Our house is built on a slope so the main floor is steps up from the foyer. The first rooms you see when you walk up the foyer stairs are the living and dining rooms, which are open to each other. We don’t use the dining room often – only during the Holidays and large family dinners. We really should use it more! It’s one of my favorite rooms in the house even when empty, because it has 10.5 foot ceilings and a lot of windows and natural light. In this post I’m sharing all about my design process for the dining room along with a bunch of tips, all the direct links to my sources and other options I considered, and my overall budget. Read on for the tour!
The most important furniture piece in the room for us was the dining table. We had specific requirements we were looking for such as the table being one piece and not an expandable table with leaves, because we don’t like the lines in the middle of the table. We wanted the biggest table that would feasibly fit this space and ideally seat 8-10 comfortably. I did not want the table legs to sit at the very corners but rather be inset so when we do squeeze more people in their legs wouldn’t be fighting the table legs. Finally, I didn’t want to spend a lot on the table because of how little we would use this formal dining space. Tip: Knowing your must haves before you start shopping for furniture is really helpful in keeping you focused. It also helps you narrow down choices and ensure you end up with furniture that meets your living needs.
When designing this space I first started with a floor plan so I could determine the maximum size table to fit the space. The room is approximately 11.5 x 14 feet. Tip: A few guidelines for dining room space planning I keep in mind are leaving at least 3 feet around the table for dining room chairs and 22-24 inches of space at the table for each person. Also, I would allow additional space if people will be walking behind the chairs. I make sure to leave sufficient room for a person sitting in the chair to push the chair back and stand up. To fit a large table and two end chairs in this room I figured the maximum table size should be about 8 feet but more comfortably 7 feet. On one end of the table the chair would sit slightly in front of the kitchen doorway which is a high traffic area so I didn’t want to crowd this space.
Our search for the perfect table was a long one. It went from looking at custom made, live edge wood tables online to shopping Ikea and everything in between. In the end, it was important we stayed under about $1000. I was finally sold on a modern, espresso colored table from West Elm that was 90 inches and one piece when I discovered they discontinued it! So sad! Sometimes that happens when you take forever to make a decision. But then I came across this table from World Market*. Totally different style, much more rustic, but all the requirements were met and it was inexpensive and super sturdy. It took 3 of us to carry just the tabletop in the house. I didn’t originally intend for such a rustic table, but the mix of rustic with a little modern glam from the other elements in the room has really grown on me!
The End Chairs
Meanwhile, I had seen these blue velvet chairs from ZGallerie a while back before we even moved, and I just had to have them! Although I did not have the vision for the dining room yet, I loved these chairs so much I figured I would design the room around these chairs. They aren’t inexpensive, so I only got two for each end of the table. I liked the idea of mixing the more traditional shape and material of these chairs with chairs and/or benches in a different style/fabric. I just didn’t know what yet. But let’s talk about the blue velvet shall we? I love that it’s this really bright and saturated color but dark and easy on the eyes. The silver nailheads, tufted back, and curves are nice, glam details. Tip: The only challenge with darker velvets and other similar fabrics is that dust does show and stick. So you’ll have to be ok with occasionally vacuuming the chairs.
The Side Chairs
With the table and end chairs purchased I needed to figure out the side chairs. The black leather chairs are from Pier 1* many years ago. I really had wanted to replace them, but at the time of our move it just wasn’t in the budget and they were perfectly good chairs so I kept them. Now they’ve actually grown on me. I like the blue velvet paired with the black leather and the traditional style of the end chairs paired with the modern lines of the side chairs. Tip: Mixing dining chair styles is a must try, creating a more relaxed vibe that feels collected rather than matchy-matchy. Since I only had 4 of these chairs and they were no longer available I needed to look for more seating. I wanted to be able to seat 10 around this table. (Similar chair linked at the end of the post.)
I decided to bring in benches to the seating mix. Benches are on trend and they create a more casual feel, which I liked. I wanted to be able to seat up to 4 on the benches so I wanted a bench that would span the entire length of the table (86″) as much as possible. But benches this length are hard to find or they were more than I wanted to spend. Plus, having one really long bench would be hard to maneuver when someone wanted to stand up or push the bench out from the table. So my idea was to do two shorter benches, each about half the length of the table. Tip: When purchasing benches for dining don’t assume all benches are created equal and do look at the dimensions. Some benches are ideal for living areas or bedrooms but may be too short or tall for dining. Seat height for dining should be about 18-19 inches. My other requirements were that they had to be upholstered for comfort during long meals and ideally have a back.
