6 Ways to Make Your Dining Room Look More Expensive

By Cristina Cleveland


What do you find more rewarding: splurging on a luxury piece that you find really beautiful and worthwhile? Or finding a thrifty bargain and making it look luxe? I think both can feel sweetly satisfying, but I’ve always admired people who can achieve the latter. Whether it’s the perfect thrifted leather jacket or flea market rug, there’s nothing quite like the bragging rights of discovering a hidden gem. And if you’re working with a tight budget that limits you to mostly big box store purchases, then a gem or two can really elevate the entire look of a room. Here are 6 simple ways to upgrade your dining room just in time for the holiday entertaining season.


Lighting – Every apartment I ever lived in came with the same bland lighting. Yes, it is an upfront investment to change a light fixture, but once you make the switch you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. This West Elm fixture is reasonably priced for a chandelier, and if you keep an eye out they’re always having sales. This one change can take your room from builder grade to custom design in no time.

Mix styles – Many of the stunning dining rooms we see have one thing in common: the table and chairs are not a matching set. And this inspiration room is no different. The very modern and accessible cb2 table is flanked by traditional dining chairs and a mid-century bench. You can achieve a similar look with this timeless Ikea table (even more accessible) and dining chairs from an antique store, like this 1920’s chair. It may take a few trips to different shops, but if you’re patient you can find furniture that is built to last at a great price.

Wood – A common characteristic of big-box store furniture is that it is built with particle board and wood veneer. One effective way to make a room look more expensive is to incorporate real, actual wood. Accents like this kitchen rack can really help to break up the lacquer and veneer finishes. I like big, chunky wooden pieces like this dough bowl because they’re visibly aged and are widely available at antique shops and on eBay.

Branches – As much as I’d love to buy fresh flowers for my dining room every week, flowers are not cheap. But you know what are? Branches. And you can find them everywhere! Snip a few from your own plants and throw them in a simple pitcher for a quick flower arrangement. I’m sure you have nearby trees that could use some trimming, or if you live in Austin then rosemary bushes grow like weeds along the sidewalks. There’s no excuse not to have a fresh centerpiece for your next dinner party.

Restrained color palette – Practicing restraint will not only make everything look more expensive, it is also much easier to match and coordinate what you do have. When in doubt, black and white are a safe bet. While this nude tray and the cheers tile are both $20 or less, they look dressed up when surrounded by a palette of black, white and real wood.

Have you scored a gem for your home that looked more expensive than it really was?

*Inspiration photo by Brian W. Ferry for Lonny.