Skip to Content

13 Clever Ways to Make a Small Dining Room More Functional

Even the tightest corner can feel like a banquet hall. (Well, almost.)

Headshot of Hadley MendelsohnBy Hadley Mendelsohn
eclectic blue dining room
Thomas Loof

Whether you love cooking and hosting or prefer to enjoy your favorite takeout order alone, a comfortable and well-decorated dining room will always make mealtime better. But if you add size limitations to the dining room design mix, you've got yourself an extra challenge to work around. But have no fear! we're here with tons of designer examples of small dining rooms with plenty of functional and design advice to accompany each, so you can figure out how to make the most of your own. Keep reading to see 13 small dining rooms from designers, and then incorporate you're favorite aesthetics and solutions from each into your own dining room!


Get a Lazy Susan

dining room ideas
Laura Resen

A lazy Susan is perfect for smaller spaces. These clever contraptions are basically just trays that rotate and they make it easier to get items (like salt and pepper) around the table without having to reach over anyone. A round one sits at the end of this small dining table in a room designed by Chloe Warner, where interior glass doors ensure that the light flows through to adjoining rooms, too.


Blend It Into the Kitchen

banquette built into kitchen island
Stephen Karlisch

Unlike chairs, a bench can seat more than one person (a handful of kids!). Even better if the bench is built into the island, serving as a natural transition into a more formal dining space right off the kitchen. In this kitchen-meets-dining room by Jean Liu, the bench was added onto the opposite side of the island to double the room's use case and blend the more practical kitchen with the formal gathering area.


Turn Storage Into Decor

dining table ideas
Cara Fox

Open shelves are often the best storage option in a tight space, but you have to fill them wisely. Coordinating plates and serveware, like this classic blue and white collection, add a decorative element with a culinary tilt. The plates were the jumping-off point for everything in this preppy and sweet dining room designed by Cara Fox.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Choose Dual-Purpose Furniture

small dining room
Leanne Ford Interiors

If you have to sacrifice part of your dining room for a home office, get the best of both worlds by choosing furniture that can perform well for both tasks. This roomy farmhouse table in a home designed by Leanne Ford can function as a great place to spread out for larger creative projects and serve as a perch for a few work-from-home folks. But, when mealtime rolls around, it can also function as a dining room.


Pair a Round Table With a Banquette

dining nook ideas
Brie Williams

Two chairs and a corner banquette is a classic combo for a reason: it's a highly efficient use of space that also leaves plenty of room for fun. Together, they transform a bare corner into an elegant eating space, but it can also be a great backdrop for meetings and work. In this vivacious dining room nook designed by Ariene Bethea, the matching table and chair set creates just the right dose of cohesion.


Cozy Up to the Walls

north carolina beach house designed by barrie benson interior design and architect meyer greeson paulin benson breakfast room warm wood on the furniture and open shelving tie the airy kitchen back to the ‘70s inspired louvers in the stairwell and dining room pendant made goods dining table tom dixon banquette hickory chair in perennials fabric dining chairs vintage harvey probber
Paul Costello

Often considered a design no-no in other rooms, placing furniture against the wall frees up space for walking in a narrow dining area that shares the living room and/or kitchen. A long rectangular or oval table like the one in this open-concept space by Barrie Benson can also be great as a buffet table for parties.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Choose Shelves Instead of a Cabinet

dining room ideas
Lauren Waters

China cabinets or sideboards are lovely, but their bulk can dominate a room and uses space inefficiently. Floating shelves or custom built-ins, on the other hand, can be customized to fit your needs (fill the whole wall with them, if you like!) and offer more flexible storage than standalone pieces. They're an especially good addition to a room with high ceilings, like this loft designed by Lauren Waters.


Assess Your Priorities

1940s decatur, georgia home of designer lathem gordon
Emily J Followill

If you live in a rental or aren't ready to make any permanent changes, having a storage piece to keep your collections stored and organized is still a good idea. In this small dining room, designer Lathem Gordon forewent a large dining table so there was space on the floor for a display cabinet.


Create a Booth

blue and white breakfast nook in small kitchen
Francesco Lagenese

Both built-in bookcases and banquettes are meant to be directly next to the wall, offering as much seating, storage, and open floor space as possible—so when combined, they're a like small dining room superhero. And two banquettes are better than one! This clever set-up makes room for an entire family in a tight corner—and offers hidden storage under the seats.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Choose a Table With Leaves

small dining room
Victoria Sass

Invest in a dining room table with extendable leaves so you can collapse them when not in use. It's a simple fix but it really does make all the difference. In this Scandinavian-style dining room designed by Victoria Sass of Prospect Refuge Studio, four chairs are tucked around the table, but it could seat 6 as is, and even more when fully extended.


Work the Room's Angles

small dining room ideas
Osklo Studio

In this space by Osklo Studio, a custom sofa accommodates the quirky shape of the room. The table and chair can also move aside when the space needs to serve as a more formal sitting room. Even if you can't splurge on custom seating, rethinking the angle of your dining room setup could help you squeeze in more space or get the most out of a living room that needs to accommodate a living area, too.


Sneak in Under-Seat Storage

wood, room, furniture, interior design, table, floor, wall, ceiling, picture frame, hardwood,
Tamsin Johnson

The built-in banquette is also a sneaky storage solution in this eclectic dining nook designed by Tamsin Johnson Interiors. Hidden drawers beneath the cushion can house things like placemats, napkins, and more. The paint color and the grooves in the exterior of the drawers match the cabinetry in the adjacent kitchen for a seamless look.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Invest in Mirrors

wall mirror in dining room

Employ this bit of visual trickery to make any small room seem bigger: A mirror's reflection is great at faking extra space and bounces light around the room to make it seem airier. For a more traditional and formal look, opt for antiqued mirrors, as Celerie Kemble did here.

Watch Next
preview for Home Tours

Small Spaces

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
twitter icon
youtube icon
facebook icon
instagram icon
pinterest icon
Hearst Lifestyle and Design Group - A Part of Hearst Digital Media

A Part of Hearst Digital Media

We may earn commission from links on this page, but we only recommend products we back.

©2023 Hearst Magazine Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Privacy NoticeCA Notice at CollectionYour CA Privacy Rights/Shine the LightDAA Industry Opt OutTerms of UseSite Map
Cookies Choices