Small dining room ideas – decor and design tips for stylish family dinners and entertaining

Don't let a compact room be a barrier to creating your dream scheme – we've got all the tips, tricks and expert advice you'll need
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  • Our small dining room ideas prove you don’t need oodles of space to make mealtimes a pleasure. It’s quite possible to turn the tiniest of box rooms into an entertaining space. Or steal a corner of an open-plan kitchen/living room and create a dedicated eating area and family hub.

    To get a small dining room right, there are a few major considerations. The first will be your table and chairs – depending on your room’s layout, rectangular or round tables can work. While a built-in banquette or freestanding bench may help you squeeze more bums on seats where space is tight.

    Colour plays a key role, and is instrumental in setting the ambiance. Think darker for cosy and intimate or pale tones for family spaces that are also used for work and play.

    Aside from those biggies, lighting is an important consideration when collating dining room ideas. Be sure to think about it at every level – overhead is going to make that small space feel brighter, and task lights at mid height will shed light on homework or romantic dinners for two.

    1. Squeeze in a drop-leaf table

    small-dining-room-idea

    Norden table, £150, Ikea

    The lack of a separate dining room doesn’t mean TV dinners are the only solution. Look at your existing space and see if any part of it can be reworked to incorporate a dining area. Thanks to clever, space-saving furniture, you can fit somewhere to sit down and eat in even the smallest of spaces.

    Use the corner of a kitchen or living to incorporate a drop-leaf table. It offers the flexibility of folding away when not in use, create a table for two or open it out to seat more.

    2. Don’t be afraid of the dark

    Small navy dining room with parquet floor and marble fireplace

    Image credit: Future PLC/Carolyn Barber/Sarita Sharma

    When it comes to dining room paint ideas, there’s no need to shy away from using a deep inky blue or charcoal in a small room. Embrace the bijou proportions and go for these dramatic but classic colours. They instantly add the sophistication of a high end boutique restaurant.

    These intense shades particularly lend themselves to a dining space, as they instantly evoke an intimate atmosphere for a cosy dining experience.

    3. Hang a statement pendant

    Small-dining-room-idea

    Image credit: Dou lampshade, £139, Ferm Living at Twenty Twenty One

    You can still create a talking point in a small space with a dramatic dining room lighting design. A simple rattan shade becomes a big design statement when you play with proportions and go oversized. For an instant hit of glamour, a modern, glass chandelier will set the scene for dinner guests too.

    4. Try the wrap-around effect

    small-dining-room-ideas

    Colour strip painted in Pressed Petal, walls in Blossom White, ceiling in Nutmeg White, £29.16 for 2.5ltr, Dulux

    Taking a new slant on the feature wall, this paint trick will help define a space, particularly in a multi-use room. An intense shade will bring a sense of warmth and intimacy to the area.

    When it comes to marking out and measuring, step back to make sure the painted area fully encapsulates the table and chairs. Carrying the strip onto the ceiling not only adds a new dimension to the idea, it creates a canopy over the table and will frame a feature chandelier.

    5. Mix and match seating

    Small-dining-room-idea

    Image credit: Estate 6-10 Seater Extending Dining Table, £899; Estate 4 Seater Bench £399, John Lewis & Partners

    If the perimeter around your dining table is tight, think about seating with a small footprint that won’t stick out too far from the edge. A dining chair with a slim profile, thin legs or open frame will help create a sense of space and not create too much of a visual block when looking through the room.

    A bench is a great space saver, it can fit plenty of bums on seats while tucking right under the table when not in use.

    6. Introduce savvy storage solutions

    small-dining-room-idea

    Norden table, £150, Ikea

    A large cabinet or sideboard may overwhelm a small dining room and suck the light out of the room, so try open shelving as an alternative. Here, the freestanding, thin framed units still give a clear view through to the walls and the barely there glass shelves allow light to flow through.

    With everything on display, it’s essential not to over-stuff and clutter the shelves. Organise items by kind, so glasses on one shelf, bowls on the other, for a pleasing, ordered finished. It’s also a renter-friendly alternative to hanging shelves.

    7. Bring the outside in

    Small-dining-room-ideas

    Jasmine & Serin Symphony wallpaper, £124 per roll, Cole & Son

    Both soothing and invigorating, a green, leafy print can bring a small space to life. Green instantly links us to nature and the great outdoors, so adding a statement botanical wallpaper invites that feeling of being out in the open into the home.

    Love this shade? Work it elsewhere with our green living room ideas

    ‘Green works in modern homes because it connects us to the fields, forests and open spaces that we lack in our indoor lives,’ says Marianne Shillingford, Creative Director at Dulux. ‘It gives us energy that is fundamental to human existence’.

    8. Find room for a dining table

    Small dining room ideas

    Image credit: Oliver Gordon

    Many of us don’t have the luxury of a separate dining room, but that doesn’t mean we need to resort to TV dinners.

    Look at your existing space and see if any part of it can be reworked to incorporate a dining area, for example, if you have a small kitchen design, consider investing in a drop-leaf table that will fit neatly into a corner, or can be used as a display table when not in use.

