The dining room is the quintessential place to gather and share, whether you’re hosting a formal dinner party or just serving a weeknight meal. Smaller dining rooms bring an element of intimacy to gatherings large and small, though finding enough space for everyone to sit, eat and mingle can be a squeeze. Be ready for guests with extendable tables and bench seating, and find multifunctional storage options to help you organize dinnerware and table linens. Get creative and make the most of the table, seating, storage and decor with our favorite small dining room ideas.
The dining table is the anchor of the room. Versatile and foundational, it serves as the center for family meals, formal gatherings and impromptu homework sessions. Whatever your dining room’s dimensions or layout, consider what you’ll be using your table for and design around that purpose. While rounded tables are compact and great for high-traffic areas, they allow little leeway for extra seating. Do you often host holiday gatherings and dinner parties? Consider an extendable or drop leaf table that expands to seat additional guests and folds down for everyday use. If you eat at your dining table every day, ensure each seat has enough space by placing the table in the center of the room. In smaller apartments, back the table against a wall to open up snug dining nooks.
When it comes to space-saving seating and furniture, there are more options than the traditional upright dining chair. For large dining room tables, consider benches long enough to seat two to three people. When the benches aren’t being used, tuck them beneath the table to open up extra floor space. Coordinate a wood table’s finish with hardwood benches for a refined yet eclectic style. Alternatively, relax on upholstered benches for added comfort. Set a pair of classic dining chairs at the table’s ends to frame the space, or leave this area open for serveware and decanters. Do you prefer chairs over benches? Find armless dining chairs with a compact silhouette that will create the illusion of extra space. Design seating that fits the needs of your dining room with custom upholstered chairs or benches: pick a frame, fabric and a leg finish that’s perfect for your home’s style. In spaces where every square inch counts, push benches and a console table or buffet against a dining room wall to arrange a snug breakfast nook. Enjoy lazy weekend brunches here, and make the most of the area beneath the benches by storing table linens such as napkins and tablecloths in baskets and bins below.
Look for new and creative ways to store your dining room essentials. Place buffets, sideboards and cabinets along empty walls to begin to utilize the room’s vertical space. Stack plates, saucers and cups on exposed shelves to create a classic display—you’ll be adding a touch of style to the room, as well as keeping your dinnerware right where it’s needed. If you have multiple sets of dinnerware, display the most formal plates, cups and bowls to enjoy them even when they’re not in use. To add an element of artisanal charm to your arrangement, combine pieces from one pattern with those of another. Tuck seasonal decor, centerpieces and extra table linens beneath lower sideboards, and pull them out for holiday parties and formal gatherings. Save table space during Thanksgiving and other food-centric occasions by inviting guests to serve themselves buffet-style and arrange serveware along the top of a sideboard.
Choose decor that creates the illusion of more space in your dining room. Floor-to-ceiling curtains make your ceilings seem higher—pull them apart to let in natural sunlight and brighten the room. Sheer curtains let in soft light, and are made from lighter materials that inherently take up less space. Coordinate these curtains with an area rug to build a cohesive look. Look for a rug large enough that chair or bench legs won’t catch on the edges. Don’t cover the entire floor, though: too large a rug will make the dining room feel cramped. Consider designing your own custom rug to fit the room’s dimensions: create a one-of-a-kind rug by choosing its material, color, pattern and shape. Expand your dining space by adding decorative mirrors to blank walls. Place a wide mirror above a sideboard to bring light and depth to the room, or opt for a circular mirror with a stylish frame. Leave enough space for table settings with thin centerpieces, such as delicate taper candles or slender vases with seasonal blooms.
Place lamps, sconces and chandeliers in different areas of your dining room to open up the space. Hang a chandelier or pendant light over your dining table and let that act as the room’s primary lighting. If your home has higher ceilings, opt for a longer pendant light to emphasize the room’s height. Make the room feel even more expansive with a pair of wall sconces—they’ll illuminate darker corners and nooks, and the area will seem wider. Alternatively, set a glass table lamp along a buffet or sideboard. The lamp’s glass base removes a potential barrier to the eye, expanding the space.
Invite an extra guest or two over for your next cocktail party or holiday gathering to enjoy your newly decorated dining room. Get creative and rethink the way your table, seating, storage and decor function. Share your small dining room ideas using the hashtag #wallcorners