Tips for Arranging a Mixed Living and Dining Space

An interior designer shares tactics.

Posted by Linda Merrill | Dec 11, 2010
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I am a firm believer in the aesthetic and environmental benefits of small home living over aggressively large homes. For obvious reasons, the current state of economic affairs has forced people to downsize or to put it more appropriately, right-size their living. And, as painful as it may be at times, will ultimately be a good thing.  Most of us have experienced the challenges of living in a small space at one time or other. But some very successful people choose to live in tight quarters and interior designers actually love the challenge of creating a beautiful, yet fully functional mixed use space. I know I do.

[Photo: Linda Merrill]

Let’s start with my own home. I live in a condo that features an open floor plan living/dining area on

the main floor. If the two areas, or zones, were broken into separate rooms both would be quite small. But the single larger space, coupled with the vaulted ceilings, gives the whole space a light

and airy feeling.  The dining side of the room is smaller than the living area, yet I have managed to fit in sideboards and table that can seat up to twelve with extensions. I’ve set the furniture on the living room side on an angle in the space, which keeps the whole space from looking too static and welcomes the eye into the sitting area and on out to the furnished deck. When one is sitting in the angled sitting area, the eye is also drawn outside as opposed to across the room to the dining area. This allows for a feeling of two separate spaces.

[Photo: House Beautiful]

Interior design icon Bunny Williams conceived of this large space in the 2009 Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse as a room that could be a home for one person with living and dining spaces as well as a space that could comfortably accommodate a group of people. The fullscale dining table can also be used as a work space and the large cabinet on the wall houses a library of books and a television. 

[Photo: House Bautiful]

One of the tricks to rooms that multi-task is to create clearly defined spaces that still serve multiple purposes. In this example, the small dining table also serves as a desk. The living area on the far side of the room is simple and clearly defined as an area to relax in. The fireplace in the middle of the room clearly cuts the space in half for a clearly defined, yet open space.


This show house space, decorated by Charlotte Moss, features a screen frame that serves as a “wall” separating the dining and living room areas. The empty frame used by Moss serves as a clear divider between dining and seating areas without blocking the light from the beautiful large window.

[Photo: Linda Merrill]

This is a one-bedroom penthouse condo that I designed a few years ago. The kitchen was opened up to create one large cooking/dining/living space that took advantage of fabulous river views. The simple lines of the dark wood and leather furnishings were carried throughout the space for a unified look. The contrasting red Middle Eastern carpets anchored the dining and living room seating areas without cluttering up the space. One of the tricks to creating a successful mixed-use space is fulfilling all the functional needs of the space without being overly busy or cluttered.

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