Modern dining room ideas to add a contemporary edge

From furniture to wall décor, colour to lighting, here's how to add of-the-moment style

White dining room with round table, pastel chairs and paint affect on wall
(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

Dining rooms are often seen as old-fashioned, the ‘dump-it-all’ space that often makes finding the table an impossible task. But as the trend for dining-in at home continues to grow, perhaps it’s time to look to modern dining room ideas.

After all, many people still want a separate dining room. ‘People want to keep a defined space to entertain,' says Emma-Louise Marston of Neptune. 'I think that since the Pandemic, we are looking for a division between home and work and sitting in the dining room for dinner (even if it’s just the family), still feels more like an event. It stops the bleeding of work into home life.’ 

Even if your dining space is open plan to your kitchen, there are still tricks of the trade that will allow you to create a modern corner - or dining zone.

Modern dining room ideas

When looking for modern dining room ideas, think of what you’d like to make the biggest impact – is it your choice of furniture, wall treatment or choice of colour? Use this as the starting point of your look

1. Hero a modern sideboard

Grey dining room with monochromatic gallery wall

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

Sideboards are essential storage within modern dining room ideas, but contemporary designs are very different to the sideboard you might have grown up with. Wall hung, with push-closed doors, they are more like kitchen units, which makes a modern sideboard a great way of unifying an open-plan kitchen-dining space. Here, a white textured unit, hung on the wall (which increases the sense of space and flow as there’s no legs), provides a great backdrop for dining room wall decor.

A modern dining room can still be warm and inviting. Try mixing a white sideboard with an oak dining table and chairs, upholstered in a warm grey.

2. Mix and match for an eclectic space

Blue dining room with wallpanelling, patterned rug and mixture of chairs

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

Opt for eclectic modern dining room ideas by mixing different finishes and materials. Try metal chairs in a colour-pop red, galvanised, and warm wooden ones, adding vibrancy to your dining space. Go for a modern rug underfoot that echoes the feature wall blue paint. A statement pendant in brushed chrome makes a statement against such an intense colour.

Mix patterns on a theme for a contemporary collection of ceramics: ikat and tribal-inspired designs in reds and blues, bring the modern vibe to the tabletop.

3. Go for accent chairs

Neutral dining room with bright purple pink chairs

(Image credit: Future PLC/Jeremy Phillips)

In a neutral dining room, work in colour with hot pink upholstery. Look for chairs with a curved back – curves can be more inviting in a contemporary space that has lots of straight line – while chrome chair legs add to that modern styling. 

When looking for window treatments for your dining room décor moodboard, full-length curtains are a great way of adding contemporary pattern without wallpapering. When the curtains are closed at night, the pattern will give a similar impact to a feature wall.

4. Don't always think white

Green dining room with patterned wallpaper and blinds

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Brittain)

White doesn't have to be the automatic choice for modern dining room ideas – you can use a soft shade, like this mint green dining room, for a fresh, contemporary dining. Start with your dining table idea with a walnut table a great choice. Pair with upholstered chairs in a chic grey wool, then bring in touches of mint green (or try blush pink) in your décor and soft furnishings. 

Dining room lighting is key to a modern scheme, what better opportunity to make a statement than hanging a pendant low above your dining table? 

5. Try a modern Scandi look

Neutral dining room with upholstered bench and textured styling

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Scandi style is perfect for a modern dining room idea, with pale colours, natural wood and simple shapes. Start with a wooden dining table – the table is the heart of a Scandi kitchen-dinner, where moments of hygge are shared. Add designer-style dining chairs, which you’ll love for years to come. Then choose your dining room colour scheme idea – naturals with touches of blue and biscuit bring out those warm tones.

Think about the space above your table and your dining room wall décor idea: try hanging a duo of pendants, displaying tall grasses in a vase below, creating a lovely organic shape.

6. Be dramatic with black

Dark green and black dining room with wooden furniture, houseplants and botanical window blind

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore)

Give your modern dining room ideas an instant makeover by painting the walls black, creating a space that’s full of drama. Black provides an intense backdrop; try adding foliage – whether through a patterned leafy blind or a large pot plant, the vibrant green really pops. 

Continue the dining room paint ideas with pops of colour with a pair of citrine chairs mixed in with neutral ones; a large dining table idea provides the perfect place to mix and match chair colours. 

