Creating beautiful dining rooms are some of my personal favorite projects. When we have a spot to relax with friends and family over good food, the conversation flows and the memories are made. We share an intimate look in to our lives, and have the opportunity to treat our guests with our charming Southern Hospitality. To me, the dining room is the heart of the home.

10 Elements of a Great Dining Room

Not Sure How to Create a Beautiful Dining Room?

It’s easy when you know what pieces to include and how to pull them all together. The first task is to DEFINE YOUR STYLE. Do you know the “look” you’d like to achieve? Do you already own some of the necessary pieces or will you be starting from scratch? How do you need the room to function for your family and friends? Have you determined a budget, then broken it down by piece? Creating the perfect Dining Room will allow you to relax and enjoy your time around the table and feel like the Ultimate Hostess. Here I’ve listed 10 Elements that will help you pull your room together easily:

#1 – The Table & Chairs

This is the MOST important part of the entire room!! And my motto is GO BIG. As large as the room will allow. At a minimum you’ll want 3 feet of space all around the table, but up to 6 feet is preferable. Do you want a pedestal round table? A long, formal table? A smaller table with leaves that can be removed? Where will you store them when they aren’t in use? A rustic farm table? A painted base with a wood top?

I love these chairs from Hannah Dee Interiors

Seating is important too. Your chairs will help define the style of your room. While you don’t have to completely “match” a set of chairs to the table or to each other, you should definitely work with a cohesive theme and try to have pairs of chairs. Not too comfortable, not too uncomfortable. Do you want upholstered seats or solid surface? Parsons chairs or ladderbacks or Windsors?

A round table can be so intimate. I love this entire dining room, complete with seating for 12.
A round table can be so intimate. I love this entire dining room, complete with seating for 12. Photo source unknown.

 

#2 – A Staging Area

Usually this is a buffet, sideboard, or other furniture that allows you to set out a dessert buffet, a coffee bar, wine glasses, etc. Having it handy in the dining room allows guests, as well as you the Hostess, to remain part of the conversation and not have to leave the room to refill a drink, but keeps the tabletop less cluttered during conversation. It also allows a beautiful display area in your Dining Room when it’s not in use. If your dining area has space, a Staging area is a must. If not, try a small table with a coordinated tablecloth that is set up only for special events.

Dining Room by Crystal Ortiz, Bluestone Decorating
This was a dining room I did for a client in Singers Glen, VA. Photo copyright Bluestone Decorating.
Photo Courtesy Hannah Dee Interiors

#3 – Storage

A place for everything, and everything in its place. You will not want every dish on display at all times. You need a place for Grandma’s crystal punch bowl and your cake knife set. Having a spot to store a few of your extra serving pieces will make your life easier. Whenever possible, I try to combine the Storage with the Staging piece so they serve double-duty.

Styling a Hutch
This Pewter Cupboard not only serves as storage but allows the homeowner to display her dishes, with the ability to change them seasonally. Photo copyright Crystal Ortiz, Bluestone Decorating.

#4 – Lighting

Dining Room in Penn Laird, Virginia
This casual home in Penn Laird mixes family heirloom furniture with a traditional-style chandelier. Photo and design copyright Crystal Ortiz, Bluestone Decorating

This is so important. Lighting will set the mood, especially in a dining room. When choosing a chandelier for your dining table, you should look for one that is one-half to one-third the length and width of your table. If possible, have a dimmer switch installed by your electrician so you can turn the lighting “up” or “down” for the mood. I also love including a couple of lamps or sconces in a dining room for ambient lighting. And of course, a few candles on a dinner tabletop bring that much more to the table.

This stunning chandelier sets the more formal tone of the dining room in this custom log home.
This stunning chandelier sets the more formal tone of the dining room in this custom log home. Photo copyright Crystal Ortiz, Bluestone Decorating

#5 – Protect Your Floors

I prefer an area rug under a dining room table. It grounds and defines the space, while at the same time protects the floors from being scratched by the chairs. My rule-of-thumb for a rug under a dining table is that it needs to extend 3 feet on every side of the table, so when a chair is pulled out and someone is sitting in it, all four legs of the chair stay on the rug. The easiest way to determine your rug size is to measure your table, then add 6 feet to both dimensions.

After: A new rug and dining chairs recovered with Kasmir Gazebo Trellis in Ice Blue fabric.
A new rug that pulls the color palette together, as well as newly recovered seat cushions with Kasmir fabric. This was a project I did in Singers Glen, Virginia

If you prefer to not have a rug and want to protect your floors, any hardware store sells small felt pads that can be attached to the bottom of the chair & table feet. I prefer those to the hard metal plastic ones that are hammered in to the bottom of the feet, as I have seen those scratch the floor.

#6 – Color

Color can make a HUGE impact on mood, atmosphere, and appetite. It is said that RED stimulates the appetite, while BLUE suppresses it. You see many red dining rooms for this reason.

