Apartment dining room ideas don’t necessarily mean small spaces. Some of us might have dedicated dining rooms with large tables that fit plenty of guests while some of us might only have enough space to squeeze in a tiny table into the corner of the living room or kitchen. Whatever size your apartment is, there’s always an opportunity to create a wonderful dining spot to enjoy a solo morning pastry or a candlelit dinner with your best friends.
Now’s the perfect time of year for some spring cleaning, rejigging and re-decorating, but decorating an apartment takes time and consideration and sometimes it works best to take it room by room. Creating a dining space could be a great place to start if, like many of us, you’re bored of the last couple of years of isolation and you’re ready to make your home a lot more sociable!
From zoning and creating focal points to creating the right ambiance, the world’s best designers give us their insider tips and tricks on getting your apartment dining space right. Read on to discover 10 stylish dining room ideas that might work in your space.
10 of the best apartment dining room ideas from designers
1. Set the mood and create a talking point
When designing a space for apartment dining, whatever the size, from luxury dining room ideas to something more modest, before anything else is considered you should first decide on two things: the mood and the amount of time seated around the table.
‘Mood is unique to each person, so ask yourself if you prefer a dining atmosphere that’s dark and intimate, bright and rambunctious, or quiet and calm? To find what mood speaks to you, try writing down how you imagine your dream space would feel,’ suggests Ben Leavitt, creative director at PlaidFox. ‘I like to find a single item in my mind that evokes that mood and then use that as an initial building block that I can build the dining area around. For me, it’s often the chair; the chairs control the mood of the room.’
‘Functionality and aesthetics need to be equally considered, but how do you make the dining table a conversation piece? Include one item that is completely outside of your comfort zone. Whether it’s a light fixture (something asymmetrical, larger than you expect, or a more traditional style of light fixture in a modern room to create a juxtaposition) a piece of art, or a vintage life-size panther – the room needs something that catches the attention of all those who enter. Give guests something fun to talk about.’
2. Embrace color and pattern
Siblings Suzie & David Lucas of Lucas interiors studio designed this informal dining space to function mostly for wine (& tequila) tasting. The Lucases carefully chose pops of color and interesting materials and patterns, including several custom tiles from Mexico and Morocco, to bring life and vibrancy to this space. A circular table and rug help define and zone the space as a dining area, with a home bar idea nestled next to it.
Fresh, inviting and unexpected, the interiors are filled with durable textures and bespoke furnishings. ‘The homeowners wanted this home to explore color, pattern and the art of the mismatched,’ explains David. ‘We chose several custom furniture [pieces] and modern, bold finishes to complement the contemporary artworks from our clients’ diverse collection,’ adds Suzie.
The play with texture, color and scale enhances every painting and photograph within the home without competing in an atmosphere that is distinct and eye-catching yet not overwhelming.
3. Make it warm and inviting
This loft, complete with modern dining room, located in the SoHo area of NYC is soothing and serene and has a timeless appeal that exemplifies iconic New York loft living. ‘I wanted to create a home that had a peaceful and calming aura – something that’s an inviting escape steps from SoHo, and a perfect place for guests can gather or relax,’ says Justin Charette, founder of Justin Charette Design.
‘I was challenged to create a bachelor pad that was cool in tone, while still remaining warm and inviting,’ the designer says. ‘The client wanted the overall vibe to be a zen escape from the fast pace of NYC, while complementing the colors from nearby buildings. The biggest challenge for a loft generally is keeping the space open and airy while introducing properly scaled furniture and artwork, that maximizes utility but also emphasizes the volume and vastness of the space.’
‘The home was designed to balance luxury with easy maintenance. I used a variety of light-colored leathers and neutral rugs with soothing patterns and textures to create different zones in the loft,’ he adds. ‘Color-wise I wanted to keep the space airy and light. To add warmth I incorporated wood tones that complement the original wood beams/columns scattered throughout the home. Hints of chrome and glass add a reflective quality.’
4. Create a focal point
The exposed brick, wooden beams, high ceilings, large old windows and open layout of this Pearl District loft, are reminiscent of the building’s past. Built in 1910, the structure used to be a warehouse before being transformed into apartments. The best spot for a dining space in this apartment was in the middle of the kitchen, instead of a kitchen island. The absence of upper cabinets makes the kitchen and the big and comfortable dining table idea with offset legs is the key piece of the dining area.
