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  • Mennah Darwish

Your Ultimate Guide to Dining Room Design & Décor Tips this Holidays! - Part 1/2

Welcome to our Creative Series Blog!

"The greatest legacy we can leave our children is happy memories" - Og Mandino

Holidays are the best time of the year! Everyone awaits the moment when the fairy lights are hung up, the house decorated with colorful ribbons and grandma's recipes are filling the house with aromas that take us down memory lane. So whether you are preparing your dining table for a holiday-staging-makeover or you are hosting a gathering for the upcoming holiday, we are here to guide you and give you all the insights you need in our first 'Creative Series Blog' by EM-DE. We will give you tips, answer your most frequently asked 'Dining room & Set-up' questions and even give you the names of some of the amazing shops we collaborate with on a day to day basis.

All your questions answered!

We will dedicate this blog (and the upcoming one) to answering some of the most frequently asked questions that we get all the time. Here are a few that we will tackle today: How do I choose the size of my dining table? Do I need a side unit? What about the walls? Do I use an artwork or a mirror? How do I set up my table? How much should I spend? Does it have to be a specific style? What is a "Centerpiece"? How about a rug? Do I really need one? All of these are absolutely valid questions and we are here to help you find some answers. We will be using examples from some of our projects: "Merry Cherry", "Pearlescent Blues", "Luxury White", "Violet Hues" & many more to help you understand our methodology and how to implement it in your own personal shopping experience.

Merry Cherry: Dining room design & set-up
Merry Cherry - A full table view

How can I choose my dining table size?

We choose to start off with one of the most important & basic questions: How do I choose my dining table size? Now, as a reference, we will use this stunning formal dining room (in the image above) which was over 6 meters in length. The dining room was one of the first spaces you saw when you first walked into a 6,000 Sqft penthouse. With that in mind, we decided to go for a ginormous 3.1 meters long natural-single-piece walnut top from Western Furniture. Normally, dining table sizes extend from 2.6m up to a whopping 3.2m, with the latter being a bit rare to find. But here is the trick, you always have to make sure to have (at least) 1-1.5 meter clearance on all sides of the dining table. This will also work best if your chairs are not more than 60-68cm in depth. Hence, combining our table with the iconic 'Mid-century' dining table chairs from West Elm, gave us an astounding contrast between the light fabric and the dark table top which lushly brought our space together.


How do I fill the space around my dining table? Or is it okay to leave it empty?

Well, there is no right or wrong answer here. However, with the main star of the show selected, we wanted to consider pieces that will go on either side of the table. We are not steadfast about having side units in our dining rooms, however when you have the space; you may want to consider either a library unit, a buffet unit or even both. It provides an extra top when hosting and no one ever says no to extra storage space. In our case, we got lucky and we were able to find a buffet unit from the lovely Marina Home which perfectly matched our dining table. The decorative light golden trims in the buffet shutters really caught our eye and instantly married well with the golden accents in the library units we managed to get from Indigo Living.


How do I set up my table?

Another most important and common question we get from our customers: How should they decide on their table décor. We are not going to lie, it can be very subjective and it does involve a lot of trial and error. So let us share a few tips (from our experience) that can assist you with your own #DIY table set-up:

1. Research: Know what you want

It is important to understand first 'the design intent' that you want. Do you want neutral tones? Is it a holiday color or theme that you are trying to work with? Do you want modern looking pieces or something more 'Boho-chic'? Will it be a full on ensemble? Or you want something simple? In "Merry Cherry", we aimed for a modern look with clear vases, a single strong accent color (red cherry blossoms) and we mixed everything else in neutral tones. Although you might have guessed it, but we did design "Merry Cherry" around December when everything in the shops were covered in red & gold!

Merry Cherry: Dining room design & set-up
Merry Cherry - Center pieces and Place setting

2. Budget: How much do you want to spend?

Customers normally get fidgety when we ask them 'what is your budget?' But honestly, there is no need to do so. This question is not a way to tell you what you 'cannot have'. It is a way to help you understand all the options that you can have within the allowed amount. We usually like to use the infamous quote "Show me the money" as a guideline. Always spend money on the items that will show the most: a massive flower vase, a special candle display..etc. This is why they are called "Centerpieces". For example, we would not recommend to get caught up spending a lot of money on a place matt setting, which might end up being completely covered by your plates and cutlery (will see more on this below).

