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How To Style A Small Dining Area

Laura Gaskill, Houzz Editorial Staff

If you live in a home or an apartment without a dedicated dining room, finding a place where you can eat and entertain without throwing the rest of the space out of balance can be a challenge. But by making a few smart furniture choices and nailing down your style, your small dining space can fit seamlessly into the rest of your home and support mealtimes and even dinner parties with ease.

After sifting through hundreds of potential dining room shots to include here, I discovered three key strategies that seem to work really well, no matter the space:

1. Hang a light fixture directly over your table — especially if your table is in an unusual spot. (If you rent, try placing a pair of lamps on a slim console behind or next to your dining table.)

2. Hang something that draws the eye above your table: a hefty mirror or framed art work equally well.

3. Stick with the general style you already have going in the rest of your space for the most cohesive look.

Let’s take a closer look at 10 small dining spaces and why they work.

Flea Market Chic

Small can seat a crowd. Make the most of a small space with built-in benches tucked into the corner of the room. If you have a bit more space, go for a round or oval table — you will be able to seat more people. Otherwise, a rectangular table will save the most floor space.

Don’t waste any space: Use storage in the benches for table linens and fancy dishes.

San Francisco Interior Design

Small can be chic. Create the mood of a chic little café by cozying your table up to a wall and adding art and a light fixture. For this look, go for lighter-scale pieces such as the airy table with metal legs and the vintage chairs shown here.

Carnegie Hill Residence Breakfast Area

Small can be dramatic. I love the idea of making a big style statement in a small space. In the dining area try playing with scale, choosing a high-back bench flanked by a pair of teensy chairs as shown here.

Lighting note: The best tip I have for defining a small dining space is to install pendant lights above the table. They define the area and (especially if you put the lights on dimmers) allow you to control the mood.

Las Vegas

Small can be posh. A classic pedestal table in a gleaming dark finish sets the tone for a luxurious space. Fill out the seating area with upholstered chairs, a silky-soft rug and an airy chandelier.

Chic Home Office

Small can blend in. When your space is truly small, it is vital for every piece of furniture to do double (or triple) duty. A round table and Louis-style chairs can be tucked against the wall for solo meals and reading or working on a laptop, then pulled into the center of the room to squeeze in a few extra friends.

The Little House on Cape Cod

Small can be versatile. A drop-leaf table can work for two in the setup shown here but fits many more when fully extended. To really save space, it can even be pushed flush against the wall when not needed and used as a sideboard with a bar tray on top.

Related: What’s the Difference Between a Buffet, Sideboard, Server and Credenza?

Barton Hills

Small can work. Really stuck on where to put a table? Try installing one that mounts onto the wall (or on a kitchen island, as shown here) and folds down when not in use.

Our bright, white, open kitchen

Small can be comfy. Often, an upholstered bench does not take up any more room than a pair of chairs, yet feels much more comfortable during leisurely meals and mornings with coffee and the newspaper. Smaller chairs (like the bentwood ones used here) can fill in the other side without taking up much space.

Carriage House

Small can be sleek. Embrace the fresh color palette and lively atmosphere of your favorite café with a tall table and slender chairs. Keep the mood light with a refreshing citrus hue on the walls and a piece of art that makes you smile.

A note on high stools: Make sure your stools have footrests at an appropriate height for you. It’s no fun trying to enjoy your meal only to realize your legs are falling asleep.


Small can be fun. In some ways, I think it is easier to decorate a small space, because the impact of color, pattern and style goes a long way. Try fun, graphic seat cushions, a colorful light fixture, a wallpapered accent wall, a sculptural topiary, a unique thrifted centerpiece or whatever your heart desires.

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