The First 5 Things You Should Buy When Decorating Your Dining Room

Updated 11/22/19

Designed by Emily Henderson Design; Photo by Sara Tramp

Is it just us, or is the dining area one of the most underrated rooms in a home? 

Sure, a dining room may not be as key as, say, a living room or bedroom. And, yes, most small spaces don’t even have an entire room dedicated to fine dining. However, whether you have a formal dining room, a small breakfast nook, or a few chairs propped up against your countertop, you need somewhere to scarf down that mouth-watering meal. If you’re going to have a dedicated dining space, you might as well make sure it’s well-stocked and well-appointed.

To help, we asked our favorite interior designers about the items everyone needs to buy for their dining spaces, stat. Turns out, you’re just five purchases away from a dreamy dining room. 

1. A Dining Table 

dining room
Katherine Carter Design

Decorating a dining room from scratch? Start off with a dining room table, of course. After all, your dining room is for dining, so you need a sturdy surface to enjoy those meals. 

While dining room tables are available in plenty of sizes, styles, and materials, it’s important to find an option that works with your day-to-day routine, not just a fancy, schmancy dinner party.

“Just because you want the option to seat 10 doesn't mean you need a 10-seat table on the daily,” explains Alessandra Wood, interior design expert and vice president of style of Modsy. “Use extendable tables to hit your entertaining goals without sacrificing space on the day to day.”

If you’re looking for a dining room table that can withstand the test of time, Roxy Te favors a rectangular option.

“Consider a square dining table if the proportions are right for your room,” the CEO and founder of Society Social argues. “Our large square dining tables were born out of a client's frustration that rectangular dining tables are not normally conducive for conversation amongst all—guests seated at the end of the table tend to get left out!”

Use extendable tables to hit your entertaining goals without sacrificing space on the day to day.

2. Set of Dining Room Chairs 

dining room
Bespoke Only

Unless you prefer to eat all your meals standing (read: hard pass), it’s virtually impossible to enjoy your dining room table without a great set of chairs. But what type of dining chairs are you supposed to buy? Well, it depends on your aesthetic.

“The chairs can be neutral or they can have the 'wow' factor,” says Laurie Blumenfeld-Russo of Laurie Blumenfeld Design. “It all depends on your design scheme. I like to mix and match the chair design and/or style when it makes sense for the space. They don’t always need to be matchy-matchy.”

But no matter which style you choose, it’s important to choose some chairs that are actually comfortable.

“I have been to one too many dinner parties where I was squirming before the salad plates were cleared,” shares interior designer John McClain. “Choose a chair with enough cushion in the seat so that your guests can enjoy the evening.”

3. A Rug 

dining room
Katie Hodges Design

We know what you’re thinking: A rug seems like a silly essential—especially if you’re prone to spilling a glass of Malbec or a heaping plate of pasta that’s drenched in marinara sauce. But, as Virginia Toledo and Jessica Geller argue, it’s integral for a dining room.

“People often look at us like we’re crazy when we suggest an area rug in a dining room, but grounding the space with a floor covering is essential in a dining room,” the duo behind design firm Toledo Geller share. “It’s even more critical in an area with a wood floor and a wood dining table—there needs to be some separation between the two wood surfaces; otherwise, you have a very stark and bare setting.” 

When it comes to choosing the perfect rug for your space, it’s a good idea to shop with durability in mind.

“I always suggest clients look at an indoor/outdoor rug for their dining room due to the ease in cleaning,” says interior designer Laurence Carr. “Look for rugs certified for GoodWeave, which guarantees the rug was made ethically, and certified by Oeko-Tex, which guarantees the rug was made sustainably.”

4. Sensible Storage Space 

dining room storage
Design by Arlyn Hernandez; Photography by Sara Ligorria-Tramp for Emily Henderson Design

Whether you want to keep Grandma’s China safe or have a surplus of wine bottles, it’s a good idea to add some extra storage to your space.

“Find a cohesive credenza, cabinet, or hutch where you can store tableware to avoid any time lost in the back and forth from the kitchen,” says Grant Fenning and Glenn Lawson, co-founders of Lawson-Fenning. “You can also place dishes on the storage piece during meals to save room for more important items, like many, many bottles of wine.”

Concerned your dining space is too small for extra storage? Don’t worry, there are plenty of storage solutions to go around.

You can also place dishes on the storage piece during meals to save room for more important items, like many, many bottles of wine.

“A console table or buffet is a great way to make your dining room feel more complete, and hide away china, dishes, and seasonal pieces,” says Ashley Moore, founder and principal designer of Moore House Interiors. “If you don’t have room for a buffet, a corner bar cart is a great alternative!”

5. An Illuminating Light Fixture 

dining room
Julia Robbs

Chances are, you’re going to spend a lot of time in your dining room after the sun sets, so it’s important to find a lighting fixture that works with your space.

“No dining room is complete without great lighting,” says interior designer Kendall Wilkinson. “Scale is important, so make sure the size is a good fit for the table.”         

Now the only thing left to decide is which type of lighting you’ll choose. Well, the trio behind Transition State has some ideas.

“Ambient lighting and artful sconces are a must needed layer in a dining room, especially if you don't have the ceiling height for a chandelier,” Lauren Schneider, Jenna Rochon, and Kelli Riley say in a joint statement. “Sconces are a way to create that sense of intimacy for any dinner party.”

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