Traditional dining room design ideas: 20 ways to create an elegant vintage look

Transform your dining room into an elegant space your dinner guests won't want to leave? Be inspired by these traditional dining space design ideas

dining room in the Lovatt's cottage
(Image credit: Brent Darby)

Looking for traditional dining room design ideas for your period – or period style – home? While the practicalities of a dining room's design are crucial to successfully linking your kitchen and living space, and for creating a functional space, the look you go for should be inviting, encouraging long feasting and engaging conversation. How to achieve this welcoming, not to mention authentic, atmosphere? We guide you through everything from choosing appropriate dining furniture to paint colours and accessorising with ornaments and textiles. 

If your dining room is part of an open-plan space, read our guide to planning, designing and budgeting for a kitchen for more practical advice.

1. Create an elegant feel with a deep paint shade

The right paint colour can transform any room in the house, and the dining room is no exception. Think about the look you want to create: relaxed and rustic, or smart and formal? A bright off-white is a failsafe, brightening option, but we do love greens and reds in the dining room for a more distinctive effect – and if you will mainly be using your dining table in the evening, you can afford to go for a deeper shade.

Elegant period home with windows and light

(Image credit: Future)

2. Create an eclectic look with contemporary chairs

Want to try your hand at combining traditional and modern styles? The dining room is probably the easiest room to achieve a traditional/contemporary fusion – all you need is light, contemporary dining chairs, matched with a traditional table.

This dining room benefits from a nice contrast between the imposing dining table and modern chairs. Have a look at our pick of the best contemporary dining chairs –most of them will work well as part of a traditional dining room design.

traditional dining room Period Living magazine

3. Create an eclectic design with travel influences

Want a perfect conversation topic over dinner? Travel is not a bad subject to start, especially if your dining room design is a testament to a diversity of cultures and styles. 

This dining room cleverly combines Eastern and Western influences; the traditional Japanese ceiling lights and Roman-style bust are both from Rockett St George.

Rockett St George Liberty lanterns

(Image credit: Rockett St George)

4. Find your own take on a grey design scheme

Keeping the design scheme monochrome is one of the easiest ways to achieve a timelessly elegant look. Try a discreetly patterned wallpaper for a bespoke, cosy look. 

This dining room has been decorated with Viola wallpaper by Sandberg.  

We have more grey wallpaper ideas for you to browse; and, if you're designing a dining room and kitchen, check out our grey kitchen ideas.

Sandberg Viola wallpaper

(Image credit: Sandberg)

5. Brighten up the dining room with a zesty paint shade

Green is a popular colour for traditional dining rooms – it's a soothing shade that makes for a restful room, perfect if your dining room doubles as a breakfast room. Which shade to go for? The rooms above are in deeper green tones, which is perfect for rooms that will be mainly used in the evenings, beneath artificial light or candlelight. If you're decorating a traditional dining space that you'll use in the morning, too, a zestier green paint shade will make the room feel brighter and more cheerful. Match it with white and turquoise for a subtle look.

This green paint shade is from Little Greene and is called Sage & Onions

Little Greene paint

(Image credit: Little Greene)

6. Add lots of decorative detail for a rustic design

Bring your own personality to your dining room by putting your favourite glassware, ceramics, and even plants on display, You'll need open shelving or a dresser – and then it's just a matter of collecting objects you really like. 

Etsy is a great place to start building your collection of ceramics. Or, you could take up pottery yourself; see other craft activities you could take up as a hobby in 2019

Period Living magazine traditional dining room

7. Make the dining space cosy with printed textiles

Want a cosy, lived-in look in your dining space? Printed, loosely co-ordinated fabrics should be on your radar: from colourful curtains to sumptuously upholstered dining chairs, printed textiles are the perfect material for creating a bespoke, vintage look. 

This dining room has been designed with fabrics by Vanessa Arbuthnott.

Vanessa Arbuthnott Artist's Collection

(Image credit: Vanessa Arbuthnott)

8. Choose stylish window treatments

The right window treatments will add style and drama to your dining room, especially if you have a gorgeous, large window you'd like to draw attention to. And for a really grand look, nothing beats shutters

Want more window treatment options? Check out our kitchen window treatment ideas

Neptune Balmoral extending dining table

(Image credit: Neptune)

9. Keep the design simple – but invest in a quality dining set

Traditional doesn't have to mean colourful and ornate. You can keep the design neutral and fuss-free, but be sure to invest in a quality dining set, which is the heart of any dining room, traditional or otherwise. Solid wood dining furniture is best for traditional schemes. We're ready to help with our guide to the best traditional dining tables.

wooden antique dining furniture in dining room

(Image credit: Future/Brent Darby)

