How to style a small dining room

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Laura Gaskill, Houzz editorial team

If you live in a house or apartment without a dedicated dining area, finding a place where you can eat and entertain without unbalancing the rest of the space can be a challenge. But by making a few smart furniture choices and defining your style, your small dining space can fit seamlessly into the rest of your home and easily support meals and even dinners.

After sifting through hundreds of potential dining room plans to include here, I discovered three key strategies that seem to work very well, regardless of the space:

1. Hang a light fixture directly above your table, especially if your table is in an unusual location. (If you’re renting, try placing a pair of lamps on a thin console behind or next to your dining table.)

2. Hang something that catches the eye above your table: a large mirror or a framed piece of art just as well.

3. Keep the general style you already have in the rest of your space for the most cohesive look.

Let’s take a closer look at 10 small food courts and why they work.

Small can accommodate a crowd. Make the most of a small space with built-in benches tucked away in the corner of the room. If you have a little more space, go for a round or oval table – you will be able to accommodate more people. Otherwise, a rectangular table will save the most floor space.

Do not waste space: Use storage in the benches for table linen and fancy dishes.

Small can be fancy. Create the ambiance of a chic little cafe by placing your table against a wall and adding art and lighting. For this look, opt for lighter pieces such as the airy table with metal legs and the vintage chairs shown here.

Small can be dramatic. I love the idea of ​​making a big style statement in a small space. In the dining room, try playing with the ladder, choosing a high-backed bench flanked by a pair of tiny chairs, as pictured here.

Lighting Note: The best advice I have for defining a small dining space is to install pendant lights above the table. They define the area and (especially if you put the lights on dimmers) allow you to control the mood.

Small can be fancy. A classic pedestal table in a dark glossy finish sets the tone for a luxurious space. Fill the seating area with upholstered chairs, a silky rug, and an airy chandelier.

The little ones can blend in. When your space is really small, it’s essential that each piece of furniture serves a double (or triple) function. A Louis-style round table and chairs can be placed against the wall for solo dining and reading or working on a laptop, then placed in the center of the room to accommodate a few more friends.

Small can be versatile. A drop-leaf table can work for two in the configuration shown here, but accommodates much more when fully extended. To really save space, it can even be pushed against the wall when not needed and used as a buffet with a bar top on top.

Related: What is the difference between a buffet, a buffet, a server and a credenza?

Small can work. Really stuck on where to put a table? Try installing one that attaches to the wall (or a kitchen island, as shown here) and folds up when not in use.

Small can be comfortable. Often, an upholstered bench doesn’t take up more space than a pair of chairs, but feels much more comfortable during quiet meals and mornings with coffee and the newspaper. Smaller chairs (like the bentwood ones used here) can fill the other side without taking up much space.

Small can be stylish. Embrace the fresh color scheme and lively atmosphere of your favorite cafe with a tall table and slender chairs. Keep the mood bright with a refreshing citrus tint on the walls and a piece of art that puts a smile on your face.

A note about high stools: Make sure your stools have footrests at an appropriate height for you. It’s no fun trying to enjoy your meal only to find that your legs are falling asleep.

Small can be fun. In some ways, I think it’s easier to decorate a small space, as the impact of color, pattern, and style goes a long way. Try fun and graphic seat cushions, a colorful light fixture, an upholstered accent wall, a sculptural topiary, a unique second-hand centerpiece, or whatever your heart desires.


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