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Divine dining

From the Resene decorating blog

Dining rooms are having a moment.

A burnt orange outdoor dining area with yellow stools

The pops of yellow in these peg stools painted in Resene Aloha (back), Resene Malarkey (right) and Resene Celebrate (left and front), are like rays of desert sunshine against the burnt orange Resene Rumour Has It back wall. Food cover painted in Resene Celebrate, deck stained in Resene Woodsman Banjul and table in Resene Sambuca. Project by Claudia Kozub, image by Wendy Fenwick.

As different parts of our homes have become co-opted for different uses, like school, work or even the hobbies we take up to add some balance to all that school and work, the communal spaces where families and housemates can gather become all the more important.

Whether you have a vast, spacious home, a compact unit, or a shared rental property, a dining room can become both a social centre for your household, and a perfect canvas for some creative interior design.

Finding balance

Along with bathrooms, dining rooms require a well thought through balance of form and function.

That means your first step when planning a dining room makeover should be to ask yourself exactly what the room’s main function will be. Will it be solely used for family dining? How many people will it need to hold comfortably for regular use? Will it need to double as a work area? Will you mostly use it for entertaining? Do you want it to be intimate or expansive? Or do you want it to be formal or relaxed?

It’s not all one option or the other. If you want to keep things relaxed, it doesn’t mean you can’t smarten things up a bit for a special occasion. It just means you need a vision of how your dining room – or your outdoor dining area – will mostly be used so you can come up with a design that suits your lifestyle, your house, and the space you have to play with. Those decisions will then influence your colour choices as well as your furniture, decor and lighting.

Think about scale

It’s good practice to think about the scale of your space in any interior design, but it’s particularly true of dining rooms which need to feature key pieces of furniture to fulfil their function.

If you have high ceilings and/or a large room, a small delicate table runs the risk of getting lost or overwhelmed. Similarly if you have a smaller space a large table will not only be impractical, it will dominate everything else and make your room feel even smaller.

A dreamy dining area with painted plates on the walls

Painted plates make the perfect conversation piece in this dreamy dining area painted in tonal shades of green. Floor painted in Resene Quarter Fossil, rear wall in Resene Eighth Fossil with the middle section in Resene Norway, cabinets in Resene Norway with panels in Resene Rice Cake, dining table in Resene Highland, tall handled vase inn Resene Amulet, vase on the books and small dish on the right cabinet in Resene Lola and old plates painted in Resene Amulet, Resene Pale Leaf, Resene Norway, Resene Rice Cake, Resene Lola, Resene Butterfly, Resene Antidote and Resene Highland. Tumblers from Citta, floral bowl and plate from Bolt of Cloth. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Bryce Carleton.

It could be that an oval or round table is going to work better with your room than a small square or a large rectangle.

Smart use of Resene paint colours can help you play with scale a bit more by creating optical illusions. In rooms with high ceilings, consider painting the ceiling in a bold shade that’s the same as the walls, for example. In a confined space try using light breezy neutrals or pastels like Resene Quarter Tea or Resene Gum Leaf and opt for layers of similar toned colours in your decor so your eye blurs the borders of the room.

If you have a large open plan room, but prefer a smaller, intimate dining area, create the illusion of walls by painting out a section in a contrasting colour to the rest of the space. Corners work particularly well for this. You can paint out the floor, walls and even the ceiling in the same colour so your dining area becomes visually contained and separate from the rest of the space. Wallpapering a section of wall in your favourite Resene wallpaper is another way to create a similar effect.

Top tip: To test the scale before buying a dining suite, mask the size of the footprint out in your space, including the chairs.

Don’t forget the flooring

A dining room floor needs to be both stylish and hard wearing. It’s going to need to take a bit more wear and tear than the floor in other parts of the house, with chairs and tables moving around, high traffic and a high likelihood of spills and stains.

Something like a classic black and white tile can look very smart and will be easy to clean, but can be unforgiving on any china or glassware that gets dropped on it. As an alternative you could consider painting your own tile design onto flooring.

A botanical themed dining room with dipped legs on chairs

Dipped legs in Resene New Leaf on the table and chairs painted in Resene Elderflower anchor the colour scheme of this fresh and light botanical dining room. Rear wall painted in Resene Peace, floor in Resene Elderflower with tiles stencilled in Resene Peace, coat rack and wreath hoop in Resene New Leaf, tall vase on table in Resene Smoothie, wide, short vase n Resene New Leaf and tiny vase in Resene Peace. Napkins and shopper from Citta, sunhat from Good Thing. Project by Melle Van Sambeek, image by Bryce Carleton.

