12 clever design tricks to make a small dining room look bigger

Make a small dining room look bigger with our expert tips and tricks

white dining room with bench seating, two Eames style chairs, calendar wall hanging, plants
(Image credit: Future PLC)

Are you yearning to make your small dining room ideas look bigger? We tend to prioritise our space for kitchens and living rooms, and neglect the dining room which can more often than not end up squeezed into a corner or somewhere we walk through to get to another room. 

However, there are plenty of interior design tips and tricks to apply that will ensure your dining room gets the love and attention it needs to create an inviting, practical and stylish space.  One that will be used in multiple ways. 

The key is to make the most of what you have and to enhance it with colour choices, picking the right furniture and dining room lighting ideas for the space. By utilising these aspects you'll have a dining space to be proud of and be ready for dinner parties in no time.

How to make a small dining room look bigger

Colour is a key part of changing how a room feels. Playing with perception and learning how to transform a dark space into one that feels bigger is the first step to upgrading your small dining room. 

'Whilst many believe that light colours are the best way to make a small dining room feel bigger, using dark colours with light accents can also create the illusion of more space,' says  Amanda Huber, founder, The Dining Chair Co. 'Opting for dark colours on the walls will make the space feel more intimate and cosy, whilst adding depth and drama. 

'Think shades of grey and brown, or even deep blues or greens. You then need to balance this out by including lighter coloured accents, be it through furniture, textiles or other accessories,' 

1. Low ceiling? Go for light coloured furniture

Scandi style dining room with blonde wood table and chairs with matching open plan storage unit with white tableware, copper pendant light above table, vase of eucalyptus, artwork, view of garden

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Low ceilings are a common issue, and can easily be rectified by keeping the walls and furniture light. Another important factor is to choose low storage, it will direct the eye downwards rather than drawing your line of sight up to the ceiling. 

Match any storage units to the table and chairs, to create cohesion and choose a neutral colour scheme for all of your tableware. White is a great choice and will create a clean Scandi style look. 

Invest in a simple yet striking pendant light and hang it as low as you can whilst still being practical (you don't want to risk your guests banging their heads!). The height will work in your favour visually. 

2. Use print and pattern for interest

dining table near window with small table, upholstered bench on one side, upholstered chairs, table runner, curtains, tableware, view of kitchen

(Image credit: ILIV)

If you're after a harmonious feel then choose fabrics that complement each other – and it will also help the space to blend into the rest of the scheme. Upholstered dining chairs offer an elegant touch to a dining room and you can match the colours to a table runner and seat cushions. 

'The trick to achieving a balanced scheme is to choose designs from the same tonal palette, this will mean that they complement one another to create a harmonious décor scheme,' says Debbie Leigh, design manager, ILIV.

'When combining fabric patterns start with three fabrics and vary the scale of the patterns. For example, if you pick a large-scale pattern as your main one, the second should be half the scale or size of the first, such as a large floral paired with a plaid or geometric pattern. The third can then be similar to either of the first two but using matching colours. When mixing two or three patterns it’s a good idea to also break them up with the clever use of plains either as plain cushions, trims, or borders.' 

3. Choose see-through furniture

white dining room with oval table, modern wire chairs, yellow and turquoise tableware, artwork, pale wood laminate tiles

(Image credit: Future PLC)

In a small, dark dining room choosing furniture that's light and airy rather than dark and chunky makes a small dining room look bigger instantly. 

A table with tapered legs and a thin top will work wonders, especially when teamed with dining chairs that allow the light to flow through the backs. This could be narrow slats or a wire design. It's about allowing the eye to see through the pieces. 

Keep the flooring pale to reflect the light upwards, and add pops of colour with tableware, vases and artwork. 

4. Metallic wallpaper bounces light

small dining room space with metallic grey and yellow wallpaper, Windsor chairs with small white table, vases, wall mounted lamp, fire place

(Image credit: Little Greene)

It might seem counterintuitive to use a small patterned wallpaper idea in a dining room that's not large, but it can work in your favour if you pick the right design. 

‘Our ‘Richmond Green’ wallpaper features a delicate tudor rose pattern. Typical of many designs produced in the style of William Morris in the late 19th century. Here, the modern metallic colourway, Platinum, combines a soft grey with pops of yellow,' explains Ruth Mottershead, creative director, Little Greene. 'Metallic wallpapers are a brilliant way of creating a light filled space as the subtle sheen reflects and bounces the light from the walls back into the room.

'The smaller scale trailing element of the leaves draws the eye upwards whilst the tonal shades of ‘French Grey’ across the wooden floor and woodwork blurs the outlines of the room and elongates the space,' 

5. Opt for an all white look

white dining room with bench seating, two Eames style chairs, calendar wall hanging, plants

(Image credit: Future PLC)

In any small space, white can be your saviour. It will instantly brighten and lighten, and depending on how much light reaches your dining room it will bounce the light too. 

Painting the floor white or installing white tiles is another big win. To prevent the look from becoming too clinical chose a warm wood toned table and add plants and fresh flowers for colour and interest. Black will add a wonderful contrast but use it sparingly so you don't lose the benefit of the white. 

