How to update an outdated dining room — 9 ways to transform this key space

Our design experts share top tips on how to update an outdated dining room

A dining room with gallery wall showing vintage posters in frames on plaster pink walls above and around fireplace, view into kitchen which is apple green, large dining table with three vintage style school chairs
(Image credit: deVOL Kitchens)

It's time to learn how to update an outdated dining room if yours is looking tired. And hey, it happens! We decorate, leave it a few years, then suddenly realise it's due a refresh. Or, maybe you've just moved in and looking for inspiration.

Our interior designers have shared their top industry tips for how to update an outdated dining room to help you transform your space into one that's on trend, feels loved, and brings you joy — whatever your budget.

A few brilliant dining room ideas, such as a new rug or modern lighting can be all that's needed sometimes to give a space a new lease of life. 

How to update an outdated dining room

Whether you're planning a total revamp or thinking of changing up your small dining room table ideas, our experts have nine tips to consider for your refresh.

Where our experts have recommended any useful buys to do this, we've curated the latest picks so you can start updating your space with confidence. 

1. Add a statement wallpaper

A dining room with peach and white wallpaper, a window with long gray curtains, a wooden dining table with navy blue dinnerware and wooden chairs underneath it, and a wooden sideboard and bookcase beyond it

(Image credit: Future)

A quick and easy updating boost is to hang some wallpaper and these days, it can be done easily in a weekend with clever paste-the-wall, ready to hang, and brilliant peel and stick wallpaper options.

"Wallpaper, wallpaper, wallpaper," says Robin Gannon, founder and creative principal, Robin Gannon Interiors."It will change a room in a nanosecond. And nowadays, even if you rent, there are so many peel-and-stick papers worth looking at."

expert headshot of Robin Gannon, founder, Robin Gannon Interiors
Robin Gannon

Robin Gannon and her firm of designers are renowned for their use of color, pattern, and layers, with the team's designs truly reflecting each client's distinctive tastes. Their design philosophy involves evaluating rooms as a whole before decoration, often devising architectural changes to elevate a space. Rooms look beautiful before a stitch of furniture is installed or draperies are hung on the wall.

2. Update your dining chairs

Living room designed by Jamie Toporovsky of JBT Design with Farrow & Ball wallpaper, long table with linen tablecloth and upholstered chairs, small bud vases of flowers on the table

(Image credit: JBT Design / Linda Pordon)

Often the simple swaps are the most effective, and opting for beautiful contemporary dining chairs is one a no-brainer (this set of four Sylvester solid back dining chairs from Wayfair come in eight fab colors and won't break the bank).

You can also keep your current ones and have them reupholstered in a favorite fabric that matches your desired scheme. Alternatively, scour flea markets and antique stores for a retro set that will add character and style to your dining room. We love a DIY cane chair, too.

Robin agrees. "There are quite a few cost-effective options," she explain. "Facebook Marketplace is going to be your best friend here. We found a gorgeous dining room table there for a client for $100."

She also suggests watching informative videos online to learn how to repaint or reupholster your existing chairs and refresh this item of furniture on a small budget.

3. Give your walls a color refresh

A dining room with a green wall with a rattan mirror, a dining table bench with gray glassware and plants, a wooden bench with gray and orange throws and pillows, and a jute rug on a gray wooden floor

(Image credit: Wayfair)

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to update an outdated dining room is to give it a lick of paint. This doesn't have to mean the whole room, as painting one wall in a small space color trend will be enough to lift a tired space into one that feels renewed. 

If you're deep in the painting mood, color drenching — we love this interior decorator's color drenched apartment — is still a big trend seeing walls, doors, skirting boards and even ceilings all painted in the same colour and can be very striking.

Whilst Pantone's Color of the Year 2024 is Peach Fuzz (give Lick's Pink 02 paint sample a go to see if you like the tone in your space), green is also a great shade to consider as it brings the outside in, perfect for spring, and is known for its calming properties. 

