The Zero-Cost Way to Give Your Dining Room New Life

Updated 03/22/17
Julia Robbs

Dining rooms are an oft underused space. In our busy modern lives, we tend to eat dinner at the kitchen counter, in front of the TV, at the restaurant—basically everywhere but the room where eating was intended. If you are one of the lucky ones that have a dining room in your home—or even if your dining area consists of a squeezed space between your kitchen counter and your sofa, we've got just the right tips to help you make the most out of the space. 

The key: Make it inviting, fill up the space with useful accent furniture, and ensure it's the most irresistible space in your home. With eye-catching furniture, layered dimmed lighting and comfortable seating, we bet you won't want to spend another evening away from your dining room. Best of all—you can achieve this dream space no matter the size of your room. It's all in having the right measurements to work with, and applying a few key rules. Ready to give your dining room a much-needed makeover? Follow these handy rules.

dining room layout
Original Illustrations by Stephanie DeAngelis

The Table: For a more formal style, start with a rectangular table. You'll want to leave around 42" to 48" between the table edge and the wall—minimum. 

The Chairs: The maximum table size you can comfortably fit in your dining room will determine the number of chairs you can fit around the table. Aim to leave 24" to 30" for each dining space so everyone feels comfortable.

The Rug: Your rug should have a minimum of 24" of extra room on all sides of the table, but err on the side of larger, if the space allows. 

The Layout: With this layout, pay special attention to the focal point of the room. Position a buffet and artwork on the wall opposite of the doorway to make the room feel fuller. then, wherever there is dead space, add an accent piece of furniture: a console, a chair, a plant. 

dining room layout
Original Illustrations by Stephanie DeAngelis

The Table: Most designers prefer round or oval tables for a more conversational and casual feel. If your space allows it (or if it's squarer in shape), opt for this more laid-back layout. The same spacing principles as above apply.

The Chairs: For round tables, you'll need a bit of simple math to determine the number of chairs. Use this handy formula: diameter x 3.14 / 24. Be mindful of not choosing chairs with arms that are too long or deep, as these will touch under the table and make it difficult to store away.

The Rug: Go with a square rug if you can find one the right size. If your room is more rectangular, you can also choose a longer rug, but make sure the measurements meet the above requirements for chair clearance for the chairs at the shortest end.

The Layout: With this layout, center the table in the room as much as possible, and hang a chandelier or pendant above. With the leftover space, create symmetry with pairs around the room: plants, benches, or bookcases are all strong pieces that can balance out your room.

dining room layout
Original Illustrations by Stephanie DeAngelis

The Table: If your room serves a dual purpose, arrange your dining table to one side of the room following the measurements required for clearance. Hint: an oval table usually fits around the same amount of people as a rectangular one, but is a little more economical with space. To save space, consider using a table with extendable leaves.

The Chairs: If your table is close to a wall, make sure everyone has enough clearance to get out of their chairs comfortably and walk out of the room. 

The Rug: Use a rug to visually separate the two purposes that your room serves. For instance, you may choose to only put a rug under the living room area, or have matching or contrasting rugs under both spaces. Try to avoid having a rug in high-circulation areas, if you can to minimize tripping.

The Layout: Pay special attention to storage and flow around the room. You don't want to overcrowd the space to make it difficult to circulate, but you also want to have enough storage for both dining and living needs.

Suzanne Kasler Adele Four Tier Waterfall Chandelier $3360
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New Works Covent Chair $1015
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West Elm Hayden Buffet $999
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R. Banilivi and Son Oushak Carpet $1999
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West Elm Orb Upholstered Dining Chair $249
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Gubi Dining Table $2599
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J. Randall Powers Brooks Table Lamp $483
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Kim Salmela Brittany Bench $695
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Knoll Saarinen Dining Table $7402 $6292
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Muuto Cover Chair $559
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West Elm Commune Sofa $999 $500
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ECarpetGallery Jules Oushak Rug $1845
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Opening Images: Julia Robbs; Stadshem; Monica Wang.

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