The desire to make a dining room feel more opulent is a reflection of how important these spaces have become in our homes. 'Dining rooms are where we host visitors, serve celebratory dinners, and enjoy quality time with our partners,' says paint expert Annie Sloan. 'I’d never admit it, but I do want my guests to be impressed when they come to dine,' she adds. Interior designer Holly Kopman agrees. ‘Dining rooms are becoming more than just a table with chairs. More than ever, they are places to gather and connect.'
Making your dining room look refined and luxurious needn't mean a total refresh and overhaul of your interiors. In fact, this space can be made all the more glamorous feeling with just a few tweaks here and and some easy design tricks there. 'It can be simple to elevate the look and feel of a room, especially a dining room,' says designer Marie Flanagan. We've spoken to the designers to gather some clever dining room ideas that will help transform this much-used space.
Oonagh is an experienced homes editor and writer. For this story, she's spoken to brands and designers to find out just how to make a dining room feel refined and elegant.
How do I make my dining room look more expensive?
1. Add a rug under your dining table
Soft furnishings aren't just for the living room and bedroom. Selecting a good rug to sit under the dining room table adds that little bit extra to make the space feel like a luxury dining room. A rug also works as a clever zoning technique, anchoring the dining room table and chairs, so it is an example of considered design in the home.
When it comes to picking the right dining room rug, think about how you use the space. 'A rug that is durable and woven like jute is typically a good choice for a dining room rug,' says Marie Flanagan of Marie Flanagan Interiors. Jute is hardwearing and easier to clean than something sumptuous and high pile. Elsewhere, if you feel brave with your rug material, go for wool. 'When it comes to materials, nature knows best, and wool is the most wonderful material for rugs. Wool has inherent qualities that make it a sustainable choice as it is both renewable and biodegradable. Wool rugs are beautiful and soft and the wool has a natural protective coating which provides stain resilient properties too,' says Dylan O’Shea, co-founder of A Rum Fellow.
2. Get clever with your light fixture
Statement dining room lighting adds so much to the look and feel of the space and with good lighting, you can turn an unloved, small dining room into an elegant space. The perfect fixture needn't be expensive but can act as a beautiful centerpiece dangling above the dining room table, creating an eye-catching design feature and help to illuminate the table.
When considering the style to go for, think about how the table you have works with the light fixture and try and choose a statement light fixture to complement. 'A large single pendant is an ideal choice for a round table, whereas a long rectangular table will benefit from a trio design,' say designers at Interior Fox, Jen and Mar. 'I love to use shades with a gold lining, as they cast a wonderfully warm and flattering glow. For maximum impact opt for shades in a contrasting color and pattern to your wall,' adds Stefan Ormenisan, founder of Mind the Gap.
Sometimes it's not about buying new, and it's as simple as how you hang your light fixture. Bear in mind the rules of thumb when it comes to light height over the dining table. A badly placed lighting fixture or too low a pendant can look jarring and immediately cheapen the space. 'The general rule of thumb when hanging a light fixture over a dining room table is that the lowest part of the light should be between 30-36 inches from the table's surface,' says Jo Plimsy, founder of Gong. 'This is considered to be a good height in terms of both practical illumination and placement of the light as a focal point, for a standard height room.'
If your light is a particularly large piece, you may want to hang it higher. 'When hanging the light, it’s worth considering how it looks from different viewpoints for example, when sat at the table and when you first enter the room, to ensure the dimensions work. The size of the room, the size of the table, and the amount of light the light fixture provides will all play a part in the overall look,' adds Jo.
Finally, adjust your lighting by making the switch to dimmer mode. This will appropriately set the mood and help to make the level of lighting beautiful and sumptuous.
3. Add a permanent centerpiece
A centerpiece that is in constant rotation is a great addition to your dining room table, and shouldn't just be reserved for special occasions. Simple but effective, adding fresh flowers to your dining room table and decorating the table when it's not in use makes the most of the surface as a space for decor, and is easy to do on the cheap. Look to your garden for inspiration on what is in season, or invest in a weekly spectacular bouquet.
'Fresh flowers are the best way to add elegance and statement dressing to the table,' says Alice Herbert of Lay London. 'Opt for a large vase of billowy white hydrangeas for a glamorous 'photo-shoot ready' look, or, for a 'picked from the garden' look, style an abundance of colorful dahlias in all shapes and sizes.'
Alternatively, fresh fruit in a beautiful bowl can make for a quick and easy centerpiece, adding focus to the table and giving the feel of a hotel in a kitchen dining room.
Think about using your favorite vases and go for more than one option to bring height to the scheme. Alternatively, candlesticks also add drama, height and a touch of opulence. 'Tall, glossy spiral dinner candles are a simple but effective trick for elevating the table. Candles will add drama and a sense of occasion to the table, and can be left on the table all year round, whether lit or unlit. Alternate ivory, red and green candlesticks on the table at this time of year. More is more, so try to have at least 4-8 candles on the table depending on your table size,' says Alice.
4. Remember texture in the dining room
As well as a rug, a bit of texture on the table can go a long way to soften the scheme and bring a feeling of elegance to the space. Those harsh corners of the tabletop will instantly be softened, helping to create a more luxurious space in an easy and simple way. A tablecloth is essential if you've not splashed out on the table itself too, covering all manner of sins.
