12 Common Dining Room Mistakes Interior Designers Spot – And How To Avoid Them

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY Kelsey Clark

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Published on August 15, 2022

Dining rooms are often seen as a design afterthought. Because these traditional spaces are often reserved for special occasions and holidays, they tend to collect dust most of the year. But, we’d argue that a beautifully-designed dining space will encourage more family gatherings, weeknight dinners, and hosting gigs. With a proper dining table and a little design love, your dining room can quickly become your favorite room in the home.

But before we get started, it helps to brush up on the most common dining room mistakes are designers spot. From a lack of ambiance to disproportionate furniture, these faux pas can stand in the way of creating an inviting, functional space.

Ahead, Havenly designer Kelsey Fischer outlines the 12 dining room design mistakes we always spot in peoples’ homes. Keep scrolling to learn more and bookmark this ahead of the holiday hosting season:

Mistake #1: Going Too Small on the Rug

Mid-century modern dining room

Your dining room rug should be large enough to sit under all pieces of furniture — including the chairs when pulled out. If your rug is too small, the chairs will feel uneven or wobbly when in use, thereby distracting you and your guests from the main event: the food. What’s more, a too-small rug will make any space look smaller and incomplete.

Mistake #2: A Disproportionate Dining Table

Parisian modern dining room

Proportion matters when selecting your dining table size! If you have a spacious dining room with a small table, it will get lost in the space and feel anticlimactic. On the other hand, a large table in a tight space can feel cramped and uncomfortable. There should always be enough space on all sides to sit comfortably and pull out your chair. Designer rule of thumb: aim for at least of three feet of space between the edge of each dining chair and the wall.

Mistake #3: Impractical Seating

French country dining room

It doesn’t matter how beautiful your dining chairs are if no one actually wants to sit in them. While we love an antique find or a beautiful but statuesque piece of furniture as much as the next person, practicality is paramount when buying dining chairs. Make sure your seating is comfortable, especially if you love to host and entertain!

Mistake #4: Zero Ambiance

Modern glam dining room

Mood lighting is a non-negotiable when enjoying a meal or celebrating a birthday at home. Just imagine eating a homemade dinner under stark, overhead lighting — hard pass. In addition to a statement pendant or gorgeous chandelier (it’s a dining room — go all out), layer in table lamps and wall sconces for additional ambiance. And don’t forget a dimmer switch!

Mistake #5: Too Matchy-Matchy

Modern dining room design

Whether you’re furnishing a bedroom or a dining room, matching furniture sets are a hard no from us. It’s much more dynamic, interesting, and personalized to mix and match different design styles, colors, and silhouettes when furnishing a space. Consider a modern oval dining table paired with classic mid-century modern chairs — the contrast is perfection.

Mistake #6: Hanging Light Fixtures Too High

Dining room design ideas

Dining rooms are the one space in your home where you have permission to ignore the seven-foot rule. Because no one will actually be walking underneath your light fixture, you can hang it a bit lower and really make a statement. Opting for an oversized statement chandelier hung at eye-level really adds ambiance to a dining space.

Mistake #7: Cramped Seating

White dining nook

Commonly spotted in apartments, condos, and small homes, dining nooks, though incredibly cute, can easily feel cramped. Always make sure you’re selecting furniture that fits the scale of your space, and consider bar stools or a built-in banquette if extra seating is an absolute must (as opposed to cramming in extra dining chairs). 

Mistake #8: Impractical Finishes

Warm minimalist dining room

Like uncomfortable dining chairs, you’ll always regret buying a beautiful but impractical dining table that quickly collects scratches and scuffs. Considering the price tag on most dining tables, you want it to hold up — especially if you have a large family or little kids. Make sure your table is properly sealed with a water-resistant finish before pulling the trigger. 

Mistake #9: Skimping on Decor

Organic modern dining room

While you may only use a formal dining room a few times a year, it shouldn’t be a design afterthought. Sure, a living room will understandably take precedence when designing a home from the ground up, but dining rooms deserve some love, too. Add artwork, mirrors, and/or wainscoting to the walls, and adorn the tabletop with candlesticks or a vase with fresh blooms.

Mistake #10: Lackluster Window Treatments

Colorful dining room ideas

Speaking of decor, your window treatments are equally important. Not only do drapes and shades contribute to the ever-important ambiance, they offer an opportunity to inject even more personality and style into your dining room. Of course, you’ll want to make sure they’re properly sized and installed — more on that here.

Mistake #11: Playing It Safe

Boho modern dining room

Traditional dining rooms are often a small, separate room in the home, which means they’re a perfect candidate for bold pattern and color. Give this room its own unique personality with wainscoting, bold paint, colorful rugs, mis-matched dining chairs, statement lighting, wallpaper, and the like. Make it feel worthy of celebratory dinners and holidays!

Mistake #12: Too One-Dimensional

Farmhouse dining room

Texture is so important when it comes to creating a warm, inviting, and dynamic space. Whether you’re a stalwart traditionalist or a modern bohemian, layer in contrasting textures like velvet, wood, leather, linen, metal, or wicker. Like furniture, it’s important to mix and match different fabrics and finishes for a unique, eye-catching look.

Looking to give your own dining room a facelift? Work one-on-one with our expert interior designers for just $129 per room. Get started today with our style quiz

Words by Kelsey Clark