When you pull out a small bench to seat an unexpected neighbor for appetizers, it may seem like your dining room is filled to capacity in every way. Although we don’t usually look at this space as a means of storage, when not all homes come with ample, consistent space, it’s natural to look for alternative solutions.
Dining room storage is a creative endeavor at the best of times, so you may not have dared to think about how to add, let alone store, more items in this space. When our homes have to keep up with modern living, impromptu game nights around the table, and beyond-decorated Thanksgiving parties, what’s a small space host to do?
We called up some interior design experts to see how they recommend making your small dining room space work more functionally and aesthetically.
How to add storage to a small dining room
Being smart about storage will make dinner go smoothly and your dining room atmosphere absolutely beautiful. It’s more about seeing beyond the space you don’t have, and finding fruitful opportunity in what your dining room has to offer.
1. Choose storage solutions that won’t overwhelm
“Adding extra storage space in a small dining room can be difficult, but it’s totally doable,” says Luis Carmona of VERDE Interior Design.
Just as you can mix up storage and display in your living room, choose the right furniture, and you’ll make even the smallest dining room do double duty.
“Having an appropriately sized sideboard or sideboard in your dining space will not only add functionality to the space, providing surface area for serving or decor, but also additional storage space.” Consider a sideboard ready to be decorated with dried flowers, also set up to hold beautiful glassware. Or take advantage of a living room mantel if an open-plan diner is more suited to your space.
The key is to keep your display balanced and proportional to the rest of your dining room design. Think about how you can create storage around your dining room table, whether rectangular or oval, in a way that enhances the space and doesn’t make it feel too crowded.
Luis Carmona is the owner and principal designer at VERDE Interior Design. With nearly two decades of experience in the creative field (interior design, advertising, marketing), Carmona is able to blend his many passions into one design studio. VERDE provides interior design and branding services to commercial clients and has worked on boba tea shops, Mexican taco restaurants, sushi restaurants, and financial planning offices. Among commercial and residential clients, in both Houston and Dallas, the VERDE team continues to push the boundaries of design with its signature clean design aesthetic.
2. Make the most of your vertical setup
When space is short on your side, utilizing wall space is your next port of call, and thoughtfully installed built-in shelves or cabinets can elegantly greet guests when dining.
“A cabinet placed against the wall or in the corner will add extra storage space, with shelves and drawers,” says Carmona. “But in portrait mode, if horizontal floor space isn’t readily available, use the vertical space to your advantage.”
If artistically executed, it will add a decorative purpose. Interior designer Soledad Alzaga. She recommends taking advantage of vertical space with tall, narrow storage units: “This can help store items without taking up a lot of floor space.” It’s best to have doors or drawers like sideboards or even a wardrobe, and add extra storage space and display surfaces with floating shelves.’
Whether you’re keeping a small space or taking a more extreme approach to decor, incorporating living room shelving ideas into your dining room will allow you to keep the prettier items in your tableware collection in mind, and are sure to spark conversation.
“Use them to display decorative items, and store plates, pitchers, serving platters or bowls,” says Alzaja. The main idea is to keep them organized, whether it’s champagne flutes or a small portion of your best dishes on display.
Soledad Alzaga is the founder of her eponymous firm, a boutique residential and commercial interior design firm based in San Francisco, which was named one of the city’s top 15 interior design firms. Assists with all aspects of the residential and commercial property design and construction process from start to finish including consulting and working with architects, builders and engineers.
3. Disguise storage inside the seats
In the spirit of putting every inch to good use, looking beyond classic dining room chairs to banquet seating and other alternatives will add a modern touch to your space, complete with hidden storage.
“Getting creative with your seating design can also give you extra storage space,” Carmona says. ‘Having a bench or banquette with built-in storage as part of the dining table will serve as a seating area with an added storage feature. This is perfect for storing placemats, placemats and other table decor that may not be needed on a daily basis.’
