Designing Eye: Understanding the misunderstood room! By Toni Berry Contra Costa Times Correspondent

Make no mistake -- Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah. This is dining room season.

However, many people don't appreciate how important the dining room -- what decorating professionals call the most misunderstood room in the house -- is all about.

I find the dining room to have the importance of the holiest room in the house. Some women in their 20s and 30s may not understand that, but women of my generation, as well as our mother's and grandmother's generations, know how this room really works.

It's the calm, quiet room with a table and chairs where we pay our bills, fill out tax returns, review report cards and conduct private conversations on important family matters. It's the place where we plan weddings, baby showers, baptisms and christenings. It's where we serve buffets, luncheons and dinners, celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, and gather for funeral receptions, graduations, Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and New Year's celebrations.

All the special events of our lives are all centered in this room.

A very good friend of mine, who is 92 years old, moved from her home of 45 years to a small condo. She was willing to give up everything -- even her mother's antique stove -- for this move; the only thing she would not budge or negotiate on was her dining room. The condo had to have a space large enough for her dining room furniture. All of it -- the table with two leaves, eight chairs, hutch and serving buffet.

She got it. She told me that the memories the dining room and the furniture in it held for her were priceless. When she looked at this furniture in its proper place, she could remember the details of raising her family. It meant so much more to her than just a room.

To some of us, the dining room is a symbol of a little class, manners and good taste. My mother adored her dining room. Whenever we ate in the dining room, I could see the unmistakable pride on her face, her sweet smile as she placed the fabulous Italian food in front of her family. This was the room she could serve us with grace and poise, and we would all be on our best behavior.

The manners she taught us in the kitchen were tested in the dining room. After my father died, she moved from our childhood home and gifted her dining room furniture to my sister. Now another generation is being served; when I sit at that table and in those chairs at my sister's house, the warm memories flood back.

Sometimes the problem with dining rooms that are not used is that you lose the opportunity to make memories and moments. Those are the only things that really make a house a home.

And perhaps that's what is not understood by so many.

Toni Berry is an interior designer at Marie Antoinette Interiors.
Contact her for a Dining Room you'll always remember!