Interior Design

Dining room ideas for apartments – 11 beautiful ways to style a small space

The experts reveal a host of clever tips to creating a functional yet stylish dining room for apartment living

dining room ideas for apartments
(Image credit: Future / Davide Lovatti)

There are a host of dining room ideas for apartments that can maximize space without compromising on aesthetics.

'When styling a smaller dining room in an apartment, it’s important to strike the balance between function and form,' states Sue Jones, OKA Co-Founder and Creative Director.

And Wayfair’s Resident Style Advisor, Nadia McCowan Hill, agrees: 'It’s essential to create a space that is easily adaptable, somewhere you can play host, dine alone or even spend time focused on hobbies and mindful pursuits such as crafts or reading – all while looking chic.' 

Dining room ideas for apartments

From utilizing large mirrors to bounce light around the room to installing practical but pretty banquette seating, there are so many dining rooms ideas you can use for small spaces.

'Designing a dining room in an apartment can be challenging, especially if you are limited on space,' says Louise Wicksteed, Design Director at Sims Hilditch. 'If you are working with a smaller space, we suggest choosing a room with lots of natural light, this helps to open the room up and sets an inviting and social mood.'

1. Make the table a stand-out piece

dining room in an apartment with live edge table and plants by Albion Nord

(Image credit: Albion Nord)

Bring a whole new meaning to table talk, and make the table itself the star of the show in a small dining room. After all, it's the piece you gather around to while the away the hours making memories with loved ones.

'Of course, the most important piece in a dining room is the dining table itself and so the key is to make this a stand-out feature in the room,' says Camilla Clarke, Creative Director at Albion Nord. 'In our recent project in Holland Park (above), we have used strong sculptural shapes and natural materials to add tactility and interest. 

'Oversized live edge timber tables are especially effective if you want to create a showstopper piece or put focus on your dining table decor.'

2. Opt for a round or oval table

A dining room color idea with emerald green walls, rattan framed mirror, wooden chairs and table in a modern design and natural weave rug

(Image credit: Polly Wreford)

Apartment ideas for living can sometimes be shorter on space, so a round or oval table is a practical choice. As well as being sociable – you can always squeeze one more in – it's a more compact and versatile shape.

'For a sociable set up, consider a round table; they are great if you’re limited on space,' suggests Sue Jones, OKA Co-Founder and Creative Director. 'Finish the look with a selection of velvet cushioned chairs – the comfiest accompaniments to leisurely evenings with friends.'

And Elliot Barratt, of Elliot James Interiors, concurs: 'Oval dining tables are great for apartments where space is often at a premium as it removes any corners and allows for easy access around the dining space.'

3. Keep your color scheme curated

open plan modern kitchen dining room by Violet & George

(Image credit: Violet & George)

'The dining area is often linked to another room or between two rooms so it is important that the decor and furniture choices link the spaces together,' advises Cherie Lee, of Cherie Lee Interiors

Louise Wicksteed, design director at Sims Hilditch, emphasizes the point, adding: 'If your dining room is attached to the kitchen in an open plan design, then keeping a similar color scheme helps to create flow between the two.'

This beautifully designed room by Violet & George (above) shows how keeping a similar scheme throughout can open up the space and create a cohesive look. We love how the matte black table and pendant ties in with the dark kitchen island and door framing; even the artwork is in keeping with the sleek look.

4. Choose stylish yet space-saving banquette seating

kitchen banquette seating

(Image credit: Simon Brown )

A built-in bespoke banquette seating area can often be added to a kitchen and is a great space-saving dining room idea for an apartment. As well as being sociable and practical, you can also use it to add color and pattern to the room with beautiful fabrics and cushions.

And if you don't want to go fully bespoke, you can always make the most of bench seating by positioning it flush to the wall to save space.

Interior designer Raili Clasen suggests: 'For apartment style dining, installing a small bench up against a wall is a great look and space-saver. Add a cool treatment such as wood siding or wallpaper to the wall and the small space becomes a visual moment.'

5. Don't be afraid to add ornate details

grand dining room for apartment ideas arty walls and velvet chairs

(Image credit: Violet & George)

You don't have to live in a sprawling country manor to enjoy a dash of grandiose detailing. Use ornate dining room wall ideas to dress up the space.

The space designed by Violet & George above is a lesson in how to dress a dining table. Plus, it shows how you can create a grand aesthetic with brass wall lights, rococco mirrors, vintage art and a pretty ceiling pendant. Velvet chairs add a sumptuous finish as well as a splash of color.

