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globewest small round marble dining table and green dining chairs small dining room design

Small Dining Room Decorating Ideas: 8 Style Tricks to Try

I thought it was about time I unleashed my small dining room decorating ideas upon you, decorating junkies. Over the years, in my work as an interior designer, I’ve so often been faced with small spaces that still need to shine. 

The cramped dining room tends to be the trickiest, because I find most people don’t know how to balance out form and function. They either make it look good, but it engulfs the space. Or they go the other way and make it purely functional with no divine design in sight.

So how about we change that? Below I’ll reveal the eight ways you can decorate your small dining room to make it work well and look phenomenal. Let’s do it!

harvey norman small round dining tbale and black leather chairs

1. Choose a Round Table Instead of a Square

The most crucial mistake a lot of people make when they’re decorating a small dining room is buying a square table. Then they try a million things to make it work, but it just won’t. It doesn’t matter how small the table is, a square dining table is always going to look bulkier than a round one. 

Not only does a square dining table look visually heavy, but functionally it’s not great either. In a small dining room you want to reduce the amount of things you could bump into on-the-daily, like sharp corners. The ideal table for a small dining room is one on a singular centre leg. Or failing that, three of four thin legs that take up next to no space.

A round table also allows you to reduce the amount of chairs you have at it without it looking odd. And on that note, here’s my roundup of the best tables for small dining rooms. You’ll love them.

Image above via Harvey Norman.

globewest small round marble dining table and green dining chairs small dining room design

2. Lessen the Chair Count Day-to-Day

Even if the round table you’ve purchased is sold as a four-seater, it’s highly recommended you keep only three chairs at it when the table is not in use. If you have four family members using it, I fully appreciate that this tip might be inconvenient. But the truth is, three chairs will look less bulky than four. Two will look less bulky than three. You get the idea.

If there are only two of you living in the home (or even if you’re flying solo), I’d still purchase four chairs for your small dining room. I’d just have three at the table and then one in a corner somewhere else in the home. Drag it over when friends come around, of course, but don’t have it sitting there around the clock, taking up valuable space.

Image above via Globewest.

oz design small round marble dining table in urban dining room dark floors white walls

3. Choose Thinner Chairs with Low Backs

I generally don’t advise having high-back dining chairs at the best of times. They can often dominate a dining table and make it feel dwarfed. But when you’re considering which of these small dining room decorating ideas are the most crucial, this one is up there.

Instead of dining chairs with high backs, wide seats and thick arms, you need to head in the opposite direction. Choose chairs with four thin legs, a cushioned based by all means, but then a back that doesn’t rise past the table top too much. 

Don’t feel that the chair has to be boring though. It doesn’t. It just can’t be bulky.

Image above via OZ Design.

luxaflex silhouette shades white tulip dining table and light blue globewest dining chairs in melbourne cbd apartment

4. Use Different Table & Chair Materials

People often assume, when thinking through decorating a small dining room, that the table and chairs should just be shoved into the corner. I say a big hell no to that! You don’t have to push the table against the wall, and you don’t have to have the table and chair materials be the same. 

In fact, please avoid dining settings that come in one single material. It makes the zone feel very visually heavy. As a rule, your table and chairs should never be the same colour as your floor. And I prefer to have the table in one material (like timber or glass) and then have the dining chairs in a nice upholstery (fabric or leather). 

The moral of the story here is to avoid the flooring, chairs and table all looking the same colour. Variance in material will actually help the zone feel nicer to be in.

Image above is from my recent CBD makeover.

round glass dining table with criss cross timber legs small dining room

5. Hang Tall Eye-Catching Art

If your round table is not in the centre of the room, and is more pushed toward a wall, art is your saviour. In any small room, a tall piece of art will draw the eye away from the tiny footprint of the space. It makes you look up the wall and forget (even if for a moment) how small the dining room actually is. 

The art is best purchased in a portrait orientation rather than landscape. You don’t want the artwork to run wider than the table and chair setting, otherwise you’ll just draw attention to how small the scene is.

Alternatively, you could place a four grid of art in this zone, or even two square pieces of art stacked one on top of the other. Anything goes, really, as long as the art is not wider than the table.

Image above via Awesome Decors.

coco republic small round black dining table with pendant above it

6. Hang a Mirror Above the Table Instead

Of all the small dining room decorating ideas we’ve discussed here, the ‘art or mirror’ suggestion is a bit of a choose your own adventure. If your dining room joins onto a living room in an open plan layout, you might already have art on a nearby wall. As such, art above the dining table is likely to be a bit too much.

If that’s the case, consider a mirror on the wall the dining table sits against. Mirrors are always great in small spaces because they bounce light around the room. This makes the zone feel larger and airier. 

You’d want to choose a mirror with a minimal frame though. By that I mean, not a mirror with a thick ornate frame. A portrait orientation mirror would work here, or you could try a round mirror.

On that note, here’s my roundup of the best round mirrors on the market right now.

Image above via Coco Republic.

globewest round glass top dining table with grey chairs in small dining room

7. Hang a Pendant Over the Table

Your dining table and chairs might not be pushed up against the wall. You might be working with a small footprint, but perhaps it allows for the table to sit in the centre of the space. If that’s the situation you’re dealing with, then installing a pendant light over the round dining table is a genius idea.

All too often small dining rooms feel like an apology; a tiny table and tiny chairs cowering in the corner trying not to take up space. Please don’t approach decorating your dining room like this. There’s no reason this setting can’t be sensational. 

You can have your setting feel like a design moment. You can have it take centre stage. And the best way to do that is to hang a pendant light from the ceiling. Ensure it doesn’t branch out beyond the width of your table setting and you’ll be fine.

Image above via Globewest.

round marble dining table brass gold base mid century dining room ideas

8. Low, Minimal Styling on the Table Top

It’s important from both a looks and functional perspective not to clutter up the table top in a small dining room. If you’ve already got a pendant light installed above the table, let that be the moment. Place one bowl or low plant on the table top. That’s all you’ll need.

If you don’t have any pendant lighting above the dining room table, then it is important to have a small decorative moment on top of it. I’d still keep it quite low though. Something like a bunch of flowers in a low round vase, or a decorative vessel. Even a low bowl can look chic. Just keep it simple.

Image above via Awesome Decors.

Have these small dining room decorating ideas helped you? I’d love to hear from you below. Drop a comment and share what clever style hacks you’ve implemented to get the most out of your small dining space. 

Outside of writing this blog, Chris is an interior designer, presenter and author. He's also spent time on TV, on Channel 10's Changing Rooms, as well presenting segments on Channel 7's Sunrise and The Morning Show. If you'd like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

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