Interior Design

Our Art Director's 5 Best Tips for Designing a Dining Room

Whether you're starting with a blank canvas or just want a refresh.

June 28, 2019

We've partnered with Sherwin-Williams® to share decorating tips for how to transform your dining space and highlight just how easy it is to design the dining space of your dreams.

There are certain rooms in any house that just don't get used as often as the others. For my family, it's the sitting room I've never actually sat in, or the den that's become a repository for all the knick knacks we've collected over the years (that my parents are probably going to Marie Kondo eventually).

But perhaps the most notoriously under-used room of all time is the dining room. Let me guess: You've stepped foot in it just two or three times since you moved in, probably for big holiday meals. As a result, it's probably the last room on your mind deserving of a refresh. But that's all the more reason to give it a little love—because the cozier and more welcoming it is, the more likely you are to use it. Enter: Food52's art director, Alexis Anthony, who's going to show us just how big a change a few simple updates, and a coat of paint, can make.

Not only is Alexis one of the few people who actually uses their dining room on a regular basis, but you can also find her decorating, styling, and zhuzhing up our sets and tablescapes on the daily. Which, in our book, makes her the perfect resource for dining room design tips and tricks, from how to pick the perfect paint color to finding just the right accents that will make this spot one of the most warm and inviting in your home.

So whether you're ready to don your painter's pants (you know, that comfy pair of jeans with the splatters) and totally overhaul your dining room, or just need a little bit of a refresh, Alexis has got you covered. Check out her best design tips below or watch the video above to see her completely transform a dining room from blank canvas to dinner party-ready.

Our Best Dining Room Design Tips

Photo by Rocky Luten

1. Pick one object that inspires the room's mood and color palette.

Inspiration can come from anywhere, be it a mood board you saw on Pinterest or a piece of fresh produce at the farmers market. When picking out a paint color, "I think it helps to have something in your room that inspires you," Alexis says. "It's like a thesis for your color selection and gives you some sort of boundaries."

For the dining room you see in the video, Alexis was inspired by a neutral-colored, fluffy looking plant called pampas grass. "I loved the tone and texture," she says, so she used it as the foundation for her color palette and even as a springboard to eventually pick out certain accents. "I was thinking of a color that would work really well with its nice, neutral tones," she explains. After exploring a bunch of different options, she ultimately landed on a bright and fresh Sherwin-Williams paint color called "Sumptuous Peach SW 6345" for the walls that pulled out the plant's sand-colored, sometimes silvery shades.

2. Test out your paint color before you commit.

While it's important to test out the paint color on your wall, there's one extra easy way to explore your options. With the Sherwin-Williams ColorSnap® Visualizer App's "Instant Paint" feature, which uses augmented reality, Alexis was able to select a color and visualize what it would like in the room without picking up a paint brush.

"I think it helps take the hesitation out of trying something different that you might be a little scared to do," she says. Once you've officially decided on a color, Alexis has one key tip for the actual painting process: use the "W" method. You want to paint using a zig-zag pattern instead of going up and down in a straight line to avoid making visible streaks. With this technique, Alexis explains, "you don't get any strong demarcations between the paint lines."

Photo by Rocky Luten

3. Select accents that complement—and stand out from—the palette.

When picking out all the decorative touches that'll make your dining room feel complete, you want to start by working within the family of shades you've chosen. "I like to mix and match, while staying in the same general color palette so then you can have a bunch of things that all work together and you can easily move them in and out," says Alexis. For instance, the candlesticks and pillows both "have some nice tones that work with the paint color." That doesn't mean you have to decorate within the lines, though. You can try "going in the complete opposite direction," she adds, with an accent that stands out from the palette to create contrast, like the deep green plants.

4. Use lighting to tie the room together.

One of the biggest, most visible objects in the space, the lighting element in your dining room should never be an afterthought. When shopping around, first consider the shape and how it interacts with the table. "I chose a round shape [for the chandelier] to speak to the round shape of the dining table and to kind of accentuate that," Alexis explains.

The material—bamboo, in this case—also plays off of other pieces in the room to tie everything together: "The tone of the chandelier coordinates with the tone of the chairs, which was really different than the [marble] table, so I was hoping to bring the two disparate things together." Her expert trick: Hang the chandelier low to the table (about at standing eye level) to center the piece as a focal point.

Photo by Rocky Luten

5. Bring the space to life with a stand-out house plant.

Nothing brings freshness and color into a room like a lit bit of greenery, but it also makes a great design element, according to Alexis. "Maybe if you don't have room for a lot of furniture, it could seem kind of quiet and still. But if you bring in a plant, it adds some nice life."

Which plant makes the best dining room plus-one? Well, it starts with your gardening prowess. "I have a little bit of a brown thumb, so I like rubber trees because they're very forgiving and they have a nice, fun shape," she says. "The fiddle-leaf fig is a classic, but I hear they're very finnicky." If you're still not sure, head to the store and pick out a plant that catches your eye. Here, Alexis saw the leafy green, speckled number you see in the far right corner while she was shopping and knew it would be the perfect fit for this space.

How would you design your dream dining room? Share your ideas with us in the comments below!

In partnership with Sherwin-Williams®, we're sharing our best design tips and transformation videos to show you how a few simple changes—starting with the wall color, like the Sumptuous Peach SW 6345 featured in this dining room— can take any space from blah to breathtaking. To make the whole process even easier, use the Sherwin-Williams ColorSnap® Visualizer App, which has innovative features that make choosing a color palette and deciding on that final wall color totally hassle-free. Here, we used the Instant Paint feature to see what the paint color would look like in the space before committing.

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Erin Alexander is the Brand Partnerships Editor at Food52, covering pop culture, travel, foods of the internet, and all things #sponsored. Formerly at Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Us Weekly, and Hearst, she currently lives in New York City.


somi June 29, 2019
Love the light fixture, where can I buy it?
April June 28, 2019
Wow! I will have to try this on my guest bedroom. I've been playing around with color swatches but couldn't decide. I really love this color!