7. Create a modern corner

White dining room with round table, pastel chairs and paint affect on wall

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

Clean lines, simple shapes and soft colour, this modern dining room idea would work brilliantly in the corner of a white-gloss kitchen-diner. The painted circle on the wall spotlights the table below – look at how the branches are allowed to visually ‘cut’ into the circle, uniting the table and wall. It’s such an easy but effective dining room wall décor idea.

A modern pedestal dining table idea is a great choice for small dining room ideas – the chairs can all tuck neatly under, and you can accommodate more around a circular table than a square or rectangular one as no-one needs deal with a leg.

8. Style it for the family

Dining room with wall panelling, coloured picture frames and seating bench

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

In a modern family home, the dining table is where life happens, so reflect with practical furniture, hard-wearing engineered wood flooring and panelling to protect the walls from knocks and scrapes. A bench allows space for the kids to squish up when entertaining and is easy for little ones to get up to the table and down again.

Use the wall above your table in your modern dining room ideas to reflect your family life: it’s a lovely space to show off a gallery wall – whether that’s pictures by the kids, scenic shots from family holidays or black and white framed prints.

9. Try modern highlights

Grey dining room with monochrome and metallic accents

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

Silver-grey and navy are a lovely modern dining room colour scheme – they provide a crisp, clean yet sophisticated look to a dining space. Choose a dining room wallpaper that has a silvery shimmer, which is echoed in velvet silver upholstery fabric and a statement dining room mirror idea. To avoid the space looking cold, bring in touches of warm gold through your choice of lighting, table linen and decorative accessories.

Find dining room inspiration at your favourite boutique hotel or restaurant: Look at how dining room light ideas create mood, the choice of wall art, and the furniture used.

10. Bring contemporary to the country

White dining room with wall lattering, wooden chairs and table and blue bench

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

Try painting heavier wooden furniture to create rustic modern dining room ideas. Shades of cream, blue and grey make a lovely dining room colour scheme palette that can be accentuated by splashes of cherry red. Read our guide to best paint for furniture and choose the paint that’s best suited to the furniture you are looking to upycle.

Make a subtle statement with your choice of dining room wall decor – painted MDF letters the same colour as the wall they are mounted on add an extra dimension. 

What makes a dining room contemporary?

Often we think of modern dining room ideas as open-plan, sharing the floor area with a kitchen and/or living area. ‘We are definitely using our dining spaces in more of a multi-functional fashion, than just singular activity,’ says interior designer Rukmini Patel. Yet a modern dining room can still be a separate room. What makes either modern is the way furniture, colour, lighting, wall décor and use of space all come together in a contemporary way.

Think about the mood you want to create – light and bright, or dark and intimate. Then declutter your dining room, with a large modern sideboard ideal for storage. Dining room lighting plays a huge part in a modern design; adding layers of light: try a pendant, wall lights and table lamps, while colour and pattern give you chance to express your personality (modern doesn’t mean white and cold!). 

Finally go to town with your table décor. ‘Tablescaping’ is huge and it’s all about decking out your dining table to the nines! And involves everything from patterned tablecloths, matching table mats and napkins, to place cards and a lot of flowers!’ says Rukmini.

How do you make an old dining table look modern?

We’ve all been there – stuck with a piece of furniture that you can’t get rid of (either for sentimental reasons, the cost of a replacement or that – apart from its look – works in every other way). ‘A tablecloth is a simple way,’ says Emma-Louise from Neptune.  ‘And nobody needs to know it doesn't matter what condition your table is underneath.’ Try a linen tablecloth for a rustic twist on modern dining room ideas. 

You can also paint the table: try adding a colour pop to the legs, which you can pick out in your accessories used throughout the space or paint the top too. Feeling handy? See if the legs can be swapped for a more contemporary hairpin set; or look at salvaging the table legs and asking a local glazier to fit a new toughened glass tabletop.

Jennifer Morgan

Jennifer Morgan is an award-winning editor, writer and stylist, with over 25 years’ experience writing, styling and editing home interest magazines. Jennifer was the deputy editor of Ideal Home from 2008-2010, before launching Ideal Home’s sister title, Style at Home in 2010. Jennifer went on to launch several craft magazines and websites, before going freelance in 2016, with a client list that includes John Lewis, Dunlem and Nordic House. Today, she writes for Ideal Home, Real Homes, Waitrose, Woman & Home, Sainsbury’s Magazine and Homes & Gardens. But it was during lockdown that Jennifer realised her dream of publishing her own magazine – Simply Scandi.