Most dining rooms are pretty plain and lack storage space. Gone are the days of a gorgeous milled built-in buffet table or cabinetry. Since we’re in the era of builder-grade boxes we have to be a little creative. Introducing the farmhouse style dining room shelves!
Struggling with the Open Design: Inspired by Formal Dining Rooms
The first thing I used my dining area as was a home office. I lived with this vintage 1960s industrial style desk. Which honestly was a larger piece than I needed on even my best crafty days.
You see, originally the dining room in my house was a completely open concept. It was a wide-open space, painted bright big bird yellow. And believe it or not, I didn’t give it a fresh coat of paint for literal years.
But when I finally did paint it, White Dove, by Benjamin Moore those white walls did something for my soul!
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Builder-Grade Dining Room Problems to Solve: Before the Dining Room Shelves
Builder-grade is the most simplistic and plain you can get. The cheapest way to build a house is to do it quickly with little to no custom dining room storage. Many times they’re also relatively small spaces, with barely enough room for a dining table.
Much less all of that vintage furniture we are dreaming of!
This space had several problems that needed a lot of time and consideration to solve.
- There was no definition of the space. It was just a yellow box next to another room next to my kitchen.
- Zero storage space built-in. Low windows on one of the main walls eliminated the ability for furniture on that wall at all.
- One of the walls was a really tall wall that demanded efficient use of the space.
- Brightening up the room by changing the wall color to a lovely creamy white. Which also allowed the shelves to stand out even more with their beautiful wood tone.
- Styling shelves to reflect my style while being budget conscientious.
Step to Solve Problem #1: Define the Space by Closing it in
I know that open concept homes are all the rage right now, but I prefer the vintage style of having rooms and spaces more defined by purpose. Also, closing this room allowed for lower heating bills since there is no heating or air duct in it.
In my vision for this room, I had this great idea to create a charming vintage-style dining space, closed off from the living room. The first big step to achieving that was to actually close the room off from the rest of the house with glass doors.
I was able to have my dad help me build two small walls to frame in a pair of french doors I bought off FB Marketplace for $150.
Step to Solve Problem #2: Dining Room Storage Ideas, Especially Small Dining Rooms
Move Away from Traditional Storage Solutions, Like Furniture
For a time I had dreams of using a china cabinet on the tallest wall. But when I had one there it still felt dwarfed by the massive wall, which is about 10 feet tall. But that presented several issues on its own.
- It was a terrible use of the space and wasted a ton of the small walking path or chair room.
- Discovering minimalism and trying to eliminate large furniture pieces that we would only have to move when we sell this house.
- It is a small dining room which means narrow spaces and I couldn’t actually make a china cabinet function well. It was difficult to get into it.
- Wanting function and efficiency were my top 2 priorities and the furniture in this room would end up only being display cases. Because I couldn’t easily use them.
Low Windows Eliminated Furniture on Any Other Wall
Even if I wanted to add furniture on any opposite walls it is impossible in my home due to the low windows, my back door and potbelly stove, and the french door entrance on the other.
It’s actually the reason I have opted out of furniture in many situations. Despite the fact that furniture is one of my favorite things to store and display pieces.
They simply don’t work on most walls in my home.
Utilize the Wall Space Efficiently with Wall Shelves
But what was I supposed to do for extra storage? I didn’t want to just cover the walls with wall decor or wall art.
This is ironic because that’s what’s on my shelves.
But when considering a prospective buyer I have solved a problem and given them the option of using these shelves for whatever they want. And if I want to sell all my dishes and fill these shelves with books I could create a beautiful little library.
A great way to solve the efficiency question was with a storage unit of some sort. Ikea had some great options I even had one option picked out on my wish list. It would have been a good functional piece in the Ivar family.
I was really wanting something simple and solid wood. The issue was the shelving unit was well over $200 and I knew I could build something better, bigger, and more beautiful for way less.
At the time I did this project in 2016 lumber costs were much lower, but even today it would cost under $200. I used 2x6x12 common pine lumber, untreated.
Step to Solve Problem #3: Dining Room Color Scheme, White Walls Utilize Natural Light Best
The perfect way to utilize the really tall dining room walls, free up floor space, and create a defined dining area was to build open shelves all the way to the ceiling.
But before I did that I had to take care of the yellow walls.
I’m not against yellow walls, but in my consideration of the space, it made the entire room feel closed in and smaller than it actually was.
I have two large windows and a back door with windows in it also, so there is plenty of natural light. But the wall color sucked it in.
Bonus, white walls really allowed the wood tones of the Early American Stain I chose for the shelves.
Step to Solve Problem #4: Learning to Style a Wall Shelf for a Cohesive Design and Function
Just recently I went back through and Kon Mari’d the entire shelving unit I built to really focus on the few main elements I wanted to focus on.
For my taste, I prefer functional decor, so I didn’t want to keep a lot of items that I couldn’t at least find a purpose for.
I’m collecting Pfaltzgraff Heritage Dishes (I think the collection is pretty well-rounded at this point!) for those big family events I dreamed of having in this beautiful dining room all those years.
It’s hard being in a constant state of construction, never having a finished space to feel comfortable inviting anyone into.
The shelves do have decorative pieces, but I try to keep them minimal. This was easier when I took a bunch of pieces I already had and turned them into the functional decor as unique planters!
Now that the wall shelves are complete there is plenty of room around both sides of my dining room table. I didn’t need a dining room cabinet after all!
Well, friends, I hope I have helped you with your dining room space problem solving by offering a few ways I have solved my own! Small space or not, you can achieve those farmhouse style dining room shelves of your dreams.
Thanks for stopping by!
Meet the Author
Hi, I’m Julie! Mother to five beautiful kids, Homeschool Educator, Writer, Handicraft & DIY Enthusiast, Photographer, Thrifter, and Furniture Restorer. Follow along for fun DIY projects creating a handmade home on a budget! Read more about me here→