How to Modernize Your Dining Room

Remember last year when I was advocating for breaking up dining sets?  I still stand by that opinion because the principle makes for good design. Dining spaces are more interesting when the chairs and table are not a matching set! How do you bring a dining room with a matching set into this century?  Here are a few ideas!

Replace a traditional chandelier with a contemporary orb version and remove the matching chairs from the space to use elsewhere in the home. Bring in upholstered chairs in two tone fabrics like this geometric yellow paired with navy velvet and nailhead trim.

yellow and navy chairs


Mix modern zig zag velvet chairs with chinoiserie print for an unexpected twist on tradition. 

zig zag and chinoiserie chairs


Partner a comfy wingback chair covered in linen with a barnwood table and benches for a welcome juxtaposition of textures (soft meets rough).

rustic table wingback chairs


Or instead of investing in upholstered chairs, pair your rustic table with brightly painted mismatched versions for a welcoming dining space.


Update a traditional matching set by replacing the seating with curvy tufted chairs upholstered in a pale fabric to contrast with the dark rich wood – a zebra motif rug also adds a modern edge. 

white tufted chairs on zebra rug


Modern Louis Ghost chairs are an unexpected addition of lucite to a traditional space, but just the right dose to keep it fresh and fun.

lucite chairs in traditional dining room


Industrial chairs and wire pendants bring cool metals tones to this farmhouse dining room dominated by wood surfaces, and their presence gives it contemporary appeal.

industrial farmhouse mix


If your style leans traditional or European, continue the theme with upholstered French linen chairs but mix the wood tones to keep it interesting.

French style chairs


Another easy way to modernize your dining room is it to slide a few chairs over and make room for an bench upholstered in a complementary geometric or botanical fabric.

upholsted bench in dining room


If you’re not prepared to replace the matching chairs with new ones, there is an easy alternative. Paint your existing chairs in a fresh color or in classic black or white and reupholster the seats in a pretty patterned fabric.

black chairs pedestal table

painted reuphostered chairs

It’s a no fail approach to giving your dining space a fresh modern look in a weekend!


18 Responses to “ How to Modernize Your Dining Room ”

  1. I “inherited” my mother’s old dining room set. It’s not my style but the table has 3 leaves and the breakfront is roomy with 3 drawers and 2 bottom side cabinets and 6 glass doors on top. I HATE IT!!!!!!!! But cannot afford to buy a new one – especially one with such a big table. I do holidays and need the space. I bought 8 chairs on eBay (I can’t recall the designers name right now but they are expensive) and had them recovered.

    I want to paint the table and put new legs on it. Any suggestions?

  2. Hi Nancy, painting the table is easy, I wrote about that here:
    Changing the legs is a structural issue, and you’d have to make sure however you replaced the legs, that they’d be supported and sturdy.

  3. Thanks for your quick response. I guess I’m interested in colors as well. Could I sent you a picture of the table and the breakfront? I have a lot of wood pieces in the area. I love color but am afraid to commit.

    Do you have any websites for table legs that you could point me in the direction of? The ones I’ve found have all looked the same. I want to get away from “traditional” legs.

  4. In the May 2013 issue of bhg, there is a dining table mixed with two wicker chairs and an upholstered stripped sette. It is featured with the “going green” farmhouse. I love love love that sette and would to know how to purchase it or one like it. Any ideas?

  5. Hi Evan, what page are you looking at?

  6. I love the idea of the upholstered chairs with the wood table. I also love that zebra area rug with the traditional dining room. I feel like my decorating is leaning towards too traditional and I would like to start bringing in some contemporary pieces to make it more interesting. Thank you for the inspiration!

  7. How do we try to freshen “Traditional” to look good for a house for sale?

    Thanks for any input.

  8. Ah, perfect article!

    I also cannot afford a new dining room now. I inherited my in-laws. See, I kinda like it because it’s about 80 years old, so it has pretty lines to it. I just don’t know how to bring it to this century and break down its “brownness”.

    The table needs to be refinished, the chairs were reupholstered once a couple years ago but they need new fabric now. But now I know that painting the chairs is another option. It’s missing two chairs, so, I like the idea of also adding a settee.

    That’ll be next month’s project for sure. :) Thank you so much for this!

  9. Is there a place to find out where to purchase the items in these pictures? Like the chairs, chandeliers, etc?

  10. Hi kate, I love the second one idea, it’s color combination is great.

  11. How exciting Monica, good luck with your makeover!

  12. Would love to know where to find the wire pendant chandeliers. Have been having a heck if a time locating anything like it so, any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  13. Hi, can you provide any information on the upholstered beige chairs in the 5th picture down? The image with the dark wood table and zebra rug- these chairs are exactly what I’m looking for!

  14. I am looking for a way to freshen up dining chairs that go with a Thomasville, pecan wood suite, circa 1971. They are pecan wood framed, highback (wicker caned), with upholstered seats. any ideas?

  15. This match of chairs with new one is very creative. I’ll also decor my dinning room in that way.

  16. I love the orb chandelier and think it would work perfectly in my traditional dining room. Who is the manufacturer?

  17. Hi I absolutely love those yellow-backed blue seat dining chairs with the nailheads. I have been trying to source them. Any suggestions? I am only getting pins of the image above but no place to buy the chairs. Thanks

  18. Hello,
    Where can I buy the yellow and blue chairs? I can’t find them online.

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