Having a dedicated dining area in your home is ideal, but not always possible depending on the size and layout of your space. If you’re limited on room and can’t fit a full dining table, there are creative solutions to still be able to eat meals together comfortably.
Assess Your Current Space
Take a look at the room or rooms in your home where you would typically eat meals. While a standard dining room may not be an option, you likely have more space to work with than you think. Here are some things to consider:
- What furniture is currently in the room? Can any of it be removed or condensed to free up space?
- Are there any awkward narrow spaces along walls or corners that could accommodate a narrow table?
- Could you convert another area, like a breakfast nook, hallway, or even a bedroom into a makeshift dining area?
- Does your kitchen have an eat-in area or island that could double as a place to sit and eat meals?
Taking measurements of the usable space in the room will give you an idea of what size options could potentially work. Allow at least 36 inches of clearance on all sides of a table to comfortably accommodate chairs.
Choose a Small Table
The centerpiece of your micro dining area will be a small table. Here are some great options to look for:
- Bistro table: These tables are taller than typical dining tables with a small round or square top. The petite profile makes them ideal for tight spaces.
- Drop-leaf table: A drop-leaf has hinged sections on the sides that lower to conservatively tuck against the wall, then raise to expand the table when needed.
- Gate-leg table: Similar to drop-leaf but with hinged leaves that pull out like accordion wings to widen the surface.
- Pub table: Taller like a bistro table but usually rectangular. Choose slimmer models for cramped areas.
- Folding table: A basic folding table can be a temporary dinner solution. Opt for plastic over metal for lighter weight.
Measure the space and look for a table around 30 inches high or under 48 inches wide to comfortably fit and seat two. Round or square shapes will use the space most efficiently.
Select Appropriate Seating
The right seating is essential to make the most of your small dining table. Here are some options that take up minimal space:
- Bench seating: A streamlined bench can eliminate the need for multiple chairs.
- Nesting chairs: These thin chairs slide into each other to take up little room when not in use.
- Folding chairs: Quick to unfold and tuck away.
- Stools: Counter height stools fit neatly under bistro and pub tables.
Measure to make sure the chairs will fit comfortably around the table without crowding the surrounding area. Low back and armless chairs will consume less visual space.
Use a Wall-Mounted Table
If you have absolutely no floor space for any size table, consider a wall-mounted folding table that folds up and out of the way when not in use. Here are some advantages of this option:
- Frees up valuable floor space
- Allows you to convert any room into a dining space
- Folds against the wall or into a cabinet to hide when not in use
- Offers a surprising amount of table space when open
Wall tables may not be able to accommodate as many people, but are excellent space-saving solutions for smaller households. Beware of potential weight and hardware issues when mounting to ensure safety.
Use a Room Divider
In an open concept home, a room divider placed behind a table can help define the dining area. Here are some divider ideas:
- Bookshelf: Doubles as functional storage and display.
- Screen or panels: Artistic bamboo or fabric screens carve out an intimate eating corner.
- Curtain divider: A ceiling-to-floor drape can create a cozy dining nook.
- Large plants: A row of tall potted plants serves as a living screen.
Make sure any divider you use allows enough walkway space around the table and enhances the area rather than congesting it further.
Use a Counter Extension
For eat-in kitchens, a counter extension instantly creates more food preparation and informal dining space. Here are some benefits of counter extensions:
- Allows seating at a kitchen island or peninsula
- Fits 1-2 bar stools to function as a breakfast bar
- Installs with minimal hassle using brackets
- Gives extra counter space for serving food
A 12-18 inch extension will comfortably accommodate a pair of slim counter stools. Look for units around the same counter height and depth for the most seamless look.
Create a Dining Corner
Any unused space can potentially be converted into a small dining area. Here are some tips:
- Use a narrow table that fits tightly into a corner
- Separate the space with floor length curtains or screens
- Add mood lighting such as pendant lamps to define the area
- Incorporate shelves or slim cabinets for dish storage
- Use a bold area rug underneath to visually anchor the space
Be creative and use interesting decor elements like wallpaper or colorful artwork to help carve out a unique little dining nook.
Maximize Natural Light
When working with a cramped dining area, make the most of any natural light source available to open up the space. Here are some tips to allow more light in:
- Keep window treatments minimal – go for breezy, sheer fabrics
- Use pale, reflective paint colors on walls to bounce light around
- Add a mirror to amplify light from windows or other fixtures
- Supplement overhead lights with task lighting like a pendant lamp over the table
Avoid heavy drapes or dark paint colors that can make a small space feel even more closed in and restrictive.
Choose Multifunctional Furniture
When space is extremely tight, look for furniture that can serve multiple purposes. Here are some flexible pieces to consider:
- Storage ottomans: Use as extra seating or tuck under the table to get them out of the way.
- Nesting/stacking tables: Can be configured together as a dining surface or separated as side tables around the room.
- Fold-down wall table: Disappears when meals are over to make room for other furniture arrangements.
- Coffee table: Some lift up or have leaves to convert into an impromptu dining surface.
Multifunctional furniture maximizes your usable space and allows you to quickly switch up the purpose of an area as needed.
