The dining room—out of all the rooms in our home—is a stage for convening. It’s a place where we can gather with our families, host our besties, or simply indulge in takeout for one. And with entertainment back in a major way this year, the dining room is once again in the spotlight, from the table itself to the place settings to the over-the-top dishes you choose to prepare (Baked Alaska, anyone)?
In the past, dining rooms have gotten a bad rap as overly formal—or even chilly—venues of upright seats, elbow-free surfaces, and impeccably behaved children. No more: Interior designers are rethinking these spaces as ones of personal expression where virtually anything goes. Just ask ELLE DECOR A-list designer Garrett Hunter, who recently overhauled a Hollywood Hills modern for his parents with a dining room awash in funky ’70s-inflected hues and silhouettes.
But a few stylistic parameters remain in place, Hunter tells us. “There are three factors to create a great dining room: comfortable seating, design devices to create a union or a core, and adjustable lighting,” he says. In the case of his parents’ home, a glorious, painterly pendant by Jeffrey Cheung provides light and a focal point above a “core” consisting of an architectural table by Ettore Sottsass surrounded by snug chairs by Afra and Tobia Scarpa, with their Pringle-shaped backs and upholstered seats.
Speaking of seating,“there are no rules to what type of seat one can use in a dining room. The important factor is to consider consistent seat heights in a dining room,” Hunter—who once paired a Børge Mogensen wingback sofa with two Christopher Kreiling dining chairs in his own breakfast nook—says. “It worked well because that sofa sits tall, and it created an intimate dining experience within an open area.”
“One rule is always test out your dining chairs!” says designer Jennifer Bunsa. “If you’re buying online, order one as a tester to see if it’s comfortable. Or, if you are able to visit showrooms and test in person, that’s ideal.” As for the dining table, “make sure you’re thinking through the materiality,” she continues. “For example, if you have a young and messy family, be sure the wood is treated correctly, or go with a stone top that’s more durable.”
Even if your dining room is less of a “room” and more of a dedicated space, cranny, or couch (hey, we won’t judge), there are ways to set up your space to have a discrete dining area—just don’t let your ambition get the better of you. “A mistake that small-space dwellers make is trying to pack multiple zones into one. In small spaces, it works best to create a hybridized zone,” Hunter says. Bunsa agrees. In fact, in a recent Miami project, she incorporated bookshelves in the dining room as a device to break up the house’s open plan, but also to add visual interest. “You can do something fun with a built-in and can introduce color or pattern, turning a small space into a design moment,” she tells us.
Just as there are infinite styles of cuisines and parties to host in them, there are countless ways to configure and decorate your dining room. Have an open-plan kitchen? Consider the banquette. Hoping to make your room the center of attention? Go for a dramatic light fixture. Looking to bring in nature? Consider a scenic mural, says Bunsa. Wherever you choose to break bread, these dining room ideas are recipes for great taste.
Library Dining Room
Designer Jennifer Bunsa had to seriously rethink this Miami house,(it once boasted trompe l'oeil mural of a leopard and cherubs) and the dining room was no exception. To delineate the awkward space, she reached a genius solution: turn it into a hybrid library. “The space is central to the house and is a main pass through, so the bookcase helps define it as the dining space in bigger room,” Bunsa tells us. “A lot of times, the formal dining room is not a space people use that much, so we were also providing an additional function.”
Industrial and Airy Dining Room
This Connecticut house—designed by architect Andrew Bartolotta along with interior design duo Jesse Parris-Lamb— may have been inspired by Industrial Revolution-era factories, but Dickensian it ain’t. Here in the dining room, the floor-to-ceiling operable windows open onto views of the coastline while an Italian travertine table is surrounded by five bentwood chairs, clad in a gray leather. Please, sir, can we have some more?
Warm and Organic Dining Room
ELLE DECOR A-List designer Michelle R. Smith brought her casual-yet-elegant taste to the Manhattan home of Simon Huck (you’ll recognize him as a regular on the Kardashians) and Phil Riportella. In the dining room, that meant rich timber furnishings (we love the Giancarlo Valle chairs) that stand out against their subdued vanilla backdrop. A swirling green painting by Ammon Rost introduces a swath of color. “I wanted this house to feel like an exquisitely tailored Loro Piana coat,” the designer says. “We used all these cashmere colors, like cream and white, along with the oak.”
