Design — 01 December 2017
Dining room for more now than just dining

By Charlyne Varkonyi Schaub

City & Shore Magazine

We entertain more these days, but less formally. Fancy linen tablecloths and napkins are passé, so dining tabletops are becoming more eye catching. We need Credenzas to serve less-formal buffets. And the dining table is becoming more multi-purpose, serving as a desk and homework center as much as a dinner service.



William Eubanks, best known for his use of French and English antiques, Oriental porcelains, sumptuous silks and Damask fabrics, is known for creating elegant Old World dining rooms. These days tastes have changed – and so have his designs.

“We are in a period of design being simpler with cleaner lines,” he says. “We are putting away grandmother’s silver and having more casual dinner parties.”

A good example of lightening the tone is a dining room Eubanks created in the Hamptons. He merged classic pieces – such as shield-back chairs and a Louis XV-style console – with a sisal rug and less formal draperies to give the room a more casual appearance. The chandelier looks more contemporary – with a white-washed iron finish and gilded and painted wood tassels – but it is based on an 18th-century Italian design.

In stark contrast is a formal dining room in Palm Beach featuring hand-painted Chinioserie wallpaper in warm creams and soft golds from Gracie. The custom-made round table has a golden finish; the Hepplewhite chairs are reproductions painted in soft cream with subtle gilding. A custom-made Japanned credenza was custom made to fit the space. It is topped with a Venetian glass mirror accented with wood carving.

Eubanks shifted to a more contemporary look in an apartment in New York’s Meat Packing District. Retna, the same artist that painted the images on West Palm’s new Restoration Hardware, created the art. The highly lacquered table is ebony with cream lines that look like marble. The lacquered chairs are modern with a nod to English Regency.

“All of our rooms are different because we get inside of our clients’ heads,” he says.




Jack Fhillips, a Palm Beach designer known for classic Old Money design rather than trends, is finding his clients want cleaner and lighter design in their dining rooms.

“Dining rooms are becoming more multi-purpose,” he says. “Young clients don’t want them too formal because they let their children play at the main table. Sometimes the table becomes an oversize desk for someone who works at home. Some even want a sofa and a TV in the dining area.”

Fhillips says his clients are requesting comfortable chairs with fabrics that resist soiling – and they eschew anything that looks “old.” A few of them, however, request a few older elements mixed in to add a little character.

A client on Palm Beach asked him to create a Swedish look that had a Florida vibe without being too cliché.

“The dining room could go either way – for a dinner party or a place guests can show up in a swimsuit because it isn’t too formal.”

The Buffalo check (large plaid) upholstery lightens the look. Chairs and cabinet are in a light finish so it doesn’t appear too heavy.

In contrast, he designed a dining room with a contemporary feeling in Long Island’s Amagansett.

“They were a very young couple and I only had a short time to do it,” he says. “They wanted me to make it hip and fun and reflect the colors of the water and ocean.”

The large table was carved from a large tree and was whitewashed to give it a more beachy look. Classic Frances Elkins-style 8 Loop chairs were painted white so not to compete with the couple’s modern painting, which set the palette for the whole house.

“I like keeping a palette in a home that never changes,” he says. “The house [is] in the middle of a lot of land. Everywhere you look there are trees. The house screams for green, blue and brown so nothing strains the eye.”



Josh Fein and Jenny Zalkin say clients in their 30s and 40s are requesting larger tables with more seating because they are entertaining more and taking over the dinner parties their parents used to host.

“We are staying away from glass tops and using warm woods,” Fein says. “They want stain-resistant fabric and we often use pretreated indoor-outdoor fabrics. We are known for timeless design with a longevity of six to 10 years. They can reuse a quality table and just get new dining chairs or change the fabric.”

A couple in their 50s, who collect art from their world travels, requested a table for their Aventura home that looked more distinctive because it could be seen as guests passed the foyer into the Great Room. The result: a high-end custom table with a dove-gray top and curved pedestal legs. The chairs, which were dark wood with gold leaf, were repurposed in gray lacquer and reupholstered in a tan and cream zebra fabric.

“Ten years ago we were seeing a lot of heavy Mediterranean furniture and heavy draping,” he says. “Now people are asking for a simpler design that is a little more ‘New York’ in sophistication.”

The couple, who own several sets of dishes, also required a large sideboard with marble top for storage that could also be used for a buffet dinner. Chinese opera hats flank an artwork from India they found in their travels.

Another client asked for a warm but eclectic dining area for her downtown Boca condo. She wanted comfortable chairs so guests could enjoy her catered dinners. The curve on the dining table gives off a contemporary vibe without being too modern. A textured rug grounds the dining area.

“Another building was put up in front of hers so we had to work with light,” Fein says. “She wanted something contemporary that gave off a lot of light because at night it looked like a black hole through the window. It is an updated version of track lighting.”



Josh Fein and
Jenny Zalkin: Fein
Zalkin Interiors,
3661 NE 200th St.,
Miami, 305-502-1712,

William Eubanks: William R. Eubanks Interior Design,
1 Via Parigi, Palm Beach,

Jack Fhillips: Jack Fhillips Design,
4 Harvard Circle, West Palm Beach, 561-659-4459,        





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