The Idealist

Planning a Small-Space Dining Room

If your home doesn’t afford a large dining area, but rather a smaller space tucked into the kitchen or living area, there are still plenty of design options to consider. Making the most of this space is important. Choosing the right pieces, of course, can ultimately define both how stylish and how functional the space becomes. How do you create a dining area that does it all when you have limited space? How much are you going to use the table for dining and how much for working from home? Choose each piece wisely with its likely use front of mind.

1. Purchase the Right Table

A good place to start is with your dining room table. The largest piece in most spaces, it needs to fit your needs and your space limits. The traditional farmhouse table may be too long and bulky for this type of space. A rounded table, on the other hand, can make better use of the space while accommodating enough individuals. The Cobber, shown here for example, from Loaf.com (£545 in the Sales) really maximizes available space.

Another trick to keep things light is to use glass rather than wood as the tabletop. This glass and oak dining set teams solid American oak with slate-blue chairs. While the amount of space taken up by a glass table is no different, the appearance is lighter. Make sure your chairs are nice though — as there’s nowhere to hide.

If you do select a rectangular table, choose one with a narrow design and a more streamlined, slim profile. Another option from Loaf.com, the Elmsman may work well. Yet another solution is to choose a table that folds into itself. With built-in extensions, it is possible to create a larger table when guests arrive but maximize space most other times.

This Oslo Oak dining table extends from 175cm to 215cm, meaning you can seat 6 to 8 diners. We love its Scandi, retro styling and the mitred joints, sculpted legs and curved table top gives the whole look a lightness that hides its added functionality!

When choosing your dining table, keep the details in mind:

  • Shape defines the style of the table, as do the intricate details of it. Busy designs swallow up space and makes your limited dimensions seem crowded. That’s why plain colours are more flattering!
  • The surface matters, too. An unsealed marble topped table can be a stunning statement piece, but can be a bit more bulky for some areas. The sleek, natural feel of wood, on the other hand, keeps things light.
  • Think about height as well. Most tables will be 29 to 30 inches in height, but a lower or higher table may better fit your specific needs.

Getting the table right is the first step. Then, consider what else fits into the space that meets your ongoing needs.

2. Finding the Best Dining Room Chairs

Many options exist for dining room chairs. When selecting pieces for the small space, though, keep a few things in mind. Choose chairs that do not take up a lot of real estate – or floor space. Wider bases and legs do not offer any additional benefit to you in terms of seating space, but can crowd an area and make it easier to trip.

If the space is minimalistic overall, choose chairs designed with the same style. For example, the Mauricette line from Maisons du Monde really offers a nice look and feel (and a touch of comfort) but the pale wood legs mean they keep their profile slim, giving the illusion of more space. Just be sure to pick a light colour to keep the look open! The dining table (£259) here is also extending and comes in a white or grey finish.

For a kid-friendly dining area, or one for those who are young at heart, add ample seating without a lot of space with a bench. A four seater oak dining bench, for example, gives you ample seating room and this bench can be repurposed for storage when not needed as well. The Radius bench from Habitat does very well here.

When buying chairs for a small space, keep the following in mind:

  • Height is generally at least 18 inches if you have a table at 29 to 30 inches in height. Low back chairs and modern pieces can change up that height, giving you more space.
  • Invest in comfort. Those that are upholstered can offer enough comfort to keep people at the table longer.
  • Choose materials wisely. You’ll want to look for treated fabrics that do not stain or use a highly durable material like leather.

The right chairs do not have to exactly match your dining room table, either. In fact, today’s style welcomes a flexible matching of chairs with eclectic colours and patterns. This creates not only a place to sit, but adds a bit of art to the space as well.

3. Other Key Dining Room Pieces

The rest of the space in your dining room can have more furniture added as you see fit and as space allows. Consider a few key items here.

  • The use of a sideboard can work well, but choose wisely based on size and shape. John Lewis offers a number of options like the Calia Sideboard (from £699) that can work in limited spaces.
  • Lighting gives you a lot of freedom. However, when choosing lighting for a small space, choose chandeliers that are closer to the ceiling. You may be able to save some space by adding wall sconces instead of table lamps.
  • Window coverings shouldn’t be a solid colour that blocks in the light. Use them as a type of artwork that you hang on your walls. It’s a good idea to keep window coverings as close to the wall as possible.

Finding the right dining room items for a small space doesn’t have to be a challenge with a bit of creativity, but make sure you measure the available are carefully and think about how you will use the space: how much is the dining table for dining and how much for working from home, or homework? This will ultimately determine the pieces you choose.

  • Joan is an interior design project planner and freelance writer from Boston Massachusetts who lives with her husband and two bulldog terriers outside Wellfleet on Cape Cod.

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