Chat with us, powered by LiveChat

How To Squeeze Extra Seating Into Your Small Dining Room

If you live in a small space, entertaining a group of any size can be a challenge, to say nothing of trying to host a crowd. Being a little shy on square footage presents a particular problem in the dining room. In other areas of the home you can more or less get away with squeezing people in, but if you don’t have a big enough dining set, you won’t be hosting a big dinner party. That said, even if the space you have to dedicate to a dining table is small, there are a few ways to sneak in a little extra seating…without making you or your guest feel like sardines.

Swap Dining Chairs For Bench Seating

Trading out a few dining chairs for a bench is a great way to allow you to seat more people at the same table (by Susan Sutherlin Designs)
Trading out a few dining chairs for a bench is a great way to allow you to seat more people at the same table (by Susan Sutherlin Designs)

One of my favorite ways to do scaleable seating is a classic that’s really started to come back into vogue: the dining bench. Simply put, you replace the chairs on one long side of your dining table with a bench that matches the length of the table. On a normal day, the swap is more or less one-to-one, a little bit of stylish asymmetry that takes up the same amount of space as the chairs. But when you’re entertaining, having bench seating allows you to fit more people on that side of the table than you would with chairs. It might be a little squished, but it will get all your guests at the table. Bonus: if you’re worried about back support, or just want to avoid your dining set looking a little like a picnic table, you can opt for high-backed, upholstered benches instead.

Booth Seating Isn’t Just For Breakfast Nooks

Moving your whole dining set against a wall and adding booth seating saves a huge amount of floor space while significantly upping your seating capacity (by Hetherwick Hutcheson Design)
Moving your whole dining set against a wall and adding booth seating saves a huge amount of floor space while significantly upping your seating capacity (by Hetherwick Hutcheson Design)

In that same vein, booth style and banquette seating is also making a comeback, and for a similar reason. By pushing the table against a wall or into a corner, banquettes not only save you floor space, but also put bench seating on two sides of the table rather than just one, further maximizing the number of people you can host (relatively) comfortably at once. Personally, I think banquettes work best with square or rectangular tables with chairs on both of the two exposed sides (if you have the space!). While rounded tables work great elsewhere (see below), in a banquette you want as much table space as possible to be able to accommodate all the food and dishware you need to feed a group. Adding extra chairs on the outside of the table also helps you maximize the space, so you aren’t relying entirely on the booth seating.

Splurge On Extendable Tables And Stackable Chairs

Extendable dining tables with built-in moving parts tend to be a little pricier, but can save you big time on storage space
Extendable dining tables with built-in moving parts tend to be a little pricier, but can save you big time on storage space

Another oldie-but-goodie that I actually haven’t seen as much of lately is the classic table leaf. Of course, I know exactly why this option isn’t exactly at the top of everyone’s list. Adding a leaf to your table is a great way to expand your surface space to host a crowd, but most table leaves have to be manually removed and stored when not in use – and ditto for your spare chairs. That said, if you really want to be able to flex up your seating space for parties, this is probably the most reliable and comfortable way to do it. If you’re willing to splurge, tables with butterfly leaves are designed to store the leaves inside the table itself. Pair that with dining chairs that are stackable, and you can get the most amount of extra seating with the least storage space lost.

Cut Corners For A Cozy, Intimate Family Table

A round dining table can easily - and comfortably - fit at least one or two more chairs than you could on a square table of the same size (by Fein Zalkin Interiors)
A round dining table can easily – and comfortably – fit at least one or two more chairs than you could on a square table of the same size (by Fein Zalkin Interiors)

On the other hand, if your problem is that you don’t have much space for a dining table in the first place, the best way to scale up your seating while saving space is to cut corners – literally. Rounded dining tables aren’t the best option if you have space for a very long table, but if your choice is between a squat or square table and a round one, the rounded edges will win every time. Why? Getting rid of the hard edges lets you fit more chairs all the way around the table without sticking someone at an awkward angle, and gives you a similar amount of usable surface area while taking up less space in the room. Narrow or armless chairs are easier to fit around a rectangular table, but round tables enable you to use full sized chairs without losing seating capacity.

Go Backless With Chairs You Can Stow Under Your Dining Table

Backless dining chairs aren't necessarily the most comfortable, but they can be a lifesaver in open dining areas where you don't want bulky chairs blocking your walkway (by Kia Designs)
Backless dining chairs aren’t necessarily the most comfortable, but they can be a lifesaver in open dining areas where you don’t want bulky chairs blocking your walkway (by Kia Designs)

In a great room that’s a little lacking in square footage, another issue that arises when trying to maximize your seating is that too many chairs or a too-large table can actually block movement through the space. Now, this is a slightly more difficult problem to address (especially in terms of table placement). That said, one easy solution is to opt for dining chairs (or benches) that can be stowed completely underneath your table. It’ll take a little effort to maintain effectively, and isn’t necessarily the option with the best back support, but if you really need to keep your walkways clear, using hideaway chairs is one of the best ways to do it.

Mix, Match, And Experiment To Get The Best Seating For Your Space

Don't be afraid to mix and match different seating ideas to find a configuration that works for the way you want to use your space (by Denise Morrison Interiors)
Don’t be afraid to mix and match different seating ideas to find a configuration that works for the way you want to use your space (by Denise Morrison Interiors)

Finally, it’s worth noting that none of these solutions exist in a vacuum. If there’s more than one option on this list that sounds like it might help you, don’t be afraid to do a little mixing and matching. Banquettes with hideaway chairs, dining tables with upholstered benches, and drop-leaf tables that switch between rectangular and round are all viable and stylish options that can help solve your small-space woes.

So if you love to entertain, don’t let your small space hold you back. You don’t need a bigger house to have better seating, and you don’t need a monster dining set to host a crowd – you just need to shop smart and plan ahead for the guests you want to have!