Drama can easily be created with color. These red parsons chairs and the blue & white custom windows are beautiful together. Source: HGTV
Drama can easily be created with color. These red parsons chairs and the blue & white custom windows are beautiful together. Source: HGTV

Personally, I go with blue, creams, or beiges. This is a choice that is made based on furnishings as well. Oak tables look great against a sage or olive green with brown accents. Red and black are dramatic. A shade of Williamsburg Blue with yellow is classic. Ivory is great for a traditional style. White looks wonderful during the daylight, but can take on a grayish cast at night. Knowing your personality, style, and ultimate goal of the room helps determine the best color palette for your dining room.

Gorgeous mix of colors, fabrics, rugs, and lighting in this dining room.
This stunning dining room was featured in a post on Homebunch. I love the blues, the mix of fabrics on the chairs, windows, and rug. This is a dream dining room to me.          Original source unknown
Fresh for spring, and anytime in between. These green striped chairs are classic and tailored. LOVE this look! Source: Luxury Furniture & Design
Fresh for spring, and anytime in between. These green striped chairs are classic and tailored. LOVE this look! Source: Luxury Furniture & Design

#7 – Acoustics

This is so often overlooked. Not long ago, I visited a restaurant in Downtown Harrisonburg that had been remodeled from an old warehouse into industrial-style décor. The acoustics were horrible! You couldn’t hear the person across the table speaking due to the roar in the room. Adding rugs, drapes, upholstered seats, and small accents to absorb sound will make the dining experience much more enjoyable for you as well as your guests.

The use of fabrics on the chairs and windows, combined with the rug, are key to keeping conversations from
The use of fabrics on the chairs and windows, combined with the rug, are key to keeping conversations from “bouncing” around the room. Soft items help absorb sound and will make conversation at the table much easier. Source: How to Decorate from Ballard Designs

#8 – The Centerpiece

A bit over the top for the average dinner gathering! But very cute for a baby shower. Photo credit DuJour Magazine
A bit over the top for the average dinner gathering! But very cute for a baby shower. Photo credit DuJour Magazine

You don’t have to have a formal-wedding-grade centerpiece to set a beautiful table. For once in your life, I’m going to tell you to put your elbows on your table. This is your gauge for how high your centerpiece should be. The distance from the tabletop to your wrist is the HIGHEST you should go to encourage conversation. Or, go to the other extreme, and the centerpiece should be tall enough that you can see through it until it goes above hairline level. Don’t make the mistake of putting out a beautiful centerpiece that doesn’t allow guests to make eye contact with each other across the table.

Centerpieces in a dining room can be anything - not just a vase of flowers.
A centerpiece doesn’t have to be just a vase of flowers. This 9′ dining room table features a small vignette and lanterns on the table runner. Photo copyright Crystal Ortiz, Bluestone Decorating.
Simple can be Superb. I love this centerpiece from Setting for Four. Copyright Heather Lockhurst.
Simple can be Superb. I love this centerpiece from Setting for Four. Copyright Heather Lockhurst.

#9 – Table Linens

Alfresco dining on the screened porch
Decorating is about the Lifestyle you want to live. Candlelit dinners on a warm spring evening provide food for the spirit as well as the body.

The debate rages on… tablecloth or placemats? Or both? It’s really a personal preference and your choice. I do prefer something under a plate or charger to soften the hardscape, and also to prevent scratches to a solid wood tabletop. You can bring color and personality to your table with the linens you use. And folding napkins in to fun and unique shapes is always a pleasure for guests, and a great conversation starter as you gather around the table.

Pink. Gingham. Monograms. Sigh... this just makes my heart smile. Source unknown.
Pink. Gingham. Monograms. Sigh… this just makes my heart smile. Source unknown.

#10 – Art & Accessories

This is completely dictated by the Style of the room. Whether you choose a single bold statement of art, a plate collection displayed on a hutch, or other accessories that reflect the personality of you and your dining room, strategic placement will allow each of them to shine individually as well as bring a cohesive look to your dining room. Just remember… what goes out must be dusted!

Phi Mu Fraternity: The Sorority House "Sophisticated Bohemian" Makeover at James Madison University by Bluestone Decorating.
With two dining tables lined up together, the focal point down the wall was a piece of art hung over their existing sideboard, flanked by new buffet lamps. Photography by Chris DeLoach.
Art display idea in a Dining Room
Hanging art the homeowner already had in a new arrangement on the new blue color made it stand out in this custom log home.

And don’t forget WALLPAPER – I absolutely love wallpaper, and it can be a great piece of art in a dining room.

The combination of art, accessories, and wallpaper in this dining room from House Beautiful are perfect.
The combination of art, accessories, and wallpaper in this dining room from House Beautiful are perfect.

There is no time like today to start planning your family’s perfect dining room. t’s time to clear the clutter from your little-used space and start planning some dinner parties. Invite your neighbors over. Host the Family Easter dinner this year.

I hope this little bit of dining room eye candy has inspired you to look at your space with not only fresh eyes, but with a checklist of items to consider when planning your perfect dining room.

Until next time… xoxo Crystal

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