dining room with black wicker chairs

Though plenty of homes still have a formal dining room, they often sit collecting dust and going unused. Dining together has become relaxed, and with busy lives, most people don’t want to set a place in the formal dining room. When was the last time you dusted off your traditional china place settings and polished the crystal stemware? In Hartford Courant, real estate broker Joan O’Brien tells us, "Rather than only using that valuable living space a few times a year, people are turning dining rooms into home offices, craft rooms, home-schooling spaces, and other creative options." He continues, "I’ve even seen a number of pool tables under the chandelier."

Formal dining rooms are out, and useful spaces are in. The good news is, if you have an unused dining room, that’s great! You have some extra, useful space. In this article, we’ll discuss creative uses for an unused dining room. Move the table, dust off the chandelier, and let’s get started.

Flip it into a home office

man using laptop in office

Many people now work from home. According to Apollo Technical, in the U.S., nearly five million people work at least half of the time remotely, while 16% of companies are completely remote globally. If you’re one of them, you need a decent atmosphere where you can focus. Rather than hide away in your bedroom or a small corner of the house, turn your unused dining room into a home office space. Make a list of what you need in an office. For most people, it’s reliable broadband, a computer, a desk, a comfortable chair, good lighting, and maybe a printer and a filing cabinet. NextPlane also suggests investing in a separate phone line, surge protection, and some handy storage to organize pens, paper, and other essentials.

It’s not a bad idea to test out your broadband connection in the dining room before turning it into your work oasis. You don’t want to be leading a meeting and have the internet go out. Other than that, choose your office furniture and supplies, clean out the dining room, and get plugged in and set up.

Transform the space into a craft room

woman using craft supplies

Scrapbookers, stampers, sewers, quilters, and artists who draw and paint usually have lots of supplies to deal with. If you don’t have a crafting room, you’re likely dragging out all these supplies every time the urge to create hits you. Or worse — you never enjoy your craft because it’s too much work to find all the supplies. See that empty dining room? It’s time to take it over and make it a creative retreat. It may even be good for your health. Life in the Craft Room shares some happy news with us — crafting is an important part of self-care, and it’s recommended to do it at least 15 minutes a day. In a 2011 study published in The Journal of Neuropsychiatry, researchers found that people ages 70 to 89 who knitted and crocheted were less likely to suffer from memory loss and cognitive impairment. Certainly, the calmness and creativity of doing any craft is not a bad thing.

When it comes to turning your dining room into a craft room, it’s all about storage. Storage needs vary according to your artistic endeavors; however, you’ll need something. Consider plenty of shelving and pegboards on the walls. Pegboard is great for hanging scissors, ribbons, tape measures, and other crafting tools. Cube storage is excellent for pulling out a bin and setting it near you as you work away. Paint the walls a bright color that inspires you, and use a craft light at the table if your dining room light isn’t enough.

Utilize it as a guest room

white and yellow bedroom

If your dining room has pocket or French doors, creating a guest room out of your unused dining room is easy. If there are no doors, no worries. You can find other ways to give your guests some privacy. For a simple guest room, you’ll need a bed, a small dresser, a nightstand or two, and comfortable bed linens. To really impress your guests and make them feel like you never want them to leave, Impression Homes suggests also including a desk and comfy chair, a little coffee station, a basket of toiletries, and a universal cell charger. Have fun when designing a guest room, and imagine what you would need to feel welcome and comfortable. Being a guest can be awkward but creating a guest bedroom that makes guests feel like you’ve been anxiously awaiting someone to use the beautiful space you’ve designed makes them feel loved. Rather than sticking them on an air mattress in someone else’s room, they have their own space to relax.

When choosing a bed, a twin size will take up less space, and you can add a trundle underneath as an extra bed. Sleeper sofas work great in a guest bedroom because they double as a seating area when folded up and allow you to be able to give guests a larger bed. If there are no doors in your dining room, you can hang a curtain in the doorway for some privacy. Decorative screens or bookshelves work well, too, to separate the space from other living areas. Barn doors are a fun decorative touch and are easily hung on a sliding track.

Use it for homeschool or homework space

smiling young girl doing schoolwork

Since the pandemic homeschooling is on the rise, and some people have decided to keep doing it. According to PBS, homeschooling increased by 63% during the pandemic and only decreased by 17% the following school year. Even if you don’t homeschool, kids need a place to do their homework. Books, laptops, pens, pencils, and notebooks get scattered all over the house when there’s no place in particular to land. Besides, giving kids a designated area to study is a good habit. Bkc kitchen & bath notes that children do better with a routine and some structure. A place designed for homework and studying sets them up for future success.

