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How to Decorate a Dining Room

Make way for hospitality with pretty and practical dining rooms that accommodate your family's everyday-meal and special-occasion needs. Use these tips to decorate a dining room with style and panache.

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Whether stand-alone spaces or part of a great room, dining rooms are all-purpose places that accommodate everything from kids' homework to extended-family celebrations. Dining rooms should be welcoming spaces that suit your home's architecture, reflect your design preferences, and offer comfortable seating and plentiful storage.

When decorating a dining room, choose a color scheme that complements your chosen design style and the colors that appear in adjacent spaces. Consider adding refined or rustic woodwork details to build character into separate dining rooms and to define eating areas that are part of a larger whole.  

Before you start decorating, measure your dining room to determine how much space is available and choose furnishings accordingly. Remember to include at least 3 feet of space between your dining chairs and nearby walls and furniture so people can easily move their chairs in and out and walk around the table.

Learn more about space requirements and dining configurations.

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Selecting Dining Room Furniture

Generally, a table and chairs act as the functional hub and aesthetic centerpiece of any dining room. When choosing a dining room table, think about how many people you want to seat on an everyday basis, at dinner parties, and when crowds gather. Keep in mind that each person will require at least 2 feet of tabletop space and that a dining table's size should be in proportion to the size of your dining room.

Round tables work nicely in small spaces or square rooms and promote conviviality; rectangular, oval, and pedestal tables are well suited to large and/or long and narrow spaces and can comfortably accommodate more diners than round tables of comparable size. Expand your options by buying a table with removable leaves or self-storing butterfly leaves. If you have a small dining room, choose a compact flip-top, drop-leaf, or tilt-top table that can be expanded when a party's on tap.

Choose chair styles similar in feel to your table or surround your table with a mix-and-match medley of chair styles. Make sure chair seats are at least 12 inches below the tabletop's edge or apron so seated guests have enough leg room.

Whenever possible include furniture that provides storage, display, and food-serving areas. Buffets and sideboards provide a flat holding area with storage below. China hutches offer open shelves that can work in tandem with a buffet. Curio cabinets are display pieces sporting glass fronts and sides. If you have the space and the budget, incorporate banquettes and window seats equipped with doors, drawers, or lift-up seats to charmingly amplify storage capacity.

When picking furniture, pick pieces with profiles and patinas that further your design vision. Polished mahogany and cherry finishes and curving contours fit formal designs; rustic pine farm tables and barnwood shelves suit country quarters; whitewash and distressed finishes enhance cottage styles; and streamlined steel, stone, and glass pieces emit contemporary vibes.

Finishing Touches

Round out your dining room design with vibrant area rugs, fabulous fabrics, fashionable fixtures, and artistically arranged collections.

Anchor your dining set with a colorful area rug that harmonizes with your palette and decorating style. Area rugs should extend at least 2 feet beyond a table's sides to accommodate occupied chairs. An 8x10-foot area rug is a good fit for most dining sets. Introduce kicky slipcovers, graceful draperies, fabric lampshades, eye-catching artworks, framed mirrors, and cool collections that counterbalance your furniture's heavy forms and hard edges.

Choose style-apt chandeliers and pendant lights that are 6 inches narrower than the smallest width of your table and that will cast a bright light (or a muted glow via dimmers) across your tabletop. Whether crystal-draped chandeliers or streamlined steel pendants, suspended lights should be hung so their bottom edges are 30 inches above the tabletop in rooms with 8-foot ceilings. If possible, install wall sconces, picture lights, interior cabinet lights, and down lights that can be dimmed or brightened to create a suitable ambiance for everything from before-school breakfasts to intimate dinner parties.

Dining Room Inspiration

Decorating Gallery

Browse hundreds of dining room photos by style and color to find inspiring decorating ideas for your space.

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Choosing Dining Room Colors

Double-Duty Dining Room: Decorating in Stages

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