Skip to Content

How to make a dining room look bigger


The dining room can be the centre of entertaining in the home, so you want it to feel open and spacious: able to accommodate friends and family. We have some tips and tricks to make the room feel large, even if you are working with limited square feet. 

Some of these rules apply to any room in the house, and can be used to make them feel bigger, whether it’s the bathroom or bedroom. Some, however, will be dining room specific. Whether you have a designated room, a corner nook in the kitchen, or simply a blank stretch of wall, you can create a comfortable spot to share everyday meals and entertain guests. These small dining room ideas will make your space look larger, help the flow of traffic, and increase storage in a small footprint. There are ideas for everyone, from those looking to create a polished and sophisticated traditional dining room, to those looking for an open plan relaxed eating experience. For those looking to go upscale, potentially on a budget, check out our other article on 25 Tricks to Make Your Dining Room Look Expensive. Sometimes, you can reach a lovely balance between minimal and open, and also traditional and lush. Crafting all the elements to make your dining room feel as large as possible, but also warm and inviting, is really important. You want there to be touches that are personal, and create depth, but don’t crowd it or make it feel dense. Let’s look at this list of ten rules to guide you towards the dining room you desire.

1.Paint With Light Colour

Painting your room in a light color is a tried and true way to make a small room look bigger. That’s because of something called the light reflective value (LRV) of paint.

See, color never stands alone. It’s sort of relative. Light always affects the way colors appear. For example, candle light will make a color appear more yellow than regular daylight will. Even sunlight will change color as the day progresses with morning sunlight appearing more yellow than the sunlight in the middle of the day. This post has loads of easy to understand information about light and paint. Anyway, the gist is that lighter paint colors will reflect more light, making your space look brighter and therefore larger! (You can paint a small room a dark color, if that’s your preference, of course. But it will make the room feel cozier and maybe even smaller, rather than larger and more spacious.)We all know of white’s reflective qualities. It opens up a room, making it feel airy and light, calm and serene. Painting the walls and ceiling the same shade of white only enhances this cloud-like effect. And it serves to blur the boundaries between wall and celling, causing your eye to travel up, essentially making the ceiling seem higher. Finally, in small spaces that can quickly become cluttered looking, white is a good choice because it simplifies a space and emphasizes the architecture.


2. Add More Lighting

Along with a lighter paint color, adding more lighting can really help to open up a space. Whether you can actually add more natural light by way of installing more windows, or if you just have to add brighter bulbs to your existing lighting, either will help make a small room look bigger. Consider adding pot lights, a new chandelier or even led bulbs to current light fixtures for a larger-feeling space. Much like the furniture in a small dining room, when searching for a chandelier or pendant light, look for options that are not heavy or bulky. Try to find a fixture that lets natural light filter through it. Instead of a large wrought iron one with shaded lights, opt for one with glass or clean, simple lines.

Another way to add light is to take away large heavy drapes, and open up the windows to fully pour natural light into the space. Heavy drapes will also make the entire room feel more constricted, adding fabric to the walls that doesn’t nee to be there. If you do need privacy, there are some very sleek options that don’t take up space in the room, but will block the windows from passersby. However, if you don’t need privacy, I would recommend going altogether without, and letting the natural light pour in. You’ll feed two birds with one scone, opening the space up and adding light, making the room feel almost double the size!


3. Decorate with Mirrors

Mirrors are the ultimate illusion: they reflect light and images, opening up a wall to look like Akin to painting with a lighter color, decorating with mirrors is a great way to make a space look larger because mirror bounce light around a room. You can hang an entire wall of mirrors – antique framed ones are lovely grouped together – or strategically place one or two in a room. Maybe a large round one over a fireplace mantel or a full-length version leaned against a wall (attached appropriately for safety, of course). Mirrors bounce light around, adding to that light reflective value in a space, therefore making it seem larger.

