Expert Advice

11 Ways to Maximize a Small Dining Room—According to an Interior Designer

There’s always space.

By Stacey Lindsay

What I love most about interior design is how it’s always a lesson in possibility. No matter the feat at hand—be it a living room compact in size, a home office that requires organization, or an entryway that’s cramped—a good eye and some smart layout tips can turn the impossible into something beautiful. And Olivia Wahler’s brilliant small dining room ideas prove my case. 

Wahler, who is the co-founder and co-principal designer of Hearth Homes Interiors, believes a small dining room is in no way an obstacle to great design or limited entertaining. You can have all the dinner parties you want in a tiny space, she believes. The same goes for family dinners, work sessions, and art projects. The trick is to think outside the traditional dining room layout. 

Featured image of Rebekah Peppler’s Paris apartment by Joann Pai.

Dining table with woven chairs.
Image by Michelle Nash.

So what are Wahler’s small dining room ideas? For one, reconsider your (table) curves. “Whenever possible, we like to spec a round table into a small dining space, simply because it enhances the flow of the room—and typically you can seat more people on a smaller surface area,” she says.

Read on for more of Wahler’s tips for maximizing a small dining room.

11 Small Dining Room Ideas to Maximize Space and Function

Idea #1: Get an expandable table. 

If you entertain, this is key, says Wahler, who loves the option of making a table larger or smaller according to your needs.

Idea #2: Consider chair height

“In a smaller space, you want to make sure that your chairs can tuck underneath the table so that they can be out of the way,” Wahler points out. Also, opt for chairs without arms, which require less space.

Dining table with flowers.
Image by Michelle Nash

Idea #3: Go minimal. 

It’s intuitive but often overlooked: A small dining room calls for the essentials—a place to dine, comfortable chairs, good lighting, and some art—and little more.

Idea #4: Prioritize lighting

“This is really important when designing any dining room, but especially a smaller one,” Wahler exclaims. “Lighting has the ability to make a space feel more intimate, warm, and bright all at the same time.” Be sure to bring in lighting sources that are appropriate in scale and wattage. “And it must be dimmable!” 

Idea #5: Hang long drapes. 

Adding long drapes from near the ceiling draws the eyes upward. By capitalizing on vertical space, you makes up for limited room within eye level. 

Dining nook with chairs.
Image courtesy of Hearth Homes Interiors

Idea #6: Call in the natural light. 

If wall space allows, hang a stunning mirror on the wall to bounce outdoor rays throughout the room. This is an instant brightener that makes any room feel bigger. 

Idea #7: Cozy up to a wall. 

It’s a common misconception that a dining table needs to be centered. Placing it closer to one wall frees space for foot traffic and overall flow.  

Idea #8: Work in a banquette.

A dining banquette in a smaller dining room can actually save space, according to Wahler. “It’s always such an approachable, cozy detail to incorporate into a design,” she adds. 

small dining room with round table

Idea #9: Curve smartly.

Round dining tables are your friend. As Wahler believes, they can accommodate more people and add to the flow. But don’t get caught up in circles: An oval table can work brilliantly, too.

Idea #10: Get tricky with paint.

Painting your walls and ceiling the same color creates an illusion that lengthens the room. It’s a trick Wahler uses often.

Small space dining room with gold chairs.
Image courtesy of Hearth Homes Interiors.

Idea #11: Look to other rooms.

Pause for a moment and consider: Does this room need to be the dining room? If you’re seeking much more space, consider moving your dining space to another area of the home. Getting creative with a space’s use can enliven the rest of your home—and your daily routine.