Nicky Mudie, of Violet & George, says: 'The key thing is that the dining room is likely to be in the centre of the living space as there often isn’t a separate room, so it needs to look fantastic and not only be a functional dining table but also a good looking central hub for hanging out and playing games. 

'You need to be able to dress it beautifully to elevate it for special events – and make it functional the rest of the time while ensuring it looks good in the centre of the living space.' All it takes is a few good dining table styling tricks to nail the aesthetic.

6. Play with print and color

colourful printed seat banquette dining room for apartment ideas by Studio Duggan

(Image credit: Studio Duggan)

Breathe life into an apartment dining room by adding colorful printed fabrics to the seating. This works particularly well on bench and banquette seating, and helps to create mood-boosting visual interest, especially in a modern dining room, as shown in the space by Studio Duggan above.

7. Put an emphasis on comfort with oversized chairs and sofas

sofa banquette seating dining room by Violet & George

(Image credit: Violet & George)

Substitute a bench for a small sofa to make your dining room ultra-inviting, or use large, squishy chairs in place of traditional choices. 

Large, armed, comfortable dining chairs help to create a statement in any space, and they give the impression of a larger space in a kitchen diner or open plan scheme. What's more, they can also double up as additional living room seating when required.

8. Make the most of multi-functional furniture

modern dining room with plants and drinks cabinet by Cherie Lee

(Image credit: Cherie Lee Interiors)

Ensure your dining room works as hard as possible by utilizing clever furniture. 

'Multi-functional furniture is a must have for making clever use of the space,' says Wayfair’s Resident Style Advisor, Nadia McCowan Hill. 'Opt for extendable tables, sideboards and shelving units , perfect for storing extra cutlery and dinnerware for last minute soirees when you are feeling extra sociable.

'A stylish serving trolley or drinks cabinet decked out with refreshing tipples, twinkling candles and draped greenery makes a showstopping addition to any apartment dining area, ideal for cozy nights in.'

9. Use lighting to create defined zones

modern white dining room and round dining table in apartment by Kitesgrove

(Image credit: Kitesgrove)

Dining rooms in apartments are often part of an open-plan space, so using lighting to help define your separate spaces is a handy design trick.

'Pendant lighting or chandeliers over the table give the dining area a focal point, help to zone it off, and also give it a more intimate feel,' says Elliot Barratt.

This stylish room by Kitesgrove (above) perfectly highlights how a statement pendant  not only adds chic flair to the space but also fully defines the 'dining' zone.

Below, K&H Design used lighting to great effect in a London apartment. Katie Glaister and Henry Miller-Robinson, Co-Founders of K&H Design, explained: 'In this New York loft-style apartment in Knightsbridge, we created a sophisticated dining area by zoning the space with an elegant Lambert & Fils Dot Line Suspension pendant in brushed brass, by day it disappears into the background and by night it creates moody and atmospheric lighting to dine by.'

modern apartment dining room by K&H Design

(Image credit: K&H Design)

10. Utilize large mirrors to give the illusion of space

grand dining room with large mirror in townhouse by Sims Hilditch

(Image credit: Sims Hilditch)

Oversized mirrors will help to bounce light around a room, helping to give the illusion of space and make it feel bigger.

If you're feeling daring, take a tip from the designers at Sims Hilditch and create a whole mirrored feature wall for a dramatic style statement that really opens up the space.

11. Embrace bar-height dining

Kitchen with island seating and bar stools

(Image credit: Brent Darby / Future)

Is your apartment particularly space-starved? Don't panic, you can create a 'dining room' in your kitchen with a kitchen island or breakfast bar. 

'Bar height dining is perfect for an apartment,' says Cox & Cox Product and Creative Director Dani Taylor. 'It can be used for dining, or indeed as a bar if you're entertaining. Perfectly compact for a smaller space, stools can be tucked under out of the way.'

Or choose statement, comfortable bar stools if you have the room; try adding a printed, colorful fabric, or sumptuous velvet for an elevated finish.

How can I decorate my dining room apartment?

Dining room ideas for apartments may be short of space but can still make a stylish impact in your home. A carefully designed studio apartment that incorporates plenty of bespoke and multifunctional furniture that is tailored to the space can achieve a sense of comfort and convenience that belies even the smallest dining room.

Select a dining table and chairs that are in proportion to the size of your room – oversized cabinets, banquettes and armchairs can make a small room feel narrow, so instead look out for benches and foldable seating. Furniture that is the same color as your walls tends to blend into the wall, making it look wider, and make sure you hang mirrors on your dining room walls to create the illusion of space in the room.

Ruth Doherty

Ruth Doherty is an interiors writer who has worked for Homes & Gardens and Ideal Home magazines among many others.