Decorating the dining room might seem simple enough; after all, it’s just a room with a table and a few chairs—what could possibly go wrong? Plenty, according to the experts.
Whether you’ve just moved in and are already planning out your future dinner parties, or you’re just looking to spruce up the space, there are several common dining room design pitfalls to be aware of. Here are six of them!
1. Choosing the paint color first“Whether you’re just moving in or in need of a refresh, setting the paint color first is a no-no,” says Carmen Smith, owner of Living Letter Home. “Furniture never looks the same in person as it does online or in a showroom, and when you get it home to mix it with your lighting and any natural light, you may see colors in fibers that were impossible to get from a photo or even in person.”
To avoid the ultimate clash between the furniture and walls, Smith recommends picking out your furniture first so that it's sure to be the focal point.
“It’s easy to repaint a wall, but it’s not nearly as easy to return an entire dining set—or worse, pay for custom chairs only to have the fabric not match,” Smith says.
2. Hanging the light fixture too high
While a high-placed chandelier might seem elegant and expanding, it also might leave your dinner plate in the dark.
“This is actually more common than you think, especially in dining rooms,” says designer Kayla Goldstein of Kayla.
Goldstein cautions people against searching online for calculations—and not taking into account the ceiling height of the room they're trying to decorate.
"In dining rooms, [chandeliers] can be lower as they’re above a table and no one is walking under them," Goldstein says. "Everyone is sitting and therefore lower down—the light should reflect that.”
3. Prioritizing style over comfort
The dining room might be the toughest place in the house to strike a balance between comfort and style.
“The most gorgeous chair will become an immediate eyesore if you sit on it and it’s incredibly uncomfortable,” Smith says—and nobody wants that when you're trying to entertain or get your squirmy kids to eat.
“There are very stylish, affordable, and comfortable chairs on the market," Smith says. "Take your time selecting them."
4. Buying a too-small area rug
Nothing will give your dining room that off-balance feeling quite like a too-small area rug.
“This mistake often comes from wanting to save money,” Goldstein says.
While you might not want something that touches all four walls, be sure to at least pick something that covers the dining area itself.
“There’s a very good rule of thumb with rugs: If the rug is barely touching the furniture or not touching at all, it’s too small," Goldstein says. "This is a problem because it will actually make your whole room feel smaller and disjointed. Who wants that?”
5. Hanging short curtains or drapes
Another way to quickly make your room look disjointed is selecting curtains or drapes that are too short. Even if you aren’t going for the look of luxuriously long curtains, there’s still a minimum length you’ll want to aim for.
“In a dining room, if you’re looking to make it more formal, have the curtains drape the ground a bit," Smith says. "For a more casual look and feel, let them just graze the floor.”
6. Designing a dining room that's too formal
The overall look and feel of your dining room will ultimately determine how often you use it. Make it too formal and your space might just become an exclusive room solely for special occasions—which, unless you have a Kardashian-style compound, is probably just a big waste of space.
“It all goes back to the emotions in the room,” Goldstein says. “When you’re setting up or designing the room, you have to think about what you want people to feel. In this case we're talking about dining rooms, so we usually want people to feel welcome, hungry, and talkative.
"If you make the room superformal, people will feel awkward and nervous and not really want to hang out—let alone eat all the delicious food,” she explains.