With WFH and homeschooling still going strong for many families, our dining rooms continue to be do-it-all spaces—aka, the at-home restaurant, office, classroom, and family HQ. But for many of us with small dining rooms, packing in all that function is extra challenging.
So, 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.
How to Maximize a Small Space
When you have a small space, you want to do everything you can to maximize the square footage you have. That’s why we’re big believers in small space hacks that make any room feel instantly larger. Before we get into specific small dining room design tips, here are some high-level principles that will max out the functionality of even the smallest of rooms.
In a small space, you have to think vertically, maximizing wall space since you don’t have as much floor space to work with. Whether that’s wall-mounted furniture for storage or hanging a sconce rather than having a side table and table lamp, in a small space it’s all about making your walls do some heavy lifting. (This also happens to help the flow of traffic in a small space!)
You also want to find ways to incorporate hidden storage, so you can max out your space without everything being in plain sight.
And don’t forget about utilizing visual trickery to make your space look larger. Clear and leggy furniture both give the appearance of a more open, airy room. And visual tricks like hanging your curtains higher to draw the eye up or hanging a mirror to help bounce the light and visually open up the space are two of our favorite ways to maximize a small space.
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Small Dining Room Decor Ideas
Want to know how to decorate a small dining room? We’ve rounded up our top 13 small dining room decorating ideas with easy ways to make it work for your home. Read on to make the most of your small space!
1. Create Better Flow with a Round Table
A good 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 two or four to start. If space is an issue, you can keep it tucked in a corner or against the wall day-to-day, then pull it to the center of the room when entertaining. Pair your round table with armless chairs to further maximize 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!
2. Opt for a Neutral Palette
Make it a point to streamline your materials and palette. Too many patterns or loud colors can make a small space seem even smaller, so in a small dining room it helps to lean minimal with colors and patterns. 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. If you like a little color, bring in pops through art rather than upholstery—a few pieces can go a long way!
Pick up more ideas for opening up a small space with the right small apartment furniture.
3. Maximize Natural 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 them to maximize natural light for daytime dining. Hang sheers instead of heavy curtains for your dining area windows to allow for the most natural light streaming in.
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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4. Stick With a Small-Scale Pendant
Speaking of lighting—good overhead lighting is a must in any dining room. After all, you want to make sure your space is well-lit for evening meals. But in a small space, you don’t want the light fixture to overwhelm the room. So, use a small-scale light fixture so that the overhead light is the right scale for your small dining room table.
Designer Tip: A simple conical or globe pendant light or very airy chandelier will help keep the dining room open while still having a visual impact.
5. 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. We love the idea of installing a floating cabinet to hold dinner essentials while keeping storage off the floor to allow for walking space.
Designer Tip: Hang art and wall decor high up to give the illusion of taller ceilings and more space.
6. Utilize Corners
Every square-foot matters when you’re working with a small dining room. Maximize corners by adding a round table with bench or banquette seating that’s flush against the walls. This works especially great for eat-in kitchen spaces and dining alcoves, where you want a dedicated dining and breakfast nook. After the benches are in place, simply add one or two dining chairs to round out the seating.
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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7. Push Your Table Against the Wall
In many dining rooms, the dining table is floating in the middle of the room. But in a small or narrow dining space, you often have to push the table up against the wall. This might feel odd at first, but it will free up walking space. And, if you’re hosting some friends, you can always pull the table off the wall for an evening to fit more people around the table!
8. Go Minimal and Small-Scale
Bulky furniture often feels visually heavy in small dining rooms. Try bringing in slender furnishings with lightweight and minimal silhouettes, which will provide an open look and feel to a tiny space. Smaller-scale pieces will also help make a small dining area feel larger and more spacious.
Small dining room ideas to try: Stick to furniture with open bases to emphasize an airy look and feel. Opt for seating 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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9. Add Storage with Open Shelves
Floor space is precious in small dining rooms, but you might still need storage. However, credenzas, which are the typical choice for dining room storage furniture, take up a lot of space. Wall shelves, on the other hand, leave the floor open while still providing some dining room storage. Plus, they’re more flexible and customizable than bulky pieces of furniture.
Small dining room ideas to try: Install floating shelves on the largest wall of your dining room. (It can just be a few or an entire wall of shelves, depending on how much space you have and your storage and display needs.) Fill the shelves with a mix of serving dishes, vases, and perhaps some plants or art. Since it’s open storage, you’ll want to make sure you add pieces that are nice to look at so it’s a styled display.
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10. Save Space with a Bar-Height Table
Bar-height tables can save space in a small dining room, since you can fully (or nearly fully) tuck your bar-height seating underneath your table. This saves on floor space when not eating. But there’s also an optical illusion at play with a bar-height table. Furniture that’s higher off the ground visually looks lighter because there’s less bulk at eye level. So, even if your bar-height table is the same dimensions as a regular dining table, it will create the illusion of more space in your small dining room! Bonus: You can also use this table as a standing desk when working from home!
Need help finding the right stools to go with your bar-height table? Check out our complete guide to counter and bar stools!
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11. Hang (or Lean!) a Mirror
Hanging a wall mirror or incorporating a floor mirror is a classic hack for small spaces to help visually open them up. Mirrors reflect light, which helps open up a room and make the space look larger. Light-reflecting, metallic finishes have a similar effect!
Small dining room ideas to try: Since many small dining rooms don’t have a ton of extra space for decor, a mirror is like a 2-in-1 piece. You get the function of helping visually open up your space, but you can also choose a mirror with a frame or style that complements the rest of your space and adds an intentional decorative touch to your walls.
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12. Use a Bench
Since benches can sit closer to the walls and be pushed fully under tables, they create better flow in a small dining room. When not in use, they save floor space by being tucked under the table. But they’re also great for squeezing more people around a table and are great seating options for kids!!
Designer Tip: Don’t have a dining bench but love the idea of maximizing seating when entertaining? Pull a bench from elsewhere in the house and use it as a temporary dining bench so you can fit more people around the table in your small dining room!
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13. Consider a Glass-Top Table
Clear furniture is a great choice for small spaces, helping create more openness within the room. This makes a glass-top dining table a perfect choice for a small dining room. The transparency allows light to shine through the tabletop—and you can even get away with a slightly larger table if it has a glass top since it feels more open than a solid table.
Designer Tip: If a glass-top table isn’t your style, you could opt for clear, acrylic dining chairs instead, which have a similar effect.