Multi-Purpose Kitchen and Dining Room
This combined dining area and kitchen, designed by Georgia Tappert Howe, manages to pack in plenty of style and plenty of storage. The custom leather banquette and marble kitchen island each contain drawers and cupboards—perfect for this on-the-go Brooklyn family. “You have to be mindful about how much storage you need,” Howe advises.
Nature-Adjacent Dining Room
This airy California home, designed by Noz Nozawa, is a rarity in that it is surrounded by regal redwood trees. “They love all the nature right outside their doors,” the designer explains of the clients, “and had the thought of doing a custom live-edge dining table, so we found a felled piece of wood that would be perfect.”
Antique Touch Dining Room
Inspiration was quite literally underfoot in this Hudson Valley home: decorator Miles Redd drew the entire color palette from the hues of the rug. This seating vignette, though, is a nod to the homeowner’s love of antiques. Here, Biedermeier chairs pull up to a 19th-century table. And, in our humble opinion, you can never have a flower arrangement that’s too big.
Sky-High Lights Dining Room
Everything is allegedly big in Texas and judging by the ceiling heights of this Dallas home, the dictum holds true. Designer Chad Dorsey played with the dining room’s staggering scale by installing an array of white pendants that shower the table. The move adds drama, while ensuring the seating area doesn’t get lost in the home’s larger-than-life proportions.
Modern Marvel Dining Room
With views this exquisite, interiors need to take a backseat—a fact designer Nicole Hollis expertly navigated in this jaw-dropping dessert escape. Here, the dining area features a custom table surrounded by Jean-Michel Frank and little else, save for a vinelike chandelier by Jeff Zimmerman—an otherworldly touch for an out-of-this-world backdrop.
Elevated Farmhouse Dining Room
Now this is how you nail the modern farmhouse look. For this country estate, designer David Netto swapped chintz and antiques for more modern, cozier touches. In the dining room, that included Charlotte Perriand woven seats, and an antique Italian table surrounded by simple wood chairs.
Sculptural Wall Art Dining Room
Think in 3D, if you’re looking for an artful dining room moment. This breakfast nook in a Manhattan residence by Lucy Doswell is traversed by an art installation by artist Bradley Sabin. “They’re all handmade and painted flowers, and he likes to come up with the installation pattern and the exact placement,” Doswell tells us.
Primary-Hued Dining Room
When designer Jamie Bush got to the interiors of this Montecito, California residence, he got back to basics: primary colors. The dining room nods to the theme, with its golden rod-hued swivel chairs, and the pop of red on the side table.
Double Dining Rooms
You can never have too much of a good thing, especially when it comes to entertaining space. Here in a Park City, Utah ski retreat, the design firm Electric Bowery added a comfortable banquette for informal family meals next to the more formal dining area. To create cohesion, an open bookshelf serves as a room divider.
Dual-Toned Dining Room
We love how ELLE DECOR A-list firm Retrouvius limited the palette of this distinctly-modern Parisian dining room to just two colors: cream and gold. Our favorite part? the cabinet doors (at right) were made from a salvaged parquet floor.
There are few walls in the Brooklyn loft belonging to Orior creative director Ciáran McGuigan, which is why the furniture designer created distinct groupings of furniture to delineate different functions. “We knew we wanted to have as much big, open space as possible,” he tells us. Here, between an original timber column and a mint-green credenza, he tucked in an Orior table and surrounded it with electric blue chairs—a hue that occurs throughout the apartment.
Quiet Maximalist Dining Room
Hey, we hear you: you might prefer all-white walls to a maximalist look. But before you banish bold flourishes entirely, check out this elegant space by Toronto designer Sam Sacks. Here, she introduced pattern via the striped chairs and rug, and color via a crimson antique tapestry.
Twist on Tradition Dining Room
At first blush, this dining room may resemble an ultra-formal space reserved for dinners with your great aunt. But upon further inspection, you’ll appreciate how fashionista Marc Valeanu pushed the envelope with color and shape. Observe: the celery-green wealls; a barely-there black chandelier by Tommaso Barbi; a canary yellow table by Konstantin Grcic; and a cheeky flower sconce by Garouste & Bonetti.
