The dining room means something different to everyone. For some, it’s a place to get together with family during the holidays, for others, it’s a quiet place to have their morning coffee. The dining room is an integral place of gathering in the home, and the furniture that resides there, if constructed well, can last generations. Having said that, thinking about designing a dining room or investing in dining room furniture may be overwhelming.
We’re here to ensure that it’s not. Whether you’re deciding between a glass-top or wood-top dining table, or you want to update your current dining room, we’re here to help. Our goal is to provide you with all of the best information to streamline your design process and make it as simple as possible to design the perfect dining room for you.
This complete guide will provide you with everything you need to know about dining rooms, whether you have a sleek, open-concept dining space, or a traditional New England home.
When furnishing a dining room and deciding where to invest your money, there are a few important questions to ask yourself.
What are the dimensions of the space? This will determine the size of the dining room table and the rug.
How many people need to fit at the table every day and on special occasions? For some, it may make sense to invest in an extension table if you’ll be seating more people on special occasions. The number of people you need to seat will also affect cost in terms of how many chairs you need to buy.
Consider the style and shape of the dining room table that works for your space. Do you prefer a round, square, or rectangle table? Are you looking for a modern look or a classic wood dining room table?
Your lifestyle and how the room will be used on a daily basis is always the first thing to reflect on before you decide to make a purchase.
If you’re starting from scratch, the cost of furnishing a dining room will range from around $10,000 to $12,000. This range includes all of the basic pieces you need to furnish a dining room: a dining table, chairs, a storage or display piece such as a buffet or hutch, an area rug, and artwork or a mirror.
A solid wood table will, in general, cost more than a veneer table. The type of wood used will also dictate the price. Walnut tends to be a more luxe option, whereas maple can be on the more affordable side. A glass top dining room table is usually a higher end option.
An extension table, or a table with leaves, will generally cost more than a solid top table. Its ease of use and ability to transform into a larger table plays a part in the cost. Some extension tables will be more expertly designed than others and can cost up to $2,500 or more depending on size.
A simple solid top table will usually start around $700, whereas a luxe, high-end option featured in an extra thick top, can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000.
An all wood chair starts at around $299. On the more high-end side, a wood chair can go up to $900 0r more. If you choose an upholstered armchair, they can cost anywhere from around $375 to $1,000.
Kelly Sullivan, from our Acton showroom, explains, “By investing in a solid, well-crafted piece of furniture now you will actually save money in the end by not having to replace poor quality year after year”.
Well-made furniture is far more durable and won’t need multiple repairs like, for example, a chipped veneer or a wobbly chair leg.
You’re investing in an heirloom quality piece that’s built for generations and can be passed down in the family.
High-quality furniture is, in general, a much safer option for your home. They’re built without harmful chemicals that inexpensive imported furniture may have.
In many cases, these pieces are locally crafted, and by buying them you’re supporting the local economy. Read more about why local manufacturing is so important to us.
High-quality dining room pieces are customizable. Rather than being stuck with one option, you’re able to choose your personal preferences when it comes to stain color, seat fabric, size, and more.
Kelly explains that “The most important pieces to invest in are the table and chairs.” Whereas you might prefer to save on a buffet with a bar cart, the dining table and chairs are important pieces to invest in as you’ll be using them every day.
Space planning is a comprehensive organization and mapping out of your home design. It allows you to make sense of your space, scale your furniture to your home, and take your design to the next level.
How will the room be used? Who will be using it? These are always the first questions to ask yourself before starting a design project.
What existing furniture are you keeping? Be sure to measure these along with the dimensions of the room.
Consider the focal points. This could be a large window with a view, a fireplace, or a slanted ceiling. Noting these will help determine how to balance the space and work around the focal point.
Scale your furniture to your space. A functioning house has a lot to do with scale. Of course measurements come into play here, but first, consider the size of the room and the scale of the furniture that should go inside it.
Create zones. For example, in an open-concept kitchen and living room, you should consider where dining, conversation, and cooking will happen. It’s also important to think about how you will differentiate between these zones, sometimes with furniture or area rugs.
Where does natural light come into the house? Is there enough natural light? Will you need to supplement in areas?
How do you want the room to feel? Open, clean, soothing? Or warm, cozy, and comfortable?
