NTS Tips and Tricks

Flexible Dining Areas in Small Homes

The history of the dining room is complex, and it varies from country to country and across cultures. The dining room has a split reputation of being both a luxury and an essential fixture of a home—depending on who you ask. In practice, it seems that the thorny question “to dining room or not to dining room?” really boils down to one of priority.

A custom convertible drop leaf table for an apartment in Melbourne’s Grand Hotel building.
Image by Tess Kelly Photography

Prioritising goes hand in hand with smart design when it comes to planning small footprints. People who eat out a lot or eat dinner on the couch (we’re only human after all) might find a fixed dining area to be a waste of space — somewhere collecting dust or mail more than it’s being used for eating. Yet, they might not be ready to do away with the dining table altogether. For these individuals, the solution could lie in a flexible dining area, which can transform your small space into a versatile haven for dining and much more.

Embracing Flexibility

The key to making the most of a small home’s dining space is embracing flexibility. Instead of rigid dining setups, consider adaptable alternatives that can cater to different needs and occasions. Here are some ideas to help you create a flexible dining area:

  • Foldable Furniture: Foldable dining tables that can be easily stowed away when not in use can save space and allow you to reclaim your dining area for other activities. Architect Pierluigi Colombo designed a custom folding table for this Seaside Attic in Varazze, Italy. We love that it allows for a more open kitchen that flows directly out to the balcony—where there’s also a small table for dining—when it’s closed.
Images by Studio Ro
  • Multipurpose Furniture: Opt for furniture pieces that serve multiple functions. For example, a dining table that doubles as a workspace or a coffee table maximises utility without taking up extra space. When designing this Bangkok apartment, interior designer Mae Prachasilcha was focused on “optimising the use of limited space by overlapping functional spaces”. She chose a coffee table that can be easily raised to dining table height when needed.
Images by Never Too Small
  • Meals on Wheels: The simple addition of wheels to the legs of a dining table can allow it to be wheeled in and out of place and neatly stored away when not in use. In this Sydney apartment, architect Nicholas Gurney included a dining table that can be wheeled under the kitchen work bench to allow a feeling of lightness in the space. We love the true versatility of this design, which lets the user decide its orientation and placement depending on need.
Images by Terence Chin.
  • Wall-Mounted Solutions: To decorate or dine? How about both? Wall-mounted dining tables can be an excellent choice for small homes. They can be conveniently folded down when you need them and folded up against the wall when you don’t. This clever Murphy table designed by durodeco for a New York apartment comfortably seats four for dinner but seamlessly folds up — appearing like nothing more than an artwork on the wall — after mealtime.
Images by Nicholas Venezia
  • Table, two ways: For those who use their table more often, a two-in-one dining table is a great solution. Plus, it’s a great place to keep your vase. Architect Jack Chen and the team at Tsai Design custom-designed this convertible drop leaf table for an apartment inside the heritage-listed Grand Hotel building in Melbourne. Perfect for both morning coffees and entertaining, this table transitions from a round, bistro-style table for two into a full-size rectangular dining table for six.
Images by Tess Kelly Photography

Flexible dining areas for flexible lifestyles

Small homes require thoughtful design to make the most of limited space. Flexible dining areas are a creative and efficient solution for small home dwellers. With clever design choices and versatile furniture, you can create a flexible dining area that serves your needs while maximising your comfort. Embrace the beauty of flexibility, and you won’t need to pick between having the space to enjoy meals, work, relax, or entertain.

Check out our latest episodes for more design tips and tricks.