For many overscheduled families, “dining” has been reduced in recent years to grabbing a plate of food at a kitchen island or on an ottoman in front of a screen. Even in homes that have a separate dining room, the table is regularly commandeered for homework. But there are signs that we are heading back to the dinner table, designers say, according to a piece in Washington Post.

“Their clients are tiring of grabbing meals in the “great room,” a more informal, open space that often accommodates drive-by eating and lounging,” Jura Koncius wrote. “Or they’re annoyed with noisy restaurants and want to do more entertaining at home. Many young families are looking for a more structured family dinner hour around a real table.”

“Everything is so casual these days, it’s nice to be a bit more formal in a room where you entertain or gather your family,” says Bethesda designer Erica Burns. “The room sets the tone, since there’s no TV in there and hopefully no cellphones. It’s a space focused on conversation and eating.”

A separate dining room is on many homeowners’ wish lists. In the January 2017 Home Buyer Reference survey, 73 percent of those who responded said the dining room was “essential or desirable,” according to a spokeswoman for the National Association of Home Builders.

This is great news for dining room furniture dealers! Take it and run ad campaigns with it! The new AudienceSCAN study found 10.2% of Americans plan to buy dining room furniture in the next 12 months.

“Dining rooms sometimes give people the chills with memories of their parents’ dining rooms filled with brown furniture,” says Josh Hildreth, a Washington designer. “If you want to bring a room like this back, you have to make it useful and fun.”

Consumers can try these trends for fresh, functional dining rooms:

Break up your dining room set.
“Many dining rooms have too much furniture. Why not put your buffet or server in a different room? Hildreth moved his sideboard to his living room to use when entertaining. He arranges appetizers on it before dinner, then serves dessert and coffee on it afterward. “It’s nice not to be tethered to your dining room table and to move into another room after dinner to talk with other guests,” Hildreth says. “And now my sideboard has found a new life.”

Furniture stores can even suggest re-purposing sideboards and buffets this way in their ad campaigns. The new AudienceSCAN study revealed 47% of Dining Room Furniture Shoppers took action after watching television (over-the-air, online, mobile or tablet) commercials in the past month.

Install sturdy seat covers.
“On traditional dining chairs, it pays to use indoor/outdoor fabrics. Burns says she often uses Sunbrella or Perennials for young families. “There are so many great options now that are soft and don’t feel like the slippery outdoor fabric of days past,” she says. Additionally, you can take any fabric and get stain treatment applied before upholstering chairs.”

Up your chair count.
“If your dining room is small but you want to have additional matching chairs available, you can display the chairs in other rooms. Ridder says: “Buy extra chairs and if you want, do different seat covers for them so you can use them for the living room, family room or bedroom yet still bring them in for a large dinner around your table.”

It can’t hurt to encourage shoppers to buy more chairs, right? Try this tactic in internet banner ads: 36% of Dining Room Furniture Shoppers took action after seeing them in the past month.

Mix it up.
“Don’t be so matchy-matchy. Burns suggests going for a different look for the host chairs at either end of the table to make a statement. Also, instead of the usual chandelier hanging over the center of the table, try two pendants.”

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies, or with the SalesFuel API. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the AudienceSCAN Reports in AdMall.