Sep 6, 2021
Got files, papers, and pens strewed all over the dining table? In the dark days of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people used their dining space as a home office. But now that many are resuming their commute to work—and might be up for entertaining small groups of friends and family at home—the dining room is way overdue for a makeover.
While not everyone has a dedicated dining room, the following refreshes can also be applied to breakfast nooks or eating areas that share space with other rooms. The goal: a cozier, cleaned-up dining spot that’s both inviting and attractive. Here’s how to do it.
1. Try a round table
The size of your dining space will usually dictate the shape of table you can accommodate, but experts agree that round tops square or rectangular every time. And since many of us will likely get back to entertaining by hosting smaller gatherings, you don’t need an enormous table in most cases. (One that’s 48 to 60 inches in diameter will suffice.)
“A round dining table gives a more intimate feel for groups of four to six people, and they allow for conversations to be close and inclusive,” says Ana Rovai, an interior design assistant at Perlmutter & Freiwald.
2. Jazz up the upholstery
Months of teens sitting at the dining table doing homework has likely resulted in yogurt blobs, Dorito dust, and other sticky stains on your dining chairs. Fresh fabric is the fix here, though strategically placed throw pillows can also hide a multitude of sins for less money.
You might consider a two-tone approach with upholstery in the dining room. This means you don’t need to cover all six chairs in the same fabric. Instead, upholster just the backs or fronts with a fun pattern, and leave the rest more muted.
“Take advantage of a trend for your dining room rehab such as mix-and-match decor,” says Marty Basher, a design expert with Modular Closets.
Other popular items on the most wanted list this year include velvet fabrics and rattan everything (think seating, wall hangings, baskets, and more).
3. Consider hostess chairs
Wait, what’s a hostess chair? This unique seat usually comes in a pair (as in, host and hostess), with one placed at each end of the dining table. The idea, of course, is that the home’s host and hostess take these seats, which offer them easy access to the kitchen to fetch food and drink.
“Using hostess chairs adds style and feels fresh and modern when compared to a matching dining set,” says Amy Leferink, owner and principal designer at Interior Impressions.
Owning a pair of hostess chairs is another opportunity to infuse pattern or texture via fabric and to choose a new chair style at the table, such as wingback or club.
4. Remove two chairs, then add a bench
Chair, chair, chair. A dining room with all the same seating is a visual snooze. But a bench in this space is a secret weapon, allowing you to squeeze in more people. It’s also a cozy spot for seating three or four kids at a party.
Using a bench in the dining room also means you can pull it away from the table for extra seating in another room, tuck it tightly under the table to save space, or upholster it with a fabric that complements the room’s palette.
5. Decorate the ceiling
Wallpaper on the ceiling is always a surprising detail. (You can use a contrasting paint color the same way.) Invariably someone will look up as they enter the room and then coo with delight.
“Wallpaper or a painting project is always compelling, but it can also feel overwhelming, so focusing just on the ceiling is an easier transformation with equal impact,” says Rebecca Johnston of the eponymous design firm.
A wild pattern or bright shade can open up your dining room and delineate the area as a separate space. And if your dining room features molding or a tray ceiling, adding wallpaper or paint can highlight these often ignored details.
6. Use a runner
Fine table linens dress up a table beautifully, but for casual parties, lay down a runner. This simple piece lightens your dining room’s look and signals a low-key, comfortable ambiance that most people prefer. No runner? A beach sarong or lightweight tea towel can be folded into a rectangle and used for the same effect. (If it has kicky fringed edges, even better!)
7. Rehang your artwork
Those flea market posters you bought on vacation and brought home eons ago are due for an update. Spring for professional framing and matting to take these average pieces in your dining room to the next level.
Or rehang your existing wall gallery with a new design. (It’s easy to map it out on a piece of paper or arrange the idea on the floor first.) Another option: Ditch pictures and try hanging something more surprising.
“My personal favorites on a dining room wall are oversized macramé hangings or an assortment of wicker baskets in varying sizes,” says Basher.
Head to Etsy, he says, for gorgeous hand-woven products made from natural fibers and grasses.