A simple geometric design creates a dining nook

A simple geometric design creates an eye-catching dining nook out of a larger, open plan space.

The triangles are painted in Resene Quarter Stack and Resene Hypnotic while the walls, chairs and small vase are painted in Resene Quarter Surrender. Table in Resene Half Carefree, candlestick and tall vase in Resene Sublime and floor in Resene Half Duck Egg Blue. Project by Emily Somerville-Ryan, image by Wendy Fenwick.

Resene White and Resene All Black are perfect for those Art Deco-style black and white squares, but you could be more creative with stencilled designs to replicate other tiled looks.

Use Resene Walk-on flooring paint, for a tough surface that can take the knocks and scrapes, and for added protection, finish it with Resene Concrete Wax.

Stained wood flooring also works well in dining rooms and you’re not limited by colour. Opt for stains to emphasise the natural texture and fibre of the wooden floorboards in Resene Colorwood Natural or wood inspired shades such as Resene Colorwood Dark Rimu or Resene Colorwood Teak or try something more unexpected like the red tone of Resene Colorwood Red Pepper or blue Resene Colorwood Apollo Blue. You could also try a more beachy, relaxed finished with lighter Resene Colorwood Whitewash or Resene Colorwood Rock Salt.

Top tip: Rugs under the dining table are a useful way, not just to soften wood or tiled floors, but to help define a dining area within a larger space, and to save the floor from the occasional spill.


The function of your dining room will be a big influence on the lighting you choose for the space. If it is going to double as a work or school area you’ll need good overhead bright lighting to supplement any natural light.

If you’re after a more intimate or formal dining space, think about dimmable lights that are warm, amber-toned rather than bright daylight tones.

Most dining rooms will be multi-functional so different lighting options are also a good idea. Maybe a collection of downlights on the ceiling, mixed with moodier lighting from a dramatic pendant over the table centre will work best for you.

A soothing blue dining area

The soothing blues reflected in this artwork, make this inviting, intimate dining area feel as though it could be underwater. The main wall colour is painted in Resene Seachange with the arch and floating shelves on the side wall painted in Resene Awash. Floor in Resene Breathless and table and vase in Resene Rhino. Chairs from Freedom, bar cart from Wooden Horse, rug from Grounded Homeware, brass scoop from Good Thing, artwork from Rachel Mataira, brass tray (on table) and brass plant pot (on shelf) from H&M Home, plant from Mood Store. Project by Melle Van Sambeek, image by Bryce Carleton.

If you can, experiment before committing to a particular type of pendant or downlight, so you don’t end up with awkward shadows over faces or eye-level glare, when family and friends are seated at the table.

Furnishing and flair

Dining rooms might seem as though they all need to be a bit similar, with a dining table in the centre with chairs around, but there are ways to mix it up a bit to create interest for your dinner guests, and ensure the space is fully functional.

Top tip: Aim to leave at least 50cm space anywhere people will have to walk around furniture.

Al fresco dining

When it comes to creating appealing and functional outdoor dining areas, it’s a good idea to think about function, lighting and how people will move around the space, just as you would indoors.

You can also play with scale a bit more when you’re creating outdoor rooms. The open air of al fresco dining changes how we perceive the scale of outdoor spaces. You’re less hemmed in by ceilings and walls, so it can be charming to place a small table in a large backyard, exactly where the sun hits for your morning coffee. It could be a dramatic talking point to have a large table in a smaller garden – particularly if you’re not fond of mowing lawns!

The factor you do have to consider for a successful outdoor dining area are shelter – from the sun as well as the rain.

If your al fresco dining area flows from the house, think about a colour scheme that connects it to the interior so it makes both spaces feel larger. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be the same. Outdoor areas are a great opportunity to play with bolder colours than you might be comfortable with inside. Use shades that reflect the flowers and plants in your garden, and mix up different wood stains or paint colours to give your dining area its own personality. As an example if your outdoor dining area is simply a small table on the lawn or some pavers, paint the table in a bold Resene paint colour to make it the star of the show. Try candy pink Resene Irresistible against emerald green lawn, or paint plain pavers in a dark berry like Resene Aubergine and top it with a small two-seater table and chairs in muted Resene Tom Tom for an elegant outdoor coffee spot.

Resene Elderflower

Resene Smoothie

Resene Peace

Resene New Leaf

February 21, 2022

For more dining ideas, see the Resene Decorating inspiration gallery online.

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