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How to Decorate a Dining Room

Updated on July 27, 2017

It's okay to eat dinner from TV trays in front of the television once in a while. But you should really think about spiffing up the dining room and using it as nature intended. It should not be the family’s junk repository, nor should it be a seldom-used museum--it's a place to enjoy, sharing good food and conversation.


Maybe part of the aversion to dining rooms lies with our memories from childhood. The room’s formality and untouchable furniture made it strictly off-limits, with the exception of special occasions and holiday dinners. Kind of like your formal living room.

Chances are, you already have an informal dining space like an eat-in kitchen or breakfast nook. Make the most of your dining room décor by upping the ante—but not too much. You don’t have to bring in a Swarovski chandelier, imported table linens and expensive furniture to get the job done.


You want to make your dining room a place that is a natural extension of adjacent living spaces. It should be comfortable and welcoming—a spot people want to linger over a glass of wine or coffee and dessert. Adding a few special touches will ensure your dining room accomodates everyday dining, as well as special occasions..

Basic Dining Room Design

Before you start buying furniture and accessories, you need to determine the layout for your dining room. Take into account existing furniture pieces, the size of your room and its configuration. If you are blessed with a large dining room, you have more flexibility with furniture placement. Smaller spaces require more planning and creativity.


Space Allowances

Dining room chairs need a depth of 20 inches to fit comfortably under the table. Also allow 16 inches from the table for scooting the chair back. Each chair should have least 24 inches of side-to-side clearance to accommodate each seated guest. In order to have ample room for chairs and traffic flow around the table, allow at least 46 inches between the table and perimeter furniture or walls.

Choosing Dining Room Furniture

You can go to the expense and headache of buying dining room furniture pieces separately. However, most dining room furniture can be purchased in coordinated groups. It is a quick way to furnish the room and avoid relying on someone to help select individual pieces.


Wood dining room groups are the most expensive, but will last a lifetime. Think about that if you plan to use your dining room on a regular basis. If not, you can opt for wood composites with veneer. This type of furniture looks great, but does not have the durability to withstand everyday use.

Extend the Fun

Also, consider a dining room table with a removable leaf or a drop leaf table. Those extra inches will give give everyone plenty of room to sit comfortably around the table. Purchase a couple of extra chairs when you settle on the perfect dining room set to seat additional guests. Place the extra chairs against an unused wall, when not in use.


Storage Furniture

If you have enough room for a buffet and china cabinet, good for you! You should be able to squeeze a small buffet or sideboard in a diminutive dining room. A buffet will give you valuable serving and storage space.


No room for your china cabinet? No worries. Place it in a hallway or common area to use as additional storage for linens, silver and dinnerware. Accessorize the visible shelves with books and decorative items, so it looks like a transitional furniture piece. You can even move it into the kitchen for extra pantry storage.

Protect Your Investment

Tablecloths, chargers and place mats are great for formal occasions as well as family meals. They provide extra of protection between hot plates and your table surface.

Make Room for Larger Groups

When entertaining large groups of people, you may want to temporarily remove unnecessary furniture and accent pieces. Simply move them back into the dining room after the party, and you’re ready for everyday family dining.

The Extras

Once you have selected the furniture, it’s time to really get creative. Pick an appetizing shade of paint or wallpaper and coordinating window treatments, a rug and table linens.

Decorative Accents

Choose a centerpiece that makes a statement, but does not interfere with conversation and sight lines across the table. Turn your buffet or sideboard into a bar by adding decanters, a mixed drink shaker, wine rack and ice bucket. When placed on a lacquer or silver tray, these functional items become a decorative accent in the room.

Think Green

If space allows, consider greenery for your dining room. A large palm reflected in an over-sized mirror adds an element that helps soften the hard edges of furniture.

Finishing Touches

Don’t forget the artwork and lighting. A floor lamp, sconces or candles will make the space seem more intimate for evening gatherings. A chandelier or ceiling fixture centered over the table draws the eye up and can add a sense of formality to your dining room. Install your lighting fixtures with dimmers so you can set the mood for each meal.

Dining Room Design on a Budget

Many of us are cutting back these days. Furnishing or redecorating your dining room can easily deplete your savings, if you don’t have a game plan before you begin. Make a list of each item (with the estimated cost) that you would buy if money were no object. Then pare the list down to the key pieces you need to utilize the space properly. Put the superfluous items on the back burner and add them as you can afford to do so.

More Dining Room Design Tips

© 2012 lindacee

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    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 5 years ago from Arizona

      Oakfurniture, yes, with open concept homes, separate dining rooms are becoming a thing of the past. I am happy to say my last house (new construction) did have a distinct dining room. Trends seem to go in cycles. Hopefully the dining room will not vanish forever!

    • Oakfurnituresol profile image

      Oakfurnituresol 5 years ago from Bristol

      Ah yes that's the case in the UK too, with separate dining rooms disappearing altogether! what a shame, as with less space you can have less dinner parties, gatherings and therefore less fun:-) good luck with starting the dining room revolution:-)

    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 5 years ago from Arizona

      Oakfurnituresol, thank you so much for the compliments. This was a fun Hub to write. Sadly, at least in the US, dining rooms are often only used for special occasions. I am starting a grassroots movement to change that! ;) So glad you enjoyed my Hub!

    • Oakfurnituresol profile image

      Oakfurnituresol 5 years ago from Bristol

      This is a useful and easy to follow hub, love the video as well and it definitely raises some interesting points that you might overlook when refurbishing a dining room - such as the ideal chandelier height or the many different functions of a dining area!