Dining room alternatives – 6 creative ideas for homes of all styles and sizes

Whether you're looking to refresh an existing dining room, or are wanting to create a new, multifunctional dining area in smaller space, there are plenty of dining room alternatives to explore

Dining room alternatives, open-plan kitchen diner, green dining nook, open-plan dining living room
(Image credit: Bianca Ecklund | Kit Kemp | Nicola O’Mara/Matthew Heritage)

Formal dining rooms will always have a place in interior design, but the way in which we use our homes is always ever-changing, and there are many dining room alternatives that can feel more in sync with our style and space.

A dining room is an area where we gather with friends and family to enjoy meals, and even though these separate rooms are great for entertaining, there are many other spaces in the home that can be just as good, if not better, to dine in. 

From incorporating a central dining space in your kitchen, to making the most of an open-plan living room, these dining room alternatives can help you to create more open, multifunctional, and unique dining areas in the home.

6 innovative alternatives to a dining room

'Think outside the room when it comes to dining spaces in your home. Forget about strict room labels and design each space based on how you live. Just because a room is deemed a room by tradition alone, that does not mean it matches with today's way of living. Take advantage of special features like floor-to-ceiling windows and letting your lifestyle guide the way for personalized dining experiences throughout your home. Re-think each space as to how you live in it and design it as so,' says interior designer, Kimberly Armstrong.

Kimberly Armstrong
Kimberly Armstrong

Kimberly Armstrong. is a Nashville-based interior designer and founder of Kimberly Armstrong Interior Design. Kimberly's design journey began with her education in interior design school, sparking a passion for creating beautiful and functional spaces.

1. Kitchens

White Island as part of open plan kitchen and dining space

(Image credit: Bianca Ecklund)

One of the most common dining room alternatives and modern kitchen ideas is to include a dining area in a kitchen. 

'Kitchens make wonderful multi-functional areas for eating meals. With open floor plans now standard in newer homes, it's easy to continue conversations between cooks and diners. We often design kitchen islands with seating on at least two sides to comfortably accommodate 4-6 people. Additional stools tucked under the island can also provide even more kitchen island seating and more casual spots for dining and relaxing,' says interior designer Keely Smith from JD Elite Interiors.

For many of us, the kitchen is the heart of the home, and if space allows, creating areas to dine, whether that's with a formal dining table positioned by a large window, or more relaxed kitchen seating ideas around an island or breakfast bar, can help to make this highly functional area of the home feel more relaxed and welcoming.

Keely Smith / JD Interiors
Keely Smith

Keely Smith is a designer and artist living in North Vancouver, BC. She has over 10 years experience working with design studios, private companies and as a freelance designer.

2. Living rooms

dining room with wooden furniture

(Image credit: Nicola O’Mara/Matthew Heritage)

Architect and designer, Havard Cooper says, 'A living room can be much more than just a space for sofas and TVs. A chic little dining setup in the corner or a statement table set center stage transforms it into a dual-purpose area that's as stylish as it is practical.'

Keely Smith also adds, 'Living rooms create relaxed, family-style spaces to eat together while still being part of the main gathering area. For a more informal eating area without a table, large sectional sofas or customized built-ins allow comfortable seating for meals in front of the TV or by a cozy fireplace.'

Incorporating a dining space in your living room is ideal if you're looking to zone a larger, open-plan space, and is great for creating one big entertaining area in the home where people can relax and be seated in various set-ups.

In this open-plan living space, designed by Nicola O'Mara, the living room seating faces away from the dining space, arranged around the TV and modern fireplace, helping to zone and create a sense of separation between the two areas.

Havard Cooper
Havard Cooper

Havard Cooper is a designer and architect based in New York. He graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, and a Master of Architecture from the Savannah College of Art & Design.

