Dining rooms tend to be located in the front, main entrance of a home. A spot perfect for other, necessary rooms such as: an office, sitting room, library, study, etc.. A room you can keep inviting & neat; being apart from the main living spaces. Sort of a private space even though it's near the main entrance. Ironic.
I like the idea of a "sofa table": When a sofa is floated in a room, place a table of the same height behind it to make it into a functional area and less of a visual roadblock. I like it with chairs--becomes a great spot to watch TV while doing work.
Let's face it: as much as we'd all like to think of ourselves as the sort of people who throw dinner parties all the time, the formal dining room is mostly obsolete. So what's a modern family to do? You can set up a dining table and chairs in there and then let stuff collect on the table (I'm pretty sure this is the default), or you can take it one step further and transform your dining room into a multi-purpose space that you'll use every day.