Proving that you can get Michelin-star style on a street food budget, our budget dining room ideas are a triumph of creativity over cash.
They encompass every eating area you're likely to encounter, from neglected separate dining rooms to open-plan entertaining hubs to kitchen breakfast nooks – and all they need from you is a little time and imagination.
We've avoided dining room ideas that, while beautiful, require hefty investment. But we have found ways to fake dream items – like pricey encaustic patterned tiles, a 'new' suite of table chairs, bespoke storage and fancy wall art.
You'll be amazed at what's possible...
Budget dining room ideas
1. Paint a feature arch
If you have a small dining room or a space that lacks architectural detail, you can fake it with a simple paint trick. Using a dark paint that contrasts your main wall colour so that at a glance it looks like a niche or alcove.
To draw a neat arc, cut a length of string measuring the diameter of the circle and attach it to a tack or pin. Tie a pencil or chalk to the other end. Then, holding the tack in place, draw out the arc. Use an angled detail brush to paint a neat edge, then fill the rest of the area with a larger brush or roller.
‘A quick paint job is the best way to give a well used room a new lease of life,' says Marianne Shillingford, Creative Director at Dulux. 'Whether you want a whole new outfit for the space, or just an accessory like a feature wall or an eye catching shape painted in a bold colour.’
2. Upcycle a chair
Giving a wooden seat a new lease of life with a colourful upgrade is one of our favourite upcycled furniture ideas. Just one or two chairs is enough to make a striking impact. First, gently sand down the chair and use a dry cloth or brush to remove any dust before wiping down the chair. Apply a base coat of wood primer.
For an even finish, you could try a spray paint. If using paint, eggshell or vinyl matte will provide a low sheen. For a super matte finish, go for a chalk paint. But for a shiny lacquer, a gloss paint will create a durable and interesting contrast to make a bold colour really pop. Find all the top options in our guide to the best paint for furniture.
3. Create freestanding storage
Carpenter-made built-in storage or additional kitchen cabinets could blow the budget, so create your own with a trusty Ikea flatpack. Turn cube shelving into the family’s control centre with compartments for tableware, school letters and other daily essentials.
Baskets will help hide the clutter. Fit one shelving section at a right angle to the other units and cover the side panel with a cut to fit vinyl chalkboard sticker or paint for this genius dining room storage idea.
4. Stencil the floor
Encaustic patterned tiles may be a hot kitchen trend, but they come with a hefty price tag too. Update concrete, wooden or plain flooring with a painted tile effect. Whether it’s a simple geometric or more ornate design, stencils will help create a measured, uniform finish.
Follow Rustoleum’s steps to create your own patterned flooring:
- Clean floors thoroughly, wooden floors can be lightly sanded and cleaned first.
- Apply Rustoleum’s Chalky Finish Floor Paint to concrete, bare wooden floorboards and floorboards with old paint and varnish.
- Paint the floors with a chosen base colour and use a roller to paint the main area of the floor, starting at the furthest corner, moving towards the door. Paint at least two layers for durability
- Measure the floor to locate its centre. Using masking tape, position the stencil at the centre so that it does not move while you’re painting.
- Use your second colour and apply a small, even amount of paint to a small foam roller to apply the paint to the stencil. Remove the stencil and reposition it.
- Repeat until the floor is covered – then just leave to dry and you're done.
5. Make your own table
Refresh an existing favourite or create your own design with new legs. It’s the perfect solution if you can’t find an off the peg table for an awkward or irregular sized room. Adding your own top means you can make it totally bespoke.
Add lots of pre-aged character with a reclaimed piece of wood or go for the natural, rustic look with a waney edge piece of wood. Make it Scandi-cool with a thick piece of plywood or create your own concrete-effect look by applying micro-cement to a solid piece of wood. Whatever surface you choose, be sure to seal the finish to avoid marks and stains.
Hair pin legs are perfect if you like an industrial look or if you are looking for small dining room ideas, as the thin legs allow an open visual flow. Trestle or A-Frame legs are ideal for large or long table tops, or try a colourful option with powder-coated TipToe clamp legs.
6. Create a long lasting display
Add some instant wow-factor with some hand-crafted dining table decoration ideas. Right now, it’s hard to scroll through Instagram without spotting dried or preserved flowers and grasses. The trend for textural stems like fluffy pampas or a bunch of Bunny Tails not only brings subtle colour and movement. There’s plenty of practical positives, too.
