A small dining room needs to work extra hard to be able to accommodate everything from simple weeknight dinners to full-blown dinner parties. Your dining space may be a small room or even just the corner of an open-plan kitchen-diner, but no matter how small the footprint you can still make a beautiful space that works for you.
Plenty of lovely dining room ideas can be adapted for a small space, whether that’s because of low ceilings, awkward angles or narrow width.
'When styling a small space, choose double-duty furniture,' recommends Rebecca Snowden, interior style advisor at Furniture and Choice. 'Utilise wall space like installing floating shelves for added storage or by adding a stylish mirror to make the space feel larger.’
Also, don't forget to consider dining room lighting ideas when it comes to small dining room ideas. ‘Lighting is another important aspect of making a small space feel bigger so create a layered approach by combining dimmable ceiling lights with floor lamps and wall sconces. Let natural light in through sheer curtains or lightweight blinds,' says Rebecca.
Small dining room ideas
Small dining rooms can still be multi-purpose spots so use your dining room paint ideas to help evoke the mood you're trying to create. A pale colour scheme will work well for a room used for work and play, making it ideal for a family dining room. Alternatively, a darker scheme will lend a cosy and more intimate feel to your small dining room ideas.
Not using a dining room table which is too big is another important factor to consider to avoid making the small proportions of the room more obvious. Thinking outside the box with banquette or bench seating can help you fit more people in the space without it feeling overwhelmed.
‘Small dining rooms are the easiest to neglect, especially if you use them once or twice a year,’ says Rebecca Drury, founder of MissPrint. ‘But it’s important to make use of every room as you’ll realise what a difference they’ll make to your home. We would recommend going for a statement and eye-catching design.
'Whilst the space is limited, you can use this to your advantage and create a really striking look that offers visual appeal and intrigue to family gatherings and parties you may host. Mostly, it will take attention to the size and scale of the room, so guests, and yourself, won’t even notice how small the space actually is.’
1. Double up storage and décor
When you have limited space you may not have the luxury to add in both storage items and more decorative items. However, that doesn’t mean sacrificing one for the other, by pairing the two together you get the best of both worlds. Choosing cabinets with glass doors is a great way to do this with your dining room storage ideas, allowing you to put your best items on display.
This is the time to show off your best china and glassware. Having glass-fronted cabinets will also help the space look bigger by reflecting light and allowing you to see right to the back of the cabinet.
2. Connect it to the kitchen
Not everybody has the space for a separate dining space and open-plan kitchen dining is a popular option in many homes. When you combine the kitchen with the dining space, pay attention to traffic space and how people will move around the room and there is enough room for a walkway even when chairs are pulled out. Tracey Hague, owner of vintage furniture brand Where Saints Go says, 'A wooden bench will look great styled with a fluffy sheepskin rug or throw on the seat, for instant comfort and a stylish, Skandi look.'
A bench built into a small kitchen island idea is a nice way to give you more seating without taking up a lot of precious space. Bench seating is also a way of creating a divide between the kitchen area and the dining area so the room feels like you have separate zones but is still continuous space
3. Choose furniture that has multiple uses
Your small dining room ideas may need to double up as a place for eating and socialising but also with the rise in working from home, it often acts as a makeshift office too. To make the shift between a dining table to a workspace, remove any placemats or dining items so that the table now becomes solely for working and will be able to comfortably fit your laptop and papers.
If you decide to use your dining table as a work desk, having a plug socket nearby is also important as well as comfortable supportive chairs. When you are ready to make the switch again remove any work-related items and place them where you can’t see them so the dining room once again becomes a space to relax and unwind.
4. Go for open shelving
Open shelving allows you to combine both good form and function and looks best when a simple approach is taken. What you put on the shelf is a personal choice, just make sure it looks ordered and tidy using baskets or boxes to hide any clutter. To provide more interest to your shelves, include more decorative pieces such as vases, hanging plants or small sculptural items.
'Utilise wall space like installing floating shelves for added storage or by adding a stylish mirror to make the space feel larger,' says Rebecca Snowden from Furniture and Choice.
