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Decorating Secrets  >  Learn  >  Dining Rooms

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Think of your dining room as a rendezvous spot for your home. In this place where family and friends meet, sit down, and share meals, you want to reflect your personal style.

Where to start?
Decide what makes you comfortable and design around that. Aren't sure what style you prefer? Click here to take our What's Your Style quiz.
Eclectic dining room
Interesting textures, like the pressed tin ceiling and mismatched wicker chairs, set the mood in this eclectic dining room.

If you have a put-your-feet-up casual style, you may like a rugged farm table. If your idea of a perfect meal includes fine porcelain and antique silver, your guests will enjoy that, too. Start by making yourself comfortable and your guests will go along.

Avoid the obvious
You aren't boring. Why should your dining room be? Avoid the dining room "sets" sold in furniture stores. Too much of one type of furniture can be dull, dull, dull. Mix it up. A long banquet will seat a bunch of friends along one side of the dining room table and can be more flexible and fun than matched chairs. Even if your style is Traditional, with its emphasis on symmetry and balance, you can start with a matching dining set and add antiques that complement your set in wood finish and style.

Traditional Dining Room
Richly-colored upholstered chairs, matching light fixtures and a gracious symmetry define this traditional dining room.

Your Traditional Dining Room
Your formal dining room doesn't have to be stiff, stuffy or uncomfortable. Your traditional look is civilized, classic, an unhurried room to share your best with your guests. Add grace to your dining room with:

Symmetry. Think in balanced pairs. Have one window? Place two chairs on either side with a pair of art prints framed and matted the same. Wall sconces look great on either side of a large piece of art.

Finishes. Your look is classic, elegant and refined. You can go for the gleam. Look for mirrors with wide gilt frames, lacquered finishes on furniture or accessories, polished veneers, sparkling crystal stemware and chandeliers. Candles are a welcome accent in every dining room. Indulge yourself in a candlestick collection-silver, brass crystal, or antique glass.

Classic lines. Your furniture makes a formal statement, but it doesn't have to be fussy. Some of the best classic furniture has pure, classic lines. Choose elegant fabrics, like silk, raw silk, or silk-linen blends.

Matching furniture. Your traditional dining room will look best when your pieces match. You may like a dining room suite, or you can choose different pieces of the same wood and style.

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Casual/Country Dining Room

Country Dining Room
The fresh farm colors in this country dining room were taken from a much-loved vintage table cloth.

Your style is hands-on and welcoming. Choose furniture and materials that invite use. If they look well-loved, they will add the informal element you crave. In general, you will tend to choose rough textures rather than smooth.

Wicker, rattan, pine and cast iron are all less formal than glossy wood or sleek glass. Weathered and distressed objects will be right at home.

Your things will be touched. Consider easy-care fabrics and stay away from shiny textiles or dry-clean only. Coarse weaves project the casual style. You will feel right at home with denim, canvas and homespun cottons.

Mix it up
A mixture of furnishings will relax your room. Uniformity is a trait of a formal style. Consider six vintage one-of-a-kind chairs with a similar shape and size. Or your chairs can all match, but the table is different. Even one odd-ball chair at the end of the table as a focal point will make a casual decorating statement.

Fabrics soften the edges. Dress down formal chairs and tables with slipcovers in textured fabrics and floor-length cotton tablecloths. Vintage table linens are still relatively easy to find in antique stores or even on Ebay.

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Contemporary Dining Room
Strong sculptural shapes and an absence of clutter offer a zen-like serenity in this contemporary dining room.

Your Contemporary Dining Room
Your contemporary dining room is elegant and refined. Your taste is for the simple, clean lines of well-designed pieces. Your goal will be to add focus and punch to your pared-down environment.

Where to begin?
Choose something fabulous as a focal point of the room. Your spare design will let you choose something big and bold, something that expresses your inner self. An over-sized vintage print with a simple frame goes well in a contemporary room, or maybe a tribal sculpture on a pedestal, or a giant Calder-esque mobile. Whatever you choose, it shouldn't be timid.

Finishes. You go for the gleam, but not the gilt. Glass tables, stainless steel, brushed aluminum, even cast iron. You will choose furniture and accessories that are simple and inherently express their own materials.

Lighting. Your room thrives on drama. Think of it as a stage-set and choose your lighting accordingly. A rheostat on every light will be most welcome. Spot lights on art work or sculptures will add elegance and drama.

Furniture. The lines of your furniture should be simple and clean, but they don't have to all be contemporary. Shaker furniture and reproductions, for example, can carry a contemporary theme because of the purity of their form.

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Eclectic dining room

Interesting textures, like the pressed tin ceiling and mismatched wicker chairs, set the mood in this eclectic dining room.

Your Eclectic Dining Room
Your eclectic dining room is defined by what you love. You will be able to relate your dining room pieces by color, size, texture, or materials. Your dining room tastes can range from art-gallery to Fifties drive-in. Don't be shy. Have fun.

Where to begin?
Consider starting with color. The things you love all have something in common, highlight that common element with a dramatic wall color, even on one wall, and your dining room will suddenly look "on-purpose".

Finishes. Almost any finish goes with your style, including faux.

Lighting. Your lighting will need to be flexible to accomodate anything from homework on the table to a Middle Eastern feast. Wall sconces will add a warm glow but don't take up space you'll want for your accessories.

Furniture. You could have a have a mis-matched set of vintage pressed oak chairs or a set of zippy deco-style bar stools. Whatever you choose, it won't be boring.

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What goes where in the dining room?
Choose your dining room table to fit your space. If your room is a long rectangle, a long table is a natural use of the space and won't leave unnatural gaps on either end of the room. Tiny dining rooms will require a small table. A square table with a bench on one side might allow an extra guest to squeeze in. Sometimes a round table will allow for more place settings without bumping too many elbows. If you're looking at a round table because of lack of space, look for one with a single pedestal in the center rather than legs.
Keep in mind that the shape of furniture can affect the look of the room. A round table will soften a room with harsh corners. A corner cabinet is both space-saving and softening.

The furniture should fit the space.
If you must have a large dining table in a small room, use decorating tricks to lighten the visual space. Try a glass-topped table and furniture with legs. Don't forget the height of the room. If your dining room is too tall, your guests may feel dwarfed and uncomfortable. Fill a tall room with bookshelves for height or a tall hutch. A chair rail may also break up a tall expanse of wall, but should be avoided in a strictly contemporary room. Hanging multiple prints on one wall can add personality and scale down a too-tall room. When you think vertically, you can delight the eye and add storage.

Vary the heights of your furniture
If your table and sideboard are all that you have in your dining room, the room will feel unbalanced. If you can't afford a gorgeous hutch or Welsh cupboard, even a set of high backed chairs will add the contrast of vertical height you need.

How much room do you need?
Elbow room for guests should be between 20 and 24 inches wide and at least 15 inches deep. The center of the table should have a strip about 12 inches wide for serving dishes, centerpieces and candles.

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