Layout Changes: Adding A Dining Area To Your Living Room

It’s amazing how dragging a table and chairs into one side of our underutilized living room and adding a light fixture centered above it was all it took to create an instant dining area that everyone thinks has always been there. Here’s our sad little living room right after we moved in (we had no idea what to do with such a long narrow space- and no money to upgrade our hand-me-down furniture):


Here’s the same space now with a fully functional dining area right off of the kitchen (we widened the doorway for even more flow and openness during our kitchen remodel):


Getting the pendant lamp (which we picked up from CB2 for $49) wired to hang above the table by a professional electrician only cost a hundred dollars, which is a small price to pay for a brand new eating space that works perfectly for “open living” lovers like us. And since we conveniently placed our dining area right off of our kitchen, it’s easy to serve and set the table thanks to the close proximity. Our modest dining space has been such a hit that it was even featured in Do It Yourself magazine and the Australian edition of Better Homes & Gardens. And it’s literally just a table at the end of a long living room!


Of course the three inexpensive floating shelves from Ikea add architecture and personality (especially since we use them to display dishes and bottles which seem appropriate and fun in a dining area). And because many people ask us for details about the shelf-hanging process, here’s how it all went down. First we grabbed metal anchors to fit the screws that came with the Ikea shelves from Lowe’s (making sure they were made to support a good amount of weight) and then just centered each shelf on the wall with 17″ between each one. Installing the anchors is a snap, you just predrill holes into the wall (slightly smaller than the anchors) and tap the anchors into the holes with a hammer until they’re flush with the wall. That’s all it takes for the screw to grab the anchor and stay put for good. Almost three years later ours are still going strong with lots of weight on them.

Oh and the spacing between each shelf is important if you have specific items in mind that you’d like to display, for example if you want to show off a grouping of frames or a collection of vases be sure to space the shelves with adequate room between them for the items that you want to stick on each one (nothing would stink more than trying to lean your photos on each shelf and finding out that they don’t quite fit).

We also had a bit of fun with our table and decided to switch out two of the wooden chairs for a padded leather storage bench instead. It really broke up all the wood, gave us another concealed spot to stash stuff, and John and I actually sit and eat dinner on it together every night. It’s cushy and sort of romantic to share a “booth” in your own home. Plus one of the best things about it is that it can be used while we’re entertaining in the living room as well, since people can sit on it facing the couch just as easily as they can face the table.


So that’s how three cheap-o floating shelves from Ikea, a bench, a table, and a pendant light came together in an under utilized corner of our living room to create a cozy and convenient eating space right off of the kitchen.

Oh and we also got a third bedroom and a wall of extra cabinetry in the kitchen out of the deal. We converted our old unused dining room (which already had a closet)…


…into a third bedroom:


And in closing off the doorway that led to the old dining room from the kitchen (see it here on the right)…


… we earned a lot more counter and cabinet space in one fell swoop:


Gotta love a little shift in the way you use your home that leads to so many other perks along the way! So what about you guys. Have you converted a bedroom into a library or sewing room to suit your needs? Have you created a master suite in an old unused attic? Any plans to repurpose or reconfigure the way a room functions in your home? Tell us all about it.


  1. says

    Wow, I had no idea you converted a dining room into another bedroom…good move! Your kitchen is so much better for it :) Since there was already a closet, makes me think previous owners converted a bedroom to a dining room ;)

    We added a bedroom in our home about 5 years ago. We had a loft, 8×11, 3 bedrooms and 3 kids. We needed one more bedroom, the poor middle child was begging for it. We broke into the closet in the adjoining bedroom and stole space from there for a closet for the new bedroom, added walls and a door, and BAM! instant bedroom. Its the smallest room in the house but my son loves his space. I should find the pics and blog about it….

  2. Kim L. says

    I love the look of your house! And I love how you arrange and decorate your shelves, tables, etc. I would love to do more of that, but I talk myself out of it when I think about all the cleaning and dusting of all those little decor items!! How to do keep everything clean and dust free?

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey Kim,

      Good question. I like to clean as I go (a little each day as opposed to a major cleaning session every once in a while) and I like using Swiffer Dusters (they’re meant to be attached to a Swiffer, but I use them with my hand to dust surfaces like the open shelves, coffee table, fireplace mantels, etc). They have this static-y cling that basically makes dust stick to them (no dusting spray necessary) and I just lift things up with one hand and swipe under them with the other and can basically dust the whole house with one or two in less than 20 minutes (I listen to my ipod as I go, so it feels more like dancing and less like cleaning). It really isn’t that terrible and it’s so nice to see the things we love on display so it’s well worth the effort! Hope it helps.


