Formal Dining Room Transformation

Do you have a formal dining room? Do you use it for dining? I mean more than holiday dinners? We didn’t.

Our formal dining room was a complete waste of space unless you count the facts that the dog liked to sleep in there and we stacked up mail and backpacks on the table. That was how we used our formal dining room. There was no formal dining to it. When we purchased this house, we had high hopes of nightly dinners around the table with conversations about the roses and thorns of the day. Yeah, right. Life got in the way. Scheduled nightly dinners turned into whoever didn’t have an activity at that moment cramming food into mouths and maybe doing homework or watching TV at the same time. Just being real.

Transformation to Den

That formal dining room was a thing of the past. A room full of the promise of a 1970s sitcom and none of the practicality for our life. When I watch HGTV and hear these young couples asking for a dedicated dining room, I wonder about their naivete. They haven’t come to grips with the busyness of life with a bunch of kids underfoot and jobs and athletic practice and dance class and art shows and plays and, well- you get the picture. Formal dining rooms just aren’t practical in my world. Maybe there are people who use them, but that wasn’t the case in our home.

My husband is one of those guys who can do anything. I’m not exaggerating. If he can’t do it, he hops on YouTube or reads manuals about how to do whatever it is. He’s kind of a freak in that way, but we definitely benefit from his gifts. We came up with a plan to breathe new life into our otherwise wasted space of a formal dining room. His vision was to make it into a den that would serve as an office for the two of us and a space for our teenage daughter to do homework.


With a new plan for this room, we started the DIY remodel. Wallpaper was replaced with a slate blue paint on three walls. My husband taught himself how to make fake shiplap for an accent wall on the fourth and even used that design on the ceiling. The traditional oak trim was repainted in a creamy white to blend with the shiplap wall and ceiling. The chandelier was replaced with a light fixture that fits flush on the ceiling. Curtains were removed to make way for sunshine.

Finishsed den

We found a table with drawers to function as a desk that is big enough for all of us to work at the same time. A buffet serving piece doesn’t hide dishes, rather the necessities required for work and school. We found an awesome recliner, comfy chairs, and a bench seat to complement the rest of the room. Just for fun, we put a smart TV on the wall.

It didn’t take a lot of time, effort, or cash to change this from a holding pond for junk to a room that we use every day. Do we miss that formal dining room? Not one bit! In fact, I wish we had made this change years ago. The dog still likes to sleep on the cool wood floors, but the rest of the family found a cozy, relaxing space to work.

Goodbye, formal dining room. Hello, functional den!


  1. Love the colors and the shiplap ceiling! I’m toying around with a similar scheme for my addition remodel. I also have a formal dining room, but that’s a project for another day. Whoever built it didn’t center the window or the ceiling fan on the room. :/


    1. Thanks- I love the colors, too! I think that you should go for it! We wish we had done this remodel earlier. We absolutely love the look and choose to spend far more time in the space than ever before. The old idea of a formal dining room was just wasted space for us- this is functional space.


      1. Is there anything you would have differently now that you’ve lived in the space?


      2. We’re really happy with the way the space turned out. Along with the lighting in the center of the room, we also installed can lights in the corners. That helps to provide enough lighting at the big desk/table for times when we are working in there. It’s just a comfy, inviting space now- to work or relax and watch TV. I’m super happy with the colors, too.


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