My mom is always asking me “How do I make this room look better?” and I get it. It’s hard! This is why blogs and websites like ours exist. The sinister truth is you can have the best taste in the world but that doesn’t mean it will result in a well styled home.
Every home is different and every person brings in their own style and personality but there are some guidelines you can follow to make the design process easier. After studying many dining rooms in preparation for my newest project (more on that down below) I noticed some simple but effective Do’s and Don’ts that absolutely make a dining room look better. I am at my core a giver, so I am gonna share those tips before we get to my real life project. Sound fair?? Alright, let’s talk dining rooms.
Don’t Overcrowd with Too Many Chairs
A dining room can feel cluttered or visually heavy if you try to squeeze in too many chairs. No one wants to be bumping elbows at dinner and too many chairs will actually make the room feel too bottom heavy.
Here is a seat guideline for rectangle tables:
- 48″long table: seats 4
- 60″-72″ table: seats 6
- 80″-87″ table: seats 8
- 92″-108″ table: seats 10
- 120″ table: seats 12
And for round tables:
- 42″-48″ diameter table seats 4
- 60″ diameter table seats 6-8
DO HANG ART
We don’t talk about hanging art in the dining room enough. Displaying art in every room instantly adds charm and brings life to your walls. As a general rule of thumb, the art, whether it’s one piece or a gallery wall, should be at least 2/3rds the size of the side of the table it’s on but typically not any larger than the table.
DON’T HAVE A TOO SMALL RUG
Are you team rug in the dining room? I know this is a hot debate so let me know down below. If you do opt for a rug in the dining room it is absolutely imperative you go big. All go your chairs should be completely on the rug so you can easily scoot your chair in and out. The goal is to allow at least 36″ from the edge of your table to the edge of the rug. The average dining table will need a rug that’s at least 8′ wide. This let’s gives you room to pull out your chairs without falling off the rug.
Don’t Hang Your Light Fixture Too Low
The bottom of your light fixture should be at least 30″-36″ above the table. This way no one’s vision is blocked and everyone can see each other plus there is less risk of bumping your head.
Do Center Your Light Fixture Over The Table (Not in the center of the room)
A dining room will easily look off if your light fixture is centered in the room rather than centered over the table. Think of your dining table as the stage and your light fixture as the spotlight.
If you are opting for a chandelier it should be about half the width of your dining table. You can also add the room’s length and width in feet and that number in inches suggests an approximate size for the diameter of your chandelier. So, if you have a 10′ x 12′ room your chandelier should be about 22″ in diameter.
Also, scale is everything. Having the right scale light above your table will help the entire space to feel more pulled together. Unless your fixture is a more abstract or sculptural piece – stick with something that is to scale with the size of the table, otherwise, your room could feel overpowered by the fixture. Now I know what you are thinking. But what if the junction box is not in the right place?? If you do have a junction box that is off-centered to where your dining table is the easiest trick is to swag the chandelier over. If that isn’t your vibe you can of course have the junction box moved so that the light falls directly over the table.
Do Vary The Heights of The Furniture In The Room
If you have room for more than a dining table and chairs, it is important to vary the heights of any additional furniture. Your console table or credenza should be at least higher than your table so your eye can easily take in everything in the room.
Do Style Your Dining Table
This is 100% optional but opting for an everyday centerpiece or some vases will make your dining room feel more styled and personal. In my home we always have a large footed bowl filled with lemons and garlic plus two candlesticks and it really does make a difference.
As far as tablecloths go, an EHD personal rule is to never have a tablecloth on a table unless the table is set. Instead, use a table runner for everyday casual use.
So now that some guidelines are in place, allow me to introduce you to the project.
The Real Life Project: Refurnish and Redecorate My Parent’s Walk Through Dining Room
Ever since I started working at EHD my mom has been asking me to help her redecorate her home. I’ve always wanted to of course, but I didn’t know much when I first started working here and then by the time I sort of knew what I was doing, it was time for me to work on my own MOTO (makeover takeover). But now that my project is finished, I am so ready and excited to use my knowledge to help my parents get the home they deserve.
I’m going to get personal for a minute because I think you should know why this project is so important. On August 8th 2021 my brother Mac passed way unexpectedly. He was 29 years old, a Sergeant in the Army, a Sapper, a husband, father to his now 11 month old baby girl, son, brother, and so much more. He was and always will be our hero and the pain of losing him is at times unbearable for all of us. It’s been a hard year for the Millers. We’ve been to far too many funerals this year and I desperately want to do something for my parents that will hopefully bring them joy everyday. So as a part of my Christmas present to them, I am helping them redecorate and refresh their entire house starting with the dining area. It’ll be a gift that keeps on giving as this will not be finished by Christmas this year but will be an ongoing project for my parents and I to work on together and hopefully a way for us to heal as a family.
