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Our Designer’s Best Small Dining Room Design Tips

2020 was arguably the year of the dining room. With WFH and homeschooling, many of our dining rooms became do-it-all spaces—aka. the at-home restaurant, office, classroom, family HQ. But for many of us with small dining rooms, packing in all that function was extra challenging.

So with WFH and everything looking like it’s here to stay for a while in 2021, we’re turning our focus to small dining rooms and how to make the most of them—which is the perfect follow-up to our small living room design tips.

Here, we’ve rounded up our best small dining room ideas with easy ways to make it work for your home. Find out more below!

Want more inspo and guidance? Check out our gallery for more dining room design ideas, then get started with the right pieces for your space with our dining room checklist!

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1. Utilize Corners

Every square-foot matters when you’re working with a small dining room. Try finding ways to maximize corner areas, such as adding a round table with bench seating lining flush against the walls. This works especially great for eat-in kitchen spaces and small opening dining areas.

Small dining room ideas to try: Turn a corner into your dedicated dining and breakfast nook. Add a small round dining table in a corner paired with light, moveable chairs. Push benches against walls to act like built-in banquettes.

See more ways to transform corner areas into compact dining spaces with our tips for how to style a breakfast nook.

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2. Work Up Your Walls

With any small dining room, vertical space is prime real estate for storage and display, so make the most of them! From showing off decor, like art and mirrors, to adding floating shelves and cabinets that hold your barware and dinnerware, pack your walls with function and style.

Small dining room ideas to try: Install a floating cabinet to hold dinner essentials while keeping storage off the floor to allow for walking space. Add a gallery wall with floating shelves for both style and function. Hang art and wall decor high up to give the illusion of taller ceilings and more space.

Get more storage tricks and ideas with our small space hacks and guide to dining room storage.

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3. Go Backless & Small-Scale

Bulky furniture often feels heavy in small dining rooms. Try bringing in slender, backless furnishings, which will provide an open look and feel to a tiny space. Smaller-scale pieces with lightweight silhouettes will also help make a small dining area feel larger and more spacious.

Small dining room ideas to try: Keep to furniture with open bases and no back to play up an airy look and feel. Opt for stools and benches with slender legs that have a visually minimalist look. Choose a smaller-scale dining table that’s slim and moveable to bring in a lighter, airy vibe.

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4. Emphasize Openness

Small dining rooms that also need to function for the everyday need to feel approachable and accessible. Too many patterns or loud colors can make a small space seem even smaller, so lean minimal with colors and patterns. Make it a point to streamline your materials and palette.

Small dining room ideas to try: Stick to a color scheme that’s simple and cohesive, such as neutrals and natural tones, which will create better visual flow in your small dining space. Woven textures, such as caning and natural fibers are great for adding an open feel. Skip upholstery patterns and colors and play up your art instead—a few pieces can go a long way!

Pick up more ideas for opening up a small space with the right small apartment furniture.

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5. Maximize Lighting

In small spaces, good lighting is essential because it helps open up the room. If you have windows, arrange your small dining area near it to maximize natural light. Then be sure to layer in good overhead lighting so that your space is well-lit at night.

Small dining room ideas to try: Hang sheers instead of heavy curtains for your dining area windows to allow for the most natural light streaming in. Add a substantial overhead light, like a chandelier or a multi-globe pendant for ample lighting. Shiny, light-reflecting surfaces will help bounce light in a small, low-light space as well.

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6. Think Round Table

A good furniture rule of thumb when it comes to small dining rooms? Pick a round or oval table over a square or rectangular one. They create more walk-around space and better flow in a small room. They can also comfortably accommodate more people in a small or narrow room.

Small dining room ideas to try: Try a round bistro table that fits four or six to start; you can easily move it from the center of the room to one end to fit the flow in your space as needed. Pair your round table with curvy, armless chairs to further optimize space. Don’t rule out oval tables with leaves that you can add on to extend it to entertain upwards of 10 or more guests!

For help finding the right table for your dining space, consider our guide to dining table sizes and shapes along with our tips for how to choose a dining table.

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How To Decorate a Minimalist Dining Room

These days, our dining rooms are seeing a lot of action, functioning as a workspace and a place for meals every day. As we continue to spend more time at home, now more than ever an organized and clutter-free modern dining space is essential.