    9. Designate a dining zone with paint

    small-dining-room-with-small-round-table

    Image credit: Dominic Blackmore

    Choose a round pedestal table and armless dining chairs to visually enhance a space. Keep the focus off your diminutive quarters and draw attention to unique details in a small dining room.

    Use a sugary palette of pale pastels to keep the subtle colour even across a compact room. Make your dining area the star of the show by painting a circular design on the wall to define a zone.

    10. Work every inch in your dining room

    Modern-dining-area-with-statement-lighting small dining room ideas

    Image credit: Paul Raeside

    Don’t let a small dining room restrict you. Increase the space in a narrow dining room with a slimline table and wall-hung accessories.

    If you have a large family or a continuous stream of guests visiting then a small, circular table may not be an option for you. Instead, invest in a slender table that will fit neatly into a narrow space – it’s a great idea for a kitchen-diner or conservatory.

    Free up floor space with wall-hung lighting on pivots that can be positioned over your table to provide efficient task lighting. Wire it up to a dimmer switch for an ambient glow – ideal for intimate meals.

    Finally, punctuate the scheme with artwork and table decorations to add character and personality.

    11. Pick a round table with tuck-under chairs

    Modern-minimalist-dining-area_0

    Image credit: Colin Poole

    Visually expand a small dining room by using a monochromatic palette. Keep the walls and floor clutter-free and minimal, letting the personality come in the form of cleverly designed furniture. Purchase a round table with chairs that can be tucked in when not in use.

    There are no corner legs to wiggle around and it can be moved about easily when needed. Before buying, consider what size table your space will accommodate, your ideal size (circular or oval) and which material will best complement your current scheme. Ease of use is important, too, and do think about what you’ll do with seating when it’s not being used – fold-up or stacking chairs are great options.

    12. Theme a nook

    Traditional-white-dining-room-with-oak-dining-set-and-patriotic-prints

    Image credit: Colin Poole

    If your small dining area is tucked away in a corner, give it an instant update with a theme. Include flourishes of colour in accessories, soft furnishings and wall art to give the space its own character.

    Set against a white backdrop, a chestnut table brings a traditional, homely touch to the corner. Incorporate a bench, which can be neatly tucked underneath when not in use. It is also a great option for when you need to seat more than two people.

    13. Think beyond your dining space

    Traditional-dining-room-with-grey-panelled-wall-storage

    Image credit: Catherine Gratwicke

    If you don’t have a separate dining zone, take a look around your home. If the occasion demands, or you just feel like it, why not set up a temporary dining area in an underused space?

    Position a slimline table in a narrow corridor or hallway. Keep the space fuss-free and bring in furniture from other rooms or use pieces that can be folded away, stacked or moved around at a moment’s notice.

    14. Tie it in

    Country-dining-room-with-rustic-wooden-table

    Image credit: Matt Cant

    Small dining rooms are often nooks carved out of larger spaces. Unify the dining area with the surrounding spaces by employing similar design characteristics throughout. Use armless and backless benches that can be easily tucked beneath a table when not in use.

    Don’t let a small table stop you from hosting a big meal – extendable versions are a great solution that offer flexibility for every dining situation and save on valuable floor space when not in use.

    15. Make your dining room multifunctional

    Neutral-dining-room-with-framed-artwork

    Image credit: Rachael Smith

    Few of us have the luxury of a separate dining room these days, but however limited space might be it’s important to incorporate storage into your scheme wherever you can.

    Build a low-level, storage bench. It may take up a little floor space, but it will declutter and streamline your space while providing extra seating should you require it.

    If you can, have it made to match the rest of your furniture for a scheme that is cohesive and considered. Using low-level storage will also free up wall space – display a collection of framed prints that will add character and interest.

    16. Create a cosy dinner corner

    When space is tight, opt for extra comfort with a banquette. Blend it into the rest of the room by choosing furniture and colours that chime with the surrounding décor. Not only do banquettes offer a more casual, laid-back style of dining, but they’re also a great space-saver, requiring less room than chairs and offering valuable storage under the seats.

    Re-create the laid-back vibe with heaps of cushions and accessories, all tailored to fit your scheme.

    17. Make it a family matter

    small-dining-room-ideas-built-in-seating

    Image credit: Jamie Mason

    Create a fun, friendly kitchen-diner that the whole family can enjoy. Blend a corner banquette with white walls and white décor to make it nearly invisible. Built-in bench seating is an incredibly efficient use of space, especially in smaller rooms. Employ additional chairs and stools alongside whenever extra seating is needed.

    Use see-through furniture for a look that visually blends into a scheme rather than dominating it. Elsewhere, stick to a primary palette – it’s the easiest and simplest way to create a cheerful mood in your home.

    18. Build in by the window

    small-dining-room-with-window-seat

    Image credit: James French

    This dining space is not much wider than its window, but it has been maximised with the addition of built-in bench seating. Include storage under benches so you are not wasting any space.