To keep a cohesive look to your dining room shelves and kitchen shelving ideas, group similar items together to create small vignettes and give you a variety of shapes and sizes. Items placed on open shelving can be susceptible to gathering dust so ideally store dining items which you use regularly and don’t forget to give the shelves a regular dusting.
5. Choose a dining room table with a clean and simple shape
Small dining tables work best when they are circular or oval, due to the lack of edges it is easier for more people to fit around the table and socialise together. 'Furniture with clean, simple shapes work best in small dining rooms. Round tables with a central pedestal are perfect due to their smaller footprint, while square or rectangular tables can sit against a wall for extra floor space. Better yet, opt for an extending table that can shift in size for daily meals and dinner parties.
'Look at finishes that help create the look you want – wooden dining sets evoke a warm, rustic feel while glass or high gloss tables are chic, modern choices. Pair your dining table with slim, slender chairs – armless or low-armed designs create a stylish, streamlined look,’ says Rebecca Snowden from Furniture and Choice.
This Skovby Circular Table, £1,649, Back In Action, means that no one gets stuck with the table leg due to the unobtrusive central support. It also comes with a hidden secret, three extension leaves tucked away in the central column.
6. Add in under-seat storage
Banquette seating is not only a nice way of getting extra seating into your small dining room ideas but it can also be used for sneaky storage. With a small dining space, clever small kitchen storage ideas will stop the room from being overwhelmed and feeling even smaller. The seat of the banquette can be made so it can lift up and reveal deep storage which can be a single section or be divided into multiple sections.
'Even the most smallest of dining rooms can accommodate banquette seating. Consider fitting banquette seating into the corner of the room to create a quaint and cosy, compact dining spot,' says Ryan McDonough, interior design expert Myjobquote.co.uk.
If you have cushions on your banquette seating and don’t like the idea of taking your cushions on and off. Hidden drawers providing sleek and unobtrusive storage, which can be used for things such as serving platters, placemats and napkins. The seating can be painted to match your dining room colour schemes to provide a cohesive finish to the space.
7. Build storage for a small space
Your small dining space ideas will look better if they are not surrounded by clutter and all your items have their own space. Building your own storage solutions doesn’t need to be expensive, you can create a personalised, tailor-made piece of furniture by using flatpack modular furniture. You can buy basic wooden units and put them together to create a longer unit which perfectly fits your space. Then break out your DIY skills and add worktops to the units and experiment with paint colours, legs and handles to make it truly your own and a one-off piece of storage.
8. Focus your lighting
Many small dining room ideas have the issue of a low ceiling which can make the space feel cramped and closed in. Lighting can make all the difference in making the space look bigger and giving the illusion of a lifted ceiling. ‘Lighting low ceilings can seem tricky,’ says Julian Page, head of design at BHS.
‘When pendant lights are just too long, and there's no space for a hanging chandelier, it's easy to get lost with your lighting. However, there are a variety of simple ways to not only light a room with a low ceiling but also make the room feel bigger. Recessed downlights are the perfect light fixtures for any low ceiling. The recessed design takes up no space within the room and creates a modern, sleek appearance that suits any contemporary home.
'If a more traditional style of lighting is what you're going for, then flush ceiling lights are ideal for you. Flush ceiling lights fit closely to your ceiling as a way to optimise the space in your room while also providing the same statement styles you love. There is a variety of flush ceiling lighting available online in every style - from refined industrial to cottage-core.’
9. Carefully consider your furniture
When dealing with small dining room ideas the main issue is, of course, lack of space. This is why taking the time to find the right furniture is key. Multifunctional pieces are ideal, such as dining room storage ideas built into your seating to keep keep the space free of clutter.
'Furniture with clean, simple shapes work best in small dining rooms,' adds Rebecca Snowden from Furniture And Choice. 'Round tables with a central pedestal are perfect due to their smaller footprint, while square or rectangular tables can sit against a wall for extra floor space.'
'Better yet, opt for an extending table that can shift in size for daily meals and dinner parties. Look at finishes that help create the look you want – wooden dining sets evoke a warm, rustic feel while glass or high gloss tables are chic, modern choices. Pair your dining table with slim, slender chairs – armless or low armed designs create a stylish, streamlined look.
10. Keep colours low to trick the eye
Although neutral dining room ideas tend to feel lighter and larger, you can still integrate colourful pieces. The trick is to keep them low so the space on the walls above seems more vast than it actually is.