  3. says

    Your old dining room light is the exact same one I have in my dinning room… I hate it just a little. The brass is so ugly to me.

    Anywho, we made the “parlor” for the master bedroom in to a computer/business space. I think the “parlor” may have been a nursery at one point, but it’s perfect for loads of shelves, a couple computers, and a server. The closet is handy for storing the ugly stuff while the pretty stuff is on the shelves.

    Next up is turning an upstairs hallcloset into a laundry room. I hate trucking my dirty duds down two flights of stairs to the basement

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey Amanda,

      We actually spray painted that old brass chandelier white before converting the room and it was much more pleasing to look at. It’s a quick project (just remove the light and spray prime it with white Kilz in a can and follow that with a thin even coat of white spray paint- we also switched out the bulbs for more Domino-esque round clear ones). Here’s a visual of the finished product for you (which we sold in our garage sale and made a pretty penny off of). Hope it helps! Good luck with that laundry room transformation…


  4. says

    OOhhh that doesn’t even look like the same lamp. We were going to spray paint it already, but I didn’t know light bulbs came in that shape. I’ll have to go buy some now too. We were planning on putting something decorative around the white part of the lamp (the faux candle) but I kind of like the way it looks in all one color too. Hmmm decisions decisions.

  5. Kathryn says

    Would it be funny to have a dining room, and a “breakfast area” in a smallish rancher? The previous owners of our home made the third bedroom into a dining room, which we don’t use too much, but hope to in the future. Our living room is large and L shaped, with a portion not used for anything in particular. Could we put a “breakfast nook” there without it looking strange? I’ve always loved the loveseat w/ table and chairs look.

    As always, love all your ideas!

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey Kathryn,

      I think anything that will encourage you to better use your living room is a great addition to your space… and we think you should totally go for a breakfast nook! It sounds cozy and inviting and it’s an easy way to put an unused corner to work for your family. Good luck!


  6. Carla says

    It’s actually really nice to see that you went through your own “design dilemmas” too! Your home is simply beautiful!

  7. says

    We took out a 4th bedroom (we only have 1 child, aren’t having any more) and made it into an office/scrapbook room.

    We have a cape. When you walk into the front door, there is a living room on the left. To the right, there used to be a wall where that bedroom was. We knocked down that wall to make the open space office/scrap room. So now the front of the house is open alllllll the way across. Nice and light and airy!

    We also changed the stairway from a dark, carpeted nightmare to a wooden, open and bright stairway. Looks awesome! :-)

  8. Missy says

    I absolutely love the awesome transformations you guys have done! I do have a kinda off the wall question though (no pun intended). Where do you get all your white picture frames? I have looked everywhere and can’t find any in white…

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Ikea and Target are our go-to places for white picture frames. Most of them are actually from Ikea since they’re super cheap. We practically buy them in bulk!


  9. Lauren says

    Thanks for the tip on hanging the Ikea shelves. I bought only one yesterday to make sure if worked with the space. I’m going back for the other 2 soon!

  10. Emily says

    What are the measurements of the room–if you don’t mind sharing.

    We have a long, narrow living room and are about to cut open a doorway on one side (where one does not exist) for a second point of entry to our kitchen. We are considering creating a small dining space on one side.

    I want to know if I am working with the same size space as yours though I suspect my space is not as long. Thanks!

  11. erin says

    the living room in the home we just bought is 23×13 and the sellers had it staged as a living/dining room which i liked and we are going to do the same thing. i want to place a pendant over the dining table to anchor that space like you guys did but i’m unsure about what to do for overhead lighting in the rest of the space. it has a cathedral ceiling, and they had a ceiling fan hanging in the center of the room. i can’t decide if we want to go with a more updated ceiling fan centered over our seating arrangement, or go with track lighting. i don’t want it to be too busy- but the room doesn’t get too much natural light. any tips?

  12. says

    Great post. I love to see others create their home and spaces by really looking at how they use them and making changes to suite the new functions.

    I designed and remodeled my parents’ kitchen for them about 7 years ago and we moved a staircase to create space on a wall for the pantry, fridge, oven, and desk that wouldn’t have worked before. By doing that we also lost a closet in the “guest room” off the kitchen and family room. Now we just refer to that room as the office, which my dad has since claimed as his. It was okay to essentially lose a bedroom and gain an office since there are still 3 more bedrooms, with large closets in the house.

    You can see how tiny the original kitchen was in the last few photos. No longer worked for a home that had grown by 2 bedrooms, 2 baths and a family room over the years.

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