They were “Sex and the City,” now they’re “Leave it to Beaver.”
Before the pandemic, Spencer Pariser, 33, a real estate industry executive, and his fiancée Jessica Galvin, 30, who works in asset management, were never home.
“We were the people who were at restaurants for every meal and never sat at our table to eat,” said Pariser.
But a few weeks into lockdown, the couple, who own a loft on Lafayette Street in Nolita, had completely changed their tune.
“Next thing you know Jessica is experimenting with recipes, and we’re having all our dinners at home,” said Pariser. “If we had to eat at home, it was important that the setting was incredible.”
The change in their lifestyles called for a transformation of their then-underutilized dining room.
Pariser tasked interior decorator Brittany Marom to create a modern space infused with a touch of masculinity. The result: a 12-seat vintage glass table, snazzy bar cart, black leather and walnut wood chairs and a 10-bulb geometric light fixture. Works by notable contemporary artists Agnieszka Kurant and Dominic Harris added pops of color.
“It’s definitely the heart of our house,” said Galvin. “We love having friends from our COVID pod come over for small dinners, and even if it’s just Spencer and me, we’ll set a really nice table and light candles. It’s not the restaurant life we were used to, but it may be better.”
Last week, indoor dining at city restaurants reopened at 25 percent capacity. But over the last year, many homebound city dwellers who were suddenly barred from eating out, took a fresh view of the most notoriously underused space in any New York apartment: the dining room.
City-based contractors and interior decorators said that they’ve never seen more demand for dining area revamps.
“Dining areas were the most wasted square footage before COVID, but my clients these days are outfitting them with flatscreen TVs so they can have dinner and movie nights and adding in expensive paneling and beautiful storage,” said Lee Stahl, the president of architecture and renovation firm The Renovated Home.
“Dining areas were almost a forgotten part of an apartment, and I wouldn’t see a lot of people who wanted to spend money on doing them up,” added contractor Devon Teape, who has renovated eight dining spaces at a cost of $50,000 and up since the summer. “Now they’re starved for these knockout spaces because they’re in them all the time.”
One such project was for Jackie Martin, who works in banking and moved from Tribeca to a 2,000-square-foot, prewar co-op with a dining room on the Upper East Side last September.
“It was the space that seemed to matter the least because I didn’t use it,” said Jackie. “I cared much more about the living room and bedrooms.”
Her perspective quickly changed. Instead of eating out at restaurants, the dining area is where she sat daily for her three square meals. Her dining table also doubled as her work desk.
“Initially, it was completely enclosed and felt dark, and my idea was to make it bigger and give it a minimalistic chic look,” said Martin. “I wanted to be excited to spend time there since it would be a part of my daily life.”
Teape and his crew knocked down two walls to open up the room, installed recessed lighting to give it a contemporary, airier ambience and put in a new light brown oak-plank floor. Martin also splurged on a sleek chandelier from upscale lighting designer Lindsey Adelman, a set of mosaic dinnerware from Hermès, Christofle cutlery and a Tiffany’s crystal vase that adorns their glossy white dining table.
Today, Martin’s glamorous dining room is the showpiece of her apartment.
“Being in such a nice atmosphere is a special experience that turns every meal into an occasion, especially because we’re not dining out,” she said. “It’s not formal or precious, but we’ve tried to make it fabulous.”
The weekend homes many New Yorkers are now living in full-time are also getting fabulous new feasting areas.
Manhattanites Freddie, 37, and Angie Allen, 34, just completed an overhaul of the dining room in their home in the Narrowsburg, NY, section of the Catskills.
Their designer, Alessandra Iavarone, founder of the design firm The Velvet Maple, helped them outfit it with a 10-seat reclaimed wood table, French bistro-style chairs with sheepskin cushions and a multi-colored patterned rug.
A lighting fixture from South Africa of upside-down white buckets and an industrial-looking bar cart rounds out the modern farmhouse aesthetic.
“I wanted a fantasy dining room where I could entertain and show off what I cook,” said Angie, 34, a human resources executive. “During such a bad time in the world, it’s been a silver lining to have good times in a statement-making dining room.”