Make your humble abode the envy of at-home entertaining. 

We’re dinner party hosting like never before. As 2020 has seen us spending more time at home, we’re also enjoying entertaining our family and friends at home more – rather than dashing out to a local restaurant. It might be because you’ve honed your cooking talents over the last few months, you’re enjoying saving a little cash on eating in, or you’re simply taking advantage of the extra time on our hands to spend it with loved ones.

Whatever your reason, if you’re anything like us, it’s likely that your dining room, garden or kitchen extension has become the centre of your house. And that’s no bad thing. There’s no better feeling than looking across a group of your friends or family as they enjoy each others company in your own home whilst they tuck into something delicious that you’ve made.

So if there’s ever been a better time to give your dining or entertaining space a little facelift, this is the moment. It’s time to up our game and update our dining rooms.

So before you pop open that bottle of Champagne, here are seven things that can help update your dining room:

1. Getting the Right Furniture

First things first, we need to make sure we have the bare bones of our dining room nailed before we can start adorning it with something a little more special. If you’re looking for a new dining room table, we recommend going for something reasonably sized, but not too big for your space – there’s nothing worse than cramming yourself around the sides of a table, or being unable to pop to the bathroom without disturbing everyone around you. We also recommend choosing a classic design, using simple colours and materials, or natural woods to bring warmth. Remember, you can use tableware and decor to add character to your room, so keep the furniture simple.

Our Pick:

We love this natural ash option from Freedom. It has enough space for up to eight diners, and the rounded corner and legs make it appear welcoming and modest – plus it’s child friendly! Add a modern touch with the matching Callie dining chairs, with rattan accents to create warmth and depth to your set-up.

2. Choosing Your Table Linen

Table linen provides the perfect opportunity to add a bit of life to your table and show off your own personality. If you’re not able to buy a brand new dining table, but your own is looking a little worn or dated, a tablecloth is a great way to update it on a budget. To keep this fun but sophisticated, we suggest opting for a neutral-toned tablecloth in a natural material such as linen. If you’re stuck on what colour palette to choose, we’d recommend using a calming white or oatmeal colour for this, but, if you do host a lot of families with children, opting for a darker colour such as charcoal grey or navy will make it easier to wash out stains and spills. If you’re a fan of your tabletop though, and want it to be visible, feel free to keep it bare.

Layer this neutral base (whether it’s wood, glass or the tablecloth), with a vibrant placemat. Placemats help zone the table, making space for each guest; it’s also the perfect opportunity to inject colour into the table setting. Choose colours which match the decor of the room, or, if you’re eating al fresco, try to bring out the colours in the natural environment. We also recommend choosing a larger square placemat which will allow your guests to rest any drinks on it as well as their plates, rather than opting for extra coasters. For napkins, choose a colour to match either your placemat or tablecloth to keep the design cohesive. 

Our Pick:

We love this linen tablecloth from Pillow Talk in a natural shade which would happily suit either an indoor or outdoor setting. We’d pair it with these gorgeous Bed Bath n’ Table placemats in a warm woven texture and rich tone such as this vibrant brick shade. 

3. Picking Your Crockery and Cutlery

Once we’ve got our linens in place, it’s time to focus on our dishes and cutlery. The general rule here is that simpler is better. It can be tempting to be distracted by exciting colours or patterns (and of course, if you really love something, don’t let us stop you!). However, as a general rule, there’s no food that doesn’t look great served up on a simple white plate. And after all, the food is key! The same rule applies for your cutlery.

The most important thing to keep in mind when looking for delightful dishes is that everyone at the table has matching plates, and that they’re the right size for the food you’d like to serve on them. If you do want to add a little more zest to your crockery, we recommend using one off pieces or patterns for your serving dishes rather than for the individual settings. 

Our Pick:

We love the contemporary curves of this simple white set from Temple & Webster.  If you’re looking for some interesting serving dishes, we’d recommend this abstract serving plate from Bed Bath n’ Table, which would perfectly complement a contemporary aesthetic. If you’re dining al fresco, this Sicilian-inspired option will add traditional European flair.

4. Finding Your Barware 

Second only to the food is, of course, your drinks! So make sure you’ve got all the vessels your guests will need. Naturally this includes any wine or cocktail glasses they might need, but don’t forget the water glasses too. Simple sleek designs are best for these, and we also think it’s a great idea to invest in a jug or carafe which you can fill with water and leave on the table so that everyone can serve themselves.

Drinks can also involve a little more thought than you might initially think. If you do like to dine al fresco, consider purchasing an ice bucket to hold white wine or beer outside. Your guests have come over to see you, so they’d prefer it if the drinks were close at hand and you’re not having to dash into the fridge every time someone needs a top up! 

Our Pick:

For red wine drinkers, we love a stemless wine glass like these from Temple and Webster, which helps minimise spills and curate a relaxed and effortless atmosphere. Refillable water bottles like this from House are also a great option to serve water – you can chill them in the fridge beforehand, and the lid will stop any accidental bugs or crumbs falling inside. 

5. Deciding on a Centrepiece

A centrepiece is by no means a must-have for laying a table. Remember, at the end of the day, it’s the food and the company which will hold centre stage. If you’ve got a little extra space on your table and want to add a little something extra, we recommend keeping it elegant with either flowers or a candle – pending on the atmosphere you’d like to create. If using plants, make sure not to add anything too tall or large to stop your guests from looking over it. Or, if you opt for candles, do not use a scented option, which might distract from your cooking, or  anything too low which could easily be knocked when passing dishes or drinks around. 

Our Pick:

These hurricane candle holders from Pillow Talk will work both indoors and outside, and offer a safe way to have real flames on your table. 

6. Setting the Lighting 

It’s a good idea to consider the lighting when designing your dining room. If you often have people over for dinner, it’s nice to have dimmable lights, or a selection of lamps to help set the atmosphere. If you’re more a long-lunch kind of person, mirrors and windows to reflect light can help the room stay bright and inviting. 

Our Pick:

Dining Table Indoors. Image photographed by Dario via Unsplash.

Dining Table Indoors. Image photographed by Dario via Unsplash.

If your overhead light saps the romance from dinners, a floor lamp is a great solution for bringing a bright but atmospheric light source. We love this one, with a fabric shade to help soften the shine.

7. Creating The Mood 

Music can be the final key to interior design; there is nothing which can so quickly transform the feeling and atmosphere of a room than hitting play on the right playlist. Just think about that awkward feeling at a party where the tunes just aren’t loud enough, and instead you’re left with awkward silences.

So set yourself up some speakers, and get the party started. If you’re a world-class DJ yourself, there’s nothing more fun than popping together a tracklist of your own, or, if that sounds too much like hard work, feel free to rely on Spotify or your chosen streaming service for the goods; from classy jazz to party-starters, there’ll be something to suit your event. 

Ok, so you’re all set -up for the night, but what next? If you still need some inspiration for your menu, check out some of our recipe options. Or, to kick off the evening on the right note, try these gorgeous cocktail options, whether that be wine-infused, or perhaps a whisky base to get you started. 

Editor’s Note: Our writers and contributors have independently selected and curated this article, and all opinions are their own. This article does contain affiliate links which allow us to make revenue off some purchases made by our readers.