'To include expensive-looking textures in your table styling, add velvets with velvet napkin bow ties in rich colors like dark green, burgundy or ochre. Majestic gold tones will glimmer on the table,' recommends Alice. 'Even just folding your napkins in a more formal way, with a napkin bow makes a big difference. Embroidered napkins will bring a luxury, handmade quality to the table.'
When considering dining room color and style, rich, indulgent plums and deeper shades exude luxury, and linen is a material that always looks good. Keep things simple, but maybe opt for a tablecloth with a table skirt or a touch of elegant embroidery rather than over the top pattern, meaning it will last the test of time.
Alternatively, a simple strip of linen or cotton table runner is enough to add this sense of softness and doesn't need to be a full-size tablecloth. Take your fabric and center it down the length. Finally, layer the look with fabric tablemats, and washable table napkins. Upfront expense on beautifully colored table linen will save you money in the long run as all you need to do is wash and reuse.
5. Use the space to show off your art
Your dining room is another area where you can show off your art collection and add interest with beautiful wall art to your dining room walls. 'Always add artwork to your walls or surfaces of a dining room, I love paintings on canvas,' says Marie. An art collection doesn't need to be sourced from auction houses either, art is so subjective so it can be a piece found from rummaging in an antique shop. If it calls to you and your design tastes then it is worth displaying with pride.
Keep things mixed and matched to make a feature wall. 'Beautiful framing adds additional colors and finishes,' says Marie, so think about how the framing can elevate a print. A range of colors and textures made up of different frames can come together in harmony and give the space an art gallery feel.
6. Think about crockery and glassware
Another simple change you can make to your dining area to make the space feel more expensive is considering how you set the table for dinner. When setting your dining room tablescape, don't be afraid to use those heirloom dishes that are normally stored in the back of the cupboard to add that carefully considered look. Use them in your everyday dining and embrace the mix-and-match style. Use large serving bowls and patterned platters, mixing china with beautiful olive wood can create a cohesive look, even if they aren't a set.
When it comes to glassware, colored glasses are super stylish at the moment, just keep things pop colored. Alice advises on picking the Murano-style. 'Thin rimmed, handblown is always chic on the table.' Alternatively, glasses with colored stems are a popular look, the above are from Campbell Rey. Finally, gold or bronze flatware brings a certain expensive fine dining air to the scheme.
Bringing a bold pop of color to any dining table, these cute glasses are handcrafted from borosilicate glass and have a satisfying texture to them.
7. Think about the table itself
When it comes to the dining table itself, wood is a great material to select, and can give a feeling of luxury and true quality in the home, and doesn't have to cost the world. Robust enough to survive throughout the years, beautiful and fitting with any type of aesthetic, it can easily look expensive and can be spruced up on the cheap by giving an unloved table a varnish and sand down, and make a feature out of the wood itself - a material that fits with any interior design.
If you don't want to buy new, think about the little changes you can make to let your table breath. It's important it has enough space around the piece of furniture so it has its own dedicated space and you're not squeezing past it. Always keep at least 60 cm minimum space around your dining table. ‘This space also allows room for chairs to slide out so no one feels squeezed in and guests can move around easily,’ says Rachel Galbraith, creative director at furniture brand, Ercol. Think about height too. ‘Table height should measure anything between 75 and 80 cm - the standard height of most dining tables for everyone to sit comfortably,’ says Pernille Lind, co-founder of furniture design studio, Lind + Almond.
A considered table will last the test of time. 'Your dining table will become part of your family and heritage, passed down for generations to come,’ says Rachel, so invest your time in its appearance.
8. Think about dining room chairs
Instead of investing in a brand new set of chairs for the dining room, embrace the mix-and-match look - you might be surprised the quality you can pick up on the cheap at antique shops and markets if you keep your eyes peeled.
Like wall art, go with what you love and embrace the mix and match instead of picking an expensive set. The result might surprise you and can look thoughtful and personalized. Think attractive mid-century chairs with upholstered cushions in different fabrics and polished wood arms in a variety of tones, mixed with the likes of a slick black Kartell Masters chair.
How do I brighten up my dining room?
If you have a dining area that doesn't get much natural light, the key to making it look and feel brighter lies predominantly in the lighting. Layer your lighting and go for recessed lights in the ceiling as well as a main lighting fixture like a pendant or chandelier in the center. Don't be afraid of adding table or floor lamps to your dining room to bring the room into a beautiful glow.
Color is also key to brightening up the space. Stay light on the walls and ceiling with your paint of choice, keep to light-colored wood and flooring, and perhaps a light dining room table rug underfoot to keep the palette muted and subtle.
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Oonagh is a content editor at Livingetc.com and an expert at spotting the interior trends that are making waves in the design world. Writing a mix of everything and everything from home tours to news, long-form features to design idea pieces on the website, as well as frequently featured in the monthly print magazine, she's the go-to for design advice in the home. Previously, she worked on a London property title, producing long-read interiors features, style pages and conducting interviews with a range of famous faces from the UK interiors scene, from Kit Kemp to Robert Kime. In doing so, she has developed a keen interest in London's historical architecture and the city's distinct tastemakers paving the way in the world of interiors.
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