How to Arrange and Style a Small Dining Room
When you’re dealing with a small space, every design decision – no matter how miniscule or inconsequential it might seem – counts. Your furniture and homewares choices could be the make-or-break factor between the room feeling spacious and broad, or tight and cramped, so you’ve simply got to nail it. After all, we’re all just striving to feel as relaxed as possible when we’re at home, and having ample space around us to chill out and move around is paramount to this.
So, let’s talk about what you should be doing when arranging and styling a small dining room. Although there’s no right or wrong way to lay out your room, there are definitely a few hints and tips that will help maximise physical space, as well as giving the illusion of a bright, breezy and super-spacious room.
Does this sound like your mission? Keep on reading to find out our must-know secrets for opening up a small dining room.
Our top tips for styling a small dining room
You shouldn’t ever have to sacrifice functionality for the ability to navigate your dining room with ease, or vice versa. Plus, aesthetics obviously come into the equation, and rightfully so – we all understand the need for living in a beautiful and calming space. So, striking a balance between all three is key. Before you start shaking your head, it’s not an impossibility if you know what to do, how to purchase furniture and where to put your pieces.
In a smaller dining room, you’ll want to do two things – physically open up the room by freeing up space where possible, and giving the appearance of more space. Where the first is pretty self-explanatory, the latter can be a bit of sleight of hand, of sorts, and involves tricking the eye into believing the room is larger through various materials, textures and placement options. By combining these two tips, you’ll be able to keep all the practicality of your room and give household members and visitors unobstructed use of the home.
Table location and space
Kicking off our small dining room arrangement masterclass (should we trademark it?!) is table location. The first step in any styling journey is placing those big, essential furniture items and ensuring they are fully functional, before moving onto the smaller puzzle pieces.
Think about where in the space your dining table makes the most sense. Are you a regular entertainer, or does the room just get used at family mealtimes? How often are you eating in there – every day or once a week? Most of us will drift toward centering the dining table in the room, but in a small space, this might not exactly be functional. If you’re working with a room that has nooks, alcoves or a unique shape, this might be where you opt to put your table.
Another element that will affect this is shape, which can, in turn, drastically influence the placement of your table. Rectangular and square pieces can be pushed up against a wall to make more space and anchor them in one part of the room. If you’re looking to save space, these are generally a better pick than oval or rounded pieces, as they can slot into the room’s natural angles if necessary. However, round tables are also a great option both visually and spatially – they’re generally a little smaller, and have less rigidity in terms of where chairs can go, so you can get away with a piece that takes up less space but perhaps houses more people.
Wherever you place your table, try to ensure you have roughly a metre of space on each side of the table that will have chairs. This will guarantee the dining area is easily navigable and that your guests are able to make their way to the table comfortably.
Material and colour
The material your table is made out of will also contribute to how it looks and feels in the space, and whether it helps to open it up like we’re aiming for. The rule of thumb here is to use lighter tones and, where possible, transparent elements that will give the illusion of more free space.
Glass is a go-to for especially tight spaces – because you can see through it, this means there’s less blocking your eyeline, and consequently, the space looks larger. Glass tables aren’t for everyone, but if you like this style, then it’s very easy to bend to your particular aesthetic. Whether your home is modern or coastal, Scandi or Hamptons, glass pieces are so versatile and foundational that the overall style relies on your homewares and the other pieces in the space rather than the glass element.
Another way to subtly open up a small dining room is by using lighter colours. A white or a light wood is less ‘harsh’ on the eyes, which means they’re more likely to glide over the furniture pieces rather than really feeling the overwhelm of a dark, hulking piece. There are ways to bring lightness into any home, even if your style is already on the moodier side – use decor pieces to bring out the new shade as an accent colour, whether that’s in the surrounding rooms or right there in the dining area.
The type of table you opt for is also crucial if you’re looking to create a spacious mirage, if you will, in your dining room – plus, this can also contribute to the physical functionality and navigability of the space if you play your cards right. There are tons of table styles on offer at Brosa at any given minute, but these long-lasting favourites for small spaces are here to stay.