'Colour can always be used to make a smaller dining area feel more spacious,' says Libby Holt assistant stylist at ScS. 'Going for a light and bright scheme is key to opening up the space. If you want neutral walls, adding a pop of colour with brighter furniture and accessories such as chairs or artwork can bring character to the room whilst avoiding a cluttered feel.'
'If you prefer a colourful approach, stick to a bright and inviting colour pallet and opt for minimalist furniture so the space doesn’t feel too busy.'
11. Build seating into nooks and notches
You'll often have awkward indents or spaces in your small dining room ideas, thanks to in-built cabinetry or simply architectural quirks. Turn these from a mildly annoying aspect into a desirable feature by integrating your seating into these spaces.
Banquette seating sits (so to speak) perfectly in little nooks. Plus, this type of seating means you can squeeze in more people than you would in standard chairs.
12. Take it to the corner
It's a natural tendency to put your dining table in the centre of a room, but when dealing with small dining room ideas, you have to look outside the box. Corners, for example, can become the perfect place for a dining area.
'The table is usually always the main feature of any dining room,' says Libby Holt from ScS. 'Opting for a round table instead of a rectangular one means there are no corners wasting space, perfecting for optimising a small room. However, if you’d prefer a rectangular table, select one that fits well enough with chairs around it and consider placing this against a wall when not in use so that it doesn’t shrink the room'
'Before deciding on the different types of furniture you want, start by measuring your dining room,' advises Holt. 'Space is often the biggest restriction when it comes to purchasing dining furniture and having the exact measurements before you start shopping is essential.'
13. Draw the gaze upwards with wall décor
One trick to make small dining room ideas appear larger is to lead the eye up and away from the petite space. Clever use of dining room wall decor can assist with this. Try arranging a collection of plates, mirrors or even hanging plants in a diagonal line up and away from the dining table area. The gaze will follow this pattern rather than focus on the smaller area beneath.
14. Don’t be afraid of using darker shades
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.
15. Try the wrap-around effect
Taking a new slant on the feature wall, clever paint ideas will help define a space, particularly in a multi-use room. Take the paint in a strip up the wall and take it right up onto and across the ceiling. 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.
16. Mix and match seating
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 for small dining room ideas as it can fit plenty of bums on seats while tucking right under the table. Individual stools that can be easily hidden elsewhere or used as side tables when not in use are also worth looking at.
17. Squeeze in a drop-leaf table
The lack of separate small dining room ideas 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 your small kitchen ideas 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.
18. Introduce savvy storage solutions
A large cabinet or sideboard may overwhelm small dining room ideas and suck the light out of the space, so try open shelving as an alternative. Freestanding, thin framed storage solutions will allow a clear views through to the walls, making it less intrusive than the alternatives.
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.
19. Bring the outside in
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 statement botanical dining room wallpaper ideas 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’.
20. Find room for a dining table
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, consider investing in small kitchen table ideas that provide more flexibility. A drop-leaf table that will fit neatly into a corner, or can be used as a display table when not in use.
21. Save floor space with wall lighting
Increase the space in a narrow dining room with wall-hung dining room lighting ideas and accessories. 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.
'Small rooms can actually be made to appear bigger with the correct placement of lighting. You can achieve this by using wall lights in recessed parts of the room to avoid dark corners, emphasising the height of a narrower room with low hanging pendants, and spreading light sparsely with accent lighting instead of opting for a large ceiling light or lampshade which will make the room feel shorter and more boxed in.' says Julian Page from BHS.
'Floor lamps are perfect as they save space in smaller rooms, a floor lamp creates the perfect cosy and ambient glow while still effectively illuminating the area well, they also mean you do not need to cram a table or sideboard into the space to try and fit a table lamp in the dining room as well.'
22. Pick a round table with tuck-under chairs
Be clever with your furniture choices when considering your options for small dining room ideas. Look for round tables with chairs that can be tucked in underneath when not in use.
There are no corner legs to wiggle around and they can be moved about easily when needed. Before buying, consider both your ideal shape (circular or oval) and what size table your space will accommodate. Remember that each person has slightly less room on a round area, so may not be suitable if you're doubling the the table up with home office ideas or for the kids' homework zone.