The Style Diagnostic: Modern Farmhouse With A Hint of California Casual
I remember my mom telling me she figured out her style is “modern farmhouse” and I was so proud. I think a lot of people (myself included) are attracted to many different styles but one great thing about both my parents is they know what they want. Cheryl (my mom) has been thinking about this redesign for many years and I think that helped her really nail down the aesthetic she wants to go for. Now that we are officially in the mood board/shopping phase I periodically send her photos and furniture to see what she’s really in to, so I’ve narrowed their style down even more to “Modern farmhouse with a hint of California casual”. I am drawing a lot of inspo from Studio Mcgee, Lauren Liess, and Emily Henderson (of course) and this part is VERY FUN. I love putting mood boards together, showing my parents, and watching them get just as excited as I am.
I look at theses photos and feel so much serotonin rush in my brain but eventually I have to return to reality. We aren’t working with an unlimited budget. We aren’t going to renovate (for now) so the space won’t look like these million dollar homes. But that’s not the point of this project anyway. The point is to make the space beautiful, to give something back to my incredibly deserving parents, and work on this project together. SO, here is the space:
At first glance, I think you will agree that this room is too dark and has the same overall color palette as The Cheesecake Factory. You can’t blame my parents, though. The last time they got new furniture and decorated was the early 2000s. And the early 2000s were a rough time.
My dad, a retired fireman and general contractor, built that barn door and this really got the design plan going. Now we just need to compliment it with some neutral furniture and decor and we are in business.
Since this is a walk through dining room the kitchen will be in view no matter what. It is unfortunate that we can only focus on one room at a time therefore this project won’t come out picture perfect but hey, that’s life right? It’s far from perfect.
On the other side we have the living room that will be my next challenge. It’s going to be hard for my ADHD brain to focus on one area at a time but I know it’ll be worth it if I stick to the dining area for now.
The design plan:
Get new dining table and chairs
Obviously we need new dining table and chairs. My parents want a rustic, wooden farmhouse table and we think black spindle back chairs paired with a thick farmhouse table will bring in the modern element. I definitely want the dining table and chairs to have different finishes so it doesn’t look too cookie cutter or predictable.
Lighting is so important and as I noted above, this room is really too dark. My parents want an industrial style chandelier which I think will work great with their style plus it’ll complement the industrial vibe of the barn door.
add a rug (maybe)
I want to add a rug in here because the tile is dated and I think it would be a great way to bring in some color as well. The problem is this space gets a lot of foot traffic so my dad is not a fan of the idea of cleaning a rug all the time. I believe a rug would help elevate the space and make it feel more finished but I understand his reservations. Is it too weird/impractical to get a rug but only pull it out on special occasions or when guests are over? I’ll let you guys vote on that down below!
That cabinet is not terrible but it could be better. I’ve been eyeing this glass display cabinet and think it will be great for storage plus the black finish will complement the other black elements I want to bring in here.
There isn’t a ton of wall space here but I want one fairly large piece of art to put over the cabinet. I am thinking a vintage seascape would be wonderful to bring in some color and a California casual element.
display family photos and my brother mac’s achievements
I know my parents will want some family photos and I think framed black and white photos can look really tasteful if done right. The more difficult challenge will be displaying the army memorabilia as red white blue is not necessarily a part of the desired color palette. If we do use the glass cabinet I mentioned, we can perhaps display them in there but I am still unsure of the execution but that is a problem for future Ryann. Suggestions welcome!
The “Rough” Design:
Again, this isn’t a renovation project due to budget (this project will be fully funded by my parents and I) so I did my best to create a design mock-up that resembles the elements that we won’t be replacing for now (i.e. the tile, back doors, kitchen cabinets, and countertops). It’s definitely possible that my dad will do a kitchen reno in the future but as we all know that costs money and a lot of it. That is why right now this project is a more of a refresh than a makeover which is probably a good thing since a full kitchen reno is in no way my expertise.
So what do ya think?? Any tips? Comments, questions, or concerns? Let me know in the comments. xx
**Some commenters asked if they could donate to help fund this project. We are overwhelmed with appreciation at the thought! If you’d also like to you can do so here. Your generous donations will go to funding the project and any remaining funds will go directly to Mac’s wife and sweet baby girl.