How to Make the Most Out of a Living Room That Doubles As a Dining Room

living room dining room emily henderson design

Design: Emily Henderson Design, Photo: Tessa Neustadt

Whether it's a studio apartment or a modern home, we all love the breezy layout and upscale design of an open floor plan. However, creating clear separations from room to room while still preserving the essence of the open space can be a challenge. But among the most important parts of an open floor plan are the living room and dining room. These are the areas in which you unwind, enjoy your meals, and entertain friends. So, needless to say, the living room and dining room need to be as functional as they are beautiful.

When it comes to setting up your dining room and living area, it's important to establish each one as its own space—otherwise, you'll end up having dinner on the couch, in front of the TV with a pop-up tray. To get started, you're going to want to arrange furniture in a way that maximizes the functionality of your open-plan interior without sacrificing style. Next, you'll want to decorate both spaces in a way that gives each one its own unique style without clashing with the other. Finally, tie them together in a way that feels cohesive and flows right into the next one. You're creating separation, but you still want one room to lead you into the other effortlessly.

We know, it's a lot! But don't worry, we got you. We have all the tips and tricks you need to pull this off, plus tons of Pinterest-worthy inspiration to help bring your vision to life. Ahead, how to make the most out of a living room that doubles as a dining room, no matter how much space you're working with. And because a little shopping is good for the soul, we've collected the décor pieces you'll need to set up your new space.

Define Spaces With Rugs

Adding a rug to a space adds texture, brings warmth, and infuses color, but it also works wonders at defining and separating spaces. Create clear separations between your living room and dining room areas when you assign each one its own rug. It visually creates boundaries showing you and your guests where the living room begins and where the dining room ends. And since they come in so many shapes and sizes, you can always find one that fits. Just lay down your rugs and get to decorating. Well, that was easy, wasn't it?

Use Your Couch As A Room Divider

Screens are a great way to divide up any space, but they defeat the purpose of an open concept. Instead, use your furniture to create a much-needed division from room to room. When placed strategically, the back of your couch can act as the perfect room divider, and it won't create a makeshift wall, ruining your airy open plan. Install your couch with the back facing the dining room. Doing so will block off each room in a way that feels completely defined and all its own. Now, set up your living room to have the essentials (a coffee table, end tables, accent chairs, anything) and lay them out in front of the couch in a way that feels functional. And just like that, you have a full living room that won't clash with your dining area.

Swap Your Kitchen Island For A Bistro Table

As you already know it's important to evaluate the size and layout of your physical space when decorating, but don't forget to think about your end goal for the space before you get started. Depending on your lifestyle, you might not need a large dining room for entertaining. If you're more likely to host movie nights than dinner parties, chances are you'll benefit from a larger couch and smaller dining table.

If you prefer a larger living-room space, consider swapping the formal dining room for an in-kitchen bistro. You'll still have a designated place to eat, but your entertaining space will double in size.

Incorporate A Bistro Table Into Your Living Room Space

If you like the idea of an in-kitchen bistro table, but affording an apartment with space for a kitchen island feels about as realistic as owning your own private island, fear not. Position a small bistro table right off the side of your living-room setup as a place to enjoy your morning coffee or weeknight dinners. Then, when you have friends over, use the chairs from your mini dining room for extra seating in your living room.

Assign Each Space Characterizing Traits

When defining a space, we suggest you explore design traits that go far beyond seating options and rug designs. The addition of simple accessories and design elements will all establish each space as its own. For instance, hang a pendant lamp over the dining table to give your dinner space its very own lighting. This will make the dining area space feel defined and custom. Additionally, painting an accent wall in the living room, or hanging wallpaper in the dining room will give that space its own identity.

Make the Most of Your Space

Scroll through for everything you need to maximize your open-concept floor plan. Add everything from rugs to pendant lights to your virtual shopping carts and you'll have both a glamorous dining room to host dinner parties and a cozy living room to catch up with friends.

Don't forget to take a few measurements and sketch out a few layout options before committing to a final design. Trust us, you'll be glad you did.