8 easy ways a top designer creates the perfect dining space, with one so simple we can't believe we've overlooked it

Designing a beautiful dining area will be easier than ever thanks to these smart and elevated expert tips

Banquette seating in kitchen with bright yellow chairs
(Image credit: Roundhouse/ Mary Wadsworth)

When it comes to perfecting a modern dining room idea, it can seem like an impossible task to balance design and functionality. From your crockery to the room's lighting, there a lot more to consider than just choosing the right dining table. 

Thankfully Ben Leavitt, creative director of PlaidFox Studio has some helpful advice on designing a striking and entertaining dining area to make you feel at home while also impressing your guests.

1. Choose the mood

'When designing a space for dining, before anything else is considered, you need to first decide on two things: the mood and the amount of time spent seated around the table,' says Ben of PlaidFox Studio. If your room already has a distinctive design, he suggests opting for a bespoke dining table idea to fit with the existing mood of your space. 

If you're partial to hosting the odd dinner party, you might want to make more of an effort to make your guests feel at ease by paying particular attention to soft, comfortable finishes. 

A low seated dining table with floor cushions

(Image credit: Shiraz Jamali Architects)

2. Start with the chairs

'Mood is unique to each person, so ask yourself if you prefer a dining atmosphere that’s dark and intimate, bright and rambunctious or quiet and calm,' explains Ben. 'To find what mood speaks to you, try writing down how you imagine your dream space would feel.' 

You might want to build the mood of your dining space around your existing furniture, as Ben does. 'I like to find a single item in my mind that evokes that mood and then use that as an initial building block that I can build the dining area around,' he says. 'For me, it’s often the chair; the chairs control the mood of the room.' 

A dark brown dining room with wooden dining table

(Image credit: Matt Lincoln)

3. Focus on comfort

a modern organic dining room

(Image credit: Brian Wetzel. Design: Jen Talbot Design)

According to Ben, 'the duration of dinner parties is a vital part of designing an elevated dining experience.' Think about the kind of dinner party you're likely to host, and design your space around the vibe you hope to achieve. 

'If you’re an entertainer who likes to lounge around with a brandy, then time in the dining room might be short-lived before you usher everyone onwards. In this case, the comfort of the chairs may not be as important,' he explains. 'There are many chairs that look stunning, but you wouldn’t want to sit on them for hours.'

Conversely, comfort might be your priority. 'If you’re like me, and the dining table is where it all happens, then comfort is key to keeping guests happy. For a chair that’s both elegant and comfortable, go for a tapered or rounded back vs. the slab back, then it’s providing back support in a way that’s still interesting.' 


blue dining room with wooden table and pink chairs

(Image credit: Stacy Zarin Goldberg)

'To execute mood, think of two colors you want to incorporate to evoke that feeling,' Ben says. 'I always find fabric is the best way to build a color story. To pull it all together you need a fabric to add warmth, color and texture (in the soft furnishings, rug or chairs), then a piece of table decor to add interest and break up the expansive surface.'

If it’s a minimal table, it's worth adding a few small details. 'Maybe add two staggered bowls with one slightly taller than the other, or stagger two differently sized vases with florals,' says Ben. 

5. Include the plates in the overall scheme 

Don't overlook the crockery you'll be serving meals on as pretty tableware can really help to elevate a dining space. As Ben explains: 'The biggest mistake in a dining room is not having dishes that fit with the masterful vibe you have created. A beautiful table with ugly plates is almost like wearing a wedding dress with muddy boots.'

'It may seem like a small thing, but it’s the last 10% that can make or break the design,' he adds. 


dining table ideas wooden table with chairs and upholstered benches

(Image credit: John Merkl)

Functionality and aesthetics need to be equally considered, but how do you make the dining table a conversation piece? According to Ben, there's a simple solution. 'Include one item that is completely outside of your comfort zone,' he explains.

This could be just one small detail within the rest of the room. 'Whether it’s a light fixture (something asymmetrical, larger than you expect, or a more traditional style of light fixture in a modern room to create a juxtaposition), a piece of art or a vintage life-size panther – the room needs something that catches the attention,' Ben adds. 'Give guests something fun to talk about.'

7. Complete with FINISHING TOUCHes

dining room wall ideas with table and pink chairs

(Image credit: George Barberis)

Don't forget to add a fabulous finishing touches to help elevate your dining space. 'The perfect decorative flourish is adding flowers or botanicals,' says Ben. 'These soften the space, give you an opportunity to add color, height and bulk – whatever the table needs, and florals are interchangeable throughout the seasons.'

Lilith Hudson
News Editor

Lilith Hudson is the News Editor at Livingetc, and an expert at decoding trends and reporting on them as they happen. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith 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. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.