6 Tips on How to Design an Elegant Dining Room on a Budget

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The dining room is not only where you and your family share meals and quality time, it's the main venue when it comes to throwing parties and entertaining guests. It can be difficult, however, to design an elegant dining room if you're restricted by a tight budget. The best thing about the dining room, though, is that it only takes a few key items to really make it shine. Here are some tips that will keep your wallet full, and your entertaining prowess sharp.

  1. Centerpieces: Never underestimate the power of a centerpiece. If you want to add elegance and personality to your table setting, then get creative. Switch your centerpiece out depending on the holiday, the season or the party that you're throwing. Holiday centerpieces can be fun and festive, and you can usually find the materials at a local craft store for under $10. Fresh flowers work great for spring, and can be changed every few days to add a pop of color to your table. If you're a gardener, then try using your potted herbs as a centerpiece. This looks great, especially if the herbs are incorporated into your meal. When in doubt, you can't go wrong with a bowl of fresh fruit!
  2. Runners: Tablecloths are essential, but can be lackluster when it comes to decorating on a budget. Try accenting your tablecloth with a patterned runner. You can play with the color scheme and coordinate with your placemats and napkins. If your table has a nice wood finish, you can forego the tablecloth altogether, and use a runner directly on the wood. This allows you to display your table, while remaining decorative.
  3. Candles: Candles are an obvious and affordable way to set the mood in any setting. We often think of "candlelit dinners," but there is more than one way to utilize candles to add elegance to your dining room. If you don't have time to put together a centerpiece, then collect pillar candles of varying heights and widths and gather them together in the middle of your table. It's a good idea to put a spare charger or place mat underneath the candles to catch any dripping wax. Keep it classy with a single color, or mix and match for a fun bohemian look. Don't restrict candles to the table, either. Mount inexpensive wall sconces around the dining room for chic and unobtrusive lighting. Put them on either side of a serving table to softly illuminate your courses and make serving plates more visible to guests.
  4. Chair rail: Chair rails are a DIY design tip that can make your walls look elegant with very little effort. Arrange your chair rail around your paint scheme. You can separate two colors, or introduce a strip of wallpaper to break it up even more. The best thing about a chair rail is that it is inexpensive to make. You can find the materials at a craft store, or even use scrap lumber. Finish with a smart stain, or a pop of color to add some character to your walls.
  5. Wine display: Many restaurants line their walls with racks of wine to make their dining rooms appear luxurious, and there's no reason you can't achieve the same effect at home. Discount home stores sell wine racks in all shapes, sizes and materials. It's not necessary to break the bank for a wine rack, since it will be mostly hidden when it is full of wine. For a modern look, choose a pyramid shape and a black iron finish. Or keep it warm and traditional with a rectangular wooden rack. You can even make your own rustically elegant rack at home, using simple unfinished wood, and assembling it in a grated pattern with small cubicles for each bottle. The wine you use in the rack isn't incredibly important, since most of the labels won't be visible. Fill the rack with inexpensive wines, which can be found at most grocery stores for as little as $2.
  6. Chargers: Chargers are an easy and often overlooked way to make your dining room appear refined. Don't waste money on chargers at large home decorating stores. Because chargers sit under your dinner plate and never actually carry food, they don't have to be as durable or easy to clean as traditional dinner plates. This makes them a great item to buy at a discounted rate. Overstock department stores offer chargers for as little as $2 each. Buy chargers in a neutral but striking color, such as gold or silver, so you can use them for any occasion. Make sure your chargers are not the same color as your tablecloth in order to maintain their visual impact. Keep them on your table year-round to keep up the appearance of your dining room, even when you're not expecting guests.

At the end of the day, it's not how much money you put into your dining space that makes it elegant. Instead, it's the small effort you put into finding pieces that can easily and affordably provide a humble ambience while maintaining the perfect amount of class for hosting a party.

Last Updated: January 20, 2012
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About Chanti Burnette Chanti was a freelance writer for IdealHomeGarden.com.

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