Small dining room décor ideas – 10 ways to decorate a tiny dining room

Get small dining room décor ideas that pack a punch with our space-savvy line-up

Small dining room with white armchair
(Image credit: Dwell)

A small dining room décor ideas refresh could be the answer if you’re looking for small dining room ideas that will impact how spacious the room feels when you sit down to dinner. Whether your space-restricted dining area is part of a bigger living space, or in its own little room, the way it is decorated can have a dramatic effect on the sense of space, if not the physical dimensions.

Your colour choices alone can make or break the experience of eating in a small dining room. Pale and cool colours recede, while dark and warm colours advance. Thus, opting for a light, uplifting colour scheme is perhaps the simplest way to brighten the atmosphere. 

However, a key consideration will always be the seating with small dining room decor. When it comes to getting more bottoms on seats, banquette-style dining furniture is much more effective than freestanding designs. 

‘The rule of thumb is to allow about 90cm between a chair and the next piece of furniture or wall, minimum, but with built-in seating you can reduce that down to as little as 30cm because the seat fits directly onto the wall,’ explains Jamie Blake, creative director, Blakes London. 

Small dining room décor ideas

Keeping the surfaces in your dining room uncluttered will promote a sense of calm. There are plenty of ideas to choose but try not to overdo the shelving/mantelpiece displays and tablescapes once you have completed your space-boosting scheme. 

1. Panel the walls

small dining room with table and chairs

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Panelling takes up barely any space, is affordable, especially if you DIY, and can yield big rewards on the décor front. ‘Panelling becomes particularly beneficial in a small dining room because it immediately gives the illusion of grandeur and can trick the mind into feeling the space is larger,’ says interior designer Noor Charchafchi, of Celine Interior Design

‘In a small dining space, I would use large panels quite high on the wall, so that the eye is drawn upwards,’ adds Noor. ‘I love to be quite bold with panelling so even in a small space it could be interesting to incorporate triple framed panelling, perhaps with a darker inner tone and lighter outer tone to create maximum effect.’ 

Wallpapering inside panelled-style framing is another great way to boost impact, and helps a little dining room wallpaper idea go a long way.

2. Play with paint effects

small dining room with table and chairs

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Creating pattern and shape with paint is a popular dining room wall décor idea that can prove incredibly effective without overpowering a smaller dining room. It can also be used to zone the dining area in an open-plan living space. 

Two-tone designs will prove calmer than clashing colours. Pattern-wise, go for straight lines over curves – stripes, chevrons or mountain-peak style designs for example ­– unless you have a really steady hand or stencils available. Low tack tape will help ensure crisp lines but make sure you remove the tape while the paint is still wet to help reduce bleeding.   

3. Take inspiration from nature

small dining room with table and chairs

(Image credit: John Lewis)

A nature-inspired décor scheme full of earthy, rustic materials and finishes will make a small dining room feel cosy and inviting. Go for calming colours in shades like mushroom, stone and clay, then layer in natural materials. 

‘Natural surfaces are also very practical and family-friendly as they tend to be easy to clean and durable,’ adds Merry Albright, creative director, Border Oak. ‘Look for natural materials with texture, such as honed or riven stone flooring, sisal rugs and rustic timber to lend character and warmth.’ 

4. Make it yours

small dining room with table and chairs

(Image credit: Future PLC)

It’s all too easy to get obsessed with careful coordination when planning any décor but in a small space, a meticulously planned approach can quickly end up looking contrived. When every inch counts, it’s more important than ever to avoid anything too gimmicky or matchy-matchy, says to Tim Walters, managing director, George Spencer Designs

Use wall-mounted display units to show off your favourite treasures without taking up too much space and seek out vintage furniture to bring heritage and warmth to the room. An assortment of old chairs can be smartened up with a fresh coat of paint. 

‘The most relaxing small dining rooms should be a reflection of who we are, evolving and growing with us over time to create a natural form of layering in design and colour,’ Tim explains.

5. Blur the lines

small dining room with table and chairs

(Image credit: Crown)

Painting the walls and woodwork in the same colour in your dining room will generate a harmonious, relaxed atmosphere that’s perfect for entertaining. The good news for those with small dining rooms is a commitment to one colour, aka colour drenching will exaggerate its sense of scale. 

This dining room paint idea works by blurring the lines where walls finish and architectural details begin, so there are fewer contrasts to draw the eye. Colour-drenching neutral shades will have a receding effect that can further boost the optical illusion. But to seriously impress dinner guests, go for a dramatically dark shade against which shapely furnishings in opposing colours will stand proud. 

6. Go large underfoot

small dining room with table and chairs

(Image credit: Dwell)

It may sound counter-intuitive, but an out-sized rug can go a long way to enhance the sense of space in a small dining room. A small rug or, worse, several small rugs will have the opposite effect, visually dissecting the floor and making it appear busy. 