3. Lets go shopping: But first, lets have a look

Now that you know what your design direction is and you are confident with your budget, it is time to get busy. Our advise is not to buy from the first shop you walk into (I know, sounds easier said than done!). Trust us, always take your time and do a proper walk around before making a purchase. A major trick is to scan the shop floors for existing dining table décor and set-ups. Stores like West elm, Bloomingdales & Marina Home pay their visual merchandiser a lot of money to make their furniture more appealing. So use that to your advantage and ask around if they are available and share your ideas with them and maybe even learn a few tricks! We always prepare our table place settings in the store with the help of the visual merchandiser. They are extremely knowledgeable with the store's product range and are genuinely so much fun to talk to!

Important note: Never buy anything from a store if:

  • You are not absolutely in love with it while you are still in the store. Never bank on 'liking it better at home'.

  • You cannot return or exchange that item - under no circumstance should you ever buy something which a store wont take back or exchange for you. This is a process of trial and error and the only way to enjoy it, is to simply embrace its imperfections.


What should I be buying?

  • A Place setting: We have established that there are so many ways and components to set up a dining table. A 'Place Setting' is what you would set for each individual person on your table. As an attempt to simplify things, we mapped out a typical place setting from "Merry Cherry" (see image above) for you to understand the commonly used names and terminologies you may need when you go looking for pieces in any store. Does that mean you need to purchase all of these items we will list? The answer is: absolutely not. However, when you intend to host and possibly want to go for a full-on dinner table setting, you may want to explore the different ways to set up a place setting - we will be dedicating a full blog to setting up your own place setting soon!


Should I have a Center 'piece' or 'pieces'?

Again, it generally depends on your research and your design intent. However, we are absolute suckers for an eye catching centerpiece to our dining tables. Some customers ask us: how do you know which piece to choose? how do you put such an ensemble together? Well, here are a few guidelines which we try to follow:

  • The dining table size: The size of your table will help you understand whether you can have: large/small or single/multiple pieces. For example, if you have a 1 -1.2 meter table, which is circular, try to allow your self 18-25cm radius, from the center of the table, to place your centerpiece. You can have a couple of different size vases (see image of 'Pearlescent Blue') or a couple of candle sticks (see image of 'Marble Blocks'). Don't forget, you still need space for your place settings and possibly some serving pots. However, if your table is rectangular and quite large (like in 'Merry Cherry' or 'Violet Hues'), you can go for multiple pieces - which then form your final centerpiece. Below are 4 different ways we have setup our circular and irregular shaped dining tables (click on each image below to expand and swipe through).


  • The dining table design: Some dining table designs can be so unique. We happened to come across (and luckily purchase!) an organically shaped dining table designed by the famous designer Adriana Hoyos: The Galapagos Dining table (see & click on images below to expand and swipe through). Frankly, we did not want to hide any of the shape or the exquisite marble top veins coming all the way from Spain.


We also had a one off piece from Natuzzi's limited dining table collection and we wanted to show off the exquisite detail in every inch (see & click on images below to expand and swipe through). So what did we do? We decided that 'less is more' and only added a feature Flower Vase. In one case we customized a stunning Magnolia flower arrangement from Bloomr and in the other case we bought a ready made Lily flower arrangement from Ndi. We did not have to worry about adding anything else to our dining tables as our statement flower vases spoke volumes of luxury on its own!


Loved it & want more answers? Stay tuned for Part 2!

Still want more answers? Well, do not worry! We still have more tips and tricks to share with you in part 2 of 'The Ultimate Guide to Dining Room Design & Décor tips for your home this Holidays'. Stay tuned as we will be discussing more frequently asked questions such as: what kind of lighting you should consider? or whether or not you need a rug? Should you go with an artwork? or maybe a feature wall instead? If you have more questions, please do not hesitate to post them below in the comment section and we will make sure to respond to each and every one!


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