1. Soften a modern dining set with a cozy rug. Sleek, modern spaces look the most at home when balanced with handmade elements, like the gorgeous Moroccan rug shown here. An oversize terrarium and colorful art bring personality while still fitting with the modern aesthetic.
2. Use rich wall color to warm a large space. A huge dining room might sound good (there would be more room for that big table you have your eye on) but can feel chilly. Bark-brown walls bring out the warmth in this rustic ranch-style dining room, but any hue with depth will create a cozier feeling in a cavernous space. Be sure to use a soft rug and thick, layered window coverings to help with the acoustics.
3. Pull up a couch for a cushy English cottage feel. If a truly cozy look is what you crave, upholstered pieces are the way to go. Use armchairs at the ends of a long table, pull up an upholstered banquette to the side or even perch on a cushy couch — just be sure that the seat height will work with your table before making a purchase. Crates fastened to the wall become rustic shelves for displaying china here, while a fringed floral shade adds a whimsical touch.
4. Take advantage of a sunny spot with a window seat. If your dining room gets lots of natural light, you may be missing out if you use the room only at dinner time. Put in a comfy cushioned window seat and it may become your new favorite reading nook. Bonus: A window seat is a great place for kids to slink off to after they are done eating, while still being in sight.
5. Or fake the sun with cheery yellow fabric. Sunny yellow curtains or seat cushions and a green topiary bring the outdoors in, no matter what the weather outside. If you want to bring in a living plant, be sure to consult your local garden center to find varieties that will thrive in low-light conditions.
6. Add character with a cabinet of curiosities. Accessories can set the tone for the room, so think about the mood you want to create before filling that china cabinet. Choose to stack your collections a bit haphazardly rather than in perfect order to loosen up the space. A garland draped from the top and more decorations hanging from the knob contribute to the fun atmosphere here. For an organic, nature-inspired look, use pretty stones, moss and leaves to accent stacks of dishes.
7. Swap the layout and have dinner by the fire. If you have an open living-dining room, try flipping your furniture to the opposite side of the room for a change of pace. You can always move it back if the setup doesn't work, but you may get used to having fireside dinners!
8. Or suggest warmth with a blazing-hot hue. Paint a coat of vibrant red on your china hutch, buffet or chairs — try wine or tomato red for a classic look, salmon if you're brave.
9. Liven up a plain, boxy room with painted-on stripes. Paint wide wall stripes in two tonal hues to create a bit of architectural interest in a bland room. Add a symmetrical arrangement of art on the walls to suit the strong horizontal stripes without seeming too busy.
10. Use a pinboard in an unexpected place. Resist the unspoken rule that dining rooms should be impersonal by bringing in a corkboard to hold current snapshots. Guests will appreciate having something to talk about at dinner!