Decorating a small dining area can seem like a challenge, but with some savvy styling tricks, you can create an inviting and functional space. Here are 10 clever ways to style a small dining nook or corner.

Choose Multipurpose Furniture

Opting for multifunctional furniture is a smart strategy in a compact dining zone. Look for pieces that serve double duty so you can maximize the utility of every square inch. Some ideas:

  • A storage bench or ottoman that provides extra seating when needed. Choose one with lift-up lids or drawers to stash table linens, platters, or barware inside when not in use.
  • A fold-down table that can be collapsed against the wall to free up floor space in between meals. Many come with built-in storage cubbies too.
  • Nesting tables that slide together into a single narrow unit are fantastic space-savers to stash beside a bench when meals are over.
  • A small desk or console table that can moonlight as a dining surface. Look for one with a drop leaf to expand the top when needed.

Choosing furniture that multitasks in your petite dining zone allows you to have both ample seating and compact storage.

Take Advantage of Wall Space

While your floorspace may be limited in a compact dining nook, remember to utilize the vertical real estate. Mounted shelves or ledges above the table are perfect for displaying cherished dinnerware collections when not in use. Floating open shelves also provide space for decorative objects, vases, candles, or baskets to reinforce the dining vignette.

For a bold look, paint the wall behind the table in a striking hue or cover it with dramatic patterned wallpaper. This creates visual interest in a tight space when you are unable to fit in bulky cabinets or a hutch.

Sconces mounted on either side of the table is also a chic way to reinforce the dining zone and eliminate the need for a large overhead fixture. Go with swing arm wall lamps if you need to control the direction of the light.

Taking advantage of the often overlooked vertical space above and around a petite dining area allows you to augment the decor despite cramped quarters.

Select Round or Oval Table

The shape of the dining table significantly impacts how a small space feels. An oval or circular pedestal table is an excellent pick because the curved edges create an inviting, conversational arrangement in cramped confines.

Round tables make the most of every inch, allowing you comfortable knee space and flow for multiple chairs to be pulled up. An oval table similarly maximizes seating capacity around the perimeter without bulky legs or corners getting in the way.

Square or rectangular tables should be avoided as they feel boxed-in and awkward when surrounded by dining chairs in a pint-sized space. Stick with a round or oval shape to keep the area open.

When dealing with limited square footage, an oval or round dining table creates an intimate yet spacious look and feel.

Opt for Compact Seating

Your dining chairs should be appropriately scaled for the size of your table and overall area. Bulky armchairs or barrel chairs consume too much visual space around a petite table. Instead opt for slender side chairs with an open back and minimal footprint. Cafe-style stools are also fantastic options for additional slim seating.

If bench seating makes sense for your family’s needs, choose one with a streamlined profile and missing back to maintain an airy aesthetic. You can also optimize every inch by selecting a curved bench that follows the shape of a round table.

When shopping for seating, remember daintier is better for compact dining rooms. Prioritize slim, transparent silhouettes to keep the space feeling open and relaxed.

Incorporate Lightweight Materials

Sturdy wood furniture may not always be the best choice for a small dining nook where every piece needs to feel airy and minimal. Opt instead for furnishings made of lightweight materials like acrylic, glass, or metal that seem to float in the room instead of weighing it down.

An acrylic ghost chair takes up very little visual space while still providing support. A glass top dining table reflects light to make the room feel more open. Metallic dining chairs or brass table legs add shimmer and polish while maintaining a weightless look.

Incorporating these lightweight, often transparent materials into your compact dining area keeps the vignette feeling ethereal instead of crowded.

Minimize Visual Clutter

Avoid visual clutter than can quickly make a petite dining space feel chaotic and closed-in. Store small appliances like the toaster, coffee maker and microwave out of sight in nearby kitchen cabinets, not on the counters surrounding your table.

Keep the tabletop clear when not in use. An unadorned table seems to take up less surface area than one cluttered with accessories. Hang wall shelves above to house vases, bottles or decorative items when not needed on the table.

Finally, choose dining chairs with an open, leggy design to allow unobstructed floorspace under the table. This maintains a clean, breathable aesthetic. By minimizing clutter and open up the floorplan, you create the illusion of enlarged space.

Let There Be Light

Proper illumination is key to making any small space feel open, inviting and spacious. Incorporate ample lighting sources into your compact dining nook, such as:

  • Sconces or pendant lights hanging above the table
  • Under cabinet LED strips to elevate a breakfast nook
  • Natural light from a picture window or sliding glass door
  • Mirrored surfaces that reflect and bounce light around

Avoid overhead fixtures that feel too small or dim for the zone. The goal is to flood the area with brightness to make it appear more expansive.

