Dining rooms tend to fall to the wayside when it comes to design love. Except, of course, when the holidays are on the horizon. From November through the new year, dining rooms get their well-deserved moment in the spotlight, playing host to Thanksgiving dinner, holiday brunch, and beyond. True to form, our minds inevitably turn to dining room decor ideas around this time, too.
So, we decided to start off with what not to do, specifically the dated dining room looks and classic mistakes we aim to avoid as interior designers — both in our own homes and client projects. From the overarching (tired trends) to the nitty-gritty (rug sizing and proper lighting height), keep scrolling for the dated dining room faux pas we’re giving a hard pass to this year (and beyond).
1. Matching furniture sets
This mistake tops the list for just about every room in the house (living rooms in particular), but feels even more important in dining rooms where the table and chairs are the main event. Whatever you do, steer clear of matching dining table and chair sets. While easy and low-lift, this matchy-matchy look limits creative expression and design flair in one fell swoop. Instead, mix and match textures, colors, and shapes for an eye-catching, artful look — like this pale oak dining table paired with vintage upholstered leopard print chairs.
2. Accent walls
We’ve already shared our diatribe on the 2010s-era accent wall, and the same sentiment applies in dining rooms (in our book, at least). Rather than painting a single dining room wall a bold color, go all in! Creating a cozy gathering space with wall-to-wall gray, navy, dark green, or even black paint — the all-over color is enveloping in the best possible way.
3. Underwhelming lighting
Second only to the dining table, overhead lighting steals the show in dining rooms. Rather than sticking with your standard builder-grade boob light or an existing fixture you hate, upgrade your dining lighting with a splashy chandelier or statement pendant — you won’t regret it! And remember: always hang your fixture 30 to 36 inches above the table.
4. Stuffy & formal atmosphere
Sure, formal dining rooms can lean traditional, especially if you have a more old-school floor plan. But that doesn’t mean they have to feel stuffy! Decorate your dining room with the essentials: wall art, greenery, table decor, curtains, and more. Ultimately, this is where meals, lively conversations, and celebratory moments happen — you want it to feel welcoming and cozy, even in a more traditional-style home.
5. Minimalist everything
Dining rooms are a great place to make a statement and create a mood! While there’s a time and a place for cool, white-walled minimalism, don’t be afraid to try a dark paint, floral wallpaper, statement rug, or patterned chairs — these riskier design moves will create a memorable backdrop for even more memorable gatherings.
6. Lack of texture and softness
Highly functional dining rooms need some softness, too. Don’t stop at a table and chairs — add warmth and texture to your space with drapes, upholstered chairs, a plush rug, or even a blanket draped over a dining bench. You don’t want your dining room to be all wood and hard surfaces — it’s all about balance.
7. One-dimensional design
While color contrast is important, too, we’re talking shape contrast here. Instead of opting for a square dining table with boxy, square chairs and a square rug underfoot, for example, switch up your shapes and silhouettes for eye-catching variation and contrast. For example, consider an asymmetrical hide area rug, square chairs, a round dining table, and a sculptural chandelier to mix it up.
8. Uncomfortable seating
We get it — there are some really cool, sculptural dining chairs out there. But we’d argue that practicality is more important here — you want something comfortable enough for a lingering meal. So skip the ultra-modern chairs with a sculptural (but unsupportive) back and opt for something comfortable and functional (ideally in a performance fabric for peace of mind — Interior Define has countless options!).
Sure, it’s easy to buy a dining table and chairs and call it a day. But if you have the blessing of space, take advantage of it! Create the grand dining room a large room deserves with a sideboard or larger buffet cabinet, and style out the space with plants, artwork, lighting, and more.
Want expert advice on your own space, straight from an interior designer? Get started today with our style quiz.