While the kitchen may be the heart of the home, a dining room, if you love to entertain, is a luxury.
At Modsy, we often get requests from homeowners that have moved from a small house or apartment into one that has a dedicated dining area for entertaining friends and family. It’s a space that can feel unfamiliar, which makes it especially challenging to figure out where to start when decorating. After all, the dining room is a space that should feel comfortable but also stylish enough to host parties and family holidays.
Use this guide to help you navigate all the key decisions to design your perfect dining room.
Deciding on Your Perfect Table
Before looking at all your dining table options, consider how you want to use the space. Will you host casual weekend dinners with friends or big holiday gatherings with family? Your entertaining style should be the starting point for informing the type of dining table you require.
For keeping it casual… a long communal farmhouse table is great for its versatility—it can host big groups, function as a work surface, and it can also be dressed up with a tablecloth for formal occasions. Its natural wood tones make for a great foundation for choosing chairs and other decor to match.
For making it formal… try a round pedestal table, which will immediately conjure up classic, elegant appeal. One with extendable leaves will provide the flexibility for entertaining large crowds. A small round bistro table is also a stylish and space-saving option if you have less square-footage to work with.
Bringing in Good Seating
Comfort is key when it comes to choosing dining chairs and seating options. You want to ensure your guests feel relaxed and at ease during long meals. There’s no right or wrong, but look to the design details of your dining table as a guide for your seating (think tapered legs that coordinate, natural materials that complement each other, etc.)
If you want a casual mix… try pulling up a bench alongside a matching set of chairs for an easy-going eclectic look. This is a great way to incorporate flexible seating that is also kid-friendly.
If you want a chic grouping… you can’t go wrong with a sophisticated set of matching chairs. Consider how the details will pair with your table and work from there—exposed wooden legs, a simple silhouette, neutral upholstery with tufting on the back. This works especially well if you’ve opted for a round table.
Choosing Rug or No Rug
Placing a rug underneath your table can help to ground and delineate your dining area, especially in an open living space. Even in a dedicated dining room, it can add stylish focus—just make sure your chair legs all stay on the rug, even when they’re pulled out. On the other hand, if you have beautiful wood floors to show off (or messy kids who love spaghetti), you may want to skip the rug altogether.
Try a sturdy rug… in a natural fiber, such as jute or sisal, which are built to withstand foot traffic and wear and tear. If you use your dining room for both everyday and formal occasions, these are stylish workhorses that can go well with a range of decor.
Try a low-pile rug… such as a flat-weave or a kilim, if natural-fiber rugs is not your style. Low-pile rugs are the opposite of ones that are shaggy and fluffy, meaning they’ll be much more practical in an entertaining space as well as easy to clean with a vacuum.
Add Multiple Light Sources
Once you have your foundational pieces—table, chairs, rug—it’s time to make sure your room has good lighting. Most homes come with a simple overhead fixture that is usually far from sufficient. Additionally, the shapes and designs are less than spectacular. Approach choosing overhead lighting for your dining room like art—it should be bright and sculptural.
Switch in a pendant… that has more than just one bulb as the light source. Many designs provide sputnik-style as well as multi-light constructions that can help bring both brightness and sculptural appeal to the space above your table. A chandelier also provides the same effect.
Switch it up with sconces… these wall hanging fixtures are worth the hassle and investment. They add the perfect ambient lighting and they can be spread around a room. New designs even offer sconces with plugs, which means they can be easily installed no matter your space. Try to match the materials and styles of your sconces to your overhead fixture.
Creating Various Focal Points
No dining room is complete without a few stylish focal points. Be it a bar, an etagere, a console, or an oversize mirror or piece of art, there should be a range of intriguing spaces to look to within any dining room.
In a large space… bring in a credenza or a pair of etageres to fill with bowls, plates, linens, and other china for a fabulous display. Round it out with other books, vases, and other colorful accents. Or try turning an open-base console into a bar and stowing a pair of ottomans underneath—perfect if you need extra seating in a pinch.
In a small space… an oversize piece of art or a statement mirror can really set any compact dining space apart. Just as they do in large spaces, they captivate the eye but also help to warm up your small space. Mirrors, in particular, will help to reflect light and give the illusion of more space and ceiling height.