How Can I Decorate My Small Dining Room to Serve Multiple Functions?

dining%20room%20with%20doors%20for%20kitchen%20staff%20to%20clear%20tables.jpgQ. I don't know if you can help me or not, but our small dining room has a fireplace in the corner.  I would like to get some ideas on how to turn this room into not only an eating area, but also a reading/leisure area in front of the fireplace.  Thank you for any help. (from Susan W.)

A. Many thanks for emailing us! Having a dining room with a corner fireplace and being able to also use it for lounging sounds like the perfect interior.

You obviously feel comfortable in the space, and we feel strongly that you should put a lot of effort in getting it to function well for you and your family.

Unfortunately, owing to its size, there will need to be some compromising. In other words, you might not have as many dining chairs if the space were to be used solely as a dining area, or it might not be as comfortable for a huge crowd to use for lounging. The following picture shows a very elegant small dining room area with a fireplace and a mix of chairs that can be rearranged for lounging, conversation, reading, and dining.


Without seeing your floor plan and knowing more about how many people dine together regularly in the space, we recommend the following:

1. The dining table should be a round table with extensions. That will allow you to flex up or down for different numbers of diners. Here are some round dining table resources:


Avetex Furniture has a variety of round and oval contemporary dining tables with extensions (see photo above). You can choose the finish to blend in best with your decor: cherry, wenge, or natural.


Berry Design is a UK firm that will make simple oak round and oval dining room tables to the specific dimensions of your living space. The above photo shows an ideal dining grouping in front of a fireplace, but note the larger chair against the wall -- we'll talk about that later!


Calligaris has their Atelier Round Dining Table in both light cherry and wenge wood finishes. The photo above shows their simple and elegant table with an extension added, to create a larger oval.


The photo above shows the elegant and green Knu Dining Table #1, made from Forest Stewardship Council certified wood and sporting 6 eco-friendly veneer options.


Baker Furniture has this elegant Noir Dining Table in their Laura Kirar Collection. We liked the above photo showing a more conversational arrangement at this dining table with an eclectic mix of chair and accessories to deemphasize its use as a dining table when you would like to focus on reading, conversation, homework, playing a board game, or doing your taxes.

2. There should be two large chairs that you can use both for dining and lounging. Wing chairs are comfortable for both lounging and dining. The table should be placed against a wall, with the two chairs at the table, opposite each other, and a small bench under the table, opposite the wall. Here are some recommendations:


Philippe Starck's Prive Caprice dining chairs for Cassina are elegant in black or white nylon or leather (see above).


The Calligaris Wing Chair (above) is a simple seating solution that works well for both conversation and dinner groupings.


Hannes Wettstein's sensuous Ariane Chair (above) from Cassina is a practical solution for dining rooms. Its fabric or leather covers are removable for easy cleaning and its aluminum legs and steel frame are extra sturdy.


West Elm's economical Garvey Leather Dining Chairs (above) are upholstered in an easy to clean, stainproof chocolate leather for practical daily use.


The Nelson Bench (above) is in the style of the classic George Nelson Bench and it comes in three different sizes.


Offi's Upholstered Bench Box with a lovely wool cushion made us smile. What a fun and whimsical element to any dining room! Use the box portion to store reading material or whatever suits your fancy. And the wheels allow the piece to be moved around your room, wherever you need the seating.


You can't go wrong buying furniture at a good auction house or antique gallery. You will get your pieces from reputable sources and learn more about the history of a piece -- and you are recycling some great design. The above photo shows a Treadway/Toomey Galleries 1950s Steelcase style upholstered bench.

3. Decorate with chairs and a table that are relatively easy to move around in the room in case you’re having more guests. The weight of the chairs and/or the floor covering can impact this. If you have an even floor surface, which also applies to carpeting, you can purchase furniture gliders for installing underneath table and chair legs for easy furniture rearranging.

4. Upholstering inexpensive folding chairs with the same fabric as the large chairs works well when having more company. Don’t forget, that adding a desk chair or mixing and matching any other chairs around a table when company arrives is acceptable, too.


The above photo shows Tracy Porter's terrific Returning Home folding chair with her Countryside Chair Cushion. Even a cushion done in the same fabric as what you might be using in the rest of the room can add a touch of elegance to your dining scene. The elegant black-and-white drapery fabric in the photo at the beginning of this entry was carried over into the chair upholstery, and that's a great decorating look.

Enjoy your beautiful dining room, Susan, and thanks for writing in to us!


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