When poring over the real estate section, you might come across a variety of room names that go beyond the standard rooms that everyone knows, like the kitchen, bedroom or den. Terms you're likely to see in detached homes and apartments include "breakfast nook" versus the standard dining room. You may find both in the same space, but for apartments and similar downtown dwellings, you're more likely to see listings with a "kitchen and breakfast nook." Why is that, and what does it mean?
Features of a Breakfast Area
A breakfast nook and a breakfast room are essentially the same thing. The "room" may connote a space that's slightly separate from the kitchen somehow, with a wall or alcove. The "breakfast" reference is a good one, though, because breakfast is typically a family experience — you roll out of bed, put on a pot of coffee, cook up some pancakes, grab some reading material and start your weekend on an easy gear — and the breakfast nook is that comforting spot where it all happens.
It's usually a cozy space with good seating but in close quarters. It's often in the kitchen or just feet away. It may be a small sunny room or a dark and comfy corner, but it's likely a small space, unless the home itself is grand and stately. A less imaginative term for the same space is "kitchen nook," maybe named to woo the "I don't eat breakfast" crowd.
A modern compromise is the breakfast bar, which is a converted counter space with stools designed for quick and convenient meals in a kitchen that may not have much more space to spare. The nook, though, is making a big comeback, according to Realtor.com in April 2019.
Characteristics of a Dining Room
Also positioned near the kitchen for obvious reasons — so food is close at hand and dishes are warm when served — is the dining room. The big difference is the grandeur of a dining room, and its intention of accommodating guests. If you like to entertain, you need a dining room.
Traditionally, dining rooms were kitchen-adjacent, usually with doors that close it off from the cooking hub, so guests could be entertained without the din and clatter of meal-making. There would be a large dining table, possibly sideboards or banquets for displaying an elaborate spread, and seating for usually at least six people.
These days, space is a luxury many dwellings don't have much of, so dining rooms are often smaller than they used to be. Still, with smart planning and the right furniture, even smaller dining rooms can be where great conversations and meals are enjoyed late into the night.
A breakfast nook is usually a homeowner's or designer's attempt to make the most of every square foot in a kitchen — the space that's arguably the hardest-working heart of any home. This is often achieved through building in booth seating and a table that fits the space perfectly. It's amazing to see the creativity and innovation some homes use in bringing small, well-loved eating nooks to life. They can be a homework hotspot for the kids, hobby space in a jam or just a comfortable spot for friends and family to hang while an evening of cooking is underway.
Dining rooms, on the other hand, don't always fit into everyone's lifestyle, so they can be easily repurposed into spots that suit the homeowner's needs, like a work-at-home office, a special lounge for book lovers, a home gym, yoga studio or meditation sanctuary.
Steffani Cameron is the daughter of a realtor and interior decorator mother and a home contractor father. Steffani is a professional writer with over five years' experience writing about the home for BuildDirect and Bob Vila. Raised with a mad love for decorating, Steffani gave up her Art Deco apartment to travel and work remotely for five years. She's in love with experiencing traditional decor around the world, including stays in Thai teak plantations on the Mekong River and cave homes in Turkey.