- Strip the room down to the bones. Modern dining rooms do not generally have traditional details like chair rails or wainscoting.
- Replace outdated light fixtures. Instead of the elaborate chandelier, choose a hanging light fixture with clean lines and a more modern feel. Try a row of hanging pendant lights over the table instead of a single fixture.
- Strip the wallpaper and paint the walls. Choose a warm red or chocolate brown paint for a sophisticated look, or add a pop of color by painting an accent wall a brighter shade, such as bright blue or lime green. A bold pattern, such as stripes or a harlequin design, painted on the wall also makes a bold statement in a modern dining room.
- Remove outdated flooring or rugs. Many traditional dining rooms have an Oriental-style rug; trade that out for one with a bold pattern or made from natural fibers, such as seagrass or jute.
- Purchase new furniture. Modern furniture is simple, with clean lines and minimal detailing. Choose a glass- or marble-topped table for a fresh look. If you can't afford all new furniture, cover your ornate chairs with tailored chair covers, or add a coat of white or brightly hued paint to wood furniture to freshen up the look.
- Take down the formal drapes, and replace them with simple, clean window treatments. Hang a simple valance or cornice board, or hang sheers or a Roman shade to dress the window. Avoid anything with multiple layers and tassels --- the key is simplicity.
- Use minimal accessories, and keep them simple. Instead of a large, ornate flower arrangement in the center of the table, display clear glass vases filled with fruit or colorful stones.
- Hang artwork on the walls. Skip the traditional pastoral scenes in favor of more modern, graphic pieces. Display a collection of black and white photographs in simple frames; lean them along a picture rail if you don't want to hang them. Create your own art with inexpensive stretched canvases from the hobby store. Paint the canvas all one color, or design your own graphic piece with painter's tape and acrylic paint.
- Replace ornate table linens with simple, graphic place mats and table runners. Look for place mats made from unexpected materials, such as wood, beads or leather. Purchase contemporary tableware in untraditional shapes, such as square plates and bowls, which are sold at most retailers, featuring bold colors and patterns.
How to Update a Traditional Dining Room
Because dining rooms are usually a separate room, far away from the high-traffic common living areas, they are often overlooked when it comes to decorating. Most people just place Grandma's antique table --- or a reproduction of it --- in the middle of the room, add some vases and candles to the buffet sideboard, and close the door until it's time to have a dinner party. A dining room doesn't have to be boring and traditional, though. With some easy updates your dining room can be a modern space that reflects your personality --- and might actually inspire you to entertain more often.