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Dine In Style: Tempting Dining Room Design Inspirations

Lost Lindenberg hotel dining room
Photo by Robert Rieger

Dining. It’s not just a meal; it’s a gathering, a celebration, a chance to connect with loved ones over steaming plates and shared laughter. From magnificent white-tie affairs to family hordes around huge bowls of pasta, shared eating is central to all cultures and societies. And the stage for this culinary theatre? Your dining area, of course! But how do you transform this space from a simple place to eat into a haven of warmth, conversation, and delectable design? Fear not, fellow foodie-aficionado, for this guide is your culinary compass, leading you step-by-step to crafting the perfect dining room:

Wooden Dining Chairs and Dining Table
Photo by Shade Degges
By Constanze Ladner

1. Function First, Feast Later

Before diving into aesthetics, consider how you’ll use the space. Do you host intimate dinners or boisterous gatherings? Will it be a formal dining room area or an everyday multifunctional family space? Does the room double as a workspace or homework haven? Answering these questions will guide your furniture choices and layout.

Next you need to get some measurements of the room and calculate how big a table will fit. There’s nothing more uncomfortable than squeezing past diners, so allow an additional minimum of 1 meter on every side of the table to get an understanding of the total space you’re going to need.

If your life involves plenty of big gatherings, it’s worth opting for a large, expandable table (think extendable leaves or oval tables) and comfortable chairs that can accommodate elbows and animated conversations. If it’s going to be cozy dinners, a smaller, round table fosters intimacy, while a banquette adds a touch of bistro charm and might help with a small dining room.

Many dining tables end up, by accident or design, as a multifunctional workspace. When it comes to choosing the materials, you’ll need to select a surface that isn’t easy to damage and is easy to keep clean, but for now, focus on the dimensions and practicality of the space. 

Maybe a console table that doubles as a sideboard or buffet, and chairs with storage compartments for additional seating or blankets could do the trick? There are lots of ingenious ideas on the market of compact furniture specifically designed for small spaces, so hunt around or consider having something handmade.

2. Table Talk: Finding Your Focal Point

The dining table is the undisputed star of the show. Visitors will notice the table long before they spot the artwork on the wall, or the view from a window. So, it’s super important to choose a design that complements your style and a material that withstands the wear and tear of meals:

* Classic Timber: Solid wood tables offer timeless elegance and durability, perfect for traditional or rustic settings. A knotty pine looks rustic, warm, and inviting, whereas a polished crown mahogany is the pinnacle of sophistication in any elegant dining room. Hardwood is rare nowadays and what’s out there should be left to grow undisturbed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t source a stunning antique or secondhand table at a brocante or Trödelmarkt. Sure, it might need a little refurbishment from a craftsperson, but you’ll end up with a uniquely beautiful center-point for the room.

* Modern Marvels: Glass or metal tables add a sleek, contemporary touch, while concrete or stone inject industrial vibes. Toughened glass is perfect where light is restricted, or where you want to create an airy feeling – but don’t, and I mean don’t, contemplate it if there’s sticky little fingers in the house as you’ll spend every day rubbing them off! Metal surfaces create a stunning effect, especially if recycled and repurposed and not too highly polished to show all the marks. Concrete or stone are very on-trend chic and super practical, but there’s no room for error on the size as you won’t be moving it around once it’s in place.

* Eclectic Ensembles: Don’t be afraid to mix and match! Pair a vintage table with modern chairs or vice versa for a unique, personalized look. Upcycling and repurposing are not only good for the environment, but it will also create a unique look that you won’t see anywhere else.

Wooden dining table with mustard upholstered chairs
Photo by Shade Degges

3. Chair-fully Crafted

Before we talk about chairs there’s one thing you should know – table heights and seat heights are not standard. US, UK, and EU guidelines for the heights of tables and chairs are all different. 

Even within Europe tables tend to be higher around the Mediterranean and lower in Scandinavia. So, remember the best règle empirique, Faustregel, or rule-of-thumb is to ensure a gap of 25-30cm from the tabletop to the seat of the chair; otherwise, you will be sat uncomfortably low, or your legs will get bruised.

Dining chairs should look stylish and feel comfortable, allowing for lingering conversations and leisurely meals. An upholstered seat (and maybe back) will always add comfort. 

If you’re upcycling old chairs, it’s not difficult to reupholster the seat or add a cushion. Well-crafted, fully upholstered chairs will embrace guests in luxurious comfort, and are ideal for formal settings. But do test them out before buying if possible; you’ll be surprised how many chairs look great but are awful to sit on for more than 10 minutes!

