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Casual Dining Rooms with Ease and Comfort

Informal dining rooms to inspire

Produced by Debra Steilen
  • Whether you’re dealing with an open floor plan or just embracing a more casual lifestyle, these informal dining room ideas will inspire you.

    Carriage House Dining Room

    Why it works: Lined with brick, the interior walls of this room beg for furniture that supports its country charm and the casual but elegant way the homeowners prefer to entertain. As a result, timeworn café chairs skirted in ivory-colored linen surround a rough-hewn French farm table whose finish is marked by dents and scars. Instead of using a tablecloth that would hide the table’s rugged patina, the homeowners use sage-green place mats to mark each setting.

  • Farmhouse Dining Room

    Why it works: This informal dining room is dominated by a huge round table that can be enlarged with leaves for special occasions. The table’s rustic hand-woven silk tablecloth nearly touches a brick floor whose herringbone pattern seems as well suited for a streetscape as this farmhouse interior. Blue-and-white porcelain plates create an eye-catching pattern above a niche that holds a traditional Aga cooker; its glossy finish blends in with beige-painted walls. 

    Interior Design: Diana Kelly with Richard Smith

  • West Coast Dining Room

    Why it works: Indoor-outdoor chairs surround the large wood table in this casual dining area bordered by the kitchen on side and a family room on the other. The table’s driftwood color blends easily with the kitchen’s neutral palette as well as the sea- and sky-inspired tones of the family room. A globe pendant light fixture illuminates the table and ties in with the industrial-style brass pendants above the kitchen island and swing-arm sconces above the family room fireplace. See the next slide for a view of the showhouse’s loggia dining area.

    Interior Design: Mary McDonald

  • Loggia Dining Area

    Folding doors by Marvin create a seamless indoor-outdoor connection by opening the family room to a covered outdoor dining area. Furnishings include earth-color all-weather wicker chairs and two indestructible cement tables pushed together to accommodate larger groups. The loggia floor is made of Cherokee Flagstone.

    Interior Design: Mary McDonald

  • Multi-Use Dining Room

    Why it works:  In this renovated row house, the homeowners’ challenge was to make interiors work aesthetically yet function for daily life with two small children. “We make the most of every inch,” says homeowner and designer Lili O’Brien. “There is no room that we can use just when company is over.” Case in point: The large, round antique pedestal table serves the family as dining space, breakfast area, crafts table, gaming table, and place for the kids to do homework. The table is surrounded by a mixture of mid-century klismos chairs and sophisticated upholstered seating by Swaim. Reclaimed oak floors are layered with Moroccan tribal rugs for an exuberantly family-friendly attitude.

    Interior design: Lili O’Brien and Leigh Anne Muse

  • Beachside Dining Room

    Why it works: Homeowner/designer JoAnn Barwick’s trademark palette is found throughout this Florida beach cottage, where virtually every piece of furniture is painted blue, white, or some combination of the two. The author of Scandinavian Country, Joann is also a furniture designer whose collections for manufacturers reveal her love of 18th-century Sweden’s Gustavian style. The dining area’s light, painted furniture goes hand-in-hand with low-maintenance textiles suitable for beachside living. “All of the fabrics and textures I use are extremely casual, from ticking and linen to seagrass and wicker” JoAnn says.
    Interior Design: JoAnn Barwick

    See more from this Florida location.

  • Lodge-Style Dining Room

    When this Georgia ranch house was reinvented as Queen Anne Victorian-style home, the original living room became the new dining room—large enough to accommodate a crowd for lodge-style sit-down dinners. The low-slung ceiling was vaulted to create a sense of more space. Guests enjoy a view of the fireplace and its eclectic mantel-top collection of old silver, ironstone, and crockery. See another view of the dining area on the next slide.

    Interior Design: Randy Korando and Dan Belman

    See more images from this weekend retreat.

  • Lodge-Style Dining Room Detail

    Why it works: Wainscoting, a transomed door, and an octagonal window were added to this room to enhance the transformation of ranch house to Victorian-style architecture. A thoroughly modern sisal rug takes the place of walls in defining the dining area. The antique table came from London, and the dining chairs come from a Victorian farmhouse in Missouri.

    Interior Design: Randy Korando and Dan Belman

    See more images from this weekend retreat.

  • Shabby Chic Dining Room

    Why it works: Although featuring all the tonalities of a shabby-chic interior, this one focuses just as much on being eco-friendly. Each chair bears a traditional profile along with a casual personality that comes from being made of reclaimed wood. The dining-room set stands above a sustainably harvested white-oak hardwood floor, without walls nor even an area rug to define the dining-room space. Botanical displays and artwork connect the room to the out-of-doors.

    Interior Design: Laura Forbes Carlin and Alison Forbes

    See more from this eco-friendly location.

