5 distinct ways to add storage to a small dining room

Designers share looks that are worth the squeeze

dining room seating and storage
(Image credit: Future PLC)

When you are pulling up a small stool to seat an unexpected neighbor for canapés, it may seem like your dining room is at full capacity in every way. Though we do not typically view this space as a go-to for storage, when not all homes are graced with ample and consistent square footage, it is only natural that we look for alternative solutions.

Dining room storage is inventive at the best of times, so you may not have dared consider how you add more objects, let alone store them, in this space. When our homes have to keep up with modern day living, impromptu games nights around the table, and beyond embellished Thanksgiving parties, what is a small space host to do? 

We called upon some interior design experts to see how they recommend making a small dining room space work harder in function, and aesthetic.

How to add storage to a small dining room

Being smart with storage will make for seamless suppers and a more beautiful dining room ambiance altogether. It is more about seeing past the space you do not have, and finding fruitful opportunity in what your dining room does have to offer.

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1. Choose storage solutions that will not overwhelm

Neutral monochrome color scheme

(Image credit: Future)

'Adding additional storage in a small dining room can be challenging, but is completely doable,' says Luis Carmona of VERDE Interior Design.

Much like you can mix storage and display in a living room, select the right furniture and you will make even the smallest dining room work double duty.

'Having an appropriately sized credenza or sideboard in the dining space will not only add functionality to the space, providing a surface area for serving or decor, but also additional storage.' Think a sideboard that is just as ripe for decorating with dried flowers, as it is primed to keep beautiful glassware. Or make use of a living room mantel if an open plan diner is more fitting with your space.

The key is to keep your display balanced and in proportion with the rest of your dining room layout and design. Consider how you will work storage around your dining room table, be it rectangular or oval, in a way that will enhance the space and not make it feel too crowded.

Luis Carmona
Luis Carmona

Luis Carmona is the owner and lead designer at VERDE Interior Design. With almost two decades of experience in the creative space (interior design, advertising, and marketing), Carmona gets to blend his many passions into one design studio. Offering interior design and branding services to his commercial clients, VERDE has worked on boba tea shops, Mexican taquerias, sushi restaurants, and financial planning offices. Between the commercial and residential clients, in both Houston and Dallas, the team at VERDE continues to push the limits of design with their signature clean design aesthetic.

2. Make the most of a vertical setting

Grey small dining room ideas with round table

(Image credit: Future / Jan Baldwin)

When square footage is not on your side, using wall space is your next port of call, and thoughtfully installed shelving or built-in cabinets can stylishly cocoon guests when dining.

'A cabinet sitting against a wall or in a nook will add additional storage, with shelving and drawers,' says Carmona. 'But in a vertical setting, if horizontal floor space is not as readily available, use the vertical space to your advantage.'

Done artistically, it will add decorative purpose. Interior designer Soledad Alzaga. recommends making use of vertical space with tall and narrow storage units: 'This can help store items without taking up much floor space. It is best if it has doors or drawers like sideboards or even a dresser, and add extra storage and display surfaces with floating shelves.'

Whether you keep a minimal space or take a more maximalist approach to decor, incorporating living room shelving ideas in the dining room will allow you to keep the more beautiful items of your tableware collection in view, and is sure to spark conversation.

'Use them to display decorative items, store dishes, pitchers and serving platters or bowls,' says Alzaga. The takeaway is to keep it curated, whether it is champagne flutes or a small portion of your best plates on show.

Soledad Algaza
Soledad Alzaga

Soledad Alzaga is the founder of her eponymous business, a boutique residential and commercial interior company based in San Francisco, which was named one of the top 15 best interior design companies in the city. It assists in all aspects of the design and build process of residential and commercial properties from start to finish including consulting and working with architects, builders, and engineers.

3. Disguise storage within seating

Small dining room with window seat and colored glassware

(Image credit: Future / Simon Bevan)

In the spirit of putting every inch to good use, looking beyond classic dining room chairs to banquette seating and other alternatives will add a modern touch to your space, complete with discreet storage. 

'Getting creative with seating can also gain you some additional storage,' shares Carmona. 'Having a bench or banquette with built-in storage as part of the dining table will serve as seating with the added bonus of storage. This is perfect for storing runners, placemats and other table decor that may not be needed on a daily basis.'

4. Go bespoke where needed

Red dining room with book shelves

(Image credit: Future)

It could be that you are blessed with both a small and slightly awkwardly shaped dining room, with alcoves plenty. Bespoke storage solutions are often the best kind, and this is a fine way to create more function in a smaller dining room space too.