Natural woven chairs, using wicker or rattan, add a touch of Bohemian flair, perfect for casual brunches and alfresco dining. Or simply combine different chair styles (with or without arms) for a dynamic and visually interesting arrangement.

Anthology Creative Studio Window Treatments with Curtains
By Anthology Creative Studio
Photo by Shade Degges

4. Rug It Up

A rug defines the dining area, anchors the furniture, and adds a touch of texture and warmth. It also deadens the scraping noise of chairs on a hard floor and cancels some of the echo of chatter, as well as adding color. Choose a size that allows chairs to be pulled back comfortably without snagging on the edge. If it annoys you, avoid a rug with a fringe as it flips around and looks messy every time someone walks across – this drives me mad!

* Pattern Play: Don’t shy away from bold patterns like stripes or geometric prints to inject personality into the space. Remember a large portion could be hidden by the table, so it’s the color around the edges that will dominate the scheme.

* Natural Charm: Jute or sisal rugs bring a touch of rustic elegance, while wool rugs offer cozy comfort and noise absorption. Try to avoid rugs with a loop pile as it can be hard to get crumbs out of the loop and these gnaw away the pile over time. It’s your dining room – if there isn’t at least one spillage then your guests weren’t having fun!

5. Lighten Up

Dining is a sensory experience, and lighting plays a crucial role in setting the mood. Natural daylight is the best lighting for any room, but as dining is often an evening event, you’re going to need enough artificial light fixtures to enjoy the food and create ambience, without feeling clinical. Here’s a few ideas to dazzle, without dazzling:

* Statement Chandelier: A statement chandelier adds eye catching drama and elegance, perfect for formal occasions. Chandeliers effortlessly diffuse light without weakening the intensity, which is why they work so well in a dining room. There’s a plethora of designs on the market right now to suit all budgets, and don’t forget to search the flea markets for a bargain.

* Pendant Power: Chic pendant lights or clusters offer a modern touch, while adjustable sconces provide warm, intimate lighting. Adjustable or directional lighting is especially useful when you might cater for different numbers at the table, so you can alter the lighting to suit the moment.

* Dimmer Drama: Install dimmers to create different moods throughout the evening, from soft candlelight to bright conversation-friendly illumination. Dimmable wall lights are perfect for creating a cozy feeling as a supplement to candles on the table. They add an even flow of light without diminishing the beauty of a flickering candle.

Peaceful dining palace by lifetime interior design with table set ambiance
Photo by Sandra Ohlendorf

6. Wall Wonders

Your dining table and chairs may be the star of the show, but don’t neglect your dining room walls – that’s the main stage of dining décor! Walls offer ample opportunity to express your personality and create a cohesive design. From minimalist white walls to fashionable colored wall paint there are many decorating ideas to apply the perfect backdrop to dinner parties. Here are a few tips you might not have thought about:

* Artful Accents: Showcase your favorite artwork, tapestries, or photographs to add color and conversation starters. An entire gallery wall of art will certainly spark conversation.

* Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Mirrors reflect light and make the space feel larger, perfect for smaller dining rooms.

* Wallpaper Wow: A statement wallpaper can add pattern, texture, and instant personality to your dining room.

* Window World: The curtains may be closed, or you could have a twinkling night-time view. How you frame and dress that window can add a huge range of feeling from a balmy summer voile to deep velvet snuggle.

Photo by Joshua M Chugh photography
Beautiful dining room table with all the finishing touches - flowers, place matts, runners
Photo by Heather Albert

7. Finishing Touches

The final touches are what truly elevate your dining room from functional to fabulous. I’ve deliberately not mentioned picking credenzas, sideboards, buffets, cabinets, or any other furniture you decide to install as they are all dependent on the available space, feel and design. Whether you’re going modern, contemporary, or traditional, the style should be led by the dining table – and the rest matched (or mixed) to whatever makes you happy! Here are a few tweaks that all dining rooms deserve:

* Centerpiece Chic: Fresh flowers, seasonal fruits, or decorative bowls add a touch of nature and elegance and create a focal point whether or not the table is laid for dining.

* Tabletop Treasures: Play with placemats, runners, candles, and napkin rings to create a layered and personalized tablescape. Dressing the table should always be fun because it’s “one night only”, so feel free to experiment with height and color. Don’t worry if you don’t like it, because in a few hours it will all be gone.

Remember, your dining room reflects your personal style and culinary spirit. It’s about the food, and the gathering. Embrace function, experiment with design, and most importantly, create a space that invites laughter, lingering conversations, and the joy of sharing a meal with loved ones. So go forth, design your dream dining room, and let the feast begin!

“An interior should be informed by the life that is lived in it.”
– Sandra Hinton, Founder –