How to make a dining room look classy – 7 ways to elevate your dining space on a budget

Design experts share the savvy style moves that can help upgrade your dining room décor, without breaking the bank

dining room with mirrored walls and parquet floors
(Image credit: Culture in Architecture/Matthieu Salvaing)

Even if you have a healthy budget in mind when researching fresh dining room ideas, it never hurts to punch higher and make your hard-earned cash go further. Working out how to make a dining room look classy and more expensive than reality could free up funds to invest in fresh art or designer furniture.   

One of the smartest ways to achieve an exclusive look is to focus attention on one key investment piece, and then be relatively frugal elsewhere. It’s a basic smoke and mirrors approach, but one that can prove very effective. 

Interior designer Dara Huang suggests elevating your dining room with a striking chandelier. ‘Opt for lighting designs that add a touch of opulence and exude sophistication,’ she adds. ‘Also incorporate luxurious materials like marble, velvet, or silk for table settings and drapery; such textures never fail to create a sumptuous atmosphere.’


How to make a dining room look classy

What makes any home look expensive and classy is often more about subtle, sophisticated choices than splashing the cash, and the dining room is no exception. Aim for a considered, elegant approach and swerve anything too ostentatious. There’s a very fine line between top-end and tacky!  

1. Go for glossy finishes

dining room with gloss walls round table and chandelier

(Image credit: Roger Higgins/Emily Followill)

It is no secret that incorporating reflective surfaces will help bounce light around a room and make a small dining room feel bigger while going for matt, light-obliterating finishes is a common small dining room mistake. But did you know high-gloss surfaces are also fabulous for lending an air of exclusivity?

Interior designer Roger Higgins is a convert. ‘I love high-gloss walls in a dining room. Candlelight and crystal chandeliers reflect beautifully against glossy walls and immediately make the space feel sophisticated,’ he enthuses. ‘Shiny high-impact focal points – like a gilded fixture, gold sunburst mirror, or a colorful piece of art – can elevate a dining room as well.’

Although painting walls in gloss rather than emulsion can be a little more time-consuming (gloss paint takes much longer to cure between coats), you’ll benefit from a much tougher surface that will be easier to clean. 

2. Swap walls for glass dividers

open plan dining room with blue chairs, smoked glass panels and parquet floors

(Image credit: Interiors by Laila/Calvert Studios)

Admittedly it’s not the quickest win but swapping out solid walls for glass can seriously upgrade a so-so dining space to an executive experience. This style of smart room divider idea is a clever way to enjoy an intimate dining area without losing the benefits of open-plan living.

In this up-market London home, Laila Patel, founder of Interiors by Laila used smoked glass panels from Poliform, set in striking matt black frames. ‘The dining room was previously a separate room with walls and double doors. The motivation for removing these was to improve the flow from the dining room into the hallways,’ she explain. ‘At the same time, it was important to retain the sense of separation whilst allowing light into the previously dark hallway. The smoked glass lends a designer touch.’

You don’t need to go for fully-glazed glass partition walls to reap similar rewards; a half-wall with internal windows can also work well. Be sure to go for high-quality finishes and framework – Crittall is timelessly elegant, for example – to achieve a classy look.

laila patel portrait
Laila Patel

Former Architect Laila Patel is based in London and now specialises in residential interior design. Her signature style is mixing Italian classical and modern pieces with the originality of each project and location. She has renovated many residential properties in central London over the past decade.

3. Source designer wallcoverings

dining furniture with huge chandelier above and metallic wallpaper

(Image credit: Hill House Interiors/Ray Main)

For dining room wallpaper ideas that scream ‘classy’, seek out specialist wallcoverings imbued with a little extra va va voom. Papers with textural appeal, such as woven, flock, and seagrasses will recreate the hushed elegance of the dining room in a five-star hotel; Hill House Interiors are fully onboard. 

‘Luxury wallpapers possess the power to transform a space. They lay the foundation for our art of layering and impart a tactile, dimensional quality to the walls,’ says co-founder Helen Bygraves. ‘Here, we used a metal embossed vinyl wallpaper by Elitis, which exudes a captivating metallic luster, capturing and enhancing the light from the chandelier. What makes this wallpaper truly special is its multi-tonal aesthetic, seamlessly harmonizing with the textures and tones found throughout the entire design scheme.’

Helen Bygraves and Jenny Weiss
Helen Bygraves and Jenny Weiss

Celebrating 25 years in the business, Helen Bygraves and Jenny Weiss are the founders of Hill House Interiors, a leading force in the luxury interior design industry. Today, with a team of over 30 designers and architects, with both a UK and Dubai studio, their positive energy and enthusiasm for high-end couture interiors brings their diverse projects to life.

4. Max out on mirrors

dining room with mirrored walls and parquet floors

(Image credit: Culture in Architecture/Matthieu Salvaing)

For a hearty sprinkle of glitz and glamour, layer up the mirrors. Aline Asmar d’Amman, Architect and founder of Culture in Architecture, shows us how it’s done in her own Parisian dining room. 