  • Summer-House Dining Room

    Why it works: The dining area benefits from an open floor plan that lets it share a 32x65-foot space with a kitchen and great room. Skylights, large windows, and doors facing all four exposures flood the interiors with light. “It’s an open, expansive, barefoot kind of architecture,” says interior designer Maureen Footer. Handpicked salvaged chestnut flooring adds warmth and connects the room (part of an addition) to the home’s 19th-century past. Also part of the vintage connection: an antique French table surrounded by Windsor chairs painted an unexpected Benjamin Moore "Deep Mulberry." Antique shelves pop against a bright green painted wall.

    Interior design: Maureen Footer

    See more images from this Cape Cod summer house.

  • Centrally Located Dining Room

    Why it works: This dining room launched a whole-house design because of its central location; the room is nestled between the living room on one side and the family room and kitchen area on the other. Seattle’s sky and water inspired the neutral interior palette, with walls painted in oyster, flax, and sandy beige and dark-stained oak floors. “I want my home to be a sanctuary, so that’s why we went with this serene palette,” explains homeowner Sun Chaney. In the dining area, this palette puts the focus on the round Dessin Fournir dining table and the Dennis & Leen chandelier that hangs above it. A built-in buffet stands to one side; on the other, French doors open to a terrace and views of the lake.

    Interior Design: Susan Marinello

    See more images from this comfortable Seattle home.

  • Effortlessly Elegant Dining Room

    Why it works: At the heart of the home, an inviting French door-lined space serves as both living and dining room. Its neutral palette offers an ideal foundation for an elegant layering of pieces, starting with the polished French-walnut dining table with its scalloped apron and an array of glowing Empoli glass on top. “It’s sophisticated, yet understated,” says designer Jan Showers. “I often look to the Hepburns—Audrey and Katharine. I love the fact that they could wear a classic outfit with a cashmere scarf thrown over a shoulder and be completely glamorous. They were elegant but never over the top.”
    Designer: Jan Showers

    See more images from this inviting Tulsa home.

  • Harbor-View Dining Room

    Why it works: “It’s meant to feel like a porch that has been enclosed,” says designer Louise Brooks about her personal seaside dining alcove. The space holds table and chairs, with French doors that lead to an outdoor dining area on the terrace. Inside, a bank of large windows also provides views of the sea—a constant in a house where there are few interior walls to block traffic or views. While the floor plan is open, the house feels traditional, thanks to classic architectural touches such as elegant crown moldings, wide baseboards, and dark-stained hardwood floors.

    Architectural Design: Louise Brooks
    Interior Design: Lynn Morgan

    See more images from this home overlooking Long Island Sound.

  • Blue-and-White Dining Room

    Why it works: A lively two-tone color palette and mix of patterns turned this dining area into a home’s upbeat epicenter. Peacock-blue grass-cloth wallpaper makes a design statement while remaining casual enough for the beach. Turquoise-blue accents—dining chairs with a multihued chevron panel, a drum-shade light fixture, and the ceiling’s coffered panels—glow against the deeper blue wall and white woodwork. A turquoise-and-white cotton flatweave area rug centers the dining area within the open space. “We wanted to create a beach house dining room that was not only sophisticated but playful and punchy,” says designer Austin Handler.

    Design: Jennifer Mabley and Austin Handler

    See more images from this dazzling Hamptons Showhouse.

  • Art Lover’s Dining Room

    Why it works: The guiding principle in this home’s design was the homeowner’s folk-art treasures, and that applied as much to the dining area as any other space. Cheerful reds and golds play up the warm textures of everything from the chandelier (which resembles an old wagon wheel) to a reclaimed wooden trestle-base dining table. A metal horse sculpture (formerly a weather vane) is displayed on the mantel in the adjoining living room. See the next slide for a view of antique country table serving as the sideboard.

    Interior Design: Gary McBournie

    See more images from this casual, comfortable home.

  • Rustic Sideboard

    An antique country table serves as a practical dining room sideboard. Two new zinc urns with convincing patina form the bases of lamps topped with rectangular parchment shades. Between them, three antique soda bottles add their quirky personalities to the display. Above the table, an antique hooked rug from New England echoes the strong reds and golds of the room. “I like pieces that are eclectic and have patina,” says homeowner Beth Jones about her collections.

    Interior Design: Gary McBournie

  • Eclectic Dining Room

    Why it works: Designer Jeff Andrews put the emphasis on eclectic in this casual dining room, starting with the chandeliers he designed using vintage German pendants. Dark burgundy walls and ethnic-print fabric add drama, while the fun mix of styles—including comfy banquette seating—assures casual living.  “I went against the grain of a formal dining room to create a more casual room with a lounge feel that works as well for a chic dinner party as it does for a summer brunch,” Andrews says.

    Design: Jeff Andrews

    See more images from this kid-friendly home.