From Proper Dining Room to Small Dining Nook

Simple ways to transition from a proper dining room to a small dining nook. Ideas for downsizing furniture and making it all work.

kitchen with bar stools and dining nook

Eating areas are one of the most important spaces in our homes. It’s where our families gather to share meals, it’s where we hang out, and a dining space is always connected to the kitchen, which makes it part of the heart of a home. When a home doesn’t have a designated dining room, a smaller, more intimate spot works just as well. In our case, we have what we call a dining nook. It’s a small and simple space at the end of our kitchen that holds our table and chairs. You won’t find a banquette with cushions and pillows, but it does have a lovely large window, and it was easy to transform this empty corner into a functional dining nook for our family.

formal dining room with board and batten

This dining room post is the second in a series about the evolution of all the rooms in our home. Make sure to scroll to the end to see what my friends, Yvonne and Lory, are sharing about the evolution of their dining rooms.

part 1 of the evolution series

Our Living Room

No matter where you are in your interior design journey, you can learn how to create a neutral living room that’s a true blank slate. Get inspired with these ideas and tips!

Our Proper Dining Room

When comparing our previous house with our current one, a big, glaring difference is the lack of a proper dining room at the Sugar Maple house. Even though we rarely used it, I loved our Sutton Place dining room. It had beautiful board and batten, heirloom furniture, natural light, and ample seating. There wasn’t an over-abundance of floor space, but it was a comfortable and cozy room for our family gatherings.

traditional dining room with mahogany furniture

Downsizing from a formal dining room to a dining nook was actually much easier than I had anticipated. I was sure I would miss the storage in the corner cabinets, and the large dining table…but so far, I haven’t missed either one. I cleared out quite a few decor accessories, and other items I no longer used, before we moved. So what I actually brought with me was much less than what was originally stored in the dining room.

formal dining room table with blue accessories

What is the Difference Between a Nook and a Dining Room?

A dining nook, which is what we have now, and a dining room serve the same purpose, but they are very different. A nook is traditionally a small space. It opens to the kitchen, and has large windows. Bay windows are a very popular choice for a dining nook. Also referred to as a breakfast nook, this space is home to an informal dining table and chairs, but little else. Sometimes in older homes, a butler’s pantry separates the kitchen from the dining nook.

dining nook with windows

Choosing the Table: Measure Twice

When deciding on a table for your dining nook, measure the square footage, and carefully consider what size table will fit best. You want a seating area that is functional, and that sits the maximum amount of people. Our trestle table measures 78 inches long, and seats six people perfectly. It came with the bonus of two leaves, so when extra family is visiting, the small table can expand in length.

dark brown trestle table

Another thing to consider is the shape of your nook. If it’s a square space, a round table will work beautifully. An alcove that’s oblong will work better with an oval or rectangular table. Make sure the seating area has enough room to pull the chairs in and out. We don’t sit at our table on a daily basis…so it’s relatively close to the walls. When we are ready to use it, it’s super easy to pull out and away from the walls.

trestle table in dining nook

Matching or Not: Follow Your Heart

I know that a matching table and chairs set isn’t the trendy choice right now. There are a few reasons I went that route, but the most important one is about making decisions. When we were in the middle of our move, I went through a phase where I was overwhelmed with all the decisions that had to be made. I looked and looked at dining sets, but the more I looked, the harder it was to make up my mind. The only thing I knew for sure, was that I wanted a farmhouse trestle table.

dining nook with shelves table and chairs

When I was choosing the necessary furniture for our new home, all my shopping was done online. Because I was unable to see my choices “in person,” I was more conservative and careful than usual. I felt confident ordering the matching table and chairs, so that’s what I did. I knew that after a year or two, I could easily swap out the chairs for something different.

serviceberry blooms in pitcher on table

More Ideas for a Dining Nook

  • A statement pendant light goes a long way in adding character to a small dining nook. Choose a fixture substantial in size that will give off an adequate amount of light.
  • A side bench is also an easy way to add interest to a dining nook. We opted not to do this, but again, if I decide I want a bench later, it’s a quick swap.
  • Take advantage of any windows in your space, and let in the sunlight. Use minimal fabric, shades that can be raised all the way, or shutters that are easy to open and close.
shelves in dining nook with brown table
  • Shelves are a simple way to add decor accents to a small dining nook. The shelves pictured above are simple pine boards that I painted, and then hung with corbels. They provide storage for my blue and white treasures, and help fill the big blank wall.
  • Wallpaper is another idea to make your dining nook a cozy place and add sophistication. I’m seriously considering hanging wallpaper on the back wall with the window. It’s towards the bottom of my to-do list though, so I’m not sure when it will happen!
dining nook with pendant light

Shop + Source

Click any image below to be taken directly to the product listing. Every effort has been made to provide sources for the items found in this post. Where actual items were no longer available, I’ve provided similar options. If an item is out of stock but may be restocked, I left it on the list.

Downsizing from a formal dining room to a small dining nook was, at least for us, very simple. We kept the Sutton Place dining room furniture in the family by gifting it to our nephew and his wife. I was able to make up the corner cabinet space I lost by moving to a home with hidden storage in the kitchen island. All in all, the smaller space suits us, and is perfect for our current season of life.

Now take a look at what Yvonne and Lory are sharing…

StoneGable | The Evolution Of A Dining Room

neutral dining area with upholstered chairs and rug stonegable blog

Designthusiasm | Refining Our French Style Dining Room

country french dining room with upholstered chairs and crystal chandelier designthusiasm blog

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11 Comments

  1. I’m happy you provided the link to this post. I missed it. I recently had to pare down for a cottage of a home. I thought I would feel as though I had lost so much, but instead, I was able to edit the things I never used, and it has felt wonderful to have a little less but have everything I need to serve friends and family when sharing a meal, no matter the season. I love your trestle table and chairs and look forward to reading what the other contributors are sharing.
    Karen B.

  2. Debbie Gasser says:

    I love all that you did with your new home! Beautiful! Where did you get the wreath with all the different greenery, that you have on the table with the cups that have pinecones in them?

  3. Ann – I totally adored your dining room in the Sutton Place house, and wondered how you would transition into a new dining space. You did a spectacular job! Your dining nook is beautiful and so reflective of your classic and tasteful style. (I am curious if you kept your wedding china and Lenox Holiday china – those were SO lovely.)

    Looking forward to seeing more of the Sugar Maple house!

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Hi Kimberly…yes, I kept both sets of china. I did pack up my wedding china and it’s stored in our basement. The Christmas dishes fit perfectly in one of the kitchen island cabinets, so it’s very accessible. Thank you so much!

  4. It looks lovely, Ann. I love the white shelving with the blue and white accents. So fresh looking!

  5. 5 stars
    Beautiful home. I too have a dining space at the end of my kitchen. I felt a room dedicated to just dining didnt match my lifestyle.
    I enjoy your post.

  6. Love the shelves.They display your collection and add some color.

  7. Did you paint the corbels too so they would match the shelves? Are the shelves screwed into the corbels?

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Hi Linda…yes, I painted the shelves and corbels the same color as the walls. I used the semi-gloss paint we used on our trim and doors. (Sherwin Williams Snowbound.) The shelves are actually nailed into the corbels. My handyman used a nail gun to attach them. I am sure a screw would work just as well. Thank you!

  8. Nancy Sharp says:

    Your Dining Nook is lovely. I love the table and chairs. And cheers to you for not worrying about what trends say. It’s your house and what worked for you!❤️👏