7 Genius Table Setting Tricks That Will Make You Feel Like Your Dining Table Has so Much More Room

Set the table in style with these ideas that will ensure your guests all feel like they have plenty of space

A Christmas tablescape
(Image credit: West Elm)

If you're planning on doing some hosting this festive season, you might feel a little overwhelmed by the prospect of having guests over and squeezing them in round a small dining room table.

Hosting is no easy feat at the best of times, so when space is lacking it can feel even more difficult to create a tablescape that impresses, all the while making sure people's elbows aren't getting in the way. To help, we've come up with a tick list to help you manage. Speaking to the designers, making space might be as simple as rethinking your dining room table layout. Here are our 7 tips to try.

1. Consider the seating

A dining room with a walnut single slab dining table

(Image credit: Ty Cole OTTO; Interiors: 2Michaels Design; Architecture: Matthew Baird Architects; Landscaping: RKLA Studio)

First thing first, think about the seating arrangement. It might sound simple, but it's important to match the table setting and placement to how many seats you have. Don't try and squeeze too many people in and be realistic about how many guests you can host at once.

You might even want to do away with individual chairs altogether. 'One great trick to maximizing seating space at your dining table is to use benches on the long sides of the tables to squeeze a couple more people in,' says Kathy Kuo of Kathy Kuo Home.

2. Avoid individual placemats

Placemats can help you style your table and we've seen a lot of beautiful placement dining table trends come to the fore recently, from linen to beautifully frilled scalloped edges. But really, extra pieces of frilly material aren't the best use of your decor when space is at a premium. 'Opt for the singular beauty of a linen tablecloth as opposed to individual placemats,' advises stylist, designer, and tablescape extraordinaire, Liz Barbatelli.' With a tablecloth, the demarcation lines get artfully blurred between place settings and inherently offer greater flexibility for space.'

3. Keep the centerpiece low profile

Emily Henderson's dining table centerpiece

(Image credit: Emily Henderson)

It's easy to get overexcited with the centerpiece, but if you're lacking space and want to make your small dining room look bigger, keep the centerpiece and decor smaller and low profile. 'Keep centerpieces 15″ or lower,' advises designer and stylist, Emily Henderson.

For some simple but stylish centerpiece ideas that keep the profile low, going for fresh foliage and flowers dotted around in mini bud vases is a great idea. 'Dress the table with low profile fresh-cut flower arrangements in petite vessels and illuminate the meal with small votive candles and candle holders,' says Liz. 'Keep the precious space above the table open for eye contact and a flow of energy.'

4. Only plan for what you actually need

A place set at the table

(Image credit: Anyon Design)

It's easy to get carried away when putting your table together, but think about what your guests will actually be using at the table. Are they going to really switch between red and white wine, or do they only need one glass? Will they be happy to have one set of cutlery throughout the entire meal?

Thinking about your tablescape in this way and getting rid of items you don't need is an easy way to help give your table more space. 'Place only one water glass and one wine goblet on the table per guest,' suggests Liz. 'You can always add or switch out the wine glass if the guest selects a different choice of wine during the meal.

After the table is cleared of the dinner service, then layer in fruit, cheese and dessert knives, forks and spoons only when those courses are served. 'Likewise, provide dessert wine or brandy in appropriate glasses and coffee in coffee or demitasse cups and saucers only to those who are indulging,' says Liz.

'If you're tight on space, you might even want to try and place trays and big family-style serving dishes off to the side on a console with some console table decor,' advises Kathy.

5. Decant into smaller bowls in the kitchen

Decanting is my favorite dinner party trick, removing the need for unsightly kitchen pots and pans and instead offering up an opportunity to my best dinnerware sets and favorite bowls, plates, and sleek tableware. It also helps save valuable space to do all the hard work of decanting beforehand in the kitchen.

Your tray of beautifully roasted winter vegetables might look beautiful in the pan, but it has the potential to look even more beautiful when decanted into a bowl, not to mention that it saves valuable space at the dinner table, creating more room for guests to swap dishes around.

6. Consider the material

A dining table with silver material

(Image credit: West Elm)

Another top tip for helping your dining table feel more spacious is to consider the material of the items you place on the table. Opting for transparent tableware and glassware might seem like a simple change to make, but it can have a huge impact on how your dining table feels.

'Transparent elements are important, says Stacy Dackson, associate designer at New York Interior Design. 'Transparent or translucent tableware, like glass plates and acrylic chairs can make all the difference as these elements create visual transparency, making the table setting feel light and expansive.'

Similar to how glass might impact the space, mirror is another great material to use on your dining table. Mirror is often used by designers throughout the home, placed on walls to help bounce light around the space and make it feel open and airy. It's the same principle for table settings.

'Place a large mirror as a table centerpiece or as a backdrop to create the illusion of more space,' suggests Stacy. 'This reflects the surroundings can make the table area feel larger.'

7. Keep a simple color palette

A dining table with flowers and a bowl

(Image credit: Jonathan Hokklo. Design: Jessica Gersten Interiors)

Finally, minimalism rules when it comes to keeping your dining table feeling spacious and open, so consider a harmonious dining room color palette that feels refined and elegant instead of a fussy festive display with a kaleidoscope of colors. 'Opt for monochromatic magic and stick to a monochromatic color scheme for the table setting,' advises Stacy. 'Use shades of the same color for tableware, linens, and decor to promote a cohesive and spacious atmosphere.'

For Ariel Vargas, CEO of Aryce Designs, white is always a winner. 'The color white always reflects clean and minimal. You can create something on a white tablecloth and it will have you feel like the display or the concept of the setup is spacious.'

3 Buys to Help Your Dining Table Feel Like it Has so Much More Space

Oonagh Turner
Livingetc content editor and design expert

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.