Although interactive room planners are a great way to get started, meeting with a designer adds immeasurable value to the process. Space planning is so much more than just figuring out where your furniture will go. A designer will think holistically about the space, your lifestyle, and how best to serve the room’s function.
Before coming in to meet with a designer, there are some steps you can take to make the process easy and seamless.
In choosing a dining table that’s going to work the best for you, there are some important questions to ask yourself.
How will you use the table daily?
What does your room look like? Is it a rectangular dining room, an open-concept larger space? A small room?
Will it be placed in a casual space or a formal dining room?
Do you have small children? Will it be a rough and tumble space for play and arts and crafts, or a table strictly for dining?
What’s your attitude about cleaning? Do you have a low-fuss lifestyle?
How many people are you seating on a daily basis? Do you have a separate space for the holidays? And if it’s the same space, how many people will you be seating during the holidays?
Once you’ve considered these questions, you’ll want to consider the differences between dining tables as there are many. Let’s start with four-leg versus a pedestal table.
The base of your dining room table will either be four legs, a pedestal or double pedestal, or a trestle. A four-leg base is a classic, clean, and modern look. It’s also the most versatile; it can be found in both big and small tables and it’s a good option for people who want to add airiness to a smaller room. A pedestal base sits in the center of the table. On a larger table, anything bigger than 42”, the base would either be a double pedestal or a trestle. A pedestal can be a beautiful statement piece on a smaller round or square table.
The top of your dining table will either be a solid top or an extension table, either in the form of separate leaves or butterfly leaves that fold into the table.
The obvious difference between a solid top table and an extension table is the ability to seat more people at an extension table when you need to.
However, it’s important to note that there’s also a stylistic difference between solid top and extension tables. Catherine Willey, from our Framingham showroom, describes, “A solid top table is built with one beautiful stretch of wood and a continuous grain pattern. So, although you may not have the versatility of an extension table, many people prefer the look of a solid top table.”
The lumber of an extension table runs side to side like train tracks so you won’t see that continuous grain pattern. However, for ease of use and versatility, an extension table is a great addition to a dining room, especially if you plan on hosting parties.
Keep in mind that butterfly leaf extension tables are usually featured in four leg tables rather than pedestal tables, with exceptions for certain tables.
After considering your base and top options, you’ll probably think about material next.
Wood is a classic and timeless option for a dining room table. And although it’s a natural material, Catherine explains that “Wood comes with more protective finishes available than ever before.”
It’s relatively easy to care for and nonabrasive, although it can scratch. As it’s a natural material there will be natural marks inherent in wood like pitch pockets and marks. It’s also important to note that hardwoods, as opposed to softwoods, have much greater durability and longevity.
If you don’t like the natural look of wood and prefer a modern style, a glass top table might be for you. Glass is the perfect option if you want your space to feel clean and sleek. It will also visually expand the room and is easily cleaned with Windex. It’s difficult but possible to scratch, and we do recommend a furniture protection plan if you’re considering a glass top table.
There are also other materials to consider such as granite and marble. They’re a good option for a modern home, but both require protection and refinishing occasionally.
Finally, we consider shape. The shape of your dining table will be mostly determined by the size and shape of your room.
For a longer room, if you want a softer shape as opposed to a rectangle, Catherine recommends an oval or boat shape.
A round table is, in general, better for a smaller and squarer shaped room. There’s no head of the table at a round table, making it great for conversation. To seat more people, and for a more formal look, a rectangle table is a classic shape.
Before going all out and investing in bar carts and a dozen extra seats, take time to think about your party style. Asking yourself these questions will give you a good idea of where your design project will take you.
How often do you like to entertain?
hom will you be hosting? Family, friends, business associates?
Are you a casual, easy-going host?
Will you be hosting cocktail parties, formal dinners, or casual parties?
What’s the layout of your dining room? Is it a small, narrow space? An open-concept dining space?
The very first piece to think about when decorating a dining room for entertaining is the table. What are the key features to look for? Versatility and style.
For some, this may mean opting for an extension table. It might mean a dining table that has mobility in case you want to move it out of the way.
And don’t forget that the dining table is the centerpiece of the room, so look for one that’s aesthetically pleasing. You might gravitate towards a rustic look or a more modern look.
Your dining table might be a family heirloom piece that not only brings together the style of the room but carries meaning as well.
Next, you’ll want to consider seating. As you’ll be hosting regularly, you want to be sure you have comfortable, cleanable, and durable seating options. Mobility is also a factor here as you’ll most likely be moving the chairs around.
If you frequently host parties, it’s important to make the most of the space you have. Especially if you have a small or narrow dining room.
When it comes to tables, extension tables allow for a lot of versatility in your seating plan. Catherine Willey, from our Framingham showroom, explains, “You might use your 42” x 72” table to seat 6 for an intimate dinner, but add one or two 18” leaves to seat 8 or 10 people.”
If your dining space is narrow and small, you should stick to a table that’s 36” wide, even if it has 60” or 72” plus leaves. You can also consider moving the table to one side of the room to serve food as a buffet.
As you might imagine, having good lighting is key when you’re entertaining. The first step is to take stock of your lighting situation currently. Do you have a lot of natural light flooding in? Do you have recessed lighting in the ceiling?
If you’re lacking in the lighting department, bring in an extra fixture. Be sure to choose bulbs purposefully when you’re adding in light fixtures. Warmer or cooler toned light will change the atmosphere of the room.
If you have a chandelier, don’t hang it low! Catherine describes, “If you choose your ceiling fixture carefully you should be able to move your table aside and walk under it, with all but the lowest ceiling heights.”
Adding in an accent or statement piece is the best way to take an ordinary, everyday space and take it to the next level. A beautiful, locally made dining table is a great way to make a statement, especially when paired with a selection of uniquely designed chairs.
The buffet or hutch is a functional addition, but also a piece where you can express your creative style.
Catherine recommends choosing a hutch with an open lower area rather than a full hutch top if you want to have an extra serving area or the ability to set up a beverage station. ·
Bars and bar carts are really popular right now, and there are so many great options on the market. Some, like a butler’s cart, will easily move around the room to your ideal location. Others are stationary but more fully outfitted.
Here are some quick tips to make sure your dining room will be prepped and primed for any parties you have in the future:
Consider coordinating tabletop textiles (for example, napkins and runners) with colors that appear in artwork in your room. This will make both the textiles and artwork pop and create a fully pulled together presentation. ·
Use candles and centerpieces as artwork for your tabletop. Be creative and mix and match textures and sizes. Just be sure they aren’t so tall you can’t see over them when you’re seated.
Perhaps you’re more drawn to the “non-centerpiece.” Catherine suggests “a grouping of low depression glass dessert cups with individual white blooms.”
Use mirrors! Whether you use one large mirror or a grouping, they will bounce light and create the illusion of more open space.
Chairs can move to the side for cocktail parties. Space them in gatherings of 2 to 3 so that you distribute conversation around your space. They can also be upholstered in performance fabrics that are highly durable and cleanable, for care-free entertaining.
If your dining room furniture is wood, the first thing to keep in mind is that natural wood furniture is a dynamic, natural material. Pitch pockets and stains are an inherent and beautiful part of natural wood. You should also note that if you’ll be using your wood dining table every day, you will inevitably see wear and tear over time.
If you purchase a natural hardwood table that’s made with solid construction and durability in mind, the lifespan will be much longer than that of a cheaply made table. Wood can also be restored and refinished.
If you’re just beginning your design journey and deciding what table to choose, keep in mind your lifestyle and the location of the table.
Daily and weekly maintenance
On a daily basis, there are a few habits you can pick up that will, over time, extend the longevity of your furniture.
Dust your table! It may seem like a small thing, but dust buildup can actually scratch the wood. Use a microfiber towel and gently buff. Be careful to avoid commercial silicone based dusting sprays as they can damage your furniture in the long run.
On a similar note, don’t leave crumbs and food on the table. They may seem harmless, but they can stain and/or scratch the surface.
Be cautious of watches, rings, and metal jewelry when you’re sitting at the table.
In the same vein, try not to slide plates and pots across the table.
For a deeper clean, wipe your table with a cloth and mild soap and water. Just be sure not to leave your table wet!
Use a tablecloth and, if you want to be extra cautious, a table pad. These, along with placemats and coasters, will help to prevent condensation marks, heat damage, and oil stains.
When you start to see damage in your table or the finish has come off, bring new life to your wood furniture by having it refinished.
If you have an extension table, don’t leave your leaves in the table on a long-term basis. An extended table generally has less support than when it’s not extended so you may find it bend in the middle if extended for too long.
