1. Get comfy

“In the past, a lot of people had these formal dining rooms that you’d just walk right by 360 days a year, but now people want something more functional,” says Jennifer DesJardin, owner of Motif Design Solutions. Add upholstered seating or even wingback chairs to make the space inviting, more like an extension of your living room.

2. Keep your guard up

“Use soil-resistant or outdoor fabrics, or have chairs treated to create a bulletproof stain guard. It just takes one spill to ruin upholstery,” says Mary Knape, who, along with Kelly Zibell (Knape & Zibell Interior Design), designed the room above. Knape recommends Kravet, Pindler & Pindler, and Perennials for materials that are as enduring as their patterns.

3. Make room

Choose a table with leaves so you can set just enough places for a weekday meal or comfortably seat 12. “We’ve even had a large piece of particleboard cut and a custom skirt made to enlarge a table to accommodate a lot more guests,” Zibell says.

4. Air it out

Skip the china cabinet and go with built-ins instead. “If your china and serving pieces are behind glass, you feel like you shouldn’t touch anything,” DesJardin says. “Keeping your shelves open can make the whole room feel a bit more casual and inviting.”

5. Play up your palette

Paint the walls to complement your place settings or prized collections, or consider translating your china’s style into wallpaper or upholstery patterns. Says DesJardin: “Patterns can be a springboard for designing the room.”