These soothing airy shades will help to make a small dining room look bigger too.

4. Update your lighting

Dining space with kitchen island on the right, large crittall window, three rattan pendant light above table, window seat

(Image credit: Lindye Galloway / Mike Van Tassell)

Updating your lighting especially above the dining table is a sure fire way to give your space a fresh look. 

"Incorporate lighting fixtures with natural materials such as rattan, wood, or clay into the dining room," advises Lindye Galloway, founder and chief creative office at Lindye Galloway Studio + Shop.

These KAPPELAND rattan pendant shades from Ikea are a similar match, always hang in odd numbers as they work best from a styling point of view. 

"They not only add the right amount of depth to the space but also create a welcoming ambiance when paired with the lighting hardware," adds Lindye.

image of blonde woman in floral dress standing next to sideboard, large mirror behind, wood flooring and rug, tree to side of sideboard
Lindye Galloway

Lindye Galloway is the Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Lindye Galloway Studio + Shop, a full-service interior design firm and online shop based in Orange County, California. As a self-taught designer with over 15 years of creative experience, Lindye infuses her California roots style by blending clean lines with organic touches, while always stretching beyond to showcase her ever-evolving style. 

5. Add a gallery wall

Dining room with gallery wall showing vintage posters in frames on plaster pink walls above and around fireplace, view into kitchen which is apple green, large dining table with three vintage style school chairs

(Image credit: DeVOL Kitchens)

Contrary to popular belief, inspirational gallery wall ideas aren't just for living rooms — they look great in dining rooms too. Any plain wall that's feeling a little too vast can benefit from a print, poster or portrait or two that will not only add color, but pattern too. 

Desenio are the masters of artwork for your home, from posters to canvases, they have a great selection for all rooms in the house. They even have a section on their website for kitchen dining spaces, where they curate collections – we particularly love Desenio's breakfast club gallery wall collection.

6. Add color and pattern with a rug

White dining room with dark wood table and chairs, vintage style rug, pale wood flooring, crittall doors with view outside, pendant light above table, two matching wall lights each side of doors, bookcase to the right

(Image credit: Imparfait Design Studio)

Rugs should be one of your best friend's in your home, not only do they keep pesky draughts at bay if you have wooden flooring, but they pull a scheme together too, not to mention the decorative aspect. 

"Rather than replacing all of the furniture in your dining room, hold onto the more substantial pieces — like the dining table — and introduce some fresh pieces to give the space new life. This can often be done by swapping out an old rug or adding a more modern light fixture," says Rebekah Zaveloff, co-founder and creative director, Imparfait Design Studio.

If like the Real Homes team you're a fan of Bridgerton, check out the new scorching Bridgerton x Ruggable collection including beautiful rugs bringing together regency and modern designs.

The best dining room rug you can afford will bring a welcome refresh to this space, but do remember to choose the right size. A good rule of thumb is the rug needs to be bigger than the table and chairs combined. 

image of Rebekah Zaveloft wearing black clothes, dark hair, expert headshot Imparfait Design Studio/Rebekah Zaveloff
Rebekah Zaveloff

Rebekah Zaveloff is the co-founder and creative director of Imparfait Design Studio, an interior architecture and design firm that celebrates the beauty found in places and things that endure over time. Influenced by her fine arts education, and years spent working in hospitality and set design for film before building Imparfait and its sister brand, Kitchenlabs, Rebekah’s design work can be seen in numerous publications, including Elle Décor, House Beautiful, Wall Street Journal, Food & Wine, Forbes and Domino.

7. Change up your drapes

Dining room with stone painted walls, cream drapes, floorboards with rug under table and chairs

(Image credit: Benjamin Moore)

If you love your color scheme and furniture, but feel an update is still needed then consider changing your drapes. Small swaps can often be the most effective, and whether you choose a neutral pair or want to introduce an accent color, this update will give your dining room space a visual lift. 