Sitting Pretty Dining Room
Nothing says “grand” like a chandelier. And though this Beverly Hills interior leans more trad, designer Gary McBournie made sure to enliven it with spring-fresh colors and welcoming furnishings, like the sherbet-hued dining chairs by Soane Britain. “I’m always aiming to put things together in a mix of high and low that doesn’t look like you’re decorating for a rich person or a museum,” he tells us. Cheers to that!
Charmingly Rustic Dining Room
There’s no competing with the beauty of Mother Nature so why compete? We love the effortless, thrown-together look of this outdoor vignette on the Greek island of Patmos. Bring the look to your own patio with a rustic, farmhouse-style table and woven chairs to match. Oh, and don’t forget the sauvignon blanc!
Painterly Dining Room
No view? No problem! A scenic wallpaper in your dining room can replicate an al-fresco look, even if your urban pad faces a derelict parking lot. We’re turning to Augusta Hoffman for inspiration. Here, in her elegant New York abode, she set a scene with a hand-painted mural by James Mobley and coordinating olive-green wainscoting.
Royally Retro Dining Room
This funky Swiss home might not exactly have towers and turrets, but it was indeed built for Italian royalty in the 1970s. This informal dining area features a curvaceous vinyl-clad banquette and grass-green carpet, among other throwback features—ideas you can pluck from in your own home if the all-over look doesn’t appeal. But for its current resident, Prince Emanuele Filiberto di Savoia, the extra-ness of this home is part of its charm: “If today’s kings and queens could build their own castles, perhaps they would do it like that,” he says.
Art Gallery Dining Room
For this California homeowner, an ever-growing art collection was reason enough to build an entirely new house just to showcase their favorite works. Worth it? We think so, based on this stunning dining room designed by Andre Mellone, with its icy Venini chandelier, Gio Ponti chairs, and Nude and Palms (Pink Triangle) painting by Chris Ofili.
Dramatically Draped Dining Room
ELLE DECOR A-List designer Danielle Colding is not one to shy away from color. In fact, that was the brief that drove this stunning New York townhouse. She at once embraced and contrasted the home’s grand, historic proportions with floor skimming drapes (in an unorthodox electric blue) and spindly chairs by Mario Milana. “They actually pushed me to go bolder than I would have on my own,” Colding says of her clients. “That’s rare.”
Petite-yet-Chic dining room
This dining area, in the San Francisco home of Studio Heimat’s Eva Bradley, masters a smaller space, in part because of its quartet of statement brass-framed chairs (vintage Cidue) and also due to swingy pendants from Apparatus. ”There was so much we could get out of the home by adding softer touches and layers to make the space ours,” the designer tells us.
Woodsy Midcentury Dining Room
If you’re at your weekend retreat to unwind, the last thing you want is formal anything. Which is why we love the humble elegance of this dining room, in a Maine midcentury gem with interiors by Angie Hranowsky. Surround a simple table with vintage chairs (these ones were appropriately repainted in Benjamin Moore’s Forest Green) and drape a floral tablecloth on top and voila—a vacation for the eyes.
Embrace Original Details
You should never compete with original features when they’re as special as the high-ceilings and ornate chandelier in ELLE DECOR A-List designer Michelle R. Smith’s New Orleans home. The chandelier hovers low above the dining table, which Smith surrounded with vintage chairs and re- upholstered in a deep blue Pierre Frey Fabric. A tan tablecloth—also in a Pierre Frey fabric—is a chic twist on a traditional (and much more formal) white one.
Al Fresco Finesse
In their Italian retreat, homeowners designer Paolo Castellarin and his husband, Didier Bonnin, leaned into all the fresh vibes of the countryside. Follow suit if you’re lucky enough to have an indoor/outdoor space, or simply a dining room with breathtaking views. Here, spindly antique cast-iron chairs surround a table dressed in a flowing floral tablecloth.
Why have one chandelier when you can have three? That’s the idea in the exuberant Aspen home belonging to actress and comedienne Sarah Kennedy Flug, who tapped ELLE DECOR A-List decorator Patrick Mele to bring her eclectic tastes to life. Here in the dining area, a trio of antique chandeliers sparkles above a custom Egyptian marble yellow table, which is surrounded by a group of mis-matched chairs. Talk about a feast for the eyes! Pro tip: hang your glittering fixtures at varying heights to prevent them from feeling stuffy.