Clear out the dining room and bring in desks for the kids or use one table for them to share. Make sure the kids have comfortable chairs so they aren’t tempted to get up and walk around all the time, escaping homework. Supply plenty of writing supplies and paper and keep these things organized for them. If there are desk drawers, you can store calculators, geometry tools, and rulers there. If you can squeeze it in, chairs for reading and lap desks give your kids a second option for a place to study.

If you want to make the "school" room fun, you could add a mini fridge with drinks and put a side table in the room with baskets of the kids’ favorite snacks. For homeschooling parents, paint one of the walls with chalk paint for those days you have to explain algebra.

Flip it into a fun TV room

woman eating popcorn watching TV

Sometimes it’s nice to have a room that has no screens, allowing for games and conversation only. Turn your dining room into the TV room and let your family room be the social spot. In our society, the TV is no longer expected to be the focal point in the living room. Dallas-based designer Charmaine Wynter explains on Realtor, "The TV is no longer God. There’s less planning around where the cable connection is and where the black box will go." Designers are being asked to create areas for relaxation and socializing. Wynter goes on to say, "Without the traditional focal point, there’s suddenly space for activities such as meditating, reading, and talking. It’s very liberating."

Imagine what you could do with your living room if the TV were no longer the focal point. As soon as you turn that unused dining room into a TV room, you’ll have the living room space to play with and figure out. Think of the empty dining room as a small family room. All you need is some comfortable seating (hello, recliners), a TV stand, and a basket to hold the remote. That’s the basics. Take it a step further with a popcorn machine for movie nights and a mini fridge for your favorite cold ones.

Make it a game room

man playing a video game

A game room means different things to different folks. You might dream of evenings with the family, playing hours of Monopoly. However, your kids might be dreaming of Fortnite all-nighters. No problem. Let your game room include something for everyone. You’ll want some comfy, family room-type furniture for the game room, a big screen TV, and a couple of gaming chairs for your video and online game lovers. For those nights the TV is off, and the internet is resting, have a shelf area or cubic storage where your favorite family games reside. A trunk or baskets full of cozy blankets are nice for chilly nights. Bean bag chairs work great in a game room for those games that aren’t always table friendly.

For wall colors, Smart Remodeling recommends choosing a paint color for your gaming room that creates the right atmosphere. They suggest you make the room comfortable and a place where people can have a good time and be entertained. The right color has that effect. Choose something vibrant but not so crazy that you’ll get tired of it after those long Monopoly nights.

Entertain a home bar

group of friends toasting with cocktails

Yes, you can have a space for grown-ups only. An at-home bar will get plenty of use if you love to entertain. They’re the perfect place to unwind at the end of the day and allow friends to do the same. The great thing about an at-home bar is the possibilities for a bar design are endless. A small table is enough to hold all your liquor bottles and glassware. Still, it’s fun to get creative. Use an old hutch to store everything, then have a couple of bistro tables for guests. A repurposed door on top of two whiskey barrels does the trick as a bar top. Or how about an antique buffet or a simple bookshelf? Do what suits your style. You just need an area for storing the essentials and some tabletops and seating.

Speaking of essentials, what do you need to get your collection going? Your friends won’t enjoy a dry bar. Serious Eats shares the wise advice of starting slow when stocking the home bar. Keep the basics on hand, such as vodka, gin, bourbon, scotch, and tequila. It’s also a good idea to plan out what drinks you think you’ll make, just as you would with meal planning. That helps so you don’t overbuy things.

Once you’ve got your liquor collection started, you can work on some mixers and other things. Cherries, lemons, limes, oranges, bitters, tonic, and sodas are commonly used for drinks. A mini fridge in your new bar area helps store those items. Of course, have a shelf or an area near the liquor for a shaker, cocktail jiggers, toothpicks, and glassware. If you have wall space, your home bar is the perfect place to hang that cool wine rack you’ve been eyeing on Etsy. You could also add a wine refrigerator. Get ready to stay in on Saturday night!