They are also a wonderful way to decorate: there are so many beautiful mirrors on the market, with wooden frames, faceted glass frames, or for a more traditional look, a gold leaf frame. Remember also that because mirrors reflect light, it can be dangerous to place the mirror on the wall directly where the sunlight comes in. I once had a mirror that laser focused the sun light and reflected it against the wall, burning a small hole in the wall! In addition, it can just be overwhelming and make the room hard to use at certain times of the day. So, think about mirror placement with the way your windows are facing, and the type of light you get in the room.


4. Unify your Flooring

Even if your home is only 1350 square feet,  it can feel much more spacious by using unified flooring throughout. Our eyes are fooled into thinking the space goes on and on because the flooring was carried from room to room. In addition, it creates a sense of flow between rooms, and allows the eye to carry through them with no interruption, making them feel larger. If you’re choosing a stain colour for your flooring, opting with something on the lighter side will also open up the room and make it feel larger.

Trim is the strip of material that covers the transition between wall and ceiling, as well as between wall opening and window frame. Choosing a single color for trim and window frames, as well as entry doors, can create a subtle yet noticeable continuity. If possible, choose the same window frame and sash color. Using the same colors in every room can be boring and repetitive. You can instead flex your creative muscles and use the same hue in different ways across different rooms. One room could have an olive green as the main color, then transition to a lighter shade of green in the next room. The objective is you still get the sense of the same color palette when you move from room to room, even when the main color is used differently.


5. Take Down A Wall

Now, this is the most drastic and labour intensive of all the options, but it really does work wonders. If you’re looking for an open concept between your kitchen and dining room, taking down the wall in between will completely transform the space. You will arrive at one large room, where you can flow back and forth between the kitchen and dining room during entertaining. It doubles the size of the room, and makes it feel open and airy. In this case, however, you do need to have your dining room adjacent to the kitchen. It that’s not the case, and your kitchen is agains the living room, there is always the option to connect those two rooms as well. It really depends on how you like spend your time, and how you envision your space. An open living-dining room can be really wonderful as well, creating more of a relaxed feeling for the dining room, as opposed to a formalized dining experience. Now, you can flow between eating, lounging, playing cards, and drinking wine at the table. It opens up many options, and opens up the space. Again, the room just feels a lot bigger when there is no wall there.

I always find high ceilings make all the difference in how large a space feels. If you live in an old building, you may already have high ceilings. If your ceilings are feeling limited and low, there is a chance you can open them up. Some buildings have beautiful wooden beams running through the ceiling that have been covered with drywall, or some have for strange reasons been lowered from an original finished ceiling height. If you can, finding out the history of your home, and the potential to open up the ceiling could yield massive rewards. A high ceiling with exposed beams makes any room feel like an open airy expanse.


6. Minimize Furniture Pieces

But you could also just get rid of all the chairs and just have a bench that will pull out from under the table instead. There is another option: creating a booth area to use a dining area. One of the biggest mistakes people make in a small room is having furniture that is too big for the space. Not only does this emphasize the tight quarters, but it also hinders good flow. When selecting pieces, pay attention to scale. The goal is to have a good amount of space between the furniture and the walls to create openness. For example, an oversized chunky table and chair set and a sleek one with tapered legs offer the same amount of seating. The difference is, the latter will fit better in a small room and give the design an airier feel. Look for pieces that have trim legs and smaller frames. If you need storage, consider hanging shelves instead of a bulky cabinet that will eat up floor space.

Furniture for the small space is all about proportions. Simply put, if a piece brushes up against the boundaries of the room, either up and down or sideways, it’s too large. To create a sense of roominess, always leave a little air in between the sides of your furniture and the walls. (The one exception is a bed; a queen placed between two walls, for instance, creates a cozy sleeping cave.) Also avoid heavy, weighty pieces that eat up too much of the usable space in the room. For example, a sleek sofa or chair will give you as much sitting room as its overstuffed cousin but will take up much less of your room. If you long for a large, statement piece (a piece of art or mirror), hang it on the wall. Don’t consume valuable living space by putting it on the floor.Again, creating the illusion of more space is all about creating a sense of openness and movement. Furniture that is streamlined allows light and air to flow not just over but also under and around it, so that it appears to float in space. Again, think midcentury modern pieces, which are both low and leggy.


