Tho modern, open floor plans seem to eliminate the need for a formal dining “room,” many of us still want the comforting, traditional surrounds of a dedicated space to join friends and loved ones in our feasts and celebrations.

If you’re looking for ideas for colors & decor to refresh your dining room, here are some creative ways to take that space from a dust-catcher to a rave-snatcher!

How Do You Use Your Dining Room?

The better question may be, how do you like to entertain?

  • Are you typically casual, holding most of your gatherings outdoors by the grill?
  • Do you use the dining table to set out a feast of take-out dishes, or potluck?
  • How often does the china and silver come out to shine up a candlelit dinner for two or twenty-five?

Maybe your entertaining incorporates all of these styles and more! Or would the “dining room” be better used as a library or game room?

Every household is different, and as families grow and change the needs for a dining room change with them. But if you can ask yourself these questions and come up with a general concept of how you want to use your dining space, you will be better prepared for the next step.

What Style Is The Decor In The Rest of Your Home?

It goes without saying that if the rest of the house is mid-century modern, you probably don’t want a rustic farmhouse vibe in the dining room, or a traditional dining room in a home fitted out with bohemian furnishings.

You can take your style cues from both the exterior style as well as the interior if you are unsure.

How Much Room Is Your “Room?

Of course, decorating a small individual room is going to have different considerations than if you were decorating a dining area in an open floor plan. So let’s take a look at some of the differences …

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Large Separate Room

A large room already has its parameters in place, notably set by three or four walls. You know the dining table goes in the center, and you need to select one that will fit when fully opened up, assuming it has the ability to extend for additional guests, and allowing for their seating and the traffic flow.

Storage is always at a premium in the dining room and, if you have the space, and can manage it attractively, include as much storage in the form of cabinetry as you can.

A separate room for dining has inherently what we would call an introvert perspective meaning, even if it has a nice view out the windows, the main interest is going to be focused where all the action takes place – at the center of the room.

This is contrary to the perspective in the next section …

Large Open Space

Open floorplan dining spaces are often in the center of it all, typically between the living room and kitchen. The perspective, in this case, is extravert because it sort of surveys the landscape of the rest of the home.

Also in contrast to a dedicated dining room, you need to define its parameters. Often this is accomplished by laying an area rug under the dining table and chairs as an anchor. If you opt for this, make sure the rug is large enough to accommodate the table when it is fully extended, as well as the chairs when they are fully pulled out from the table.

Some do not like having a rug beneath the dining table because it can be a crumb catcher. In this case, you can still create the effect of an area rug by hand painting the floor in the size, orientation, and design that seems fitting to you!

(For floor painting how-tos and inspiration from Southern Living, click here.)

Other ways of establishing the parameters of the dining room are:

  • Making the chandelier or pendant lighting the focal point and centering the furnishings beneath that.
  • Using a buffet or serving cart as a room divider.

When selecting color for the dining area, you will need to consider the surrounding living spaces and coordinate with the rest of the view to avoid clashes.

Smaller Spaces

The picture above looks very similar to our tiny timeshare in Hawaii and is a typical layout for a small condo or apartment. The same strategies here could apply to a kitchen nook dining area.

Sometimes it seems there’s not a lot you can do to jazz up such a small and simple dining spot, but here ingenuity is your friend.

  • Upgrade a small dining room without taking up space by utilizing wallpaper, artful lighting, and luxe fabric on seating.
  • Make a statement with a pendant or chandelier
  • Lightly accessorize the table when not in use to draw more attention to the center of the area.
  • Make use of mirrors to visually expand the space.
  • Let it double as a library, displaying leather-bound books or collections of art.

And certainly, when space is an issue, a round table is a no-brainer for rooms that can’t accommodate something rectilinear.

I once saw the cutest idea when touring a model home where the dining room was tiny.

They installed a large frameless mirror on the wall and set the square table up against it, giving the illusion the table was a larger rectangle. Along the side and top edges of the mirror, they put white trellising so that it looked like the table and chairs were sitting under an arbor. It really gave depth to that tiny space and added a splash of romance to the look.

Eat-In Kitchen

If you have the space for a large table and chairs in the kitchen and want to use it more “formally,” take the opportunity to upgrade the seating with finer fabric. At either end of a long table, use a deeper-cushioned armchair to elevate the look.

You may like the trend of bench seating on one side of the table. To make it comfortable for all, select an upholstered piece with a backrest on it. To add some pizzaz, choose a fabric that contrasts with what you have on the chairs. You could pull your color scheme from the pattern of the wallpaper, rug, or piece of artwork. (See more on color below).