The Trellis Treatmemt
Many of us have open-plan living and dining areas. If that’s the case, consider differentiating the two zones with separate paint palettes and carpets. Here, in a Diana Vreeland-inspired Manhattan apartment, designers Spencer Alton and Alex Bechara of Alton Bechara, covered the walls of a breakfast alcove in showstopping green treillage and clad the floors in a graphic checkerboard tile—quite the contrast to the soft pink palette just outside.
Kelly Wearstler is the queen of cool and here, in this lounge area in a Toronto home, it’s easy to see why. As with a coloring book, Wearstler 0utlined the room’s primary elements in black (see the windows and ceiling trim) and filled it in with a warmed-up palette of yellow, beige, and tan. The furniture and accessories she chose fall right in line with this theme, from the checkered vessel by Brittany Mojo to the Nienkamper bouclé chairs.
Work With Your Architecture
This Bay Area home was designed by Henry Higby Gutterson in 1936. Its generous timber ceilings and diamond-shaped lead windows translated directly into the dining area reimagined by designer Lauren Geremia. Here, twin Murano mirrors reference the windows’ decorative glass, while a long dining table and a set of vintage Møller chairs complement’s the room’s grand scale.
So many dining rooms fall on the maximalist end of the spectrum. But these spaces can also be palette cleansers—particularly when the scenery is this damn good. Here, in the New Zealand family retreat of designer Jenni Kayne, chairs—covered in neutral slipcovers—surround a minimalist table. The view to the spectacular dunes outside provides the only other decoration needed.
Artful Dining Room
There are three factors that go into a successful dining room, says designer Garrett Hunter: “Comfortable seating, design devices to create a union or a core, and adjustable lighting,” he says. The dining room he created for his parents’ midcentury house nails all three: a hand-painted light fixture, a showstopping Ettore Sottsass table, and sculptural seating chairs by Afra and Tobia Scarpa. Who needs tchotchkes when the dining room is a conversation piece of its own?
Two-for-One Special Hybrid Dining Room
If you ever needed to make a case for breakfast in bed, consider this your sign. In the petite Manhattan nest of hostess-with-the-mostest Rebecca Gardner, there was scant room for a formal dining area. Gardner, with characteristic panache, said balderdash to that and incorporated one anyway. Bonus points for the leopard-print seats!
Laid-Back Breakfast Room
Coffee and cigarettes go together like breakfast rooms and banquettes, as this chic vignette proves. French designer Pierre Gonalons brought a bit of Parisian insouciance to this Right Bank duplex, via custom seating and chairs; diminutive pendants by Staff Leuchten; and a painting by Pierre Seinturier.
Historic Dining Room
The vibe of this historic San Antonio home was to be “Donald Judd meets Jayne Mansfield,” according to its designer Vicki Yuan of Lake | Flato. It was also to be a showcase for the homeowners impressive (not to mention eclectic) collection of art and objects. A layered yet clean look was the solution for the dining room, where a group of dining chairs clad in jewel-toned velvet sits beneath a custom pendant by San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, maker Casamidy, and lofting long leaf pine ceilings.
In this rooftop dining space in a Manhattan home designed by Ashe Leandro, inky hues and industrial touches are the backdrop to a group of five vintage Gijs Bakker bentwood chairs around a custom table. The plant and artful vessels on the shelves add just the right touch.
A good as gold dining room idea? A neutral room amped up with Midas-touched velvet seating, like this one, courtesy of designer Martha Mulholland.
To add a sense of history to this Sonoma, California, estate, designer Ken Fulk covered the dining room walls in ornate timber paneling and set a large 19th-century French table in the middle. To keep the look from getting too heavy, the wood features a silvery finish, and the table is topped by feathery fronds.
Spare and Serene
Can’t decide between a banquette and a traditional table? Incorporate both, as Ishka Designs did in this recent Brooklyn project.
We also love this hybrid table-banquette look from New York design firm Husband Wife. The 1940s Venini pendants elevate the everyday.
Table’s All Set
When in doubt, rely on family treasures to make your supper space sing. Here, all-star Mexican chef Elena Reygadas dressed her table in an antique lace tablecloth that belonged to her grandmother.
