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The First Things Guests Notice About Your Dining Room, According to Experts

Make sure you've taken these tips into consideration before your next holiday meal or dinner party.

A casual get-together with friends or family at your home might be more likely to take place in your living room. But if you're planning on hosting a dinner party or celebrating a holiday, there's a good chance you'll be using your dining room as the main entertaining space.

"Contrary to some beliefs, dining rooms are still very much in," says Tahwii Spicer, curator and owner of home decor and house accessories shop The Porter House Co. "Whether you've been designated the 'party house' by your family, host an annual Friendsgiving, or simply love to entertain neighbors and friends, you're going to want to thoughtfully design it."

And even though it can feel daunting to decorate a space with such unique significance, there are a few tips to keep in mind that can keep the whole process relatively easy. Read on for the first things guests notice about your dining room, according to experts.

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The dining room table itself

A group of friends sitting around a table at a dinner party while their host begins to serve food
iStock / Goodboy Picture Company

No matter what design aesthetic you're going for, a dining room is ultimately a place where you'll gather to enjoy a meal. That means the table you choose will be a natural focal point of the space and deserves extra special consideration.

"The shape in comparison to the size and shape of the room itself—and the seating options and how they pair with the table—truly matter," says Spicer. "Even an untrained eye for design will notice if the dining room isn't balanced."

But of course, when it comes time to serve guests, what goes on your table is important as well. "Your plates, glasses, cutlery, and napkins should match your theme and style," suggests Artem Kropovinsky, interior designer and founder of Arsight. "You don't have to spend a fortune on fancy tableware, but you should avoid mismatched or chipped items."

Your table's centerpiece

Dinner table ready for christmas dinner with pinecones and candles

A special occasion calls for more than just any ordinary table setting. A centerpiece can be a great way to make any table a more visually exciting part of a large meal, whether it's with special floral arrangements or an array of candles. But experts caution that getting too carried away with ornamentation can put a bit of a damper on dinner.

"Centerpieces are truly a wonderful addition to any dining space, but just because it looks stunning doesn't mean it's exactly functional," warns Spicer. "Try sitting in each chair and gazing across the table: Can you view each chair without having to look around an overly large decoration?"

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The rooms layout and functional flow

Dinner Party
Stock Rocket/Shutterstock

Usually, it's rooms like the kitchen where designers focus on efficiency and workflow as essential elements. But even the room that plays host to your guests requires special consideration when devising its layout and furniture selection.

"A space that is inviting and primed for entertainment is one that's not overly cluttered or so formal that your guests are deterred from enjoying themselves," Spicer says. "For example, how many red wine aficionados would reach for the white instead of red in hopes of saving themselves from a mishap on a perfectly white chair cushion? Moreover, they'll notice how the seats feel in terms of comfort, and if it's easy to glide their chairs across the floor or if it constantly gets stuck on a rug."

The seating

Set Dining Room Table

A table may be where you'll set your meal and plates, but chairs are where you'll put your guests. And while this may make them one of the most essential pieces of furniture in the room, you shouldn't shop just on looks alone.

"Make sure you have enough chairs for all your guests and that they are comfortable and sturdy," says Kropovinsky. "You can also use cushions, throws, or slipcovers to add some color and texture to your seats if they look boring or drab."

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The lighting

African American mother lights candles during Thanksgiving meal at dining table.
iStock / Drazen Zigic

While the furniture and decor you choose to fill your dining room with will always be important, hosts should never underestimate how lighting can often be the most vital element that sets the right tone.

"Ambiance is everything," Spicer says. "The ability to dim lights is a classic feature in the dining room for a reason. If a dimmer isn't an option, consider switching out your current bulbs for something with less wattage or even one designed to give a candlelight glow."

Spicer adds that actual candles can also make a dazzling addition to your scheme with minimal effort.

The room's artwork and decor

A dining room with a set table and artwork on the wall
iStock / alkir

In a room where the primary purpose is entertaining and celebrating, the type of artwork and decor you choose can take on an entirely different level of importance.

"Similar to your living room, the walls of your dining room should reflect your personality and taste," Kropovinksy says. "You can hang paintings, prints, photos, or mirrors to create a focal point or a gallery wall."

But it's not just about what you choose to frame and hang. "You can also use rugs, curtains, or plants to add some extra texture, warmth, and coziness," he adds.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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