I almost bought two of these benches from Ballard Designs*, because I loved the idea of adding a patterned fabric and it met all my requirements. Except I was hesitant, because buying two with custom fabric that was non-returnable felt expensive and risky. I finally came across this bench at Overstock, and the price really sold me. It was no risk if I didn’t like it. I’ll admit you get what you pay for because the quality and design of the backside is not the best, but I set my expectations going in. They aren’t used often so I wasn’t too concerned. I threw a couple faux sheepskins over it which makes it cozy and inviting during dinners. Tip: Try throws or sheepskins over benches and chairs to make them cozier and more comfortable, cover stains, change the look of furniture you don’t like, or just to change up the look with the seasons.
On to the light fixture! This one was hard! There are so many amazing lights out there that would work in this room it was hard to choose just ONE. In the end I was looking for a modern drum shade rather than a traditional crystal or candelabra chandelier. But I didn’t want the usual beige fabric drum shade, because it felt too simple for this room. I needed some drama! I prefer a brighter room when dining, and this is my only light source in this room. It needed to fill the space proportionally so I needed a larger light that wasn’t going to be swallowed by the room. Tip: When shopping for light fixtures over dining tables always consider going bigger. Go as big as you can afford to go. It will always make a bigger statement. But as a general guideline I like to keep in mind that the width of the light fixture should be ½ to ⅔ the width of your dining table so that you don’t risk bumping it.
I was about to purchase this light from Worlds Away which I loved, loved, loved, but then found out it only came in a 3 light bulb version which just was not enough lighting for me. I sadly gave that up. I asked the lighting store associate I was working with if there was anything similar out there with more light, and she showed me this one by Crystorama*. It was perfect! It came in a 6 light bulb version that is 2 feet wide and had almost the same look!
Finally, I wanted art for the walls to pull the room together. I’m into abstracts and I found this piece at World Market* and thought the colors were just perfect. (I don’t think this exact one is available anymore). It brings in the blues, whites, and golds and the brighter teal green makes it lively rather than moody. Perfect for dining. However, I actually think the art on this wall should be larger given the size of this blank wall between the windows. If I had window treatments it might be ok, but I don’t. I considered candle wall sconces on either side, but couldn’t find any I really liked. Instead, I think I will be on the hunt for a larger square art piece. Or perhaps I will paint my own?
Many of you may be thinking where are the window treatments? I actually intentionally decided against window treatments for a few reasons:
- I love the natural light this room gets so why cover it up?
- I don’t have privacy concerns in this room, because the windows look out over mountains and are not at street level.
- I had so many other windows in the house to worry about when we moved in that these were a last priority, and because of 1 and 2 I still like it this way.
I also decided against a sideboard or buffet because I didn’t need it functionally for storage, and I didn’t want to crowd the space with furniture I didn’t need.
There are a couple other things I’ve considered for this room like painting or wallpaper. The contained space of the room and the height of the ceilings makes it conducive to paint. But since it is open to the living room I kind of like how the wall color just flows from one room to the next. Also, if I were to paint I would go with a darker, bolder color but all the furnishing and decor are already dark or colorful and keeping the walls light provides balance so it is not overwhelming. I want it to be a relaxing place to entertain after all. I’ve also considered just painting or wallpapering the ceiling. I so want to wallpaper some ridiculously amazing pattern on the ceiling but I know it will cost a pretty penny. I wouldn’t DIY this one. And I just don’t know if I’ll ever be able to pick just ONE wallpaper given the gazillion amazing patterns available out there now. Also, I have fire sprinklers and a hvac vent up there so I’m not sure how I’ll like cutting the wallpaper around those. SO, projects for another day!
Overall, I spent about $2,300. I took advantage of some discounts so full retail would have been more like $2,700.
What do you think of the dining room? What did you like or would have done differently? Comment below!
Dining Room Sources
Here are others I considered or similar ones for the items no longer available.
*Starred are affiliate links. Thank you for your support!