6 Dining Room Alternatives

How often do you use your dining room? A couple times a year for holidays? Weekly?  I love my dining room as it is the central room of our house – but I know this isn’t the case for everyone and often times this is one room that can be left lonely. Don’t let that space go to waste!

With open floor plans being more common now and traditions changing, there is less of a need for a formal separate dining room.

6 Dining Room Alternatives - Shining on Design

I’m seeing more and more homeowners and families looking to utilize their dining space in an alternative way that suits their needs better – and if you are lucky enough to have an extra “unused” or rarely used room in your house, here are a six ideas to transform that space from regular to regularly used:


How about entertaining your guests with hors d’oeuvres and cocktails in a cozy setting?  Or sipping your morning coffee in a space that feels like your favorite cafe? Try a central seating arrangement with club chairs and a small table. 

6 Dining Room Alternatives - Shining on Design



I’ve always loved a room filled with books – endless stories and inspiration! Put those books and tchotchkes on display. Adding a cozy chair or sofa with soft lighting could be your getaway… maybe even squeeze in a bar cart too?

6 Dining Room Alternatives - Shining on Design


I am quickly learning the importance of having a separate, fun space for the little ones! And my goodness, there are a lot of toys and things that could take up an entire room.

6 Dining Room Alternatives - Shining on Design

If you are on a budget, like me, and looking for some great storage options that aren’t a total eye sore, check out The Land of Nod or IKEA for inexpensive options to organize (or try to organize) all those toys.  


A home office is a luxury that not everyone needs, but for many it can make a huge impact on turning on and off the work mode.  With cell phones buzzing and emails flowing, it can be SO hard to just turn it off.

6 Dining Room Alternatives - Shining on Design

When the work day is over, shut the door and say “see you tomorrow!”.


Or for the family that keeps growing!  Orrrr – the college student (like me, about decade ago!). This conversion was the answer to my 6 college roommates looking for a house with character. We were thrilled when the landlord was on board with (and paid for!) our idea to make the dining space an extra bedroom.

A little drywall and a double door entry gave us our perfect college pad, and gave the owner an additional bedroom to market after we left. Gosh, I wish I had pics to share of this gem but I’m not sure if you would want to see them!!!! The good old days…. here is a MUCH prettier picture instead:

6 Dining Room Alternatives - Shining on Design


Are you always moving that coffee table over to get in a home work out? How about using that extra space dedicated to making your fitness routine a little easier. This is one room that I wish I had enough space for! #dreamhome

6 Dining Room Alternatives - Shining on Design

If you really do use your dining room (like I do!) but have some extra room, think about incorporating functional elements. Do you have a china cabinet, but never use your china? Maybe a bar cart or bookshelf will better suit your needs!

Mix and match to your delight!

Library/Lounge or Fitness Room/Office or Playroom/Library. Have fun! (within limitations of course! NO weights or bars in playrooms please!)

 6 Dining Room Alternatives - Shining on Design

Share your favorite dining room renovations with me! Send me a message or comment below with how you use your dining room!


Photo credits: Lounge  Robeson Design   | Library House Beautiful  | Playroom La La Lovely | Office  Kathy Daukant | Guest Room J. Mozeley Interiors  Playroom/Library Happiness is Eva  | Fitness Room Life Fitness

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  1. 10.10.16
    Giovanna said:

    Love this! We actually do use our formal dining room, but mostly because it has the big table that lots of people can gather at and not cause it’s “formal.” That said, I wanted a place to house all our books so I lined one wall of the dining room with bookcases, giving the room a multi purpose feel.

  2. 11.16.16
    Kylie said:

    We also use our dining room but I love all these ideas. Ours has also turned into the kids homework room/craft table/office. And things just end up here sometimes. I’m sending you a message to help organize the chaos!

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  4. 3.27.23

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