‘I like to exaggerate the views in the room with mirrors on the walls, and framed decorative mirrors layered on top. The infinite depth of repetitions complements the space with a theatrical dimension, magnifying textures while adding a sense of wonderment to the eye,’ she explains. ‘In the context of dining and social gatherings, mirrors invite sexiness and glamor to the table, inducing a sense of celebration with shine and irreverence.’ 

Consider antiqued mirrored glass to dial down the clarity of reflections, especially if you don’t like to admire yourself during dinner. And do make sure your mirrors are kept well-buffed – there’s nothing expensive-looking about a dining room smudged in grubby fingerprints.

5. Envelop in color

blue dining room with lights on

(Image credit: Victoria-Maria/Mireille Roobaert)

Another simple but extremely effective way to make your dining room look more expensive using paint is to go for a total color drench on walls, ceiling, and woodwork. Known in the trade as a Full Drip, this high-impact approach can make a distinctly average dining room appear more upscale.  

‘The use of bold, impactful colors not just on walls but also on ceilings and trim can elevate your interior design and create a stunning visual impact,’ agrees interior designer Victoria-Maria Geyer. To dial up the drama go for dark, colors, like this regal blue, which will promote a cosseting yet glamorous atmosphere that’s perfect for intimate dinners.

Victoria-Maria Geyer
Victoria-Maria Geyer

Victoria-Maria Geyer has been passionate about decoration and design since her early childhood. Based in Brussels, this German interior designer founded her agency in 2008. She enjoys combining patterns, materials and eras, creating colorful interiors that are a source of infinite joy.

6. Embrace power paneling

dining room with wallpapered panelling

(Image credit: Tollgard Studio)

Power paneling is like regular paneling but just a little bit extra! We’re talking about wall panel décor ideas that turn your dining room walls into works of art. This could be full-on floor-to-ceiling Tudor-style wood paneling with ‘to the manor born’ airs and graces, or more contemporary ‘relief’ paneling with art installation vibes.  

In this sophisticated dining room by Tollgard Studio, applying exquisite hand-painted wallpaper inside the existing architectural paneling elevates it to National Gallery-grade grandeur. ‘The additional layers that make a dining room sing are flowers, decorative accessories, and heavy curtains to help with sound as well as vision,’ adds interior designer, Monique Tollgard, who notes how the thick-pile rug here also helps soften sound for a more rarefied atmosphere. 

7. Add luxe moments

dining room with retro wallpaper and marble table

(Image credit: Cat Dal Interiors/Racheal Smith)

Luxurious materials, fitting and accessories have the power to transform bland spaces, adding a dose of lavishness and elegance, so says interior designer, Cat Dal

‘For this project, our brief was to transform a gray, cold, and modern kitchen/diner into a bold, sophisticated charming environment,’ she recalls. ‘We used luxe materials such as the marble dining table, custom brass light pendant fittings and an organic print on the wallpaper, then paired with fun and stylish chairs to add color and personality to the space.’

If you’re a slave to budget, the good news is a little can go a long way. Just like a pearl necklace can make a simple black dress look like haute couture, it only takes one or two moments of luxury to lift the fortunes of your entire dining room. Think marble fireplace, antique light fitting, or designer dining chairs. 

Cat Dal portrait
Cat Dal

Born in Copenhagen, Cat currently lives in London where she founded her design studio specialising in luxury residential projects. With a focus on craftsmanship, natural light and playful moments, the studio is reputed for delivering inspiring and considered interiors. 

How can I make my dining room look classy?

The quiet luxury trend has dominated this year and it’s a really great approach to take when looking to make a dining room look luxurious. The quiet luxury interior design trend is all about understated elegance, refinement, and sophistication and is achieved by sourcing high-quality materials, fittings and finishes that are designed to last. 

In the dining room, this could translate as quality furniture, durable, well-made upholstery and long-lasting flooring choices. Sophisticated color palettes in timeless neutrals, layered for extra coziness and interest, are a naturally classical choice with oodles of luxe appeal. For a restrained touch of glamour, go for warm metallic finishes on hardware and light fittings, and select tableware and linens with artisanal origins for extra design exclusivity.

How can I modernize my dining room?

An outdated dining room can be seriously disappointing, even embarrassing when entertaining. Modernizing the décor doesn’t always require a substantial renovation. Instead, make small design tweaks to breathe fresh life into the space. Switching up the light fittings, refreshing window treatments and sourcing a plush new rug are all easy wins that can make your dining room feel more up-to-date. If there is one element, such as an ugly fire surround or dodgy wallpaper, that seriously lets the room down, focus your attention (and budget) there. Wall paneling can hide a multitude of sins, including any minor, non-structural damage and, with a fresh lick of paint, can bring the new space together. 

Linda Clayton

Linda graduated from university with a First in Journalism, Film and Broadcasting. Her career began on a trade title for the kitchen and bathroom industry, and she has worked for Homes & Gardens, and sister-brands Livingetc, Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, since 2006, covering interiors topics, though kitchens and bathrooms are her specialism.