Dining Room Design Ideas

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Dining Area Design Approaches

So you've made the decision to upgrade your dining room. Congratulations! This is a noteworthy goal since your dining room is a space that too many homeowners neglect. Unfortunately, it's a reality that more so than other spaces, a dining room can easily transform from a chic hangout spot to a desolate storage space for many households.

Does the following scenario sound familiar? At some point in the last few weeks, months, or years, you've realized that it's easy to dump your piles of laundry on the dining room table once you take everything out of the dryer. Then, you notice that you can get away with taking some "me time." Breaks turn into naps, which turn into a good night's rest until the next morning, when you need to rush the family to school and work.

After a while, your laundry piles start to live on your dining room furniture - and then your table becomes the place where you perform your morning ritual. Every day, as soon as you finish your morning shower, you throw on a robe and walk straight to your dining room table to find your day's outfit. You get into the habit of eating dinner in the living room in front of your television, and after a while, your dining room is just kind of pointless.

Now is the time to finally break bad habits and convert your musty dining-gone-laundry room into a lively and fun space. Revive your dining room. Bring the space back to life.

Work with Your Space

Chances are, your household accommodates your dining area in one of three ways: as an extension of your living room, kitchen, or as a completely separate area. You may also have an outdoor dining area on a patio or within a covered space such as a sun room or atrium. If your house is large enough, you may have more than one dining area. For example, you may have a breakfast nook in a well-lit space that's attached to your kitchen in addition to a separate dining room. No matter what kind of space you have - large or small - you can make the most of it.

One of the most important rules for designing a dining area is to work with the layout and architecture of your home. Don't try to cram an elegant and long rectangular area into a circular breakfast nook. This concept may sound obvious, but you'd be surprised how often people try to use furniture that just doesn't fit. It's too easy: you fall in love with a set of table and chairs, and you absolutely need to have them.

Just keep looking for something that works - wait it out, and you'll find a table and chair set that you love just as much, if not more. See if you can find the same set in a smaller size or in a different shape.

Design Tips

The design of your dining area depends on the size and shape of your room. Ultimately, you want a space that is functional. You need to be able to walk around the room with ease, especially if you are carrying food to serve to your family or guests.

At a minimum, your dining room needs a table and enough seating for your family and a few guests. If you're limited on space, you can invest in a few chairs that you store in a closet or garage until an occasion arises when you need to entertain guests.

If you have a large, rectangular dining room, then you probably want a long, rectangular table that complements your room's overall architectural shape. If you have a medium to small sized room, you may want to consider a table that is in the shape of a square or polygon. Some tables actually come with a removable center plank so that the table easily converts between a long, rectangular table and a small square or polygon. Consider a convertible table if you're not sure about whether you need a large, small, short, or long table.

Many kitchen dining areas and breakfast nooks are designed as an extension to the space in your kitchen. These spaces some in all shapes and sizes, but the majority are relatively small areas with walls that form a square or polygon shape. Some of these spaces may have a wall in between the kitchen and dining area, or there may not be any separation at all. Make sure that you keep all of these factors in mind when choosing furniture and décor for this type of room.

In some households, the dining area is attached to the living room. As with a kitchen, there may be a wall that separates the living room from the dining area, or there may not be any separation at all. In living rooms without a clearly defined dining space, you may find yourself struggling with what type of furniture to buy. You may want to reconsider whether you even want a dining-living room especially since dining area décor may clash with your furniture and electronics. If you have a breakfast nook, that dining area may be all the space you want or need. No matter the case, the right approaches can help you make the most out of your dining area.

If you need to combine your dining area with your living room, choose subtle and small tables that complement the overall look and feel of your other furniture. No need to cram a whole bunch of stuff into one place. When your dining area is not in use, you can create a clear line between your living and dining areas by using decorative elements such as a tall screen-printed room divider.

If you have enough space in your dining area, you may want to consider decorating with artwork, an armchair or two, a food cart, and a curio cabinet to display your dishes and silverware.


No matter what theme or color scheme you choose for your dining room, consider experimenting with symmetry. To some extent, symmetry is a natural element for dining area. When you set a table, your silverware, table mats, and chairs are arranged in a streamlined and complementary pattern. If you think about your table in terms of logical cross sections, you will likely notice your dinnerware, silverware, table mats, and chairs are reflections of one another. Translate this thought and approach into your room's overall design.

If want a shelving unit, think about getting two. Set them up parallel to one another against one wall, and use this same parallelism to complement the symmetry of your circular or rectangular table. If you want to decorate with artwork, get a painting that has its own symmetry, and set up two additional paintings, your non-dominant visual elements, to face each other from opposite walls. If you want one sculpture or floor lamp, get two instead - and arrange them in a way that complements the overall symmetry of your dining room.


In breakfast nooks and dining areas that are attached to your kitchen, you should incorporate natural light as much as possible through large windows and skylights. If you don't have the budget or time to take on a large-scale remodeling project, you can work with strategically placed mirrors to help make your room brighter with natural light.

Dining rooms, on the other hand, should be dim for a cozy, luxurious, and relaxed ambiance. Overhead lights with lamp shades and chandeliers are ideal, as are options for a few recessed lights instead. Symmetrical floor lamps will also help you achieve a balanced ambiance in your dining room. Many curio cabinets also come with built-in lighting to help showcase your beautiful dinnerware.

Color Schemes

Choose bright and vibrant colors in neutral tones to make your dining room a comfortable place to eat. At most, you should select three or four colors for your décor, furniture, and walls. No more than one of these colors should be bright or vibrant. Choosing too many bright colors may cause your space to feel chaotic when your guests will want to feel relaxed. One bright color will add the energy that your dining area needs.


Both wallpaper and paint are ideal for a dining room or breakfast nook. Regardless of whether you work with wallpaper or paint, choose bright colors and patterns that do not make your space appear small or crammed. If you have a small dining area, consider designing an accent wall instead of wallpapering or painting every wall in the room.

The accent wall should be the dominant wall of the room - usually the largest wall or the first that you see when you enter the space. To add some variety, paint the trims along the top, bottom, and vents of your room. Choose a shade such as a neutral cream to complement the other colors that you choose for your dining area.


To the best extent possible, keep décor to a minimum. The more décor you have, the more often you will need to clean since your items will accumulate dust. If your dining room becomes dusty, the space may not be comfortable for your guests and family members.

As a general rule, choose between one and three paintings. One should be large and should serve as your room's dominant visual element while the other two should be smaller. Along similar lines, choose one or two statues. Accessorize with vases, flowers, tablemats, and beautiful silverware. Put your special wine, dinnerware, and champagne glasses on display.

Stay Organized

Resist the temptation of letting your dining table become a space for clutter, mail, and laundry. Set up bins for organizing in easy-to access places in the rest of your home. Keep laundry bins in your immediate laundry area, and keep mail organizes in your foyer or outside next to your mailbox. Discipline yourself into establishing healthy, clutter-free habits.

Last Updated: January 28, 2012
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