nigel says they also create bespoke furniture on application. Big, apparently, is beautiful, and Nigel’s team has made several large tables in excess of three metres in length. “We had one lady from London who was looking for a rustic table – when she arrived, she enquired of her husband how tall he was. We didn’t ask why!”

Chunky Monkey’s dining furniture is of a style that promotes informal social gatherings. “We tend towards making benches rather than chairs – they suit the tables, and whereas a chair sits one person, you can squeeze people up on a bench.” Even better, dining tables start at an affordable £600.

If you prefer sharp, clean lines, and you’re not opposed to veneer, South Devon company GillmoreSPACE is definitely worth a look. Director Charles Gillmore, who was born in Brixham and grew up in Totnes, studied art and design at Plymouth University, and furniture design at Kingston University, before starting his own business. He established GillmoreSPACE in London in 2001, and moved the business to Devon in 2006. Charles designs the furniture, and the company works with manufacturing partners in the UK, Italy and China.

Although Gillmore’s main market comprises designers in London and the Home Counties, Devon folk can also access these simple, contemporary styles based around rectangles, squares and circles. For dining furniture there are two key collections: Cordoba, with a black, wenge finish; and Fitzroy, in charcoal. The ranges extend to sideboards, mirrors and even a nifty plant stand for that finishing touch. “Our ranges are very suitable for urban architecture, they’re adaptable and just a bit different,” explains Charles. The collections are available online only, with many products kept in stock or available with a short turnaround time.

Whether you like chunky, funky or downright hunky when you’re sitting down to dinner, Devon furniture experts have something to meet your every desire. So what are you waiting for? Ditch the family kitchen and get dining!

"Whether you like chunky, funky or downright hunky when you’re sitting down to dinner, Devon furniture experts have something to meet your every desire"
Detail of Fitzroy dining room set from GillmoreSPACE
Prestige’s industrial-look Appleby dining set
Sue Cade

Published 19 December 2016

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