Transforming your dining room into a stylish space doesn’t have to cost a fortune. With some clever decorating tricks and thrifty finds, you can give your dining area a fresh new look for under $500.

Update Lighting for Ambiance

Lighting has a huge impact on the mood and feel of a room. Swapping out an outdated dining room chandelier or adding some supplemental lighting can make a dramatic difference.

  • Replace a dated chandelier with something more modern and on-trend. Shop discount home stores or online retailers for budget-friendly lighting fixtures under $150. Go for something with an interesting shape or material like wood and metal.
  • Add sconces flanking a buffet or console table. Wall sconces provide both ambient lighting and decorative flair for under $50 per pair. Go for an eye-catching design that complements your room’s style.
  • Install dimmer switches if your dining room doesn’t already have them. Dimmers allow you to adjust the lighting for different occasions and they cost as little as $15.
  • Incorporate stylish table lamps for extra illumination. Thrift stores and garage sales are great places to score vintage lamps at bargain prices.

Use Paint or Wallpaper to Refresh Walls

Giving dining room walls a fresh new hue or pattern is one of the easiest ways to revitalize the space.

  • Repaint walls in a modern, versatile neutral like gray, tan or soft blue. A 5-gallon bucket of quality paint costs around $100 and can easily cover a typical dining room with color left over for touch-ups.
  • Add an accent wall with vivid color or striking wallpaper as a fun focal point. Specialty paint costs around $30 per gallon and wallpaper runs $50-150 depending on the style.
  • Freshen up builder-grade white walls with a budget-friendly textured paint technique like sponging, rag-rolling or stippling. Materials cost less than $30 for a single accent wall.
  • Use painter’s tape and acrylic craft paint to create a bold geometric mural. It’s easy to do yourself and costs less than $50.

Style the Dining Table

Your dining table is the centerpiece of the room, so dressing it up can make a big visual impact.

  • Invest in a crisp new tablecloth in a solid color or pattern to tie your décor together. Basic tablecloths start around $20. For special occasions, splurge on an elegant lace overlay for around $50.
  • Layer in some textured table runners down the center. Runners come in different materials like jute, linen and burlap for $15-30 each.
  • Flank the table with tall candles in coordinating candlesticks for romantic ambiance. Check Dollar Tree for super cheap candles and holders for as little as $1-3 each.
  • Fill the center of your table with a vase of fresh blooms. Seasonal flowers from the grocery store or farmer’s market brighten up dining rooms for $10-15 per week.
  • Display collections of decorative objects like shells, stones or glassware down the center of the table in lieu of a floral arrangement.

Upgrade Seating

Breathing new life into dated dining chairs or switching out seating altogether is a strategic upgrade for big impact.

  • Reupholster worn chair cushions in durable, easy-to-clean vinyl, faux leather or microfiber for a custom look. DIY upholstery kits cost around $40 per chair.
  • Update wooden chairs with a fresh coat of paint in a trendy hue like navy blue, olive green or rusty red for less than $30.
  • Score secondhand chairs from garage sales or thrift stores. Sand and paint a shabby chic find for around $25 per chair.
  • Invest in a couple new chairs if your existing ones are falling apart. Affordable modern styles can be found for $50-75 each.
  • Add stylish chair cushions to give worn seats a quick pick-me-up. Basic cushion covers start at around $10-15 each.

Incorporate Small Decor Touches

Dot your dining space with budget-friendly accents and accessories to tie the whole room together.

  • Hang an eye-catching mirror or piece of wall art above a sideboard or buffet to amplify visual interest.
  • Display collections of vases, bottles or decanters atop sideboards and consoles. Paint mismatched vessels one color for a cohesive look.
  • Add pops of greenery with low-maintenance succulents, air plants or potted herbs on the buffet or table.
  • Stack decorative boxes or baskets under the dining table to hide unsightly items like napkins and phone chargers.
  • Incorporate personalized touches like family photos, kids’ artwork and nostalgic memorabilia in frames.

With a little creativity and resourcefulness, you can give your dining space a stylish new look on a $500 budget. Focus on high-impact upgrades like lighting, wall décor and your dining table itself, then pull it all together with thrifty small touches and accents.

FAQs About Jazzing Up Your Dining Room on a Budget

How can I make my outdated dining room look more modern?

  • Swap out traditional décor for contemporary accents like acrylic chairs, lucite vases and abstract art prints.
  • Refinish, repaint or reupholster dated dining furniture in sleek solids like white, gray or black.
  • Replace frilly drapes with clean-lined curtains or roman shades.
  • Update old lighting and chandeliers with new fixtures that have a modern minimalist vibe.

What are some budget-friendly ways to decorate a dining room?

  • Shop discount home stores like HomeGoods, Tuesday Morning and thrift shops.
  • Make DIY art from inexpensive materials like canvas drop cloths and wood plaques.
  • Display collected items like vases, bottles, seashells or plants.
  • Reuse furniture and dining chairs from other rooms. Give hand-me-downs new life with paint or slipcovers.

How can I make my small dining room look bigger?

  • Paint walls in soft neutrals like light gray, tan or cream.
  • Use space-saving furniture like a pedestal table and glass-topped sideboard.
  • Add mirrors and reflective surfaces to visually expand the room.
  • Avoid heavy window treatments and utilize sheer curtains.
  • Stick to medium-sized furniture pieces and comfortable scale.

What are quick ways to update dining chairs on a budget?

  • Add seat covers made of linen, cotton, faux suede or washable slipcovers.
  • Use decorative spray paint to transform wooden chair frames with glossy new color.
  • Replace chair legs with tapered dowel rods and glue for a sleek, updated look.
  • Add nailhead trim, decorative tape or decals to chair backs and seats.
  • Freshen up seat cushions with new foam inserts and DIY cover stitching.

How do I create an elegant dining room ambiance on a budget?

  • Use an inexpensive lace tablecloth and matching cloth napkins.
  • Incorporate glassware, candles and fresh floral centerpieces.
  • Play relaxing instrumental music at a low volume.
  • Dim the lights and use sconces or lamps to create a cozy glow.
  • Display framed antique silverware or ornate serving pieces.
  • Set the table with your best china and linens.


Revitalizing your dining room doesn’t require a complete overhaul or expansive remodeling budget. With smart decorating strategies focusing on high-impact changes and thrifty accents, you can give this important gathering space a stylish new look for less than $500. New lighting, refreshed walls, an updated dining table and small finishing touches can make a world of difference. Use your creativity to implement these ideas in your own dining area for beautiful results on a budget you can afford.