If your table only gets used on one side, or sunlight only shines on half the table, consider flipping your table. This will ensure your table ages evenly.
The great thing about a hardwood table is that it can be refinished. You’ll also notice that over time, scratches start to mellow and blend in, especially if the whole table is used evenly. Ever notice that your grandmother’s oak table still looks beautiful after all these years? Wood, if maintained well, will age beautifully.
The first important note to consider about a glass top dining table is that if it’s scratched, there may not be much you can do about it. But don’t let that deter you from buying one if you find a style you love. Everyday scratches are usually only visible in certain light and at certain angles.
If you’re careful, your glass table may never scratch. Like wood, it has a tendency to be unpredictable in terms of what may or may not scratch it. Be cautious with jewelry and sliding plates, and use placemats as a protective layer.
To clean a glass top table, use ammonia mixed with water or a natural glass cleaner.
Keep dust off of your wood furniture with a microfiber towel, wipe it down when needed, and refinish your tabletop if it’s looking lackluster. To avoid scratches on any surface, be cautious of jewelry, condensation, and hot plates. Keeping your glass table top clean is relatively easy with a glass cleaner.
Where a traditional dining room is defined by formality and rigidity, a modern dining room is defined by flexibility. Forget about the strict rules of a traditional dining room, and leave behind the idea that everything has to be, as Gary, our Director of Sales puts it, “matchy-matchy.”
A modern dining room is also defined by practicality. Whereas combining a library and a dining room would have seemed ludicrous decades ago, people are now designing stunning multipurpose dining spaces with bookcases lining the walls.
The first thing to think about when updating a traditional dining room is light. Dining rooms can tend to have a closed-off, dark feeling. Bring light to the dining room with airy, light elements, and a lighter color scheme.
Simple changes like opting for a buffet without a hutch will make a big difference if you want to visually open up space. Change the trim on your walls to a lighter, brighter color. And if there isn’t enough natural light, bring in ambient lighting fixtures where needed.
The next step when considering a modern take on the dining room is to add texture. A traditional dining room might feature a set of cherry furniture with cabinets in the same color. A modern update would incorporate metal, glass, and different tones of wood.
Mixing in different textures and colors will add depth and dimension to your dining room. An easy way to start is to incorporate metals along with your wood accents and consider using a fun, textured fabric on your chairs.
When choosing between wood tones, if cherry doesn’t suit your fancy anymore, consider grey or ashy toned wood, and a more tonal color scheme.
If you have silver accents, consider updating them to copper or brass for a more modern look.
Finally, be creative with color! The dining room can be just as fun an environment as the living room. Gary suggests thinking outside the box and placing, for example, “a chartreuse seat on the chair with a grey rug and a navy dining set.”
You may not have the budget for an entirely new dining set. Or maybe you inherited a family heirloom and you’re not ready to part with it. There are so many ways to update your dining room without letting your beloved furniture go.
Paint your dining set! Deep jewel tones like royal blue or navy will transform older furniture.
Keep your traditional armchair, but change the fabric on the seat. Try something unexpected that contrasts the chair, like leopard or cheetah.
Update your table by adding upholstered chairs at the head of the table. Or alternately, remove chairs on one side and place a bench in their place. Mixing textures in your chairs will give your dining room a new look.
If your chandelier is too traditional for your taste, update the look by hanging 3 chandeliers at different heights.
Potentially the most fun part about updating your décor? Bringing in new pieces! Here are some elements to bring in that will quickly modernize your dining room.
If your oriental rug reads too formal, replace it or layer it for a modern look. Depending on your color scheme, you could opt for a neutral rug or a bright statement.
If a new dining table is in the cards, consider a live edge, raw and rustic table like the Fairfax Dining Table. You could also go the opposite route and opt for a sleek, modern design. For a complete guide on how to choose the perfect dining table for you, read more here.
As opposed to a high hutch that matches your dining set, invest in a buffet or bar cart and place a large mirror over top to stylize it.
As far as window treatments, Gary says, “Take off the long draperies and go cleaner with roman shades that cover just the window.” This will help open up a smaller room.
When in doubt, Gary suggests, “Buy one new piece of furniture that funks the room up.”
Another really great and simple way to keep your dining room looking fresh and modern is to set up a tablescape. Place a variety of vases down the table and combine natural and man-made elements to bring your design to the next level.