Ask the Designer: Dine In Style

With the holidays approaching, now is a great time to make your dining room a showpiece. Here, Haskell Matheny, ASID, CAPS, outlines how to make each element shine.


The table is, of course, the key player in any dining room. But which shape is right for you? That will depend on 1) the layout of your room, and 2) how you like to entertain. If you have a rectangular room and want a variety of seating options, a rectangular table could be the ticket. You can place two to four people on one side for more intimate seating, or you can add extra leaves when hosting a large gathering.

An oval table also looks nice in a rectangular room. Rounded corners add elegance and create a sense of spaciousness, plus they will make room for extra chairs when seating a large crowd. A round table can be great if you want to foster a sense of intimacy and facilitate conversation and it looks particularly terrific in a square room.

designer2THE CHAIRS.

When picking chairs, don’t sacrifice comfort for beauty. You want your guests to relax and enjoy a great meal. For maximum comfort, consider chairs with upholstered backs as well as seats.

Also, forget old conventions about matching. Chairs are a great way to add pattern, texture, and visual interest to your space, and mixing and matching can give your room personality. For example, if you have an oval or rectangular table, consider using one style and fabric for hostess chairs, and another for the side chairs. Often, I will match host chairs to fabric in an adjoining room so they can become extra seating when needed.

As for the number of chairs, plan on two feet of table space for each seat. So, a six-foot table would have three chairs down each side in addition to the two end chairs for a total of eight chairs.


A great chandelier will provide style and mood in addition to light. However, it’s critical to choose the right size. My rule of thumb is to select a fixture between 1/2  and 2/3 the width of your table – so a 42-inch table will look best with a 21- to 28-inch light. As for hanging height, keep your fixture between 30 to 36 inches above the table surface, or 60 to 66 inches above the floor.

Always place a dimmer on your fixture. This will eliminate glare and create a wonderful candlelit mood for evening events. When possible, I love to incorporate pin lights – small two- to four-inch recess lights featuring narrow beam LED or halogen bulbs – over the designer1table to provide illumination right at the table surface and only use the chandelier for mood and style.


A great rug can anchor a room, provide warmth and character, and – if you have an open floor plan – help define the space. Remember: in most instances, you will only see the rug’s perimeter. Also, as a general rule, the bolder the chair fabric, the more understated the rug should be.

As for size, the rug should extend at least two feet from the table to keep chairs level when pulled back. I personally love the look of a rug that fills the space and leaves about 18 inches of the room floor showing.

Haskell Matheny, ASID, CAPS is the owner and principal designer of Haskell Interiors, located in historic downtown Cleveland, Tennessee. Visit online at

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