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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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8 of Our Best Tips for Acing the Mismatched Dining Chairs Trend

Do you want to infuse your dining room with a little personality? Then check out this trend we’re loving: Mismatched dining chairs! Chairs are a dining room essential. And when you mix and match your dining chairs—where all are different, or you have two or three different styles—you bring added character and charm to your dining room.

The mismatched dining chairs trend flies in the face of the all-in-one, perfectly matched dining set. Rather, it’s one of those dining room design ideas that infuses your dining room with extra visual interest and flair! It gives your dining room a less formal, more eclectic style. This is a perfect trend for those who can never pass up a solo chair at a flea market or antique store, giving you the chance to show off the different chairs you’ve collected over the years.

But this look doesn’t have to be overly eclectic. There are more subtle ways to mix and match dining chairs as well—in ways that lean both casual and formal. It all depends on the dining chair styles you use.

Want to get the scoop on how to pull off the mismatched chair trend? Keep reading for our designers’ best tips on how to style a dining room with mismatched chairs.

mismatched dining chairs

1. Consider the Size and Scale

When playing with a mismatched dining chair look, it’s important to consider size and scale. Look for chairs that are roughly the same size but with enough visual variances that they feel like different chairs. This will give the set-up a complementary look while still achieving that eclectic vibe of mismatched chairs.

Stylist Tip: This is especially worth keeping in mind if you’re an antique collector or flea market fiend and are buying chairs one at a time!

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mismatched dining chairs

2. Use Mismatched Materials

For a mismatched dining chair look that is less eclectic but still impactful, Try to bookend the length of your dining table with end chairs (also called captains chairs) that add a subtle textural contrast to your space. We used slipcovered chairs in the image above, which adds visual weight and contrast to the slender wooden chairs thanks to the covers’ full silhouette in a soft jute-cotton blend. Other great materials to combine? Wood and cane chairs.

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mismatched dining chairs

3. Mix and Match Shapes

For added visual interest around the table, mix and match different chair shapes. You might not realize how much the shape of a chair’s back influences the vibe for a dining room—but they really do have a lot of impact! So, mixing different shapes not only adds nuance to the style of your dining room, but it adds a lot of visual interest as well. The shapes we chose in the design above, with the round and rectangular shapes, veers more formal, while a wishbone chair paired with a rectangular chair would be much more casual—proof that mismatched chairs can suit a variety of looks!

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eclectic dining room with pink wool rug and yellow accent wall

4. Mind Your Heights

When it comes to mismatched chairs, it’s not an “anything goes” situation. To pull off this look well, you want to make sure all the seat heights are approximately the same. This creates a “level” look and a sense of consistency, even when the styles of dining chairs are quite different. Plus, you want all your dinner guests sitting at the same height, don’t you??

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mismatched dining chairs

5. Keep it in the Family

If you’re more of a traditionalist and like the ease of a full dining set, but want the slightly more casual approach that mismatched chairs offers, try mixing chairs from the same family! For example, in the image above, the captain’s chairs are more of a wingback style—but, being from the same brand, they have the same color of legs and upholstery, and both have the nailheads, all of which helps tie this look together into a cohesive whole. This is a great way to play it safe with the mismatched chair trend.

Stylist Tip: Make sure the fabrics are the same, or are different enough that they’re complimentary. If they’re similar but only slightly off it will look like you tried to go for a perfect match and didn’t quite hit the mark. This goes for both the upholstery and the chair legs.

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6. Same Color, Different Style

When trying out mismatched dining chairs, color can be a great unifier. Whether you’re taking the flea market approach and every single chair is different, you have two sets of two chairs, or even two chairs and a pew, like we have above, having them all painted the same gives a common thread to the look. This lets you venture into a wider mix of dining chair styles and shapes, but in a way that will appear complementary!

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rustic dining room with sleek wood table and black wishbone chairs

7. Sub in a Bench

An alternate take on mismatched chairs? Using a bench on one side of a rectangular table, rather than two chairs. It will give that mis-matched feeling but with a grounding element that benches bring to the table. To get this look, use matching chairs around the rest of the table, and place the bench opposite two matching chairs on the length of the table. Of course, you aren’t limited to a bench. You could also incorporate stools, a pew, or a settee as alternatives to traditional dining chairs, any of which would add extra flair and personality to your dining room.

Stylist Tip: If you don’t want to clutter your dining room with chairs day-to-day, you could always tuck one or two chairs elsewhere in your home, then pull them out when you have company. Check out our guide on where to put spare dining room chairs for some ideas. Just remove the chairs at the ends of the table and add them back in when you need them!

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8. Don’t Forget the Table

When it comes to pulling off the look of mismatched chairs, dining tables are just as much part of the conversation in this trend. With an eclectic mix of chairs, you’ll want to make sure your dining room table is stylistically neutral so it doesn’t compete with the overall look. And, while you can use this trend around any table, round dining tables give you a lot more flexibility to lean into the look. Since you don’t have the formality of the “head” of the table and there’s no natural symmetry, you can get away with more varied chair styles. Without that built-in symmetry, your eye won’t be offended by differences.

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Get Inspired by These 5 Dining Room Designs

You thought hosting season was over? Think again! With Easter and Passover on the horizon, major family gatherings are just around the corner. And even if you don’t celebrate those holidays, a delicious brunch is always a fun excuse to gather around the dining table and catch up with loved ones.

To help get you excited about hosting, we rounded up 5 of our favorite dining room designs for hosts of all styles. Peek inside these 5 dining room design ideas and get inspired for your own space.

Ready to be named the host with the most well-designed dining room this year? If you like what you see, start a project today and we’ll help you design your exact room in 3D.

Read on to peek inside 5 of our favorite dining room designs and steal some ideas for yours.

Modsy dining room designMod Visionary

If a modern and trendy dining space is the look you’re after, tune in here. Our Mod Visionary style is all about pairing mid-century shapes with trendy colors and finishes for a space that looks great and is easy to live in.

Full of tapered legs and low-profile furniture, this is a great look if your dining room is on the smaller side. Mid-century inspired pieces open up your room and make it feel lighter and larger than it actually is.

Modsy dining room designRustic Warmth

Create a home that’s warm, inviting, and full of lived-in charm with our Rustic Warmth collection. Who doesn’t love a dining room that’s full of ultra cozy touches?

To get the look try pairing natural finishes in neutral tones with textures galore. For example, linen slipcovered chairs against a dark-washed wood dining table strike the perfect mood in this space.

Modsy dining room designRefined Rustic

Looking for a dining space that fuses classical design with traditional comfort? Look no further than our Refined Rustic collection.

Inside you’ll find refined pieces with vintage touches that together serve up a warm and timeless look. Opt for pieces with classic shapes rendered in weathered woods that aren’t afraid to show their texture. Top it all off with a classically-inspired rug in a warm hue (we love the burnt orange shade of the one shown above).

Modsy dining room designContemporary Minimalist

Light, airy, clean, and sophisticated. If this is how you’d describe your perfect dining room, then you’ll want to check out our Contemporary Minimalist style.

Get the look by pairing streamlined furniture with a neutral palette. Think sleek dining chairs pulled around a glass-top dining table. Be sure to take a minimal approach when styling your space – less is truly more in this style!

Modsy dining room designContemporary Connoisseur

Polished yet casual, cool yet contemporary – this dining room look is perfect if you like a more “beachy” style in your space.

Strike an easy, breezy coastal vibe by pairing natural materials with cool hues. Imagine rattan, jute, and linen alongside art and decor in all shades of blue!

 

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