This One Tiny Design Tweak Got Me out of the Habit of Eating Dinner on the Living Room Couch

updated May 22, 2020
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Before moving into our current home in Philadelphia, my fiancé and I only lived in tiny New York City apartments. The two apartments we lived in over the course of four years were both charming (and, of course, wildly overpriced), but neither of them had a specific, easily accessible dining area. We bought tiny kitchen tables and tried to put some small space hacks to use, but ultimately what really happened is we got very used to eating dinner on the couch. And, let’s face it: There is something great about eating in a cozy space—feet up, favorite show on the TV, not a care in the world. Sure, we still loved going out to dinner or enjoying friends’ and family’s dining tables, but when it came to eating at home, the couch was usually where you’d find us for dinner. When we moved to our bigger Philadelphia row home, we finally had an easily accessible, comfortable area (albeit, still small) for a dining table and four chairs. But still, more often than not, we were eating on the couch. 

It’s not that we both didn’t know this habit wasn’t great for us in terms of either nutrition or actually connecting with one another. We’d both heard from experts about why eating while sitting in front of the TV prevents you from being able to focus on what you’re eating or how fast you’re eating, and it goes without saying that eating and watching TV simultaneously didn’t leave too much time for actually talking to each other. Still, though, it had become a routine—one that felt comforting and familiar after a long day of work. We both wanted to get out of the habit, but it was more difficult than you think. That is, until I made one small design change to the table: fancy candles and candlestick holders. 

Suddenly, the boring dining table actually seemed kind of special and luxurious. Eating our regular weekday meals by candlelight somehow made the experience seem less mundane and more like a soothing, restaurant-like experience. It also made the space feel warmer and more inviting, echoing the same cozy feeling that curling up on the couch always brought.

I had bought the vintage wooden candlestick holders on a whim at a local store and soon after, the rose-colored candlesticks at our neighborhood flower shop. In total, it all cost about $60, but it was the most money I had ever invested in decorating the area. I had put as much effort into making the space feel warm and inviting as I had in my family room, and it paid off. 

Now I look forward to setting the table, lighting the two candles, and sitting down to eat a meal with my fiancé. It’s not that we don’t ever eat on the couch anymore, but now it actually feels like a treat rather than the norm, meaning it’s that much better. Unsurprisingly, we have better conversations with each other at the dining room table, and the experience of turning on a show or movie after dinner feels like the perfect wind-down to the day. 

I used to think that people who bragged about never eating in front of the television were, in a word, annoying. And, okay, I still kind of think that (anyone who doesn’t enjoy eating pizza while watching a good movie is lying). But I also understand the difference it makes to not eat in front of the television every single day, and I’m a believer. The fact that we’re now regularly using the different parts of our living space equally is just an added bonus.