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

These smart small dining room ideas and design tips show you how to visually expand your compact space. It can still work for every day meal times or for more stylish dinner parties
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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.

    As our homes evolve, the dining room becomes a multi-functional space from a home office by day and family diner by night, to a more formal space saved purely for hosting guests.

    Whatever you want from your dining room, our tips, tricks and expert advice can help make the most of your space, even when it’s limited.

    Small dining room ideas

    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

    A small dining room with a wooden table and white cupboards

    Image credit: 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 small kitchen or living room to incorporate a drop-leaf table. It offers the flexibility of folding away when not in use, creating a table for two or open it out to seat more.

    2. Don’t be afraid of using darker shades

    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 over the table

    Neutral dining room with wooden chairs and woven pendant over table

    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 idea. 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

    A dining room with a pink painted feature wall and ceiling and decorative light shade

    Image credit: Dulux; colour strip painted in Pressed Petal, walls in Blossom White, ceiling in Nutmeg White, £29.16 for 2.5ltr

    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

    A dining room with a wooden table, mixed chairs and a bench seat

    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, as it can fit plenty of bums on seats while tucking right under the table when not in use.

    6. Introduce savvy storage solutions

    Open shelving units with glasses and crockery on display

    Vittsjo shelving unit, £65, 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. The freestanding, thin framed units of the dining room storage idea shown above 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 and bowls on the other for a pleasing, ordered finished. It’s also a renter-friendly alternative to hanging shelves.

    7. Bring the outside in

    A bright dining room with green botanical print wallpaper

    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 a statement botanical dining room wallpaper idea like the one shown above invites that feeling of being out in the open into the home.

    ‘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

    A small kitchen with white cabinets and black worktops with a fold away wooden table

    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, 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

    A small dining room with a small round table and circle painted on wall

    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. The circular dining room wall decor shown above is a great way of making your dining area the star of the show as it defines a zone.

    10. Work every inch in your dining room

    A large white dining space with a wooden table, metal chairs and glass roof panels

    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 kitchen-diner idea or one to bear in mind if you have a 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

    A modern minimalist dining space with white walls and a black round table and chairs

    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 shape (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. Seamlessly link spaces

    A cream kitchen with a long wooden dining table and a wall clock

    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, as shown in the country kitchen above. 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.

    13. Make your dining room multifunctional

    A neutral dining room with framed artwork, a wooden table and white leather chairs

    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 for a beautiful gallery wall idea.

    14. Create a cosy corner to dine

    A kitchen dining area with a built-in bench seat, floral blinds and a wooden table

    Image credit: David Brittain

    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, as shown in this neutral dining room.

    Not only do banquettes offer a more casual, laid-back style of dining. 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.

    15. Make it a family matter

    White kitchen dining area with built-in-seating and colourful accents

    Image credit: Jamie Mason

    Create a fun, friendly kitchen-diner that the whole family can enjoy by blending a corner banquette with walls and décor to make it nearly invisible, as shown in this white dining room.

    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 dominates it. Elsewhere, stick to a primary palette – it’s the easiest and simplest way to create a cheerful mood in your home.

    16. Build in by the window

    A small dining room with built-in window seating benches and red cushions

    Image credit: James French

    This dining space is not much wider than its window, but it has been maximised with the addition of a built-in bench window seat idea. 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.

    17. Make the most of existing features

    A modern dining room in glass rear extension with window to garden

    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.

    18. Pick a colour palette

    A traditional dining room in shades of purple and grey with dark flooring and a gallery wall

    Image credit: Lizzie Orme

    Single-colour decorating schemes work well with small dining room ideas.

    In this grey dining room, the same pale 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 dining room curtains that provide the interest. The tabletop has been left plain in keeping with the floor, while seat covers introduce a touch of pattern.

    19. Change the shape

    A round white table with multicoloured plastic chairs and a shelf with artwork on it

    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.

    20. Store everything in a sideboard

    A dining room with upcycled furniture, a grey chest of drawers and a wall mirror

    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. Upcycling old furniture from other rooms by painting them is a great budget dining room idea and a large mirror will bring depth to a plainer scheme.

    21. Theme a nook

    A wooden dining table next to a Union Jack artwork

    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.

    22. Utilise colour in a dining scheme

    A dining area with a mustard yellow wall and gallery of photos

    Image credit: Future PLC/ David Giles

    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, while decorative pendant lamps add style and a little mood lighting come night-time.

    23. Think beyond your dining space

    A stylish dining table in an open hallway area next to stairs painted light grey

    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, as seen in this shabby chic dining room idea. 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.

    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 natural protective, 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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