Get cozy with a home library

home library with chair

Book lovers, think about it. Imagine all your books in one spot, along with a cozy reading chair. It can happen. Clean out your unused dining room and start collecting bookshelves. You have the perfect excuse — reading is good for you. Healthline reports that reading books improves our mental and physical health, and those benefits last a lifetime. Put the screen down and build your library.

A home library created in an unused dining room is one of the easiest to design. You’ve got the walls, the floor, and the space. You truly only need a place for your books, a comfortable seating area, and great lighting. Line the walls with any type of bookshelves; they don’t have to be expensive. You can even search for used ones and paint them. It’s best to anchor shelves to the wall for safety’s sake. It’s okay to have extra shelving, leaving room for more books.

What’s your favorite type of chair to read in? Make sure it’s something you can curl up in for hours. A floor lamp next to the chair is the perfect spot to add your desired lighting. For a little extra self-care, keep some scented candles available for ambiance and a sound machine to drown out the realities of life. A blanket near your chair is a must for winter reading. Now all you need is a great novel in your hands.

Invest in an exercise area

Family stretching with online program

One of the toughest parts of squeezing in daily exercise is finding the place to do it. What if you could wake up and go right to your own exercise area? No pressure to have the perfect gym outfit, no expensive monthly memberships, and no one watching as you try balancing during yoga for the first time. If your dining room is going unused, it’s time to get moving, right at home. Need more motivation? Mayo Clinic suggests you set goals, have a set time each day so exercise is a part of your routine, reward yourself (ice cream after lunch?), and be flexible. Sometimes we have to miss a day — don’t beat yourself up. Just get started again as soon as you can.

You don’t even need furniture for your dining room turned exercise room. A weight storage rack is helpful, as well as a yoga mat and yoga blocks. You’ll need a TV to watch streamed workouts if that’s your thing. A bin or shelf to hold fitness bands keeps your room tidy, and if you want more options for working out, you could add an elliptical, a treadmill, or any kind of exercise machine.

Make sure you paint the walls a bright and cheerful color to keep you motivated. Plan a playlist with music that makes you believe you can take on the world, and have a speaker charged up in your exercise room. Last but not least, a mirror on the wall can assist in those yoga poses and other forms. Plus, you’re just cute.

Carve out a meditation space

young woman meditating on rug

Just like exercise, meditation is something many of us want to do, but we seldom take the time to do it. Having a space dedicated to meditating may help. Melanie Barnes, a writer and photographer, told Calm Moment, "Creating a designated space at home that is calm and free from distractions can really help the mind settle down and stay focused," she explains. "Plus, if you regularly meditate in the same place you will begin to infuse that corner of your home with a calm energy. By simply stepping onto your mat (before you even begin your practice), you will find you start to breathe deeper just through association." That’s reason enough to make this important place at home.

A meditation room should be comfortable. Choose floor pillows and a rug for sitting. Bring some nature into the room with plants and have music that relaxes you. Candles and incense help create a meditative atmosphere, so keep some on a shelf in your room. You may want to cover any windows you have but make sure they are easy to open and close for the days you want the sunshine. Meditation is a personal practice. Make the room comfortable and add whatever you need to help you focus and forget the outside world.

Convert it into a playroom

light colored playroom with toys

If you’re in the throws of raising young children, you no doubt have toys, puzzles, and art supplies all over the house. That’s great. Kids need those things. Still, to help you feel more organized, a playroom is perfect so you can keep all those toys and things in one spot. Playrooms do more than give you a place for all the "stuff" kids play with. ZizzyBee Bags says they also help kids learn to share since all the toys are in one spot, encourage cooperation, and keep the kids’ bedrooms for sleeping only. When the toys get organized in their own room, your home no longer feels overrun with Legos, blocks, noisy cars, and dress-up clothes. Storage to the rescue.

Fill your unused dining room with cube storage. It’s the easiest for kids to use when cleaning up. Cube storage uses bins that pull in and out and are easily moved around. That means if all the building blocks are in the block bin, your child can just take that bin out to play. Then at clean-up time, if all goes well, they know exactly where those blocks go. Label bins for an even quicker clean-up. If children can’t read yet, you can print off or draw pictures and add them to the front of the bins.

A child-friendly table and chairs for drawing are helpful in the play area. Just be sure to keep the messy art supplies out of reach if the kids aren’t ready to pour paint on their own. Also, a low bookshelf and a cozy reading corner encourage kids to take a break and rest. If your playroom isn’t carpeted, make sure the kiddos have a nice soft rug to land on when they sit and play.