How to create the perfect dining room, according to Philippa Thorp

When Philippa Thorp set out to bring a house in Oxfordshire to life, a new light-filled space proved to be a magic ingredient.

As part of the transformation of this house, a link was created between the main house and the kitchen in a barn extension. ‘As lifestyles have evolved, the formal dining room has largely been sidelined, but you still need a spacious dining area in a big country house,’ says interior designer Philippa Thorp.

‘This part of the house has a pivotal role: it can be adapted to seat 24 for Christmas lunch or provide a light-filled space overlooking the garden for a smaller gathering.’

Plentiful glazing creates an uplifting, light-filled space. ‘Our concept was to make the room feel as if it had always been there,’ she explains. With this in mind, the walls are finished in lime plaster, the floor laid with flagstones and the ceilings lined in wood, washed with a gentle colour.

The zinc-topped dining table: ‘the focus of the room’. Credit: Richard Powers

The focus of the room is a bespoke dining table, topped in zinc to add character, with two additional tables, positioned at each end. ‘When a large group is expected, the end tables can be rotated to create one long dining table that will accommodate a large number,’ says the designer. ‘With a long tablecloth, huge candles and lots of flowers, the room takes on a new life.’

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Extra chairs are tucked into a store built behind an adjacent coat cupboard. There’s a mix of chairs in different covers that create an eclectic look, as if collected over time. Overscale antique wall lights add drama and unhemmed curtains, made from vintage linen from Howe lend a relaxed look. ‘The room brings a fresh energy to the house and blends beautifully with the garden,’ she says.