Make your eating space cozy, not cramped, with these ideas on how to maximize and utilize a small dining room.
Only the largest of villas and penthouses have dining rooms we could call spacious. The rest of us have rooms—or spaces carved out of rooms—where we eat elbow-to-elbow. The trick is not to worry about the square footage, but to make the dining experience comfortable and special. Here's how:
If possible, bring the table to the window. Most rooms benefit from at least one window, but a doorway or pass-though to another room can suffice. Small tables let you tuck up close to the view and the fresh air. For dining rooms with large tables, it's enough to play up the window as a focal point in the room, using curtains or Roman shades to dress it with color and pattern. If the view of your neighbor's fire escape is less than stellar, screen the glass, but still bask in the daylight—or moonlight—that a glimpse of the outside world allows.
To bring people to the table, you literally have to mark it, as if on a map. The most common way to do this is with a chandelier. These fixtures provide important illumination, but they serve also as visual cues that this area (and, by extension, this group of people) is special and worthy of the spotlight. If you can't install a chandelier, an eye-catching centerpiece can perform the same task. Arrange a vase of flowers, fill a bowl with fruit or vegetables, or get creative with ornaments or collectibles and create a pretty display in the middle of the table.
Often, a dining area is part of a larger room, such as a living room or kitchen. To make it feel special, unfurl an area rug under the table and chairs, place artwork on the wall above, or hang special lighting, such as a candelabra, to set it apart.
The furniture in your dining area can be a powerful tool to help make a small space feel larger. Tables that expand with extensions or drop leaves are an obvious way to maintain a small footprint for daily use, while letting you add place settings on special occasions. The types of seats you make available are key, too. Armless chairs fit closer together. Benches, built-in banquettes, and even small sofas or love seats are a cozy way to squeeze in a crowd. And a couple table-height stools can be pulled into quick service, too.
A formal dining room might be a thing of decorating past, but that doesn't mean you have to compromise your own style at milk time. I'm Lacy Howard, editor of Decorating Magazine, and today I'm going to show you how we created a dining room fit for informal family time and dressy dinner parties without a trace of stuffiness. In stage 1, this dining space suffered from a bland color palette of beige, off white, and brown. But it has several things that give it the potential to be fabulous. A large bay window seat creates a perfect banquet. The furnishings are traditional pieces with classic style that will hold up as trends come and go, and built-in bookcases offer floor to ceiling display space for a gorgeous collection of China. This family dining room has a 2nd job as a home office and homework cub. Books, magazines, a computer, and other high tech clutter are crowding this room's style potential. Now, a purple scallop trim dresses up the window's Roman shades. Pillows add color and comfort to the windows seat. A lush rug anchors the dining area in the new scheme and a chic chandelier gives off an inviting glow. Above this sideboard, large-scale artwork echoes the room palate. A green leather settee makes a bold style statement opposite the artwork, while upholstered host chairs move table side to offer a better scale and more sophistication. In stage 2, home office clutter is easier on the eyes when it's -- China collections visually pop off the shelves, and fabulous fabrics make an appearance as drapery panels, dining chair slip covers, and a bevy of coordinated pillows on the banquet. Now kid's homework, dad's grocery list, and mom's paperwork hide behind closed doors. I love this pull out desk and office style storage tucked into 1 side of the built in. This newfound space keeps everyone more organized and the dining space looking lovely all day long. Remember where we started? A bland color scheme and lack of finishing details obscured this room's true potential. In order to serve dual purpose as a family gathering space and a stylish place to welcome guest, this dining room required a style boost. A color palette drawn from an on-hand collection of dishes inspired us to create a safe comfortable enough for every day, but beautiful enough for formal events. The best part? Here in the final stage, the classic furnishings from stage 1 remain; their timeless beauty easily updated with decorator details. Let your dining room host family and friends. Pick a pretty palette, choose classy furnishings, and steal some of our savvy storage ideas, and you'll have a multipurpose dining room in no time. For Decorating Magazine, I'm Lacey Howard.