As well as selecting multifunctional furniture, like dining tables with built-in drawers or shelves, Neil Marcus, the in-house interiors expert, COO, and co-founder of HomeThreads recommends thinking outside the box to help lost areas regain purpose.

'Maximize vertical space with floor-to-ceiling units, consider customized solutions for underutilized areas, and add style with decorative baskets or boxes,' recommends Marcus.

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Neil Marcus

Marcus has dedicated 30 years to mastering the nuances of interior design, home furnishing textile product sales, and marketing. During his career, Marcus has helped many with their homes, including noteworthy names Kravet, Schumacher, Scalamandre, Ethan Allen, and LoveSac. His deep industry knowledge and commitment to excellence have positioned him as a leader in the world of home furnishings and textiles.

5. Banish items without purpose

Small dining room with bright pink chairs

(Image credit: Future / Jan Baldwin)

If you are still fighting for a more serene finish in a small dining room, it could be that there are some uninvited guests that must be politely shown to the door. Especially in a smaller home, it is easy for items from other rooms to creep into busy family spaces. Try to be conscious of this when adding storage to a small dining room to ensure that you get the most out of the space you do have.

'Avoid storing things that you rarely use or don't have a purpose in the dining room,' advises Alzaga. Though it is not unheard of to keep cocktail shakers, or perhaps a discreet pod coffee machine, stylishly tucked away on a hutch or your best bar cart, some items are too large and fussy to keep in this convivial space: 

'This could include kitchen gadgets, appliances, or decorative items that don't add to a good dining experience. Avoid large or bulky furniture that can dominate the room and make it feel smaller.'

To keep everything orderly, impose a trinket rule, or three, and pay close attention to the proportions of surrounding furniture. 'Don't over decorate, or have too many knick-knacks or clutter,' adds Alzaga.


How can I keep a small dining room organized?

In a space that lacks square footage, we should be even more selective with what we keep in there. Clutter does not belong in any space, and getting rid of items you don't need will free up room to help you enjoy more of your design choices; it may even make your dining room easier to clean.

'Regular decluttering ensures ongoing effectiveness for a harmonious and organized living space,' says Marcus who recommends seeing every inch as a new storage opportunity: 'Utilize vertical space through floating shelves or a tall hutch, and discreetly tuck away items with stylish baskets under seating.

'Opt for streamlined, open-design furniture and explore wall-mounted storage for a practical and unobtrusive approach, maintaining a sense of openness while efficiently addressing organizational needs.'

What should we not keep on display in a small dining room?

Some items simply will not double up as decor, in all seasons. Festive tablescaping essentials, or even the 'extra' items you need for when extended family comes over can all be kindly hidden in a cabinet with doors, or built-in seating.

'If you have a dining bench, consider choosing one with storage underneath. This is a great way to hide away things like tablecloths, napkins, or extra dishes,' recommends Alzaga.

How can you visually expand a small dining room?

Combine lighter dining room color schemes with thoughtful storage and you will enhance the overall design of the space, giving the illusion of more room. 

'Visually expanding a room through integrated storage is possible with thoughtful design. Opt for dual-purpose furniture, like ottomans or benches with hidden storage, seamlessly blending functionality with aesthetics. Choose light-colored furniture to create an illusion of space, and incorporate vertical storage solutions, such as tall bookshelves or wall-mounted cabinets, to emphasize height,' says Marcus. 

The dining room is where you might consider unexpectedly positioned mirrors also: 'Strategically placed mirrors further amplify the perception of space,

'Prioritize dual functionality, light tones, vertical storage, and reflective elements for discreetly integrating storage while expanding the overall feel of the room.' Not forgetting that clever dining room lighting will naturally elevate modern dining rooms and traditional dining rooms alike.

Take a curated approach to small dining room storage and you will find more opportunity to enhance the space with dining room rugs, wall art, and perhaps even more elaborate Christmas table centerpieces, come the holidays. Consider what guests will notice and how your family interacts with the space on a daily basis to make the most out of even the coziest of dining rooms.

Camille Dubuis-Welch
Contributing Editor

Camille is the former deputy editor of Real Homes where she covered a broad range of topics, including house tours, small space design, and gardens. She studied English language and Italian at the University of Manchester and during a year abroad studying linguistics and history of art in Bologna, Italy she started documenting her adventures and observations in a blog. Camille is always creating and spends her downtime painting, taking photos, traveling, and writing short stories.