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

    I converted my dining room into an office. We have a pretty big eat in kitchen and didn’t need another table footsteps away so we happily coverted it into an office.

  2. says

    I was just thinking to myself that I wished you would show more transitional pictures of your home remodeling/decorating. I love the house gallery, but it’s also really helpful to see how things have evolved. Very cool. More posts like these, please. :)

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Rachael- The rug is from Pottery Barn but is no longer available through them- maybe try ebay? You can also check out a room by room source list for everything in our house by visiting our House Tour page and clicking the tour link at the top of the page. Happy hunting…

      Erin- We actually only have the pendant light in the living/dining room and rely on table lamps in the living area for ambiance and light. It’s nice not to have anything hanging down to shift the focus from the pendant lamp and compete with it in a relatively small multitasking room. Hope it helps!

      Emily & Jaclyn- The living/dining room is 12′ x 22′. Loooong and skinnnny, but it really works for us now!

  3. says

    My hubby and I have never wanted a formal living room, so we added french doors and built-in shelving to the formal living room in our new house and turned it into his office! (He works from home). We’re also using the fourth bedroom in our house as my “craft room.” It’s awesome! I know that it’s going to turn into a kid’s room or play room one day, so I’m enjoying it while it lasts!! :)

  4. Jill Stigs says

    Fantastic use of space. Great to see the interim pics too. Your “latest” style is so gorgeous. Where ever did you get the inspiration to go light and airy? Also it looks like a rectangle table now but a square in the old dining room……….did you get a new table or just pop in a leaf?

  5. YoungHouseLove says

    Hey Jill,

    Hmm, there’s no telling where I got the light and airy urge. I always like a clean-lined white sofa so maybe it started there? Of course breezy white curtains instantly soften a room so they definitely added to the aesthetic, and we picked up white frames from the get-go, so they also keep things light and bright.

    As for the dining table, the first one in the formal dining room was actually made with the same white pedestal base that now lives in the corner of the sunroom for meals alfresco (we found it at a thrift store and initially added a big square top and painted it back for the dining room but later upgraded to a new table from Target for the dining area and retooled it with a round top and painted it white for the sunroom). We’re all about recycling!


  6. Candace says

    I love this so much better than the formal dining room. I am thinking about converting our living room into a dining/living combo room too. Sherry, I have a question for you…where do you keep your tv?

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey Candace,

      Our TV is in the den, which you can see in our house tour. Hope it helps!


  7. Amy says

    hey Sherry, i noticed you painted your fireplace cover from brass to white, can you just paint the white paint directly over the brass or what?


  8. YoungHouseLove says

    Hey Amy,

    We actually just used white paint right over the metal fireplace doors (paint usually sticks pretty well to metal, you’ll just need two thin coats- and beware of drips!). If you’ll be using your fireplace often though (we have a gas one in the den that we use far more frequently) you’ll probably want to get heat resistant spray paint instead of using regular paint for more durability that lasts with each fire you make. Hope it helps!


  9. Ann says

    We recently moved into a smaller 1920’s bungalow with an itty bitty closet in the master bedroom. The retired couple who sold us the house had moved the washer and dryer from the basement to what is supposed to be the 5th bedroom, which is next to ours. We rearranged it so that it is now our walk-in closet with oodles of places to hang clothes, put shoes, etc. It’s really convenient to have the washer and dryer in there too.

  10. says

    I think a person’s home should work for the way they live. If that means nixing a dining room altogether (something my husband and I did) then so be it. Our home works for the way we live and I think that’s the key to homeownership success. We do not do a lot of entertaining because we live in a separate state from most family. When we do entertain we do so on our screend in patio and we have plenty of seating there. Living in Florida, this works so well for us.

    I do think adding a bedroom and still having dining space is great for re-sell. However, I opted to have a fullscale library and forgo the inside dining area altogether because that works for the way we live.

  11. says

    I love all the pictures of your home. So beautiful! Thanks for all the inspiration. =) My husband and I are currently building our first home. Do you have any pointers when working with a blank canvas?

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey Becky,

      Good question! I think one of the hardest things about building a house instead of living in a home and renovating it is that you have to figure out how you’ll use the home before you’re in it. John and I lived with our house as is (didn’t change the layout or anything) for almost a year until we were confident that we wanted a bedroom more than a formal dining room and that we liked the idea of an open living room with a dining room on the end.

      Since you’re building new, our biggest tip would be to sit down for hours, maybe even days and talk about how you’ll really use your house. Not how you’d like to use it (you might have lofty dreams of entertaining for 50 but be realistic!), but how you’ll really use it on a day to day basis. Take into consideration things like you children or pet’s habits (will you want a mud room to keep their things organized?) and your own lifestyle (will you want a computer counter in the kitchen with a chair and room for a laptop since you often cook and surf the web at the same time?).

      Asking yourself how your house can work the hardest for you and your lifestyle before you finish building or renovating can really make all the difference in the world. For example, if you do laundry five days a week, creating a spacious laundry room with a few bells and whistles can make your house into your dream home. Hope it helps! Happy building…


  12. says

    I love this idea! We just bought our first house, and it has no place to put a table, so we are thinking of doing something like this with the living room. I actually just saw this same picture on The Nest!!!
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  13. Meredith says


    I love reading your blog! I just noticed the window in your old kitchen, my husband and I have those same windows in our house. Did you replace the windows in your house or somehow remove the smaller piece of wood at the 1/4 and 3/4 points on the window? We have painted ours but would love to give them a more updated look like yours! Thank you for any help!

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey Meredith,

      We actually replaced all of the windows in our house with Energy Star Low-E ones since they keep our house a lot cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter (plus they’re a write-off!). Hope it helps!


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