"Adding modern window treatments (and brilliant curtain panels), will turn a dated dining room into a much more cool and chic version of its former self," advises Rebekah.

We love these Goodgram elegant sheer voile panels from Target in 15 colors for spring.

Some interior designers recommend changing drapes seasonally and this can be a good option as it means your dining room will be updated twice a year. Replace fall drapes with a lighter weight more breezy style for the warmer months. 

8. Invest in cozy banquette seating

Corner dining room space with banquette bench style seating, two dining chairs, mahogany table, flowers in vase, candlestick, grey walls, blue and white seated cushions and chair pillows

(Image credit: Calafia Home Design / Margot Hartford)

Ideal for small dining rooms where the dining space is essentially a corner, banquette seating is becoming a popular choice (try the Build Your Own Hargrove Banquette seating from West Elm).

"If a dining space is uninviting due to feeling crowded or overly formal, consider installing a banquette. Banquette seating saves space and can even offer storage in small spaces, and cushions and pillows can add warmth and coziness," says Elizabeth Sims, founder, Calafia Home Design

You don't necessarily need custom built seating if your budget is tight, as benches work equally as well and Elizabeth agrees. She says, "Ready-made benches are increasingly available through familiar retailers. Always choose a dining table with a pedestal or trestle base so as to make entry easy, and add style with interesting accent chairs."

image of interior designer Elizabeth Sims, a woman wearing all white standing in front of white wall with long dark hair
Elizabeth Sims

After working as an MFA-educated studio artist in the contemporary art world for over a decade, Elizabeth Sims began taking on interior design projects to indulge her passion for the west coast’s rich design heritage. In 2015 she founded CALAFIA Home Design in the town of Berkeley in the San Francisco Bay Area in order to celebrate a distinctly Californian lifestyle.

9. Add wall paneling for character

White dining room with paneled walls, hardwood flooring, rug under black table and chairs, globe glass pendant light above table, dark wooden window frames

(Image credit: Barrett Oswald Designs)

Plain walls might feel too expansive if your dining room is large — this is where smart wall paneling ideas can come in. 

Not only can it make a space feel cozier, it can also add character and depth to an otherwise rather dull space. There are a couple of options: shiplap is where the wood is placed vertically, this is ideal if you want to create the illusion of height, or try wainscoting which is more traditional looking. 

"We have found that most people don't look beyond a table, chairs and storage piece in their dining space often leaving the surrounding walls untouched. We try to complete the look by adding paneling to layer in interest and texture," says Barrett Oswald, partner and principal designer of Barrett Oswald Designs

image of Barrett Oswald and MaryBeth Long. Two women standing next to each other against a green wall. One woman has dark hair and is wearing a black top and jeans, the other has blond hair and has a black top and denim jeans
Barrett Oswald

Barrett has always had a passion for style and design. Her love of interior design has been a natural progression – from a teenager who mixed toile wallpaper and band posters in her bedroom, to a graduate of the Fashion Institute in NYC, and eventually to the stylist of a commercial, oceanfront condominium in Florida. Her taste has matured over time (no more band posters!), but she continues to interject her personality into room schemes by mixing styles, patterns and textures.

It can be overwhelming when you're about to tackle a room that's looking a little unloved. Take it step by step and choose colors and accessories that you really love.

"You don’t have to replace every element in the room. Take something you have and reimagine it in a different way. Have fun with it! If you’re trying to update an outdated dining room, it’s only outdated because you’ve declared it so," suggests Robin. 

Once your decor refresh is in hand, consider how to arrange furniture in a small dining room to maximize your space and function and get the most from this room.

Sophie Warren-Smith

Sophie has been an interior stylist and journalist for over 22 years and has worked for many of the main interior magazines during that time both in-house and as a freelancer. On the side, as well as being the News Editor of indie magazine, 91, Sophie trained to be a florist in 2019 and launched The Prettiest Posy where she curates beautiful flowers for the modern bride.