23. Seamlessly link spaces
Smaller dining rooms are often nooks carved out of larger spaces. Unify the dining area in open-plan kitchen ideas by employing similar design characteristics throughout. Use similar - or identical - materials on your worktops or kitchen table as your dining table. Colour, too, should be kept cohesive throughout.
24. Use low level storage
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 and help the room appear bigger by comparison.
25. Boost light levels with sheer window dressings
Letting in natural light is a great way to make rooms appear larger than they are, but you can't necessarily keep them on show 24/7. If you're working with particularly bright small dining room ideas then you need a solution which allows you to let light in without blinding you or making the space too hot.
Carefully consider your dining room curtain ideas to find the right solution for you. Whether you go for drapes, curtains or blinds, sheer materials are the way forward as they still let in ample light, albeit diffused, so you still get light bouncing around without any negative side effects.
26. Make the most of windows
The view of a well-stocked garden, open countryside or cityscape can be all that's needed to add interest, beauty - and size - to small dining room ideas.
If you are lucky enough to have a picture window, reserve a spot right next to it for your dining table. Keep the area around the window minimalistic so the view is the real; focal point and eyes are drawn out rather than focusing on the small space.
27. Store everything in a sideboard
In small dining room ideas, 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. I
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 is ideal if you're looking for budget dining room ideas.
28. Add in a feature wall
Small doesn't have to mean plain. Where space isn't the wow factor, draw the attention with colour. A vibrant feature wall will add impact and personality to even the tiniest of spaces. Softer shades do make a room seem larger, but choosing a bold colour on just the one wall stops it from feeling smaller, which can occur when on every wall.
29. Think beyond your dining space
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 your hallway ideas as and when required. 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 table and chair for a small dining room?
The furniture for your small dining room ideas would also work great with open-plan living room ideas. Helena Davies, head of home buying and interior expert at Barker and Stonehouse advises, ‘If you’re looking to furnish a smaller space, like a kitchen diner, be sure to look out for a narrow dining table with slim legs so that you’re not adding unnecessary inches. Alternatively, a table with a pedestal base will be much more efficient than the traditional four legs, while a dining table with a bench will help to maximise your space even more. A built-in bench is a great way to add seating and save space as your dining table can be pushed up against it.’
The chairs you choose are also important for making your small dining room ideas work. ‘When space is tight, it’s best to go for slimline dining chairs without armrests, as this will give a cleaner look while maximising the number of seats you can fit around the table,' Tracey Hague from Where Saints Go.
'Then, measure your table carefully to assess how many chairs you can comfortably fit. It’s normally recommended that you leave at least ten inches between chairs, to stop your guests from bumping elbows during meals.’
How to choose furniture for small dining rooms?
When you’re deciding on the furniture for your small dining room ideas, accurately measuring both the dining room and the furniture is crucial. Knowing the measurements you are working with will stop you from buying furniture that is too big for the space, which is a surefire way to make a space feel smaller than it is.
‘The table is usually always the main feature of any dining room so opting for a round table instead of a rectangular one means there are no corners wasting space, perfecting for optimising a small room.
‘However, if you’d prefer a rectangular table, select one that fits well enough with chairs around it and consider placing this against a wall when not in use so that it doesn’t shrink the room. In terms of material choice, opt for a light wood or glass to emphasise the space and make it feel bigger. Anything too dark will draw too much focus and could overpower the space,’ says Libby Holt from ScS.
Sarah and Sally Wilkie, the founders of Home Barn say, ‘Introducing warmth with colours and fabrics, such as with rust-toned, linen napkins, will make the space more inviting. Whilst adding texture through natural materials such as antique wooden accessories, and hand-woven baskets, will instantly give the dining room an authentic rustic appearance. For the ultimate country lux, opt for a piece of reclaimed wooden furniture as a focal point in the room.’
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Jennifer is the Deputy Editor (Digital) for Homes & Gardens online. Prior to her current position, she completed various short courses a KLC Design School, and wrote across sister brands Ideal Home, LivingEtc, 25 Beautiful Homes, Country Homes & Interiors, and Style at Home.
- Imani CottrellContent Editor
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