Diverse Dining Rooms: Creating A Multi-Functional Space

Stacy Randall
by Stacy Randall
Credit: Shutterstock / Wilm Ihlenfeld

The idea of a dedicated dining room has changed dramatically over the years. The evolution of dining rooms has led to many current homes not having one. Instead, people turn dining rooms into multi-functional spaces that serve as home offices, gyms, playrooms, libraries, and more.

Convertible furniture and creative planning turn a dining room into a flex space with multiple functions. A desk that transforms into a table turns a dining room into a home office. Movable storage benches allow you to utilize the space as a playroom or media room. Shelves that turn and flip into a table let you switch between a dining room and a library.

A room specifically for eating and enjoying large meals with friends and family isn’t a necessity in most homes. Therefore, like many others, you likely have different plans for your home’s dining room, since you don’t need a dining room 24/7.

What Else Can I Do With My Dining Room?

If you don’t want a dining room at all, you can turn the space into pretty much anything you want. It can become a playroom, home gym, media space, extra living room, library, home office, and much more. Your dining room can even become a spare bedroom if you get creative with clothes storage and have a way to close it off.

Depending on your budget, dining room size, and how much work you want to put into the space, your possibilities are relatively endless. Here’s a list of things homeowners have done with their dining rooms.

  • Home Office
  • Home Gym
  • Guest Bedroom
  • Library
  • Study
  • Playroom
  • Media Room
  • Craft Room
  • Dedicated Pet Space
  • Music Room
  • Art Studio
  • Kitchen Extension
  • Butler’s Pantry
  • Large Walk-in Pantry
  • Yoga Space
  • Nursery
  • Zen Zone

How Do I Make My Dining Room Multi-Functional?

The above list features some great ideas if you don’t want or need a dining room. But what if you need one some of the time? Maybe you like to have a dining room for the occasional dinner party, holidays, and family gatherings.

If this is you, how do you create a dining room some of the time but keep it as something else the rest of the year? If you live in a small home, your dining room may even need to serve a few purposes. The most popular additional functions of dining rooms are home offices, playrooms, libraries and reading rooms.

Therefore, here are five tips for creating a multi-functional space that doubles as a dining room.

1. Use A Convertible Table

The primary thing in a dining room is a table to accommodate several people enjoying a meal together. Typically, the dining table goes in the center of the room. But you don’t necessarily need or want a huge table in the middle of your home office (except maybe as expansive desk), playroom, etc.

You’ll find plenty of options for furniture pieces that can turn into a dining table, from desks to bookshelves (yes, bookshelves). Is your dining room the space people walk into when entering your home? If so, you might consider a table with drop-down sides that doubles as a slim entry console.

For the majority of the year, the room could be a cozy sitting room or comfortable place to share a cup of tea with a friend. All you need are a few comfy chairs, a storage bench for shoes, backpacks, etc., and you have a convenient entry point and sitting room. Then flip up the sides of the table, pull it to the room’s center, and position the bench and chairs around it.

2. Implement Flexible Seating

Since the room won’t be a dining room year-round, the idea of surrounding a table with 4 or more chairs doesn’t make sense. Imagine that most of the year the room is a playroom. Your furniture arrangement might look something like this:

  • A cushioned storage bench under a window that holds toys, books, stuffed animals, and other children’s playthings.
  • A pair of comfortable side chairs in the corner or along another wall with a small table.
  • Another storage bench for additional toys, games, and other items.
  • A set of shelves that holds a few larger pieces, like games and oversized toys.

When it’s time to transform this room into a dining room, the bookshelves turn into a table. (The items on them go into one or two decorative baskets or bins left empty for this purpose.)

The two chairs and a pair of benches become seating around the table. If you need more seating, consider stackable chairs that stay in the corner. Or you can pull a couple of chairs from another room or the kitchen.

3. Use Hidden Storage

No matter what you decide to do with your dining room, the main thing to keep in mind is to plan for the proper storage of your items. For example, what if most of the year, the room is a library or media space with shelves?

Where will you put the books, games, movies, etc., when you convert the bookshelves into a dining table? What happens to the picture frames, lamp, and tray for keys on the console table?

You need a place to stow items out of sight. Options include decorative baskets, storage ottomans or benches, or a designated drawer that stays empty for certain items. Since your room serves two or more purposes, hidden storage is key for maintaining a tidy look and functional space.

You also need some designated places to keep particular pieces when your room transforms. For these hideaway spots, minimize storage needs by rotating items, since you likely won’t need to hide everything at once.

Think about it -- if the room is typically your home office, a few supplies might live on the desk. In a dedicated drawer, you keep napkins, chargers, and other servingware for when your room transforms into a dining room. When it becomes a dining room, showcase these items, and put the office supplies into the drawer. You get the idea.

4. Create A Transitional Design Look

When designing a room that has many functions, create a look that easily transitions between them. An excellent example of why this is important is to consider a space that is a playroom most of the year.

It’s tempting to decorate it with cutesy colors and kid-friendly themes. But when you turn it into a dining room for Thanksgiving dinner, do you really want a jungle wall or a princess mural in the background?

Therefore, when putting together your design, consider how you will use the room throughout the year. Choose colors and accessories that are flexible and fit with multiple scenarios and functions. If you want to implement a theme into your space, use reversible accessories or movable pieces.

For example, imagine a bench cushion that has a fun leopard print on one side for your playroom jungle. Then, it flips over to a nice, neutral color for your dining room seating. You can do similar things with artwork and other decor.

5. Minimize Clutter

Don’t overload your flex space with a ton of decor, knick-knacks, and other items. Even though you may only transform your space into a dining room a few times a year, keep your belongings to a minimum.

Moving items and stowing them away becomes tedious if you have too much stuff. Fewer things not only make your room look better, but they make it much easier to transition from one function to another.

When A Dining Room Is More Than A Dining Room

Unless you have rooms to spare or hold dinner parties weekly, the odds are good you don’t need a dedicated dining room. More than likely, you need a space that can transform into one a few times a year.

Using a transitional design scheme, flexible furniture options, and clever storage make it possible to create a multi-functional dining room. Your primary goals are a furniture piece that becomes a dining table as needed and flexible seating.

Additionally, clear clutter to make the transition between room functions smooth and easy. Your home should function for you and make sense for your lifestyle. Forcing a formal dining room when you don’t need one is just wasting space and limiting your home’s full potential.

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Stacy Randall
Stacy Randall

Stacy Randall is a wife, mother, and freelance writer from NOLA that has always had a love for DIY projects, home organization, and making spaces beautiful. Together with her husband, she has been spending the last several years lovingly renovating her grandparent's former home, making it their own and learning a lot about life along the way.

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