The soft neutral palette is based on the Benjamin Moore Balboa Mist tone that pairs perfectly with the concrete flooring, pale grey tiles, warm white oak furniture and pastel-colored textiles. Several decorative elements are pink for a feminine touch.
‘We wanted to create a home that hugs you in all the right places without feeling restrictive — a place to curl up and daydream one day and host an animated book club gathering the next,’ says Mira Eng-Goetz, Interior Designer at Jessica Helgerson Interior Design. ‘To achieve this, we designed spaces that facilitate a lot of different ways of living. The rainy day nook is perfect for alone time while the kitchen dining table is large but casual, which is great for dinner parties and for that single bowl of oatmeal in the morning.’
‘When we first met the homeowner, we discovered with delight that she collects mobiles and it seemed only natural that we would find a new mobile for her collection’ Mira adds. ‘As soon as I came across this mobile by GamFratesi, I knew it was perfect for the space with its soft colors and upholstered fins. When you’re seated at the dining table, the mobile moves very slowly above and it has a wonderful presence— both calming and playful.’
5. Mix old and new
Mixing vintage with modern pieces is one of the biggest interior design trends and one that works particularly well in dining spaces, whether that’s mixing different era chairs, finding a chunky table that contrasts against a sleek kitchen or combining an old family heirloom with a modern statement light. If your apartment dining room is part of a bigger space, then mixing old and new helps blur the boundaries of the space too.
Floor-to-ceiling hand-finished maple bookshelves with a writing desk and lower cabinets flank the central corridor that leads to the dining room. ‘Rather than creating an open floor plan, a single monolithic millwork ‘block’ creates distinct zones,’ explain Nicko Elliott and Ksenia Kagner, architects and founders of building and interior design studio Civilian. In the kitchen dining space, a steel island features an Arabescatto marble countertop and hand-finished maple millwork including storage, a writing desk, a wet bar shelf and built-in fridge.
‘The home incorporates a playful and eclectic mix of vintage and contemporary design very much in line with our design’s studio desire to convey both elegance and a sense of levity across every project,’ Nicko and Ksenia express. ‘The theme for the dining room is John le Carré’s era in West Berlin.’
6. Zone the dining space with wallpaper
Zoning a room with wallpaper is a great way to help separate one space from another despite being in the same room. In apartments this is especially important to try and create a sense of distinct, separate areas.
‘The tricky part was getting more light into quite a tall, narrow building,’ explains Jennifer Mowery Marsh, architect and co-founder of Mowery Marsh Architects. Floor-to-ceiling glass was chosen in the dining space to help bring sunshine deep into the space and light floods down into the center. Once the architectural elements were complete, interior designer Elaine Santos came on board.
‘They’re a young family didn’t want anything to feel too precious,’ adds Elaine. ‘So we used high-performance fabrics and integrated natural materials wherever we could via woven rugs and fun wallpapers. The Cole & Son wallpaper in the dining room was a way to symbolically bring the outdoors in and give a little depth and dimension to a space that would otherwise feel very narrow,’ Elaine Santos says.
‘I was really influenced by the juxtaposition of pieces; a very traditional wallpaper with contemporary furniture, because that’s what the architecture was doing; it’s a traditional home with modern clean lines,’ adds Elaine Santos. ‘I bounced off of that.’
7. Go for perfectly fitting bespoke dining furniture
Japandi-style trend minimalism meets a Central American-influenced color palette in this update of a home in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights with its cute dining space just off the living area and besides the kitchen. Nathan Cuttle, founder of interior design practice, Studio Nato, revamped the house for a young professional couple the brief here was to, ‘open up the spaces and maximize light’ to create a relaxed and welcoming home.
‘We’re really looking to design for living,’ says Nathan, ‘creating warm, inviting spaces that bring people together. Most of our clients have dogs, cats or little kids, so they want nice comfortable homes. But I always tell them: live in the house, really embrace it, invite people over and enjoy it. A home should be where we build memories, especially for young families. And you can’t be too precious.’
One of Studio Nato’s signatures is to design a piece of bespoke furniture for each project and here it was the dining bench – made from white oak and leather, the banquette is generously long so the owners can extend the table when guests are over. ‘It’s very comfortable, I imagine people fighting over who gets to sit in it when they have a dinner party. It’s so relaxing, you could stay there for hours.’