    Add seat pads and scatter cushions in a mix of coloured fabrics. Squeeze the largest table possible between the two benches and make the space special by hanging an oversized pendant light above. A lovely, cosy arrangement.

    19. Utilise colour in a dining scheme

    Small dining room with bench seating and red decorating scheme

    Image credit: Dominic Blackmore

    Small doesn’t have to mean plain. Where space isn’t the wow factor, draw the attention with colour and pattern. One side of this small dining room has been given over to vibrant paint and pattern.

    A feature wallpaper takes centre stage, flanked by fuchsia pink alcoves in a wonderfully lively decorating scheme. Bench seating is a wise choice for this small space, while pendant lamps add a little mood lighting come night-time.

    20. Make the most of existing features

    Small-dining-room-ideas-with-picture-window

    Image credit: Emma Lewis

    Use a window to add interest. The view of a well-stocked garden, open countryside or cityscape can be all that’s needed to add interest and beauty to small dining room.

    If you are lucky enough to have a picture window, reserve a spot right next to it for your dining table – it will work wonders. Here, the clean-lined contemporary furniture and pared-back artwork don’t fight with the view, making for a lovely, peaceful space.

    21. Pick a colour palette

    Traditional-small-dining-room-with-lilac-accents

    Image credit: Lizzie Orme

    Go for a single-colour decorating scheme in a small dining room. In this space, the same pale grey shade has been used on walls, fireplace, table and chairs so that the backdrop seems to recede, making the room feel larger than it really is.

    Pick one element of the room and use it to introduce a contrast shade – here it’s lilac curtains that provide the interest. The tabletop has been left plain in keeping with the floor, while seat covers introduce a touch of pattern.

    22. Change the shape

    Small dining room ideas

    Image credit: Colin Poole

    If you want a kitchen table but don’t have space for a large rectangular or square design, go for a smaller round bistro one instead. Pop it against a wall, or in a snug corner of your kitchen.

    23. Store everything in a sideboard

    Dining room with upcycled furniture

    Image credit: David Giles

    In a small dining room, it can be worth introducing a large piece of storage furniture. It may seem contrary to ‘clutter’ a room with a huge sideboard, but it can actually help, by hiding any clutter away. It’s one of many dining room storage ideas that will keep your scheme tidy.

    Ideally, choose a piece where crockery, linens, toys and homework can be hidden behind doors and drawers, and keep walls free of storage to enhance the sense of space. A large mirror will bring depth.

    What’s the best shape table for a small dining room?

    Both circular and rectangular tables can work brilliantly in smaller dining rooms. A round or oval table is good for a very tight space as it’s easier to manoeuvre around and there are no corners to bump into. If you are creating a small dining area in a larger open-plan living room near French doors, for example, it can work well.

    However… ‘rectangular tables are traditional and versatile, as they offer a large surface area and can fit neatly into corners if needed,’  says Lisa Broad, Head of buying at Harveys. They are also the better option if you want to seat more people in a long but narrow space, or are trying to zone a dining space beside a kitchen or dining area, as it can sit parallel with an island or sofa.

    What colours are best to paint a small dining room?

    A good small dining room colour scheme should make the space feel convivial and welcoming but not claustrophobic. For this reason, we recommend a paler palette that will reflect light rather than absorb it, but in tones that are warm and relaxing.

    ‘Bringing a sense of peace, softer tones of plaster pink, sun-baked terracotta and olive green have a restful effect that will add an elegant and comforting touch to spaces such as dining rooms,’ say the experts at Crown. ‘These pale, earthy shades have been emerging as big trend colours over the last few seasons, thanks to their power to create a cocooning atmosphere and breathe warmth into a space.’

    That said, dark colours can work in a small dining room. As David Mottershead, MD of Little Greene explains, deep shades of inky blue or charcoal can also create an illusion of more space. Also, the ‘Northern light’ in British homes enhances the pigments. ‘Our eyes have difficulty tuning into the depth of deep hues and for this reason the colour gives a sense of endless space and the feeling of endless opportunities,’ he says.

    Should I carpet my dining room?

    Jodie Hatton, Residential Designer at Brintons, explains that carpet can be a great choice for a dining room, but recommends that you use wool carpet over other materials. ‘All types of flooring will get dirty at some point although some show dirt more than others. Wool rich carpets, because of the nature of the wool fibre, will generally hide dirt better than synthetic products and will also be easier to clean.’

    ‘The protective natural waxy coating on wool fibres makes wool products resistant to staining and a wool carpet will also pick up less dust as wool is naturally anti-static.’

    ‘Patterns are perfect for high-traffic areas like dining rooms, where dust and dirt are repeatedly trodden into the carpet,’ adds Jodie. ‘In 2021, we need little moments of joy throughout the home, so dining room decoration should be equally as smile-inducing as your living room or bedroom. It is where you entertain guests, so why not make it special?’

    Jodie recommends Axminster patterned carpets as they have superior definition and are longer lasting.’

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