The 21st-century home can be filled with gadgets. Electronically operated cupboards that close soundlessly and ovens with controls based on the iPhone; a television built into the foot of the bed, appearing and disappearing at the touch of a button; a media room with smart TV and computers; an electric loo flush and seat...
One room, however, seems unaffected by wizardry - the dining room. Amazingly, we still use our hands, wielding cutlery to convey food from plate to lip. The plates themselves occasionally take on different shapes and are made of different materials - wood or slate, for example - but they do the same job.We still position ourselves upright on four-legged supports called chairs, usually tucked in behind a large, shaped armrest called a table.
So what is new in the dining room? First, let's take a look out of the windows.
Mumford & Wood's Arts-and-Crafts-style bi-fold doors with leaded lights are manufactured in timber such as European oak. They allow the dining room to be filled with light and provide easy access to the garden - and in the example shown above, to the sun terrace. Bi-fold doors are available in a choice of opening configurations with up to seven leaves and there is the option of specifying a square profile to give you a more contemporary effect.
Made-to-order Conservation products from Mumford & Wood are manufactured from sustainably sourced and Forest Stewardship Council-certified clear grade timber and are finished with three coats of water-based, spray-applied micro-porous stain or paint which needs less maintenance.
After a long period of playing it safe with neutral colour palettes, designers have started experimenting with accent colours. Does this have anything to do with the much-discussed return of confidence in the British economy?
For example, interiors specialist Chaplins created the room shown on the facing page, which is divided between sky blue and brown walls and furniture. The Du 30 chair, created in 1953 by Gastone Rinaldi, is a timeless dining chair with a splash of colour. The single shaped shell of the seat has been moulded with polyurethane foam padding, making it comfortable and cosy.
Paper Patchwork, by Studio Job (inset, opposite page), is a new member of Moooi's Paper Collection family, which celebrates classic forms and a material with infinite potential - paper.
Danish designs in furniture are currently highly desirable. Chaplin's is collaborating with the Danish firm of Republic of Fritz Hansen, which is re-introducing a design by Arne Jacobsen called the Grand Prix - a shapely chair with wooden legs. The chair is available in the classic oak and walnut veneer as well as brightly coloured ash finishes. The comfortable and modern dining chairs designed by Patricia Urquiola at B&B Italia include a variety of bold colours to suit the modern combination of base and seat.
Material mash-ups are a hot trend this year, so the Glenn walnut and marble dining table from Cattelan Italia is perfect. The base is a mix of Canaletto walnut and Carrara marble and is topped with 15mm thick clear glass, helping to show off the contrast of materials.
Another good example is the Atlante table from Arketipo. A series of modular surfaces give the Atlante an irregular symmetry. The legs are two slightly uneven U-shaped structures with cement finishing, linked together to form a solid and austere base, blending with an unusual degree of unconventionality. The table is finished with a combination of the materials used: the wood surface is fitted into a corresponding shape in brown-grey, acid-treated retro-varnished crystal. The strong visual impact is guaranteed. The Atlante is the star in any space.
Mobili Domani has a wood table with a wide range of finishes for the legs and tops - one option for the top is clear glass. Consider a walnut top with natural wood edging and a graphite lacquered base.Alternatively it has a sleek, modern extending glass-topped table with a variant of finishes for the legs.
The Tonnon wood table and grey chairs are elegant and comfortable. Or from the Giorgio collection, take a look at the Absolute dining range, in a veneer called Moka Japanese Tamos Burl.
For a practical kitchen/dining solution, look at the Myles white table-and-chair set.
Chandelier of the year
For a really grand dining area, nothing says it like a big chandelier. The centrepiece shown here is again from Mobili Domani, price on request.