The couple clearly agrees – despite converting two of the bedrooms into offices to accommodate pandemic WFH, Nathan says more often than not one of them gravitates to this spot: ‘I’ve noticed they often have the laptop at the dining table. The space has good light, the proximity to the kitchen is really nice and the dogs are always running around.’
‘I love the dining room,’ he adds. ‘It’s where families gather. It’s where I spend most of the time with my family and my extended family. It’s where we converse, it’s over food, it’s a beautiful place…
8. Get the lighting right
Finding the perfect illumination (natural and artificial) and statement lighting for any room, let alone a dining area is incredibly important as it’s what sets the mood and turns a space into somewhere to feel energized or to relax and unwind. ‘Every single light fixture in the home was carefully chosen,’ says Arianna De Gasperis, interior designer and founder, And Studio. ‘I look at them as little sculptures that sprinkle the home with light.’
The vision here was to preserve and amplify the space’s character while layering in modern functionality, depth and warmth,’ the interior designer says. To do so, she started to elevate many of the home’s original details, including the oak herringbone flooring, crown molding, stained glass windows and wooden staircase while the walls — finished with textured diamond plaster — were created in collaboration with Jersey Ice Cream Co.
‘The dining room is moody. It has the perfect dimmed lighting and dark walnut furniture to set the mood for an intimate dinner party.’
9. Work with an open layout
In New York City, architecture studio Worrell Yeung and interior designer, creative director and founder Jean Lin of Colony joined forces to highlight the beauty of a historic loft. It took 12 months and a gut renovation to make the most of this loft where the perimeter walls and existing columns were the only elements that stayed. The dining table stands proud in the middle of the living space, taking center stage. ‘The dining room gives a feeling of airiness and grandness,’ says Jejon Yeung, co-founder of Worrell Yeung.
‘Like all of our work, we [were] interested in using classic, natural materials [such as white oak, marble, brass metal and plaster] throughout, but detailing and articulating a decidedly new and unexpected fashion.’
‘Worrell Yeung designed an open, airy and ultimately monumental space, which we juxtaposed with furnishings and interiors that lend themselves to the smaller signatures of home,’ says Jean Lin. ‘We worked to create layers of texture, color and comfort, while embracing the open nature of this loft style apartment.’
10. Add visual interest
Adding visual interest to your dining room décor is about creating a perfect finishing touch, whether that’s through beautiful crockery, fresh flowers or statement objet.
‘A smartly placed piece of decorative table décor to add visual interest and break up the plane of the table. If it’s a minimal table, maybe add two staggered bowls with one slightly taller than the other, or stagger two differently sized vases with florals. You want to create visual depth and interest on the dining table, and you achieve that with multiple heights, textures and colors,’ explains Ben Leavitt, creative director at PlaidFox Studio.
How do I build a dining room in a small apartment?
If your apartment is particularly small, fear not – a beautiful dining space can still be achieved. Build in a bespoke bench in the kitchen to create a mini dining nook, or a bespoke table that’s either standalone or a continuation of your kitchen worktops. Be constantly on the hunt for small furniture (and remember, the dining table doesn’t have to specifically be a dining table) and consider sharing your desk space with your dining space.
To make even a small dining room idea feel special, buy gorgeous crockery. ‘The biggest mistake in a dining room is not having dishes that fit with the masterful vibe you have created. A beautiful table with ugly plates is almost like wearing a wedding dress with muddy boots. It may seem like a small thing, but it’s the last 10% that can make or break the design,’ says Ben Leavitt , Creative Director, PlaidFox Studio.
Can I use my living room as a dining room?
Many people have their dining spaces within their living rooms, whether that’s through choice or lack of it and it can work really well. According to Ben Leavitt, it’s about picking chairs wisely, whether that’s an upholstered design or more of an accent chair.
‘If you’re like me, and the dining table is where it all happens, then comfort is a key component to keeping guests happy and supported. If you want a chair that is both elegant and comfortable, try opting for something with a tapered or rounded back vs. the slab back, then it’s providing back support in a way that’s still interesting,’ he says.
You might want to zone the dining space so it feels totally separate to your living area or maybe you want to make the whole space feel united and in harmony. ‘To pull it all together you need a fabric to add warmth, color and texture (in the soft furnishings, the rug, or the chairs),’ explains Ben Leavitt.