As small dining room décor ideas go, positioning a generous rug beneath the dining table is one of the simplest to execute. Aim for a rug at least 80cm bigger than your dining table, to allow chairs to be pulled out without the legs catching on the edges of the rug. A patterned rug will hide stains better than a plain one but avoid anything too chaotic in a small dining room unless all the other surfaces are calm. 

7. Free up space with built-in seating

small dining room with table and chairs

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Built-in banquette style dining fits snugly to the wall and is a great way to squeeze a table in without taking up the entire dining room. The addition of storage within the seat is brilliant for stashing festive tableware and outsized serving dishes. Take the opportunity to dial up the décor by piling up the cushions, mixing pattern and colour for a fun, laidback vibe. 

‘When mixing up cushions, the key is to vary the pattern scale – for example a large floral design with a plaid or geometric. Use plain fabrics to break it up, either as a wholly plain cushion or just the border trim,’ says Debbie Leigh, design manager, ILIV. 

8. Go for a gallery wall

small dining room with table and chairs

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Gallery walls are one of our favourite dining room ideas. They deliver variety and interest on any wall but, with a bit of clever planning, a good gallery wall can also boast space-enhancing powers. 

The secret to working a gallery wall in a small dining room is to keep it neat and symmetrical – this is not the place for anything too wild and whacky. Use frames that match in style and/or colour and be meticulous with the tape measure. Sticking to monochrome pictures and photographs is a great way to instil order. This stepped arrangement also leads the eye upwards, a smart move when space is tight.

9. Embrace slim shelving

small dining room with table and chairs

(Image credit: Future PLC)

A good dining room layout has sufficient space to navigate around the dining table, without crab-like side steps or trapping diners in their chairs. To achieve this is with a small footprint, switch out a dresser or sideboard for slimline solutions, like this simple lean-to-shelving unit. 

Go for a tall shelving unit to balance out the dining table and create design interest higher up. Do harness it to the wall for safety. A display of pretty plates, propped on stands or attached using plate hangers available at Amazon, or beautiful books displayed flat against the wall, can provide colour and shape on the slenderest of shelving. 

If you do have room for bulkier furniture, positioning it on the same walls as the door, so it’s behind you when entering, will prevent it from dominating in a small dining room.

10. Celebrate the ceiling

small dining room with table and chairs

(Image credit: Crown)

Ceilings are referred to as the ‘fifth wall’ within interior design circles, because those in the know treat them with as much importance as vertical walls. And when those vertical walls are reduced in size, it is even more vital to go to town overhead! 

‘Try something a little different by using a really bright colour such as yellow on the ceiling so the colour visually spills onto plain white walls below,’ suggests Justyna Korczynska, senior designer, Crown. ‘In a small space the colour will really pop.’ 

Wallpapering the ceiling, in the same design as the walls, or as the only pattern hit, is another popular space-boosting trick on professional decorator’s cheat sheets. Also consider decorative light sconces or cornicing, which will put the ceiling in the spotlight and draw attention to the room’s full height. 

How can I make the most of my small dining room?

The table is the largest piece of furniture in any dining room. In a dining room that lacks space, a round table will often prove the most comfortable fit. Round tables are generally easy to walk around and are also more sociable as all dinner guests can maintain eye contact while eating. Go for an extendable design so that you can squeeze in more guests on occasion but enjoy more room to breathe the rest of the time. 

Banquette or bench seating will accommodate more guests than individual chairs, and you can also free up space by choosing wall-hung shelving over sideboards or dressers. Use cleverly placed mirrors to reflect more light into and around a small dining room, and consider a feature wall, covered in statement wallpaper furthest from the entrance to draw you into the full depth of the room. 

What do you put in the corners of a small dining room?

There’s no shame in leaving the corners of a small dining room empty, especially if filling them makes it hard to walk around the table. However, an empty corner that isn’t impeding traffic flow is a wasted opportunity when it comes to bringing much-needed colour and shape into a small dining room. 

One of the best dining room lighting ideas for a compact space involves tall floor lamps, which can be tucked tight into the corners and, by casting away the shadows, will serve to visually expand the room’s dimensions. Stylish planters with houseplants that grow up rather than out are also a good idea in corners that get some sunlight. Consider a Fiddle Leaf Fig or Dracaena in a woven pot that will add texture. 

Linda Clayton

 Linda Clayton is a professionally trained journalist, and has specialised in product design, interiors and fitness for more than two decades. Linda has written for a wide range of publications, from the Daily Telegraph and Guardian to Homes & Gardens and Livingetc. She has been freelancing for Ideal Home Magazine since 2008, covering design trends, home makeovers, product reviews and much more.