spilling beans: decorating design tips for the dining room


Kips Bay Decorator Show House – design unknown

Decorating design tips is the 2nd in a series of 11 features dealing with secrets of the trade.  The first were tips for a well-appointed Living Room. Future posts will cover decorating design tips for the Kitchen and Bathroom; Bedroom; Paint; Wallpapers, Fabrics and Pillows; Lighting; Floors and Surface Coverings; Hanging Artwork and Accessories; and Hardware and Light Switches.

As I mentioned in the previous feature, these interior decorating design tips are rules-of-thumb I’ve been collecting for years and many were published in House Beautiful. I hope you find them as useful as I have.

Even as more and more residential formal dining rooms go the way of the fax machine and are changed into more intimate and relaxed spaces, there are still some secrets of the trade that can help to make the room chic and functional.  So whether you’re all for formal or relaxed, below are decorating design tips for your dining room that will prove to be useful.



Mary McDonald

Decorating Design Tips of the Trade for the Dining Room


“Make sure you allow a minimum of 36” of space around your dining room table to give your chairs enough room to pull back” (Phoebe Howard)

“A rectangular table is ideal at about 36” in width.  This allows for conversation with your neighbors to the right and left and across the table – a real bonus” (Charlotte Moss)

“Dining room chandeliers should hang 60” to 66” above the floor” (Betsy Burnham)



Betsy Burnham

“A dining room rug should extend minimum of 3’ from the edge of a dining table – dining chairs should always be fully on the rug – not 2 legs on and 2 off” (Ginger Brewton)

“Keep 12” of wood floor showing around the perimeter of a room when placing an area carpet over it” (Mary Foley and Michael Cox)

“Use recessed lighting sparingly.  Too many fixtures turn your celling into Swiss cheese” (Anthony Baratta) “Light switches should match the height of the door handles” (Veere Grenney)



Charlotte Moss

“We put light switches about 1.1/2 – 2” off the side of the door casing to stay away from art on the walls” (Gil Schafer) “When you don’t have dimmers, use 15-watt bulbs to simulate candlelight.  Works like magic” (Mary McDonald)

“A simple sisal rug in natural or gray is the best way to make a room look clean and elegant” (James Huniford)



Anthony Baratta

richard rabel
richard rabel: interiors + art
interior design and art advising
new york city

image credits for top to bottom: designer unknown, Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse;  Mary McDonald; Betsy Burnham; Charlotte Moss; Anthony Baratta


Below are other features in my series on decorating design tips shared by top US interior designers:

living room decorating and design tips of the trade

kitchen and bath design secrets of the trade