“We were both aware that, inherently, dining rooms are really traditional,” says designer Alec Holland of this recent Hamptons project. “Yet we knew we wanted to make this one fun.” In one of our favorite DIYs in recent ELLE DECOR memory, the designer repainted a heavy, traditional table in an Yves Klein blue and bright apple-green lacquer.
Off the Wall
If you’ve got it, flaunt it! Such was the case for designer Natalia Miyar, who collaborated with Fromental on a wallpaper line. Naturally, it is the joyous backdrop for her dining room. “If I could wallpaper every room, I probably would!” she tells us.
Dining should be a transportive experience, and we can’t think of a better backdrop for epicurean excursion than this luscious wallpaper from Calico in the Future Perfect’s Los Angeles outpost.
If you’re blessed with ample sunshine and airy ceilings, consider painting your walls in a pale lemon hue to accentuate the light, as Brockschmidt & Coleman did in this stunning New Orleans residence.
Break Out of the Shell
Victorian seashell grottos (who knew?) are an aesthetic touchpoint for this perfectly charming vignette in a Chicagoland Tudor reimagined by Elizabeth Mollen. The light blue walls accentuate the cheerful vibes.
Modern lines meet punchy colors in Frances Merrill’s overhaul of a Silicon Valley cottage. Pro tip: Accessorize with bright blooms, vintage salt-and-pepper shakers, and taper candles in an unexpected hue.
Even if you have a petit dining space (like this breakfast nook by Katch Interiors), it can still be made special via sweeping drapery and a fun light fixture, like this effervescent bubble chandelier from Pelle.
If you live in Hollywood like writer and director Mara Brock Akil, your home will doubtlessly have more than its fair share of glamour. In her dining room, a vintage conference room table was repurposed for mealtime and surrounded by light-as-air vintage chairs and topped off with a celestial Murano chandelier. The artwork is by Elon Brasil.
Books might be mental sustenance, but they make for damn great dining room decor too. Here, in the Milan home of textile maven Caterina Fabrizio, a covetable Gabriella Crespi table is surrounded by IKEA chairs.
Room with a View
Who needs desserts when the views are this delectable? Aside from a minimal dining table and chairs, you need little else to drink in the Mediterranean Sea at this Lebanon compound.
Everyday’s a picnic in this mealtime niche in a Brooklyn home designed by Office of Tangible Space. Lime-washed walls accentuate the coziness.
Neutral dining rooms are the perfect backdrop for a tempting feast, especially when it’s as effortless as this one designed by Augusta Hoffman. She surrounded the Sun at Six table with a set of six vintage Paul McCobb dining chairs. The floating console acts as a handy serving area during dinner parties.
On the menu? Elegance. And we wouldn’t expect anything less from Lauren Buxbaum Gordon, Nate Berkus’s design partner. For this recent New York project, she surrounded an antique Gustavian dining table with a set of French Louis XVI–style dining chairs and topped the look off with a pendant by Rose Uniacke.
Holier than Thou
Have the luxury of a lengthy dining table? Complement it with an artwork of the same length. We love this spooky-chic Last Supper look in the home of Brazilian architect and designer Juliana Lima Vasconcellos.
Dior executive Mathilde Favier’s Paris dining room is proof that pattern makes perfect. Here, she sheathed the walls in Indian panels by Simrane and surrounded the dining table in marigold-colored chairs sourced (of course) from the Paris flea market.
A 1920s light fixture by O.C. White Co. hangs above a George II mahogany table with custom-made chairs in the dining room. The console is from the 19th century, the 1897 seascape is by Paul Kuhstohs, and the portrait was found at a Paris flea market.
Setting a Scene
In a home designed by Ken Fulk, the gateleg table and English chairs are from the 19th century, the billiard light fixture is antique, and the mural of Provincetown Harbor was painted by Rafael Arana.
An antique opaline-glass pendant light hangs above the marble dining table, which is surrounded by vintage chairs. The 19th-century gilt sunburst mirror is French, the Oushak rug is antique, the walls and ceiling are Venetian plaster, and the custom-made kitchen cabinets are cypress.
A set of chairs by Carlo di Carli surrounds a dining table by Gio Ponti, and a painting by Jonathan Saiz hangs above a 1950s rosewood console by Ico Parisi. The lamp is by Les Dalo, and the walls are painted in a pale gray by Guittet.
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