Alternative Formal Dining Room Ideas

Not everyone needs a formal dining room. If your dining room is gathering dust, perhaps it's time to turn it into a space you'll actually use. Here are 10 alternative formal dining room ideas to consider.

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Home Office

If you don’t use your formal dining room for dining, turn it into a home office. This is a great spot not only to set up a desk and shelving, but a space to stash mail and display the family activities calendar.

Try these 10 easy DIYs for your home office.

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TV Room

Would you rather have a no-screen living room and a separate place to watch television? Turn your dining room into an entertainment room where you can watch movies, sports and binge watch your favorite shows. Add some comfortable seating and the right lighting and you’ll have the perfect spot to relax. Consider these 10 things when creating a home theater.

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Iryna Kalamurza/Shutterstock


If you’re a book lover, turn your formal dining room into a legit home library. Add bookshelves, a comfortable reading chair, proper lighting and a step stool if your bookshelves go all the way to the ceiling. Learn how to build a classic floor to ceiling bookcase.

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Play Area

It can be difficult to keep an eye on the kids while you’re in the kitchen, so turn an adjacent formal dining room into a play area. Add some shelving and storage so all those toys and books can be in one spot and you can keep an eye on the kids while you tackle kitchen tasks. Consider setting up a play kitchen so the kids can work on their pretend kitchen skills.

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Music Room

Do you dream about having a great record collection and somewhere to listen to them, rather than hosting a formal dinner parties? Whether you want a space to listen to music, play music or a mix of both, a dining room may be the perfect room in the house to crank out the tunes.

Can You Recycle CDs, DVDs and Other Disks?

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Exercise Area

Perhaps a space dedicated to exercise is a better use of your formal dining room. Whether you’re into yoga, running on the treadmill or kettlebells, turning your dining room into mini gym might make sense for you. Get a great workout with these helpful home gym ideas.

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DIY murphy bed
Family Handyman

Guest Room

If you don’t have a traditional guest bedroom, but have frequent overnight guests, try creating a space in which your guests can be comfortable for the night. Your formal dining room can be turned into a guest room with a Murphy bed that opens when needed. This option works well when you also use the space as a home office or library.

Save Space With These 10 Stackable Storage Bins

Learn how to build a space-efficient Murphy bed and bookcase.

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Flamingo Images/Shutterstock

Craft Room

If you find yourself using your dining room table more for crafts projects than for eating meals, turn the space into an area dedicated to creativity. Since you already have a table and chairs, just add some storage for keeping your supplies handy. This IKEA hack will give you plenty of storage space for your craft room.

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Kristi Blokhin/Shutterstock

Game Room

Instead of inviting friends over for a nice dinner, have them over for a game of pool or Minecraft. Yes, you can turn your formal dining room into a game room! Whether it’s a pool or ping-pong table, pinball or video games, you can turn your dining room into the ultimate arcade. Check out these cool ideas for home game rooms.

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Cocktail Space

Instead of going out for cocktails, stay in and invite people to join you in your formal-dining-room-turned home bar. Whether you use a high-top table, build a home bar or add cozy seating and a bar cart, it may be your new favorite spot to grab a beer, glass of wine or your favorite cocktail.

Check out these tips and photos from readers who have built their own home bars.

Rachel Brougham
Rachel Brougham spent years working in newsrooms, for television and newspapers, and has won several awards for her writing. In 2015, she left her full-time job as a newspaper editor to focus on freelance writing and editing. She has been a Family Handyman contributor since 2017.
In 2019, Rachel lived through a major remodeling project on her home, and she uses that experience to inform her Family Handyman content. She's also an avid gardener (both native plants and vegetables), enjoys keeping up with decor trends and spends a lot of time traveling, cooking and hanging out with her family and their giant dog.