10. Make the most of a multi-use space

Does your dining room double up as the hallway/living room? Make the most of the available space by choosing compact dining furniture. A round dining table is best, since it has no corners to bump into, and you can squeeze more people around it comfortably. Personalise your furniture for a cottage or farmhouse feel by painting it. 

first time buyers cottage renovation dining room

(Image credit: Jody Stewart)

11. Accessorise with table cloths, flowers and artwork

If your dining room is part of an open-plan layout, you'll want to blend its design with that of your living space. Pick furniture that looks equally good in a living room and accessorise in the same way you would in your living space, and you'll create a cohesive look. Use this approach in a dining room-only for a space that feels welcoming and warm, whatever the wall colour. 

dining space in 17th century thatched cottage

(Image credit: Bruce Hemming)

12. Embrace romantic excess with a pink colour scheme

Want to make a real design statement with your dining room colour scheme? Choose a less expected, vibrant colour for your walls that will instantly personalise the space. Try a colour that's usually used in a different type of room (say, a bedroom) for maximum effect, and complement it with neutral but ornate furniture. 

For a similar romantic pink shade try Rangwali from Farrow & Ball.

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

13. Go boho with lots of shelves, lights, and decorations

If you want a more relaxed, Bohemian take on traditional dining room style, we have some good news for you: you can forget about the current de-cluttering craze and put your knick-knacks on display instead. A few pictures on the walls, that lamp you picked up in an antiques shop, and a plant garland – hey presto, a dining room that looks lived-in and charmingly idiosyncratic. 

Love boho? We have more brilliantly boho design ideas for you to browse.

(Image credit: Colin poole)

14. Create a dining area in the hallway

If space is limited, but you still want a separate dining space, think about areas of the home that are underused and could be reworked as a dining area. A wide hallway is definitely a contender – but be sure to choose an oblong dining table to maximise dining space and to make movement around the hallway easy. 

This renovated cottage sports an ingenious solution to the lack of space: a hallway dining area with a bench for seating. 

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

15. Paint dining furniture for upcycled chic

Add a bit of colour to your dining room design, and give your old dining chairs a new lease of life by painting them. Find out how to paint furniture in our guide. 

dining room in the Lovatt's cottage

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

16. Experiment with an open-plan layout

An open-plan kitchen diner layout can be designed in a variety of ways, and positioning the dining table centrally in the room is just one of them. Symmetry will not suit every room, so think in terms of the space you have and what will work best for it. We like the dining area created in the corner of this garden-facing kitchen, creating an illusion of more space. 

Discover more about creating an open-plan layout

Wooden floorboards flow from the playroom into the open-plan dining room and kitchen. For similar blinds and curtains, try The Dormy House. The pendant lampshades are from Ardingly Antiques Fair, with red flex from Baileys

(Image credit: Julia Toms)

17. Liven up a corner dining space with floral wallpaper


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Mini dining spaces tucked away under the stairs or in the corner of a room can look really charming – but you'll need to think of ways to counteract the darkness of these spaces. Brighten up your corner dining space with a bold, floral wallpaper; a mirror will also help make the space look bigger. 

This dining area has been decorated with Gosford Meadow wallpaper by Laura Ashley. 

Dining set with stairs and decorative mirror and wooden floor

(Image credit: Jeremy Phillips)

18. Go all-white for a French cottage look

This cottage breakfast room looks very chic, in a summery, Provencal way, thanks to the striking all-white colour scheme. The doors of the dresser were hand made by the owner, and the table was hand painted with Annie Sloan chalk paint – one of those perfect weekend DIY projects.

Ready to attempt something similar? Find out more about the best paints for furniture in our buyer's guide. 

white painted round table and chairs in breakfast room in 18th century home

(Image credit: Jody Stewart)

19. Get rustic, sturdy furniture to match a cottage interior

Picking the right dining furniture for a period room is all about proportions – in other words, matching the lines and architecture of your furniture to that of the room itself. Here, a cottage dining room with chunky, beamed ceilings and stone floors needs sturdy, solid furniture to match.

 The front door leads straight into the dining room. With its Victorian range lit, it’s a cosy room on winter evenings. Salvaged beams give character to this rebuilt section of the property. 

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

20. Add warmth with wood flooring

Wood flooring is perfect for any traditional design scheme – and it's more practical in the dining room than in the kitchen. Choose rich, dark tones for an authentic or formal look.

Find out how to choose the best wood flooring in our guide. 

tea time kitchen cottage spurling

(Image credit: jody stewart)

Browse more gorgeous traditional room design ideas:

Anna Cottrell
Anna Cottrell

In 2018 Anna moved into the world of interiors from academic research in the field of literature and urban space and joined as Staff Writer. She has a longterm interest in space-making and the evolution of interior style. She can also be found looking for the latest innovations in sustainable homewares or buying yet more bedding.