Consider the minimalist dining room. Grounded in minimalist furnishings, simple accents, and neutral colors, the look is just what we all need—less stuff, more space. While the minimalist interior design aesthetic can often range from clean-lined to totally spare, we’re fans of both ends of the spectrum and everything in between. Which means we believe that you can have comfortable furnishings and a pared-down space without going the empty room route.

It’s about mixing together a streamlined wood dining table with cool Mid-Century chairs, hanging a contemporary and design-forward light fixture while keeping your white walls bare, or keeping everything in the room neutral with the exception of a textured natural-fiber rug that has a captivating geometric pattern.

If you love the idea of a minimalist dining room but don’t know where to start, we’re here to help. Read on for 8 things to keep in mind to bring the look home.

1. Clear Out Clutter

Following the “less is more” mantra, your minimalist dining area should be about having the right foundation pieces and free of clutter. Fewer furnishings also leaves you more walk-around room and makes the space easier to clean and maintain.

The Design Essentials: Minimal dining table with clean lines. Mid-Century style chairs that are open and airy. A sculptural modern chandelier that reflects the streamlined shape of the table.

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2. Stay Neutral

A neutral palette is essential for capturing the minimalist look. In a minimalist dining room, that means crisp neutrals, like ivory, charcoal, and light-wood tones, or a monochrome black-and-white palette. The idea is to pull back on color so that furniture forms do the talking.

The Design Essentials: Modern light-wood dining table that blends into the room. Contemporary upholstered dining chairs in white or beige tones. Large-scale abstract art in black-and-white.

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3. Opt for Streamlined Forms

Minimalist dining rooms are frill-free, which means that in addition to zero clutter these spaces feature streamlined minimalist furniture that have strong lines. So skip designs with lots of ornamentation. Think a smooth white cylindrical vase with a gunmetal grey rectangular mirror.

The Design Essentials: Streamlined and minimalist dining table with a cool silhouette. Slim open console shelf with bold lines. Modern neutral striped rug that directs focus to the dining area.

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4. Play Up Symmetry

With dining rooms, symmetry is key for a sense of balance and cohesiveness. It’s even more important in a minimalist space where there aren’t a lot of accents. Focus on your layout and arranging your table, chairs, and art to appear intentionally, and evenly, put in place.

The Design Essentials: Modern dining table that has a sturdy base. A set of six or eight chairs that fit snugly along the table. Striped or natural-fiber rug that centers the dining space.

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5. Have Lots of Natural Materials

Minimalist interior design isn’t limited to white rooms and spare furnishings. To warm up a minimalist dining room, natural materials and textures will keep your space from feeling flat and boring. Lean into pieces that show natural wood grains, nubby rugs, and woven details. See it as adding more without adding more clutter.

The Design Essentials: Hefty wood dining table with visible graining. Patterned natural-fiber rug. Wood-and-woven-fiber cupboard with strong visual texturing.

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6. Embrace Negative Space

In a minimalist dining area, it’s okay to have empty walls. Instead, style your surfaces with a few curated accents, like a sculptural vase, vessel or object. A good minimalist decor approach is to style as you normally would, then remove half the items. This will highlight the beauty of the pieces you keep.

The Design Essentials: A selection of vases and bowls that have captivating modern forms. Woven chair that can draw attention to a corner. A cool contemporary pendant that stands in for a work of art.

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7. Play With Geometry

Similar to natural materials, your minimalist dining area can benefit from geometric designs and shapes. Here, the furnishings all have beautiful sculptural forms but are also practical for the overall space. Remember form follows function!

The Design Essentials: Linear carved wood dining table with rectangular cutouts. Large round steel mirror and industrial pendant lamp that add visual interest. Wishbone chairs and wiry barstools that are comfy and eye-catching.

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8. Amplify Contrast

In addition to textures and shapes, minimalist dining rooms are all about contrast. It’s what brings the space to life. Mix light and dark hues, bold and soft materials, rectangular and round shapes, hard and smooth surfaces. Just be sure you stay with your minimalist neutral palette.

The Design Essentials: Dark-metal minimalist dining chairs. Subtly patterned textiles featuring modern motifs. A bold-color wall that’s balanced with decor in crisp white and black tones.

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