6. Create contrast with textures

small elegant dining room with modern brown chairs, square table, rug, plants, vases, artwork, brown walls, large window in background

(Image credit: Dining Chair Co)

A design trick used by designers is to layer textures, this adds depth and warmth to a scheme and ensures the space is inviting. 

'You can create contrast in a small dining room by using different textures. For instance, pairing a dark wood dining table with a lighter coloured, upholstered chair will help add visual interest and make the space feel lighter. With the flooring, this will play a big part in the feeling of airiness. Opt for lighter toned hardwood floors and use rugs or carpets in pale shades. 

Ensure you include as much light as possible, dressing windows with sheer curtains or blinds to maximise on natural light,' says Amanda Huber, founder, The Dining Chair Co

7. Keep the scheme paired back

neutral dining room with large artwork, glass cluster pendant lights, wood designer style dining chairs and table, earthenware style pot, herringbone floor

(Image credit: Industville)

A more minimal scheme is beneficial in a small dining room. Clutter takes up space visually so opt for a simple yet stylish look. 

'A neutral pared-back scheme using a light palette of natural tones is a great way to make a small dining room feel more spacious. Embrace the Nordic vibe with simple furniture, natural elements such as wood and stone, and keep the décor minimalist for a fuss-free look,' says Mara Rypacek Miller, managing director, Industville.

'For your small dining room lighting ideas, a cluster of clear glass light fittings above the table is the perfect choice for a small dining room as their light and airy appearance tricks the eye into thinking there’s more space than there is whilst providing an ambient focal point.' 

8. Use bespoke bench seating for a corner

small dining room with bench seating in corner, wallpaper, round table, artwork, colourful cushions, blue pendant light, blind, storage under bench

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Utilisie a corner by incorporating or building bench seating that doubles as storage to transform the space into a usable yet cosy dining area that's super practical. Benches create an informal feel and can be used with any shaped table. Add in chairs or stools on the other side, to seat as many people as possible. 

It certainly makes the most of an otherwise dead space and you'll get enough storage to keep napkins, tablecloths and other kitchen paraphernalia neat and tidy. 

9. Stick to a neutral scheme

neutral pale grey dining room with rattan chairs, round table, armoire, vases on table, wooden floor boards

(Image credit: Bridgman)

A farmhouse-style dining room that already has characterful details will benefit from the rest of the dining room colour scheme being neutral – a soft grey is ideal for this. 

'One of the simplest ways to make a small dining room appear bigger is through cohesion. Choose the lead colour or texture to inform your space and stick with it.

Take wood for example – if you find a beautiful light wood dining table (the centrepiece of your room), echo this texture in the accessories, frames and shelves you place within the space,' says Francesca Hadland, styling expert, Bridgman.

10. Distract the eye with a dramatic mural

small dining room with map mural, bench seating with two chairs, suitcase, maps, tableware

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Murals are a wonderful way to add drama to any sized space, but particularly one that's compromised with space. They can make a small dining room look bigger by distracting the eye. A muted toned design will balance well with a wooden table and seating. 

Pick out key colours from your dining room wall decor idea to use for accessories and bring them through into the rest of the scheme.

How can I make my dining room look taller?

Low ceilings, coupled with a small footprint, can result in a room that's not appealing to be in. But, with a few tweaks you can still end up with a wonderful space that you love.

'Drawing the eye upwards in a small dining room will help to make it to feel taller and hence more spacious. One way to achieve this is by installing statement lighting that will draw the eye’s attention. With pendants or cluster chandeliers, you can choose glass designs to keep the space feeling uncluttered and airy, plus the vertical lines will enhance the feeling of a tall ceiling even more,' says Maya Rypacek Miller, managing director, Industville.

Aside from the obvious tricks like adding lifts to the feet of your table, a well-designed dining space can give the illusion of a higher table. Avoid other furniture that's tall and bulky. It will overshadow the table making it feel even smaller than it already is. By choosing cabinets that are lower to the floor, your table will appear comparatively taller,' advises Francesca Hadland, styling expert, Bridgman.

What shape dining table is best for a small space?

Table size is key when it comes to kitting out your dining room and one aspect to remember is allowing enough space for people to move around the table. There's no hard and fast rule when it comes to shape, rectangular designs can fit into corners, as can square. Oval can be a good option and a choice that we don't tend to consider, but they can fit well into a narrow dining room. And of course there's round, which is versatile and ideal for entertaining:

'A round table is the ideal solution for small dining rooms. Their smaller surface area allows them to fit into tighter spaces much more easily than a square or rectangular table will. Not to mention, they present a much more social option for your guests,' adds Francesca.

Sophie Warren-Smith

Sophie has been an interior stylist and journalist for over 22 years and has worked for many of the main interior magazines during that time, both in-house and as a freelancer. On the side, as well as being the News Editor for indie magazine, 91, she trained to be a florist in 2019 and launched The Prettiest Posy where she curates beautiful flowers for modern weddings and events.