'Diagonal dining' is the one-minute table trick experts say can help seat more people for Christmas lunch

Do you struggle to fit the whole family around the dining table at Christmas? This simple solution maximizes space so there's room for everyone

A table laid for dinner with boucle armchairs and decorated with candles
(Image credit: Soho Home )

Is there anything more stressful than trying to fit the entire extended family around the dining table at Christmas? For many of us, the turkey dinner is the highlight of the day, but the moment can be overshadowed by the chaos of a bustling dining table, crowded by a mess of mismatched chairs from around the rest of the home. If you have an especially small dining room you'll be grateful for any space-saving solutions to accommodate guests, and that's why I'd suggest giving 'diagonal dining' a try. 

Some would say the novelty of a busy table is all part of the spirit of Christmas, but there's no denying the inconvenience involved (especially when your favorite vanity chair becomes stained with gravy). Squeezing behind chairs to maneuver around the table just isn't practical, and becomes even harder as those jeans become just a little tighter throughout the course of the meal. That's why this clever yet simple space-saving trick is exactly what you need to make Christmas dinner more comfortable. 

You'll be pleased to hear that diagonal dining really isn't too technical. As the name suggests, it essentially involves angling your long dining table - be it rounded or square - so it lies on the diagonal of your room, stretching corner-to-corner rather than wall-to-wall. The benefit is that you're then left with more space around the long sides of your table for extra chairs, and to walk around the edge of the room. Here's why I think it's the best furniture hack I've come across for anyone will a small dining room.

Lilith headshot for bio
Lilith Hudson

Lilith is an expert at following news and trends across the world of interior design. As a renter herself, she's committed to helping readers make the best choices in their homes through writing practical tips and guides that offer innovative space saving solutions. With Christmas just around the corner, she takes a look at how to maximize space around your dining table so there's room for all the family. 

What is diagonal dining? 

Four Seater

(Image credit: Stacy Zarin Goldberg)

A simple yet effective trick, diagonal dining merely involves putting your dining table on a diagonal angle in your dining room to create more space around the table. ’Rearranging furniture and placing it at the perimeter of the room will open up a central space where the dining table and chairs can go,' explains Jen Nash, a design expert at kitchen brand Magnet (opens in new tab). 'You may want to consider diagonal dining - positioning your table at an angle to run diagonally across the room. This clever trick maximizes floor space and allows for more seating.'

Think about it: when the narrower edges of your table are in opposing corners of your room, there's far more floorspace around the longer edges for your guests to fit, and it also makes it far easier to clear plates and serve dessert. You might even be able to angle your table so that the entrance to the room is more easily accessible. It's an unconventional set-up for everyday use, but who knows, you might be so impressed that you don't even revert back to your original layout!

Red and white bordered table runner, Bed, Bath and Beyond (opens in new tab)
Yuletide tableclot...

Red and white bordered table runner, Bed, Bath and Beyond (opens in new tab)

Bring good tidings to your dinner table with this linen tablecloth from Bed, Bath and Beyond. The red table runner is outlined with a white border and is perfect for protecting your dining table from hot plates or pans. The cotton material will also introduce a soft texture to your table. 

How else can I make a small dining room work better over Christmas?

1. Keep table decor to a minimum 

wall-mounted lighting

(Image credit: Emma Tannenbaum)

Although designing your Christmas table decor can be fun, if you're strapped for space it's a good idea to use table decoration sparingly. Rather than an elaborate tablescape, go for a more minimalist theme. 

'If you are opting for a more formal dining style, minimal table decor will be the most effective when space is tight,' says Jen. 'Table decor such as large centerpieces and foliage displays will overwhelm the table and interfere with the practicalities of eating. Instead, experiment with a more laid-back look with decor such as a collection of candles at varying heights. They take up little space and will still create an ambient dining experience.' 

2. Serve plates in the kitchen

oval dining room table with blue and yellow pendant lights

(Image credit: Roberto Garcia)

Rule number one of formal dining: no leaning. Even if it's an intimate family affair, you don't want the people next to you leaning over your plate to reach the brussels sprouts, nor do you want to spend the entirety of the meal passing around dishes of food. 

To overcome this, serve your guests' plates in the kitchen, or set up a buffet-style spread on your kitchen countertops if you have a few fussy eaters among you. It might take away the opportunity for an Instagram-worthy photo, but it will maximize space for plates and glasses so that your guests can eat more comfortably. 

Linen napkins, Lulu & Georgia (opens in new tab)
Linen napkins

Linen napkins, Lulu & Georgia (opens in new tab)

For a subtle hint to Christmas at your dinner table, try these red-bordered linen napkins from Lulu & Georgia. We love the delicate natural quality of these linen napkins, the perfect addition to a Scandi tablescape this festive season. 

3. Steer clear of tall centerpieces

Tall candelabras and table centerpieces might make an elegant design statement, but they're not the most practical choice for a Christmas dinner. 'For those with limited space, place several tea lights or small vases filled with foliage along the center of the table,' advises Sam Hood, co-founder and chief creative officer of interior store AMARA (opens in new tab). 'This will create an ambient space that doesn’t impact conversation.' 

If you still want a little something extra without cluttering your tabletop, why not consider an overhead branch chandelier using seasonal green foliage or creating a hanging ‘cloud’ using pampas grass? It will make a showstopping statement for your guests to admire while maximizing space at the table - win-win!

Lilith Hudson
Junior writer

Lilith Hudson is the Junior Writer on Livingetc, and an expert at decoding trends and reporting on them as they happen. Writing news articles for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration that you need in your home. She discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. Lilith now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London (a degree where she could combine both) and has previously worked at the Saturday Times Magazine, ES Magazine, DJ Mag and The Simple Things Magazine.