Designer Kate Rumson on the Forgotten Appeal of the Formal Dining Room

The Instagram star is giving the tossed-aside space a seat at her table.

Kate Rumson's dining room features white walls, gray seating, a dark table and gold-framed artwork
Rumson reminds us of the original draw of dining rooms. Photo courtesy of Kate Rumson

For many in recent years, the formal dining room has gone the way of the dinosaur. Co-opted by spacious eat-in kitchens, these once prized rooms have been turned into homework stations, home offices or even playrooms.

But the pleasure of having a meal in a room appointed for comfort and entertainment in a way that rivals eating out is making a comeback. Instagram star Kate Rumson, whose ground-up build of a 4,400-square-foot home in Monmouth County has been chronicled on the social media platform, reminds us of this space’s original appeal.

Cozy, candlelit tablescape in Kate Rumson's dining room

Rumson doesn’t skimp on tablescapes. Photo courtesy of Kate Rumson

The table is the star of this room. “My recommendation is to always pay attention to the width of the dining table—it needs to be at least 40 inches wide to allow for comfortable and visually beautiful table settings,” she says. Rumson’s table choice is a chunky, solid-wood design from Hooker Furniture. “It’s perfect for hosting large dinner parties in style,” she explains.

Rumson is a fan of going all out on tablescapes, and an ample table is needed to accommodate accessories, placemats, chargers, wine and water glasses, as well as decorative elements such as flowers and candles.

Kate Rumson and Eilyn Jimene in a dining room they designed

Kate Rumson, right, and interior designer Eilyn Jimenez worked together on this entertaining-friendly space. Photo courtesy of Kate Rumson

“To me, no space could ever look or feel complete without flowers or greenery,” says Rumson. “I love real flowers, but don’t have the time or patience for the never ending upkeep, so I always include high-quality faux florals.” To that end, in 2021, the design entrepreneur launched her own brand of handcrafted faux flowers called Eleven Gardens.

The May 2023 cover of New Jersey Monthly

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Because of their inherent formality, dining rooms are a great place to juxtapose styles. “I love the mix of modern and traditional elements,” Rumson says of her space. “The vintage-inspired art and accessories make it feel lived in and warm, while the architectural chandelier adds an edgy twist. It’s the perfect blend of old and new.” 

Another must-have element for the dining room adds personality and coziness underfoot. “Every dining room needs an area rug—it grounds the space and makes it feel more comfortable and inviting.” Last, but certainly not least, add “thoughtfully curated dinnerware,” which, Rumson says, “is essential for elevated entertaining and to make everyday life feel just a little more special.” 

For input on her dining room design, Rumson worked with architect Dan D’Agostino of PlanArchitecture in Bergen County and interior designer Eilyn Jimenez, who hosts Designing Miami on Netflix. 

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