Strategically placed light sources make a huge impact in a tight dining footprint. Illumination creates the perception of openness and volume.

Extend Your Palette

Painting the walls, ceiling, millwork and even furniture one continuous color enhances the feeling of expanded space by blending away hard edges. Soft neutrals or airy pastels open up a room. But for a daring look, don’t be afraid to cover your entire petite dining area in a saturated dramatic hue.

Vibrant emerald green or sapphire blue on the walls, ceiling and built-ins makes the dining space feel like an immersive jewel-box rather than a cramped corner. Just take care to coat every surface in the same ton

Zone with Area Rugs

Define the dining area within an open concept living space by laying down an area rug underneath. Choose a plush wool rug with subtle pattern or texture to make this zone feel like a comfortable oasis. The rug literally grounds the space and separates it from adjoining living areas.

For hard surface flooring like wood or tile, a rug also helps absorb sound and soften echoes that can resonate sharply in a small hard-walled room.

Rugs are fantastic way to carve out intimate dining niches within cavernous open plans. The rug helps the snug dining area feel like a room of its own.

Consider a Banquette

For an alternative to traditional chairs, consider incorporating a banquette along one wall. Banquettes maximize seating capacity without cluttering up floorspace. They also make dining feel more intimate.

Built-in banquettes feel like cozy diner booths and are space-efficient additions to any petite dining area. Free-standing upholstered benches can also be arranged against the wall or floated in the center of the room.

Try placing a banquette along the longest wall to anchor one side of the table. The soft bench seating helps balance hard surfaces and adds welcoming texture.

Incorporate Mirrors

Hanging a mirror on the wall adjacent to a small dining space is a clever trick for making the area feel instantly larger. The mirror reflects light and gives the illusion of expanded square footage.

Try framing out the mirror with trim molding or placing it inside a built-in niche to reinforce the dining area. Hang it across from a window so it reflects the outdoor view for a seamless extension of space.

A strategically placed mirror adds the perception of double the dining space, allowing your compact area to feel more voluminous and relaxing.


Decorating and furnishing a petite dining space may present some unique challenges. But implementing savvy styling tricks allows you to create a comfortable, inviting area for family meals and entertaining. The key is selecting multipurpose furnishings scaled to the modest proportions, while still reinforcing the dining zone through lighting, rugs and mirrors. With some smart spatial solutions, your small dining room can feel fresh rather than cramped.

Frequently Asked Questions About Styling a Small Dining Area

Here are some common questions about decorating a compact dining space:

How can I make a small dining area feel bigger?

  • Use a round or oval table to minimize bulky corners.
  • Choose lightweight transparent chairs.
  • Incorporate mirrors to reflect light and views.
  • Paint the walls, ceiling and trim the same color.
  • Add ample lighting fixtures.
  • Float furnishings away from the walls.
  • Declutter tabletops and counters.

What size table fits in a small dining room?

For a petite dining nook, look for a table with a diameter of 36-42 inches that can accommodate two to four chairs. A 4 foot wide oval or ellipse shape also works well. Extendable tables are great options to allow extra space when needed.

Should you have matching dining chairs?

Matching chairs create a clean, cohesive look. But you can introduce visual interest with one statement chair at each end of the table, like a host chair with arms at the head and a bench seat at the other end.

What color makes a small dining room look bigger?

Soft neutral, airy pastels and monochromatic color palettes make a compact room appear more expansive. Avoid dark hues, which can feel oppressive or cavelike. Bright cool tones like blue and green give the illusion of daylight filling the space.

How do you decorate a small dining room on a budget?

  • Thrift vintage chairs or tables to add character.
  • Scope out bargain home goods stores for inexpensive lighting.
  • Choose an inexpensive fiberboard table and upgrade the dining chairs.
  • Cover seats with new DIY upholstery using budget fabric.
  • Repurpose bookshelves or consoles from other rooms to use as credenzas.

Should a small dining area be open or closed off?

If possible, defining the dining zone within a large open floorplan helps reinforce it as a distinct space. But in a studio apartment, blending the dining area into the living space may be necessary. Floating room dividers or screens can separate the areas.


With some creative solutions, a pint-sized dining space can still feel welcoming and functional for casual meals or special occasion entertaining. The key is choosing space-savvy furnishings and decor that enhance the feeling of intimacy without crowding the room. Implement these tips and transform your modest dining nook into a stylish oasis, no matter how tiny the square footage.