4. Go on demand when needed
You might be lucky to have a small dining room that’s a bit oddly shaped, with lots of alcoves. Custom storage solutions are often the best kind, and this is a great way to provide more functionality in a smaller dining room space, too.
In addition to choosing multi-functional furniture, like dining tables with drawers or built-in shelves, Neil Marcus, interior design expert, COO, and co-founder of HomeThreads, recommends thinking outside the box to help lost areas regain purpose.
“Maximize vertical space by using floor-to-ceiling units, consider custom solutions for underutilized areas, and add style with decorative baskets or boxes,” Marcus recommends.
Marcus has dedicated 30 years to mastering the nuances of interior design, textile and home furnishing product sales and marketing. During his career, Marcus has helped many with their homes, including noteworthy names Kravet, Schumacher, Scalamandre, Ethan Allen, and LoveSac. His deep industry knowledge and commitment to excellence have made him a leader in the world of home furnishings and textiles.
5. Remove items without purpose
If you’re still struggling for a more subdued finish in a small dining room, it’s possible that there are some uninvited guests who need to be politely shown the door. Especially in a smaller home, it’s easy for items from other rooms to creep into crowded family spaces. Try to be mindful of this when adding storage to a small dining room to ensure you get the most out of the space you have.
“Avoid storing things you rarely use or have no purpose in the dining room,” Alzaja advises. Although it’s common to keep cocktail shakers, or perhaps a secret coffee maker, neatly tucked away on a hutch or your best bar cart, some items are just too big and annoying to keep in this cheerful space:
“This may include kitchen utensils, appliances or decorative items that do not add to a good dining experience.” Avoid large or bulky furniture that can dominate the room and make it appear smaller.’
To keep everything organized, impose a rule of two, or three, and pay close attention to the proportions of the surrounding furniture. “Don’t over-decorate or have too much knick-knacks or clutter,” Alzaga adds.
How do I keep a small dining room organized?
In a space that lacks square footage, we have to be more selective about what we keep there. Clutter doesn’t belong in any space, and getting rid of items you don’t need will free up space to help you enjoy more of your design choices; It may make cleaning your dining room easier.
“Regular organization ensures ongoing effectiveness for a harmonious and organized living space,” says Marcus, who recommends seeing every inch as a new storage opportunity: “Use vertical space with floating shelves or a tall hutch, and discreetly remove items with stylish under-seat baskets.”
“Choose streamlined, open-concept furniture and explore wall-mounted storage for a practical, unobtrusive style, maintaining an open feel while efficiently meeting organizational needs.”
What should we not display in a small dining room?
Some items simply won’t double as decor in all seasons. Holiday table essentials, or even “extra” items you need when extended family comes over, can be hidden in a cabinet with doors or built-in seating.
“If you have a dining bench, consider choosing a bench that has storage space underneath. This is a great way to hide things like tablecloths, napkins, or extra dishes.
How can you visually expand a small dining room?
Combine the dining room’s light color schemes with thoughtful storage, and you’ll enhance the overall design of the space, giving the illusion of more space.
‘The room can be visually expanded with integrated storage through thoughtful design. Choose dual-purpose furniture, such as ottomans or benches with hidden storage, to seamlessly blend function and beauty. “Choose light-colored furniture to create the illusion of space, and incorporate vertical storage solutions, such as tall bookshelves or wall-mounted cabinets, to emphasize height,” says Marcus.
The dining room is a place where you might also consider placing mirrors unexpectedly: “Strategically placed mirrors amplify the perception of space,
“Prioritize dual functionality, light colors, vertical storage, and reflective elements to discreetly incorporate storage while expanding the overall look of the room.” Let’s not forget that smart dining room lighting will naturally elevate modern dining rooms and traditional dining rooms alike.
Take an organized approach to small dining room storage and you’ll find more opportunities to enhance the space with dining room rugs, wall art, and perhaps even more elaborate Christmas table centerpieces, come the holidays. Consider what guests will notice and how your family interacts with the space daily to make the most of even the coziest dining rooms.