A franklin stove or small fireplace is a cozy way to set the dining area off from the rest of the kitchen. You could fake one if you want in a farmhouse-style area by placing a wooden mantle against the wall, dressing it with homey accessories, then draping a curtain on the inside to cover where the firebox would go.

Pendant lighting or a chandelier that is a step or two “fancier” than what is used in the rest of the kitchen can also help distinguish the space.

A Place Apart

Here’s another reason to covet the ever-popular she-shed; they’re not just for Mom’s crafting, sewing, and private soak in a chandelier-adorned slipper tub anymore. Some are opting to use the space as a separate dining area in lieu of an in-house space.

Let your imagination be your guide!!

Color Me Yummy

Theories abound as to what color best aids digestion, conversation, romance, etc. My feeling is, whatever color makes you happiest and works well with the other colors and style in your home is the perfect dining room color.

You can pull your dining room color story from a number of sources. Just make sure you stick with that ONE source.

Above, it is pretty easy to see how the colors on the walls and the fabric on the chairs could have been pulled from the rug beneath the dining set. Perhaps you have a piece of art that is begging to be decorated around or a set of serving pieces or dishware.

As long as the dining room color scheme can be supported and enhanced by those in the adjoining rooms of the house, and those remain consistent with the whole-house color story, you are in great shape.

If an all-encompassing use of color is not your jam, take heart. Sticking with neutral tones gives a timeless look and provides the perfect backdrop for selective introductions of one or two rich colors.

Combine this restrained color methodology with a modern chandelier for a look that is fresh and current.

Getting Floored

Flooring runs the gamut from wood planks, to tile, to carpet, to brick. As I mentioned earlier, area rugs are beautiful, but can become “crumb catchers.” To imitate the look without the mess, hand-paint the floor!

Special things to consider for a dining room floor:

  • Exercise caution for the safety of family and guests by using a non-slip surface.
  • Look for materials that do not require regular sealing, shampooing, or refinishing for low maintenance.
  • If carpeting is desired, choose something that will be spill-resistant, or have it treated with Scotch-guard.

Lighting It Up

The table is obviously the central player in the space and will set the tone of the room. But the lighting, whether sculptural and bold, minimal and modern or glisteningly traditional, is still the crown jewel.

When selecting a chandelier or pendant for the table, here are a few key measurements to go by, according to Del Mar Fans and Lights.

For a dedicated dining room, measure the length and width of the room and add them together. Whatever the total is in feet, you will want the circumference of your chandelier to be that much in inches.

The example given is for a room that is 10′ x 18′. Added together the total would be 28′. So the circumference of the chandelier should be 28″.

To find the perfect height of your lighting piece, measure from floor to the ceiling where you plan to install the fixture in feet. Multiply the number of feet by 2.5″-3″. This will tell you how tall your fixture should be.

Hang the fixture so the bottom is between 30″-36″ above the table surface.

In an open floor plan, you will need to base your calculations on the table itself. The recommendation for the width of the chandelier is one-half to two-thirds the width of the table.

Hanging more than one light fixture means more math but, thankfully it’s not like … well … calculus or anything!

Take the length of the table and divide it by the number of fixtures you plan to hang, plus one. This will give you the circumference of each fixture. Centering your layout over the table, space each fixture by the same number of inches as their width.

For more detailed information, be sure to check out the full article here.

Lighting doesn’t have to be limited to the chandelier! In fact, most people never have enough lighting in their rooms.

To find the proper amount of light needed, multiply the length and width of the room to find the square footage. Whatever number you have in square feet is the approximate wattage you will want to spread out through different fixtures throughout the space.

Placing your lighting on a dimmer switch in the dining room is really going to amp up your ability to set the mood for any given gathering.

And, never underestimate the power of candles!

Woot woo!

Make A Statement

… With Storage

Storage Ideas:

  • bar cart
  • buffet
  • built-in cabinetry
  • credenza
  • cubbies
  • floor to ceiling bookshelves
  • open shelving
  • window Seat

… With Artwork

Floral wallpaper brings a colorful upgrade paired with brass or gilded lighting. A mirror looks cleaner with bold wallpaper than artwork.

More subtle, textured wallpaper can really set off a gallery wall.

In a rustic dining room, a chalkboard can serve as the statement piece of art. A collection of plates on the wall works well, too.

… With Florals

Dress up the table when not in dining mode with tall vases of branches or colorful florals. Think of an upscale hotel lobby and how they artfully group multiple vases with the same type of flower or flower color together.

Whatever space you have to dedicate to it…

… having a spot in your home to host a meal with the special people in your life is well worth the care and planning to make it warm, comfortable, and inviting.

Your deliciously dreamy dining room will be a reflection of who you are, how you like to share your home, and of the people you share it with.

Entertainingly Yours,

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