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 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 did not disappoint with her tips and easy fixes to common mistakes.
Meet the Expert
Mandy Cheng is the principal designer and owner of her L.A.-based eponymous firm. She's been outfitting homes since 2012.
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.
Buy the Right Size Rug
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. “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 big way,” Cheng explains.
However, a neutral rug can have an equally large impact on a small space. “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,” she suggests.
Use a Rug to Frame the Furniture
“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.
Hang Lighting Three Feet Above the Table
Another common mistake is hanging a chandelier too high above the table, Cheng reports. “A dining area is a more intimate space and you want the lighting to be about three feet above the tabletop or six feet off the floor,” she adds. It will feel low when you’re installing it, but once it’s in place, it’ll all make sense.
Remember: Proportion Is Everything
That said, “tiny chandeliers aren’t the way to go,” Chneg insists. “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 a quarter to a third of your dining table in some way, whether it’s a linear fixture or a large pendant,” she 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 fixtures that are more linear.
Don't Go Too Big or Too Small
Choosing appropriately sized furniture will make your dining room look more spacious. If you stuff large furniture, such as an eight-person dining table, into a small space, the 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 onto them,” she advises.
“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.”