One of the biggest things to think about here is under-table space, as this will affect the way your household or guests use the dining set. Picture this – a table with a thick, blocky base and no room to swing, cross or adjust your legs. The way you’d compensate for this is by pulling out your chair and creating more physical space around you, which is either impossible or very overwhelming in a tiny room. So, an open base with smaller, spindlier table legs is the way to go, not only to keep guests comfortable but to add more room visually and physically.
There are also a number of table styles that are adaptable to smaller rooms, such as extendable tables. These nifty dining options give you ultimate flexibility – perfect for the at-home entertainer – as they can be made larger or smaller at the drop of a hat. They’re small and compact when you need them, and then, when it’s time to host all of your friends, they can be adjusted to accommodate as many people as necessary.
Now that you’ve got your table on lock – perhaps literally, if extendable’s your style – it’s time to discuss chairs. There’s no point in a dining table without seats to sit at, and they’re also just as important to your space-saving mission.
The majority of our guidelines for tables also apply to dining chairs, as they’re general tips for making the most of a small space. Opt for lighter colours where possible, and stick to thinner, sleeker and more streamlined frames rather than wide armchairs. In terms of placement, there are a few additional tips to keep in mind.
A table will have a natural number of chairs that makes sense, so our first tip is to trust this and avoid overcrowding the space. Circular tables are generally fit for four to six chairs, whereas rectangular pieces are, depending on their size, able to house between four and ten. But, if you only need two, don’t overdo it – there’s nothing wrong with keeping exactly what your household needs and improvising if guests come over. If you select a chair that stows away easily, you might want to keep two out and store the rest in a garage or another room until you need them.
When trying to arrange your furniture for ample space, it’s also key to pick pieces that are naturally compact. Like we’ve pointed out, an armchair might not be your best bet if space-saving is your goal, but there are also options that blow small and lightweight chairs out of the water in terms of functionality. For instance, a bench seat will squeeze in far more bodies on taco night, and takes up the same amount of room (if not less) than traditional chairs. Discover what works for you, and evaluate your options before you purchase.
Additional furniture pieces
As you might imagine, having anything more than the essentials in your small dining room is inadvisable. But, if you’re adding functionality into the mix, there are definitely exceptions! Make your table and chairs first priority, then step back and assess – how does the room feel? Is it already on the cramped side, or are you revelling in all this new space you’ve found? If it’s the latter, you might be able to add something else to the room.
Perhaps the most practical piece, and the one we’d recommend above all, is a form of storage. If the space is on the tighter side already, you might go for a smaller console table or even a bar cart to add some additional storage for your favourite drinks, crockery, cutlery and table linens. In a slightly larger space, a traditional buffet could work, and presents a nice styling opportunity with the open space on the top.
Homewares and styling
Finally, we’ve reached the final frontier – styling! While this is more so the creative side of things, there are a few helpful hints that will ensure you avoid overwhelming the already-tight space with your design choices.
First up, ditch the rugs where possible. If the room is really noticeably cramped, a rug is just going to add to this by enclosing the space around the table and chairs and making it feel fenced in. Instead, place a rug somewhere else in the space for a little division, or simply keep the floor bare. If you’re in dire need of that fluffy feeling under your feet and just can’t give it up, select a neutral colour close to the floor, and choose something bigger with a little room on all sides of the dining set.
Another way to open up the room, that doesn’t relate to the table and chairs themselves, is to add wall features. Grab your paintbrush (or simply head over to our artwork section) and add a print or painting to the wall to draw the eye upwards, where the walls and ceiling will feel spacious and light. You can also use sconces and wall lights to the same effect.
Finally, mirrors are a small room’s bestie for life. Prop them up on neighbouring furniture pieces such as the buffet, or hang them on the wall. If you have the space, the best way to bring in the light and really open up the space is by selecting a large floor mirror – tuck it away in a corner and watch as it works its magic on the space.
A small dining room doesn’t have to be a curse, and in fact, it can feel super intimate and cosy, a feeling you’ll love when guests come over for a meal. Keep these arranging and styling tips up your sleeve to guarantee that the room never feels cramped or overcrowded, ensuring that functionality and navigability are always at the top of your mind.
Ready to start finding your dream dining room pieces? Shop our range of furniture, including dining tables, dining chairs and buffets and cabinets, today. Take advantage of speedy Australia-wide shipping and virtual styling services that’ll make your online purchasing journey a breeze.