Dining Room Decorating 101
I’m back with another post in the room decorating 101 series! While I’m not a design expert, I have learned a lot over the last six years about how, and how not to bring a space together.
The plan is to tackle a different room in the house every month, so by the end of the year, you’ll have a comprehensive guide to decorating the home of your dreams.
Last time, I gave you the ins and outs on decorating a kitchen. Today’s topic? Dining room decorating 101!
Dining Room Decorating 101
Let me say that when it comes to decorating there aren’t any exact rules! Every space, home, and family is different, so my words are not the end all, be all for decorating a space. Instead, I hope these insights can guide you as you consider your layout, large purchases, and how to bring the entire look together. No judgment, I just want to help as much as I can!
Dining Room Dos
Mix & Match Chairs – It’s a-okay to have all the same chairs for your dining room table, but sometimes it’s fun to mix and match. In our dining room, we opted for comfier chairs on the ends (where we spend the most time sitting) and less expensive ones for the four remaining. This saved on costs and created a fun and interesting look.
Also, if buying chairs with arms make sure they can easily slide underneath the table. This is helpful for flow when your table isn’t in use.
Choose the Correct Ceiling Lighting – Having the right scale for the chandelier above your table will make the entire space feel put together. Stick to a piece that is at least half the width of your dining table, if it’s smaller it will be too dinky. And consider scale compared to the table, not the size of the room.
Buy The Right Size Table – I’ve seen dining room tables that are too big and some that are too small. Unlike the light fixture, consider the size of your room and choose scale according to that!
Fix Off-Center Light Fixtures – Remember Bridget’s swag light in her dining room? The electrical box wasn’t centered over her table, so instead of hanging a fixture off-center, she opted for a swag light! It was a great temporary solution until she was able to fix it when she remodeled her entire kitchen. A swag light will always work, but I’d highly recommend having an electrician move the electrical box so it’s centered over your table. It is an inexpensive task that will make all the difference!
Buy the Right Rug – Rugs are not a necessity under a dining table…sometimes they work in a space, sometimes they don’t. But if you do go for a rug under your dining room table, make sure it’s the correct size and texture. The average table will need at least an 8×10 sized rug. This gives you room to pull your chairs out, without them falling off the rug! Flatweave rugs are your best option because they’re easiest to clean and you can slide your chairs in and out. Definitely avoid shag rugs or ones with thick piles. They will become crumb magnets!
Give Guests Elbow Room – You don’t want your guests to feel like they’re super cramped at a cafeteria table, so make sure you have the appropriate seating for your table size. Here’s a chart that should help…
- 48″long table: seats 4
- 60″-72″ table: seats 6
- 80″-87″ table: seats 8
- 92″-108″ table: seats 10
- 120″ table: seats 12
Here’s a helpful chart for round tables.
- 42″-48″ diameter table seats 4
- 60″ diameter table seats 6-8
Consider a Console – Consoles and credenzas are amazing for extra storage in a dining room. But make sure they’re at least the same height as your table or higher! Lower and it will look funny and not proportional to your dining table area.
Dining Room Don’ts
Clutter the Surface – This is a big don’t I see all the time. Stop putting tons of crap on your dining room table. You’re just going to have to move it when you eat and it will collect dust in the meantime. A tray, a bowl, or a vase are totally fine…but beyond that is just too much. We actually blogged all about how to decorate your table for the every day in this blog post, so that can help you out if you’re committing this “mistake.” Same goes for a formal dining room table that is set for dinner all the time. No one wants to see your fancy napkin folds on an everyday basis. Whip out the chargers and linens on the holidays!
Use a Table Cloth Every Day – I know some may disagree with this dining room decorating don’t, but I am not a fan of tablecloths. I think they’re totally fine to whip out on a special occasion or when you’re having people over for a big dinner. But for everyday use? Nope. Instead, opt for a table runner! If you have an ugly table you’re trying to cover, I understand why you would want to use a table cloth, but other than that, ditch it!