Use Dining Furniture That Does Double Duty
Another furniture strategy is to select dining pieces that serve secondary roles when not being used for dining. Ideas include:
- An office desk that has folding leaves to become a dining surface
- A coffee table that has rising leaves to convert to a dining table
- Nested side tables that pull apart into a table set
- Dining chairs on casters that can roll to other rooms as needed
This allows you to maximize space and get more use out of the furniture you do have room for. Convertible, mobile pieces give you flexibility.
Use Temporary Table Extensions
For times when you need to seat more people than your small dining table allows, use extensions to expand the surface temporarily. Options include:
- Removable leaves
- End extensions like butcher block tabletops
- Expandable fold-out inserts
- A separate utility table placed next to the main table
Having an extendable table or handy extenders allows you to accommodate extra dinner guests or holiday gatherings while still fitting in your space day-to-day.
Create Flexible Seating Arrangements
Chairs and benches on wheels give you maximum flexibility in small spaces. Here are some benefits of mobile seating:
- Rolls out of the way when not in use
- Easily rearranged to suit different table sizes
- Allows you to instantly switch up the layout
- Makes clearing and cleaning around the table simple
Wheeled chairs combined with a lightweight, foldable table allows you to swiftly set up a popup dining area even in a room not dedicated to dining.
Hang a Dining Table
For the tightest spaces, a hanging dining table can be the solution. Here’s how it works:
- A small tabletop is suspended from the ceiling on cables, like a pot rack
- Cables allow you to raise and lower the table to the desired height
- When lowered, legs lock into place to keep the table steady
- Table can be raised back up against the ceiling when not in use
Hanging tables are ideal for small balcony dining or when you have zero floor space to spare. Just be sure your ceiling structure can support the weight.
Opt For a Dining Cart
A slim rolling cart takes up minimal fixed floor space but can be wheeled in whenever you need a surface for dining. Advantages include:
- Fits into tight spaces against walls or in corners
- Can be stored out of sight in a closet or pantry when not used
- Casters allow you to easily move it near seating
- Compact size provides just enough room for place settings
Look for carts with tiered levels to double as extra serving space. Just avoid overly heavyweight materials that make mobility difficult.
Go for Mixed Height Seating
Chairs and stools of varied heights around a high-top table allow more seating in less space. Benefits include:
- Taller chairs with low back profile fit under table
- Counter stools leave leg room for shorter seats across
- Creates more intimate conversational grouping
- Breaks up potentially monotonous table height
Make sure the table is high enough to comfortably accommodate both barstools and lower chairs. A 30-36 inch table height is ideal.
Use a Dining Bench
Trading chairs for a slim bench is an easy space-saving trick. Considerations include:
- Allows seating for 2+ without multiple chairs
- Lower profile compared to chairs
- Cozier feel for small tables
- Models with storage bases maximize functionality
Benches make most sense at petite round bistro tables or in banquette dining arrangements. Select appropriate proportions for your table size.
Consider a Bar-Height Table
The tall, narrow profile of a bar or counter-height table makes it a fitting choice for limited areas. Pros include:
- Accommodates stools instead of space-hogging chairs
- Leaves ample leg room even with a small footprint
- Elevated design feels more spacious
- Easy to tuck against wall when not in use
Pub tables around 36-42 inches high are ideal for barstools with backs. They work best in eat-in kitchens or next to countertops.
Rethink Traffic Flow
For dining and walkway spaces to coexist, careful furniture planning is key. Consider:
- Placing the table along the perimeter of the room instead of the center
- Putting the table in a corner to minimize disruption to flow
- Leaving ample room between the table and surrounding walls or furniture
- Selecting compact chairs that tuck under when not in use
Take measurements to ensure there is enough clearance so that people can comfortably move around the dining furniture.
Use Dining Benches Along Walls
Built-in or standalone benches optimize dining for tight spaces. Benefits include:
- Makes use of often underutilized wall space
- No bulky chair legs jutting out
- Guests face inward toward the table
- Bench seats can lift up for hidden storage
Banquette-style built-ins work well paired with small square tables. Floating benches let you reposition seating as needed.
Look Up for Unused Space
Consider utilizing vertical wall space above eye level to open up floor space below. Ideas include:
- Wall-mounted shelves for glassware instead of a sideboard
- Floating plate racks or pot racks
- Narrow console as a space for keys and mail
- Wall hooks to hang utensils, oven mitts, aprons
Installing organizational elements higher on walls leaves room for compact dining furniture arrangements without visual clutter.
Zone With Area Rugs
Rugs are a quick, affordable way to define a micro dining area within a room. Consider:
- Placing a rug under the table and chairs
- Choosing a rug wider than the table to define the space
- Using carpet runners to designate walkways
- Layering two coordinating rugs for visual interest
Rugs anchor your dining furniture and create borders that make the area feel like a unified space.
Use Space-Saving Table Bases
The base of a table plays a big role in its footprint. Options like these minimize square footage:
- Pedestal bases with a single central column
- Trestle bases with slender supports at each end
- Metal frames with floating glass or wood tops
- Foldable x-shaped bases underneath butterfly leaf tables
Avoid bulky carved legs or extra wide aprons on table bases when floor space is tight. A streamlined base maximizes your usable surface.
Divide Open Floor Plans
Use temporary room dividers to carve out dining space in an open concept home. Ideas include: