5 Things a Designer Would Never Do in a Small Dining Room

Updated 04/29/19

Needless to say, interior designers know a thing or two about how to make the most of any space—no matter how small. Whether it’s a living room, a bedroom, or even a kitchen, the pros have a penchant for making 150 square feet look and feel more like 300, which, of course, is why we here at MyDomaine so frequently turn to them for their expert advice.

To find out exactly how to make a small dining room appear twice as large, we asked Los Angles-based designer Mandy Cheng to share the decorating mistakes she frequently spots in apartments and homes lacking in square footage. As anticipated, the Homepolish designer behind spaces like this charming plant-filled dining room and this stunning sun-dappled dining space did not disappoint.

From selecting a rug that’s too small to installing a light fixture at the wrong height, these are the decorating mistakes an interior designer always notices, without fail.

Mistake #1: Forgoing an Area Rug

Dining room area rug ideas
Claire Esparros for Homepolish

Although interior designers often cite choosing an area rug size that’s too small for a space as one of the biggest decorating mistakes to avoid in any room, that doesn’t mean you should forgo one altogether when you’re decorating a small dining room. “Area rugs are a staple for design and really help to pull a room together as well as incorporate color [into the space] in a large way,” Cheng explains.

However, a neutral rug can have an equally large impact on a small space—and the dining room pictured here, designed by Homepolish designer Louisa Roeder, is proof. “If you’re worried about tripping, go for a low-pile or kilim rug and use a thin felt or rubber rug pad to keep it in place,” suggests the designer.

Armadillo & Co River $2200
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The Citizenry Eco-Friendly Rug Pad $105
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Mistake #2: Selecting a Rug That’s Too Small

 Ana Kamin for Homepolish

Dining room rugs

The number one mistake to avoid when decorating a small dining room is selecting a rug that’s too small, says Cheng. (Yes, it’s such a common decorating mistake that it bears repeating.) “I always see rugs that only the dining table is able to fit on, and the chairs are all hanging off the rug even when pushed in,” divulges the designer.

“A rug should encompass all the furniture, including the chairs—even when people are sitting in them,” Cheng notes. “Nobody wants to sit in an uneven chair when dining, so make sure you take this into account when purchasing a rug,” she warns. As a general rule, add 60 inches to the length and the width of your table to find a rug that will comfortably accommodate all your dining chairs.

West Elm Persian Rug, Pink, 9'X12' $1899 $1139
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Serena & Lily Sheepskin Wool Throw $198
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Mistake #3: Installing a Chandelier at the Wrong Height

Dining room plant ideas
Madeline Tolle for Homepolish

Another common mistake is hanging a chandelier too high above the table, reports Cheng. “A dining area is a more intimate space and you want the lighting to be about 3 feet above the tabletop or 6 feet off the floor,” advises the designer. “It will feel low when you’re installing it, but once it’s in place, it’ll all make sense.”

Serena & Lily Headlands Bell Pendant $398
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All Modern Ado 5 Piece Dining Set $569
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Mistake #4: Choosing a Chandelier That’s Not the Right Size

Dining room light fixture ideas
 Seth Caplan for Homepolish

That said, “tiny chandeliers aren’t the way to go,” says Cheng. “I don’t recommend a huge light fixture, but if you want the dining room to feel cozy and balanced, choose a fixture that spans 1/4 to 1/3 of your dining table in some way, whether it’s a linear fixture or a large pendant,” the designer recommends.

“Clients sometimes worry that getting a larger fixture will make the room feel cramped, but it actually makes everything feel more balanced and curated,” she explains. “If you’re worried about cramping the air space, look for the fixtures that are more linear.”

Park Studio Alta $1200
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Park Studio Perry $720
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Mistake #5: Opting for Furniture That’s Not Proportional

Dining room seating ideas
Madeline Tolle for Homepolish

Choosing appropriately sized furniture will make your dining room look more spacious, notes Cheng. If you stuff large furniture, such as an 8-person dining table, into a small space, your dining room will look even tinier, the designer points out. As a rule of thumb, “make sure you leave at least 36 inches (or more) around the perimeter of the table so there is room for chairs and for people to get into them,” she recommends.

“Also, don’t go too small,” the interior designer cautions. “A tiny bistro-style table in a small dining space will also make the room feel smaller,” she explains. “If you’re unsure about the size of a table, use blue tape and tape off the dimensions so you can get an idea as to how it will feel to walk around the tape and get into a chair.”

Article Conan Oval Dining Table $599
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West Elm Mid-Century Expandable Dining Table $799 $640
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