7. Store Items in Hidden Drawers

When choosing accessories, be selective—a small room is no place for knick-knacks. To add interest to the walls, select appropriately sized art but try to keep it to one or two walls. Wall sconces with candles will give the room warmth, and hanging them eliminates cluttered surface space. A simple centerpiece of flower steams, or a plant is all you need. Most of all, remember, a small space needs room to breathe, so keep the accessories to a minimum. In addition, if you have a hutch or a buffet, store all the items you need for the dining room in the drawers and cabinet area, so that they are hidden under one clean line of the piece of furniture. Unless you really want to display pieces, and they are pretty uniform, it’s best to opt with closed shelving to open up the dining room space.

Small spaces are all about editing. The more pieces, possessions, and patterns you have in a room, the more cluttered it will feel. Avoid too many knickknacks or at least group them so they read as an installation. Ditto with art; concentrate your framed pieces on one or two walls. Avoid busy patterns and overwhelming colors. Or, if you absolutely must have that William Morris–esque wallpaper, consider placing it on one accent wall. Same with color, try painting just one wall or a door and stick to a single shade. Now is not the time to embrace the whole spectrum.


8. Use A Round Dining Room Table

Square or rectangular tables can take up a lot of space and this might be making things uncomfortable. It’s probably not easy to move around, especially if you have guests over.  Square tables also just take up more space for the amount of people they can seat. A round or oval table can potentially seat the same amount of people, but take up much less space, as you can seat people all the way around the curves, while the corners of the square table are unusable. If your dining room is in a small area like a corner or at the end of a room, you could try switching out the table for a circular table. This will give more room to walk but it removes those bulky edges. These types of tables (circular tables) work incredibly well in small spaces and this can make your dining room appear bigger. There is always also the option of an oval table. This fulfills the same need if you have a long rectangular room. You will be able to flow nicely around the table because of the rounded edges, but it will also fit beautifully to scale with the room.


9. Employ Built in Shelving

Built in shelving, especially if it is white, or the same colour of the wall, can really create a beautiful way to store items while allowing the storage unit itself to blend into the wall. It take the eye away from the serration of a bulky piece of furniture, and allows it to flow around the room. You can store books, plates, or art in these shelves, and they can be open or closed. I personally love an open built in shelving unit: my parents had one in the dining room of the house that I grew up in, and it created such a warm yet open atmosphere. They housed a colourful array of cookbooks, and yet blended nicely into the all, making the dining room feel large. Built in shelving is something you want to get custom done for your home, to fit perfectly. So, it can be a little more expensive. You can, however, opt for cheaper materials, making the project less of a burden on your pocket.


10. Keep the Rug Simple

Rugs for under the table should be simple. Stay away from loud, fussy patterns or heavy colors. Instead, select tone-on-tone or soft neutrals that closely match the color of the flooring. This will anchor the dining area without weighing down the design. One option is to do away with the rug entirely: while they can make the room feel cozy, rugs are not great for opening up a space and making it feel large. A minimal light coloured wool rug with small knots can be great, keeping the room cozy, but not focusing the eye too much on the ground. Some. however, are staunch believers in using traditional rugs in the dinging room. If this is you, fret not: there is a way to still use the rug to your advantage. With a traditional Persian rug, rich and full of colours and patterns, it can be offset with light colours throughout the room. It can create a beautiful focal point in the dining room, and if you accentuate a wall with a bright colourful painting, it can create balance without drawing all eyes to the floor.


In the end, minimizing is a great way to make any space feel larger and more open. If you’re looking for inspiration for minimalist dining rooms, check out our article on 10 Minimalist Dining Room Ideas. The dining room should facilitate sharing beautiful times with family and friends, laughing and sharing good food around the table, without feeling cramped. Even if you do have a small space, there are ways to welcome people in with a spacious and airy feeling. I hope these tips help you create the dining room that is right for you, and make your next dinner party feel elevated and special! And finally, if you happen to be living in an apartment, maybe your space is really different, so you need some unique ideas: here is an article on 48 Apartment Dining Room Ideas from our website to get the ball rolling.