When served in surroundings that exude an inviting formality, even the simplest of meals takes on a rich flavor. Browse this collection of rooms for decorating ideas that set the stage for graceful entertaining.
Transform a dining table into a vision of elegance by topping it with multiple layers of linens. A dark damask cloth, sized to allow for generous folds, skirts this table and provides a luxurious base for a light toile tablecloth topped with a tasseled runner. Chair covers fashioned from a perky pink-stripe fabric help lighten the mood.
Cast a magical spell over a dining room with an oversize mirror. Often considerably cheaper than a similar-size piece of artwork, mirrors are a great solution for introducing wall-anchoring character on a budget. A cluster of framed bird prints add to the visual scale of the mirror in this dining room. Black piping around the shapely backs of the dining chairs subtly echoes the graphic mirror panes.
Mimic the look of a cozy banquette in sophisticated fashion by flanking one side of a dining table with a settee. Nestled in front of a window, this French-style reproduction settee issues a warm invitation to soak up the morning sun. Coordinating fabric on the settee cushion, dining chairs, and at the windows anchor the eating area in a sea of soothing calm.
Soften the masculine silhouette of open-back chairs crafted from wood by adding flirty seat skirts. This dining room proves that a little frill goes a long way. Simple ties secure the cushions to gleaming chair backs. A Fortuny chandelier matches the romantic tone of the cushions, while heavy velvet drapes add textural appeal.
Introduce an element of surprise to a dining room with a jolt of color. A fire-engine-red painted farm table relaxes the formal lines of a French armchair and a classic Chippendale bench. Slipcovers fashioned from old French linens and secured around slipper chairs with bows match the rustic flavor of the table yet also speak of sophistication.
Ceramic dishes are a classic way to decorate the walls of a traditional dining room. Here, white ironstone pieces pop against black painted built-ins, creating an eye-catching backdrop for entertaining. Two wing chairs stand in as comfy host and hostess chairs, enhancing the space's cozy ambiance. For a quick dash of romance, ribbons tied in ballet-shoe style swirl around the legs of the wooden chairs.
Spread the light along a long table by illuminating each end with a chandelier versus the expected single fixture positioned in the center. Making room for an extra-long table didn't leave a lot of space for additional furnishings in this dining area, so one wall supports a slim ledge used to showcase decorative accents. The ledge creates visual impact at eye-level for seated guests without taking up an inch of floor space.
Stretch the visual presence of a fireplace by carrying molding to the ceiling above the mantel. Here, this trick adds regal prominence to the fireplace, which might otherwise have been swallowed by the two built-in bookcases flanking it. In another problem-solving step, the chandelier's chain makes an elegant detour in order to illuminate the table while still taking advantage of existing wiring.
If there's one pattern it's easy to go overboard with successfully, it's toile. A red-and-white interpretation of the pastoral-scene print wraps this dining room in a classic blanket of formality. Matching drapery panels provide privacy without interrupting the pattern's flow. Overhead, rustic exposed ceiling beams keep the space from feeling too fussy while playing to the pattern's country leanings.
To maintain a mood of casual elegance and avoid any hint of stuffiness, surround a dining table with an unmatched gathering of chairs. Burlap curtains further relax this dining room, which radiates warmth after dark from walls coated in rich chocolate brown. On top of the buffet, the stone bust of a horse is topped with a riding hat, adding a touch of humor in classical form.
For a playful take on a traditional dining room being watched by a host of intimidating ancestors, line the walls with a collection of quirky portraits. Arranged in a grid, the paintings in this dining room follow a formal symmetry that's offset by the casual poses of the subjects. Mismatched frames combined with frameless canvases keep the gallery wall relaxed.
Pay extra attention to the backs of dining room chairs -- after all, this is the profile most often on show. With that in mind, floral slipcovers designed to reflect a soothing blue-and-brown color palette add interest to straight-back slipper chairs in this dining room. And natural linen slipcovers designed to fit a pair of wing chairs boast embroidered monograms in the centers of the chair backs.
Anchor the ends of a table with upholstered host and hostess chairs. Two white-slipcovered armchairs provide an eye-pleasing balance to the dark tones and formal lines of traditional wooden dining chairs in this eating area. Federal-style fixtures illuminate the long table, while botanical prints provide a light and lively focal point on one wall.
Use mirrors in a dining room to bounce natural light around by day and candlelight by night. The scalloped edges of a series of Victorian-style mirrors turn a wall in this dining room into a shimmering focal point. Three styles of chairs, united by a honey-hue wood stain and complementary upholstery fabrics, present a harmonious yet individualized setting reflective of the character of the mirrors.
Turn flea market chairs into shining focal points with metallic paint. Gilded detailing brings the curvy lines of these chairs to life in this dining room. The high-sheen is balanced by seat backs and cushions upholstered in classic black-and-natural linen attire. A trim of ribbon bordering the edge of a white tablecloth introduces a thread of eye-catching color.
Encourage guests to linger long after a meal with padded chair backs and comfy seat cushions. Neutral fabrics on upholstered seats allow this dining room to exude a serene invitation to sit a spell. Silk drapery panels puddle gently on the floor in luxurious fashion while a crystal chandelier provides a pop of bling.