Tips for Updating Traditional Dining Room Decor

By Bailiegh Basham · August 14, 2022

    Tips for Updating Traditional Dining Room Decor

    There’s a lot to appreciate about traditional decor—it’s classy, welcoming, and not beholden to short-lived trends. But, after a few years (or decades) of eating day after day in a traditionally styled dining room, you may find yourself itching for a contemporary update. Good news, you don’t have to throw out all your old furniture and start from scratch. Small but impactful decor changes can go a long way in updating your traditional dining room for the 21st Century. 

    Refresh the Colors of Your Walls and Textiles

    Contemporary Wall Colors & Prints

    An updated coat of paint is arguably the most effective update for a traditional dining room feel modern. Elect for bolder colors (you have the full rainbow at your disposal) and add sharp contrasts with the trim. Steer clear of off-whites or murky pastels; while it’s possible to have a contemporarily styled dining room in these colors, these hues will only make your redesign harder. 

    Another way to add modern flair to the space is to introduce two different colors. The most common way to do this is with an accent wall, but other techniques include having different hues on the upper and lower halves or incorporating color blocking. 

    You may be surprised to learn that wallpaper isn’t inherently traditional. Prints associated with modern design to have larger graphics and contrasting colors. If you choose to move forward with wallpaper, avoid floral or flourish-heavy motifs, as well as those with passive tints. 




    Updating Your Dining Room’s Traditional Textiles

    Play with striking color combinations and patterns, as well as unusual shapes within your textiles. Tribal print? Absolutely! Rainbow-colored, recycled newspaper placemats? Why not! However, floral patterns run the risk of feeling traditional and dated, so proceed with caution when incorporating a flower motif. 

    Textiles at your disposal to play with include the rug, dining chair upholstery, curtains, placemats, cloth napkins, and a table runner.


    Updating Your Dining Room's Traditional Materials

    Wood is iconic, seamlessly integrating with traditional and modern decor themes alike. However, if you want to give your dining room a fresh, contemporary feel, consider embracing materials that feel more contemporary, especially in their uses. Take, for example, glass shelves in wooden cabinets; while glass itself is timeless, this particular use tends to be seen solely amongst more contemporary decor. Similarly, metal accents add a pop of cool, industrial design to any traditional dining space. 

    Update a Traditional Dining Centerpiece With a Modern Alternative

    Yes, Some cut flower arrangements can look quite modern, especially if placed in the right vase. However, unless you have a particularly contemporary bouquet, opt for an alternative to a traditional floral centerpiece. Fun options include: 

    • Fresh plants, both as a centerpiece and decorations around the room
    • Abstract statues 
    • Metallic candle holders
    • Painted ceramic pots or vases
    • Color, blown glass
    • Wood carvings


    Update Some (Or All) Of Your Traditional Furniture 

    We promised in the beginning of the article that you wouldn’t have to switch out all your furniture when updating your traditional dining room. This holds true, as even one or two new additions can transform the remainder of your furniture. Take the following steps to assess what traditional dining room pieces you can keep which will need updating.

    Review Your Existing Dining Room Furniture 

    As a classification of dining room furniture, traditional casts a wide net that includes the highly embellished queen anne period, the soft curves of French Country decor, the simplicity of American Colonial style, and straight-laced Mission pieces. Our point? Some of your traditional furniture may be contemporary-adjacent, particularly those with minimal or no flourishes. 

    Contemporary furniture tends to have clean lines and smooth textures. It embraces the combination of multiple stains or colors, as well as the mixing of textiles (such as wood with metal). When you strip away surrounding decorations from your furniture, you may be surprised how many of your existing pieces could complement a contemporary aesthetic. 

    Mix and Match Dining Room Furniture Sets

    Traditional dining room furniture tends to all come from the same line and closely resemble one another. In turn, modern updates would entail incorporating an accent piece. Alternatively, find a dining room set in which the chairs and table aren’t near-identical, as seen in the pictured example. 


    When mixing and matching seating to your update your dining room, the key is to have both contrasting visuals and a uniting element. As shown by the example, the juxtaposition of the upholstered seating with the bare wood dining chairs makes the dissimilarities feel purposeful rather than accidental. However, both sets’ legs were stained the color, tying them together (along with the table). 

    Proceed With Caution Before Staining or Painting Traditional Furniture

    Updating your traditional dining room furniture with a new color may give it a desirable modern pop. However, don’t think that you can simply buy a can of paint and slather it on top of the existing finish. Repainting furniture is an arduous process that involves sanding, using a tack cloth to wipe down the piece, applying a coat of primer, painting the piece, and adding a new top layer of finish. Unless you’re a pro, it’s easy to screw up one of these steps, resulting in an uneven appearance and diminished value. 

    Shop for New Dining Room Furniture That is Mid-Century or Contemporary

    If you ultimately determine that your traditional furniture cannot be upgraded for modern times, it may be time to shop for contemporary alternatives. Some links to get you started:

    Additionally, if you want tips for identifying reputable online companies and purchasing quality pieces, check out Where to Buy Real Solid Wood Furniture Online


    Focus on Minimalism and Quality

    One of the easiest ways to upgrade your dining room from traditional to modern may be to actually get rid of some decorations and furniture pieces. After all, contemporary style is all about minimalism. Some ideas?

    • Swap out a series of smaller wall pieces in exchange for a singular, large piece of art
    • Purchase furniture pieces that put the natural grain on full display, lessening the need for outside embellishment
    • Limit the amount of decorations that serve no function, instead focusing on quality functional pieces that simultaneously provide decorative enhancements
    • Buy storage solutions with concealed shelves 


    Don’t Forget About Lighting

    An old-fashioned chandelier is difficult (but not impossible) to coordinate with a contemporary dining room, so consider updating your lighting. Ideas include:

    • Swap out crystal for metal accents, wood, clear glass, or non-traditional materials 
    • A modern central fixture, like a Sputnik Chandelier or Mid-Century globe pendants
    • Exposed bulbs, like Edison or clear pendant lights
    • Simplistic light fixtures that embrace color 


    Bonus–Opt for Live Plants

    Not all cut flowers feel dated but, if you’re going to great lengths to update your dining room’s traditional decor, live plants can imbue the space with fresh energy. Don’t be afraid to embrace plants’ organic shapes, whether it’s by hanging spider plants in the windows, positioning a fern on your buffet, or filling a corner with a mini-tree like a fiddle leaf fig. Our tip? Choose plants with interesting leaves that feel unconventional (and a tad bit wild) to give you traditional dining decor a quick and easy facelift. 


    Shop With Countryside Amish Furniture for Quality Dining Room Furniture

    No matter your specific tastes in dining room decor, our broad selection of dining room furniture will have the perfect addition. All pieces are made by skilled Amish craftspeople using real North American hardwoods, resulting in pieces that will endure day-after-day, decade-after-decade. Better yet, you can customize your order to fit your precise needs. Choose the wood species, stain, and other design features, and our USA-based team will handle the rest! 

    We look forward to your business and welcome you to use our online chat function to address any questions you may have about updating your traditional dining room, today. 



    Author, Baileigh Basham

    Bailiegh Basham is Lead Sales & Marketing Strategist at Countryside Amish Furniture. She's been a team member since 2014. Bailiegh is deeply passionate about furniture design and home decor.