They are pretty much maintenance free and will last and last (especially when spritzed with hairspray), making the cost per use minimal. Add the stems to a sculptural vase for even more impact.
7. Layer statement plates
You don’t need to invest in a whole new set of tableware to refresh your dining set up. Simply update a white dinner set with the addition of statement side plates or bowls. Layer on colour with gorgeously glazed finishes. Pick a patterned design or this leafy textural bowl brings a fresh twist to the table.
8. Revamp your table linens
Think about more creative ways to lay your dinner party table. A stylish tablecloth will update a tire table in minutes, covering up scratches and watermarks alike. Keep to a natural linen design for a less formal look, or use a runner if you're worried a cloth might seem too fussy.
Use napkins and placemats as accents that pick out colours used elsewhere in the room, creating cohesion. Here, blue references out the lighting and crockery and yellow the paint at the top of the wall.
9. Substitute chairs for a bench
Adding a bench that tucks under a table is an affordable way to add extra seating, and a space-saving one at that. It can look the part in all schemes, too, so whether your room has country-style Shaker cupboards or sleek and contemporary units, a bench could be the answer to fitting the whole family round the table together.
For comfort, load your bench with cushions and throws that will encourage the family to stick around and chat long after dessert.
10. Buy or make a new window blinds
Make the windows the focal point of your room by hanging a beautiful blind that demands attention. Go for a Roman blind so that the pattern is always visible – you can keep it on budget by learning how to make a Roman blind.
Alternatively, try changing things up with a fresh dining room curtain idea.
11. Create a mini art gallery
This grey dining room showcases an instant decorating win that will double up as a talking point at dinner parties. As a rule, pictures should be hung at eye level, with the centre around 145cm from the floor. However, the viewpoint will mostly be lower in a dining room as you'll be seated, so hang artwork a little lower, too.
Other feature wall ideas that can be achieved affordably and seem fitting for a dining room include hanging collections of vintage plates in different sizes, or painting a chalkboard for dinner menus and illustrations.
12. Hang a statement light
A rethink of your dining room lighting can be a good budget way to improve the space. Choose a light fitting that suits the proportions of your table – too large and it will overwhelm, too small and it'll get lost.
Hanging the light low will create a more intimate atmosphere, while picking curtains in the same shade will accentuate it as a feature.
13. Paint it black
Painting the walls black is one of the most inexpensive yet dramatic ideas out there. Black kitchens and dining spaces instantly make your furniture and accent colours pop, and is a great foil to a smart, tropical-inspired theme. Those lush potted palms and botanical artwork are other affordable additions.
14. Paint everything...
We've already discussed how you can revamp a chair – but why stop there? You can pick up a whole suite of mismatched wood furniture at charity furniture shops and furniture shops for just a few pounds, and they can be easily transformed.
Start by washing your pieces and sanding them down. Next apply a primer. When it's dry, apply your chosen colour in several light coats to avoid drips. Finally, apply a water-based clear protective finish.
Old church chairs make particularly good dining chairs in an open-plan kitchen, thanks to the bible storage at the back. And we love a farmhouse style table – particularly when the base is painted and the wood is left natural and waxed on top for an authentic country look.
Use chair pads to make wooden seats more comfy. If you can't find any designs you like, recover plain ones with striped linen tea towels for a rustic French-influenced shabby chic decorating idea.
15. Get the kids involved
Who needs to spend hundred on art prints, when you have your own little Picassos at home? Set up an artist's studio on the dining table and get the kids to paint or draw some originals for the wall. As wall display ideas go, it's one of the most affordable and fun we know.
Keep it classy by sticking one medium – so poster paints or crayons, not both – and by hanging each one in the same coloured frame. But have fun with the colour – this sunny yellow is far more suitable than black.
16. Infuse the space with subtle scents
We all know that candles can create a romantic mood. But avoid overpoweringly-scented candles at the table. Opt for natural beeswax instead – the subtle fragrance won't compete with the smell and taste of your food.
Alternatively, use unscented candles and add rosemary sprigs, berries and pine cones to fragrance your dining room.
Additional words by Michela Colling
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Amy Cutmore is an experienced interiors editor and writer, who has worked on titles including Ideal Home, Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc, Real Homes, GardeningEtc, Top Ten Reviews and Country Life. And she's a winner of the PPA's Digital Content Leader of the Year. A homes journalist for two decades, she has a strong background in technology and appliances, and has a small portfolio of rental properties, so can offer advice to renters and rentees, alike.
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