Neglect Comfort – If you plan to use your dining room table on a regular basis and want guests to sit back and enjoy, then opt for some comfy chairs! Slipcovered chairs are an amazing option (like in my mom’s dining room) and they’ll be super cozy on the booty! A bench isn’t the most comfortable option for everyone, but it’s nice to have for little ones and for additional seating. Just make sure you have at least a few chairs with backs.
Ignore Traffic Flow – No one wants to suck it in to shimmy past another person when at the dinner table. The rule is to provide 30-36″ of a walkway between large furniture pieces. 18-24″ can work, but more distance is always a good idea. In our condo’s dining room, we could have fit a larger 8-person table, but it would have made traffic flow a bit more congested. Our shorter table allows for great flow on all sides!
Let Lighting Hang Too Low – If you’re going for a chandelier over your table, please hang it at the correct height. You don’t want guests to have a blocked view. Instead, raise up that chandy so people can see each other! The rule of thumb is to hang it so the bottom of the fixture is 30-36″ above the table.
And speaking of lighting, don’t forget sconces! While I’ve never personally used them, I think they are always a welcome addition to any dining room. You’ll want them between 5′-6′ up from the floor and space them at least 2′-3′ apart for equal lighting.
Dining Room Decorating – Save vs. Splurge
Now, where should you spend the most money when decorating your dining room? And where can you save a few bucks?
Where to Splurge
As I discussed in our other room decorating posts, lighting is really the “jewelry” of a space. So bring on the diamonds, people! Okay, maybe not literally, but it’s okay to spend a little more on dining room lighting because it can make a statement in a space! The table is another one that you may want to do a “medium-spend” on…there’s no reason to spend a ton, but you also don’t want something super cheap that will show wear and tear quickly.
Storage is an area that some neglect in a dining room, but it’s important for an organized and streamlined space. You’ll also notice that chairs make both the splurge and save lists. That’s because I think it’s important to have at least two chairs that are comfortable on the tush. The others can be less expensive.
Where to Save
Chairs can add up, especially when you’re buying 6-12 of them! Save on these if you can (besides the ones at the heads of the table). You can always buy a bench too…which is a great way to save! Definitely don’t spend big bucks on a rug because it’s bound to get dirty. And when it comes to accessories, I always just hit up HomeGoods for trays, bowls, vases, and cool table runners. No need to spend a ton!
My Favorite Dining Room Staples
Here are some of my favorite dining room pieces that you can use to transform your own space.
- Marble Dining Room Table: I was hesitant to purchase our marble dining room table, but I absolutely love it. I seal it every year and it still looks gorgeous!
- Simple White Chairs: These are such a steal and ours still look great three years later.
- Upholstered Chairs: Our head table chairs were pricier than the others, but our butts are happy that we paid those extra dollars.
- Slipcovered Dining Chairs: I’ve heard amazing things about these from Pottery Barn (plus, they have lots of fabric and color options).
- Farmhouse Table: This table is similar to the one my mom has and I love the farmhouse feel.
- Round Dining Table: If I needed a round table, I might opt for this one. That wood is spectacular and would work well with black, white, or even slipcovered chairs.
- Scandinavian Chairs: Bridget used these in the dining areas of both of her homes and they magically work with just about any table style!
- Wood Tray: A wood tray on a marble or white table is always a good idea.
- Metal Tray: Adds a bit of glam and a nice circular shape to a rectangular table.
- Vase: Add some fresh (or faux!) eucalyptus and you’re good to go.
- Coasters: Keep the top of your table looking fresh with these coasters.
- Capiz Chandelier: I’ve always ogled this chandelier and would love to use it in a space someday!
- Classic Chandelier: A classic chandelier that B used in her dining room.
- Neutral Table Runner: You already know my thoughts on table cloths, but if you want to cover your table with anything, this table runner is a good one.
I hope this post will act as a helpful resource as you tackle your own dining room decorating. With a few small tweaks, you can create the space of your dreams.
Decorating 101 Series
I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.