10 small dining nooks that prove you don’t need much space for a big impact

Dining in scaled-down style

Small round dining table in corner space with gallery wall and white vase
(Image credit: @sweet_domicile)

One of the most lived-in spaces of a home is a dining nook. From cooking meals to visiting with friends and family, a dining area serves as a go-to spot to gather throughout the day. During the cooler, winter months dining nooks are even more well-loved, offering a cozy sliver of space to enjoy a fresh cup of coffee or a warm bowl of soup. 

Designing a welcoming nook with limited real estate can pose a challenge. However, even if you don’t have a dedicated room or area to put a formal dining table, there are still a variety of ways you can create an inviting and functional space. Use these stylish nooks as inspiration to carve out your own dining area — square footage aside.

1. Use a wall sconce to create a focal point

Round wooden dining table in corner with leather black chairs, white flowers in vase and wall sconce

(Image credit: @Hattiekolp)

This cozy corner in the Upper West Side of Manhattan proves that simple touches can certainly be stately. Gold accents, like candleholders and a picture frame, add a sense of sophistication and warmth while the wall sconce creates a focal point to draw guests in.

2. Create your own bench seating

Small Scandi-style dining table in nook with storage seating benches and wooden/wicker chair surrounds

(Image credit: almostmakesperfect.com)

One quick way to score more seating in a small room is to DIY your own breakfast nook-cum-window seat with low-standing dressers or benches. This neutral boho dining area mimics the look of a traditional window seat — no built-ins required. Pick something with storage underneath to make the most use of your space, then set a small rectangular table and a couple of chairs in front of the bench to finish the look.

3. Use unexpected seating to make the most of your space

Round white-top dining table with vase and white chairs surrounding

(Image credit: Madison Hope/Madison Design Group)

We couldn’t find a more inviting spot to cozy up with a good book or glass of wine than this spot. Whether you live in a studio apartment or you’re simply drawn to a more comfortable atmosphere, using a couch as a more formal seating option is a brilliant way to get the most out of limited square footage. The combination of textures in this dining area (from the fabric couch and wood table to the wicker chairs and hardwood floors) also adds a sense of depth and gives the entire space more dimension. Reach for finishes that have a variety of textures to achieve the same level of visual interest.

4. Add a rug to make your dining space more official

Round black dining table and chairs over striped contemporary rug in modern small kitchen with white cabinets

(Image credit: @greeneacresfarmhouse)

Even if your dining area is just a tiny alcove off of your kitchen or living room, incorporating a rug underneath your table can make a big impact. Not only will a rug help you center the space, but it will also make it look like the area was designed with intention rather than an afterthought. Bonus: Rugs provide a soft and comforting place to rest your feet while you’re eating or unwinding after a long day.

5. Have a glam moment in the corner of your living room

White round dining table with clear chairs and pampas on the top, side seater dressed with cushions

(Image credit: Hannah Skaar, August Jane Interior Design)

Only have room for two? Turn a corner of your living room into a welcoming haven by placing a small bench along the wall and a circular table along the adjacent side. Acrylic chairs look less bulky than traditional upholstered options, and they can add an instant touch of glam to an otherwise plain room. Square things off with a rectangular rug that complements your flooring. 

6. Pick colorful bistro chairs to make a statement

White round table with candle and hydrangeas dressed with pastel blue wicked chairs

(Image credit: @gretchen.donovan)

Set the mood for dining with bistro-inspired seating. Paired with a classic white table, these cheerful chairs contribute a pop of color that makes a subtle statement. Pro tip: Outdoor dining chairs work just as well indoors as they do outside, and many of them can be found for discounted prices during the cooler months

7. Use a pendant light to anchor the space

Round dining table in magnolia painted kitchen with checked black and white floors, small gallery wall and wooden chairs

(Image credit: @sweet_domicile)

The addition of a pendant light makes this inviting corner look so put together. Not only will it offer you better lighting but it will also help you anchor the space, making it feel more thoughtfully designed.

8. Take advantage of natural light

Small dining nook next to window with trad wooden dining chair and fruit bowl atop

(Image credit: @annawpage)

While a big kitchen window might be on your dream home wish list, you can still work with what you have in your current space. Set your dining nook up close to any windows you do have so you can enjoy the natural light while you eat breakfast or work from your laptop. Hanging curtains can give the area a softer, more welcoming touch. Don’t have great lighting in your space? Add warmth in less expected ways by incorporating lightly colored accents, like a white ceramic vase and fresh florals or plush and bright throw pillows.

Small dining space in green painted nook with gallery wall, black and white checkered floors and pup on the floor

(Image credit: @annawpage)

It's time to finally get your art and family photos hung on the wall, and alongside your breakfast nook is the perfect place to home them. Gallery walls can feel overdone and uninspired when you stick to the same shape, size, and color frames. Up the wow factor by using frames of various looks. Don’t be afraid to mix metals with more traditional picture frame finishes, like gold and silver with wood or fabric.

10. DIY a beadboard wall

Neutral breakfast nook space with beadboard backing and white decorative accents

(Image credit: @prettyinthepines)

If you’re game for a bigger project, take a weekend to DIY your own beadboard wall behind your dining nook. Beadboard can offer a lot of character to a room, and it’s surprisingly affordable to execute. You can add even more personality by painting the beadboard a lively color. If you don’t have built-in cabinets as shown in this pretty space, get a similar look by placing two bookshelves in between your beadboarded section.

Kara Thompson

About me: 

Kara Thompson is a Denver-based journalist with over five years of experience writing lifestyle content. She has written for a variety of publications, including townandcountrymag.com, elledecor.com, goodhousekeeping.com, and Parents, where she covered all things home, food, fashion, travel, and holidays. During her time on staff at Parents, Kara launched her own home decor and organization column named Save My Space. In 2022, she left her full-time job as an editor and started her own writing, editing, and social media firm, Kara Thompson and Co.

Tennis, New York City, bourbon cocktails, and her sister's German Shepherd are a few of her favorite things.