Kick your dining room style up a notch with these ideas
The importance of the formal dining room may have waned over the years, but every family needs a welcoming place where they can eat together, whether it’s a separate room or part of a kitchen-diner. Even if your dining area is shared with another place, with a bit of design work you can make it feel like a distinct space: somewhere to relax, talk and spend time with your loved ones.
Take inspiration from our dining room design ideas to create a unique setting for enjoying the finer things in life. Whether you’re looking for something modern, traditional or country, or fancy getting creative with a vintage or Victorian look, these design tips will help you achieve it.
Modern dining room ideas
A modern dining room should be a space that’s both stylish and functional: able to accommodate both meals with the family and entertainment for your friends. Whether it’s a separate room or an area of an extended kitchen-diner, it needs to feel distinct from the kitchen - a place that’s simply perfect for enjoying food and company.
Naturally, the right dining table and chairs are central to a modern dining room. If space is limited, a bistro-style round table can comfortably accommodate four and lends itself to a chic, café-like ambience. If you have a larger area to play with, a rectangular glass dining table with slimline dark leather chairs captures the contemporary look, and offers more room for socialising.
While the modern dining room usually tends toward muted, neutral hues, this can be lifted up by adding splashes of colour in the form of seat cushions or even a cosy rug to go under the seating area. Adding some quirky wall art also brings some character into the space - think about the decorations on the walls of your favourite downtown eatery for some inspiration.
Don’t forget to add accents to your dining table, too: a flower vase or even a little sculpture can bring the place to life!
Traditional dining room ideas
Traditional dining rooms aim for a homely yet elegant look that lets you show off your old-world style. Browse through antique stores for a great lacquered wood dining table and a matching set of chairs - as the centrepiece of the room, it’s worth splashing out on something special to achieve the effect.
Another great feature is an old-fashioned, glass-fronted dresser for housing plates, glasses and tableware: not only does it free up some space in your kitchen, but it gives you a chance to proudly display your favourite crockery!
A few touches of grandeur are essential to getting the traditional look right, so consider pleated curtains in silk or velvet, as well as bold wall decorations like a brass-framed mirror. Standard lamps or even a hanging chandelier also provide a great way to illuminate the space and add some visual interest at the same time.
Traditional dining room designs can come off as a bit formal and stuffy if they’re followed to the letter, so you may want to add a few touches to bring the look up to date. Mismatched chairs or seat cushions in different patterns can add more personality to the room without throwing off the overall effect.
Vintage dining room ideas
Inspired by the kitsch of the 60s and 70s or even earlier if you prefer, the vintage dining room is all about evoking a certain time and place. The look can be as eclectic as you like, but it’s often best to pick your main centrepieces from the same era to keep things consistent.
Bright, bold colours and statement furniture dug out from your favourite retro boutique are what make this look work: hunt for Formica-topped tables and slender vinyl-covered dining chairs for that authentic vibe.
If you’ve got a window nook to work with, it may be worth siting the table there and adding some banquette seating on the window side. Not only does this offer a great place to enjoy the view outside while you eat, it’s the perfect way to conjure up the feeling of a 1950s diner!
The right wallpaper can also be a big help in achieving the vintage style. Look for colourful blocky or floral prints, which you can accent with geometric cushions. A big retro wall clock and some classic pop art (think Andy Warhol’s iconic soup cans for an on-message idea) helps to add the finishing touches.
Victorian dining room ideas
A classic Victorian dining room is a very specific look, and may require a fair bit of time and investment to pull off. But if you’re committed to it, it can be really rewarding to see the results of your very own Downton Abbey-style family dining area (hopefully minus the drama!)
The bygone grandeur of the Victorian style is expressed through plenty of dark woods: wall panelling, an expansive solid oak or mahogany dining table and wooden chairs decorated with traditional upholstery all help create this look.
For colours, think deep reds for a dramatic effect or light sage for a softer feel. Patterned wallpapers from the English Heritage archive provide an authentic and attractive visual boost.
When it comes to illumination, try to go dim but not too gloomy. Candelabras (or their electric equivalents) in wall sconces are a must, and seek out an elegant glass chandelier to hang above the table – Victorians were all about impressing the neighbours, after all.
A built-in fireplace is one feature that can really complete this look: most authentic Victorian dining rooms were built around them. Make the most of yours by hanging an opulent decorated mirror above it.
Country dining room ideas
The perfect accompaniment to a rustic kitchen, the country dining room combines character, a touch of the traditional and cosiness in one snug package.
Lots of natural light is a great starting-point for the country look, so a room with plenty of windows – or even a conservatory – is ideal. Kitchen or café curtains offer an on-theme way to dress your windows and turn them into a feature.
As always, the dining table and chairs are central to the room. A chunky, rectangular wood table, preferably with built-in drawers for storing cutlery, is perfect – either unpainted, or with the legs touched up with a soft cream or blue.
Oak or elm are fantastically authentic if within budget, but pine offers a more affordable way to get the same effect. It doesn’t need to be too ornate: a natural, rough-hewn look is ideal.
Whimsical wall decorations in the form of bunting or hanging spoons add some homely touches, and an old dresser well-stocked with plates and family photos and books is a great addition if you have space. A soft wool rug underpinning the table and chairs creates the perfect blend of natural textures that the farmhouse look depends on.