3. Sunrooms

conservatory with green painted window frames and dining table

(Image credit: Jeremy Phillips)

Sunroom ideas and alternative dining room ideas will always go hand in hand. Placing a dining table in a sunroom can create a wonderful, indoor-outdoor feel throughout the year (just like outdoor dining ideas), and is a great way to make use of this inviting, light-filled space.

These glazed extensions can create a relaxed, transitional space between the home and garden, and allow for you to appreciate and be surrounded by the beauty of nature when you dine – what's not to love?

4. Bay windows and nooks

Green dining nook with bench seating, wooden table, chairs, artwork on wall

(Image credit: Kit Kemp)

Small dining room ideas can be created in all manner of nooks and alcoves – it's all about thinking outside of the box and making the most of the unique architectural details in your space.

'Small areas are fun to style because they allow you to create extra space. It’s those little in-between spots that can – if you’re clever – work harder and become places you want to stay in,' says interior designer, Kit Kemp. In her above design, Kit has transformed this small alcove to create a beautiful dining room alternative, we love the cozy banquette seating and how the design creates a 'room within a room' effect.

Isabey Interiors Interior stylist, Tori Birch, also says, 'The wasted space under a window or in a bay window is a great place to create a dining nook. Adding in a banquette can be such a great way to use every square inch of that nook, potentially doubling the amount of people you can seat. In fact, you’ll probably find that it quickly becomes one of the most loved spaces in the house.'

Tori Birch / Isabey Interiors
Tori Birch

Tori Birch is an interior stylist at Isabey Interiors, an award-winning design company founded in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada.

5. Home libraries

Dining room alternatives, large dining room with bespoke blue book shelving, large wooden dining table

(Image credit: Colleen Simmonds, photography by Emily Gilbert)

'For this project, we transformed the space into a beautiful home library and dining room combined. A dining table is surrounded by custom floor to ceiling bookcases, and a deep window seat provides the perfect reading nook. Being surrounded by books is a wonderful thing - it creates a cozy library feeling and can be a great conversation starter when you have guests round to dine,' says interior designer, Colleen Simmonds.

Colleen Simonds Design
Colleen Simonds

Colleen Simonds is the founder of Colleen Simonds Design, a full service design firm based in Pittsburgh, PA.  A former fashion merchandiser and graduate of Parsons School of Design, she founded her design firm in 2011.

6. Games rooms

Dining room alternatives, blue room with TV, bespoke shelving an square dining table

(Image credit: Geddes Ulinskas Architects)

A games room will always be a multifunctional space that has a variety of uses, from housing entertainment centers, to acting as an inspiring music room, these versatile spaces can provide the perfect backdrop for dining, and can create a playful, unique space to host friends and family.


What do you do if you don't have a dining room?

Just because you don't have a dining room, it doesn't mean you cannot create a designated area in your home to dine.

As we have explored in this piece, the most popular places to have an alternative dining room are mainly kitchens and living rooms. These central rooms in the home are often where we naturally gather and sit and relax, and, depending on the size of your home, they can often fit a dining table with ease. Incorporating a dining area in one of these two rooms will always create a wonderful entertaining space.

There are also plenty of other creative ways you can carve out a dining area in the home. From nooks to alcoves, bay windows to home libraries, spare rooms and basements, thinking carefully about how you use your home day to day and where you will feel most comfortable sitting and dining for long periods of time will help you make the best decision for you and your space.

For more alternative dining room inspiration, we explore, where to put a dining table if you don’t have a dining room in our dedicated feature.

Zara Stacey
Managing Editor

Zara is the Managing Editor at Homes & Gardens. She joined the brand in February 2022 as an Interiors Content Editor, specializing in writing content on interior color trends, decorating ideas and design inspiration. After studying English Literature at University, she worked as an Ecommerce Website Editor, Content Writer and Buying Intern at multiple independent businesses within the luxury retail and lifestyle sectors. She enjoys nothing more than discovering new trends, brands and products, whether that be in fashion, interior design or lifestyle.