While many believe the heart of the home is the kitchen, the dining room is where the pulse beats. It's the place where friends and family members gather not only to share a meal but also make joyful memories together. Make sure that you set the scene for every occasion with memorable dining room design and decoration.

For anyone entertaining dinner guests within a small space, we've put together these small dining room ideas to help you make your square footage work for you. Find out everything from how to pick the best dining tables for small spaces to choosing dining room wall décor that makes your room seem more spacious – no hammers and nails required.

Abstract landscape painting

Let's start with the walls. These are the blank canvas on which you develop your dining room decorating ideas. While it's commonly known that white can open up a space and make it seem larger than it is, any light neutral hue will do the same job and look more personal to your home – so choose something that suits your style preferences. Of course, you can also incorporate colour and patterns without going all-out. Picking a focal wall and painting it in a rich shade or adding a brightly patterned wallpaper lets you enjoy colour in a smaller dose.

Artwork can also feature in your small dining room. Select a single large statement piece that will form the centre of your room and give your space a theme. You can create a gallery wall comprised of several smaller framed art pieces that are all in keeping with the theme you've chosen.

Another way to create the illusion of more space in a smaller dining room area is with mirrors. Hang up a large mirror instead of a statement art piece to reflect light and the interior of the room back on itself, making it seem bigger.

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Minimal white dining room with hanging ceiling light over dining table

There's no easier way to create the illusion of more space than with your lighting. With free surfaces scarce, it's best to ensure your lighting comes from above instead of freestanding lamps that have cords and plugs. The ceiling height is also important, as you want to leave adequate room between the table and overhead lighting.

Instead of dramatic chandeliers (which can overwhelm a smaller space), choose simple lighting that is proportional to your table and chairs and in a similar style. Look to match colours and shapes in your furniture and lighting fixtures. As always, making a note of your room's dimensions is important and will ensure you make the perfect choice first time.

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Bowls and plates

In a smaller space, your choice of dining room table décor and dinnerware can have a practical impact. It's best to choose one excellent set that suits your style than buy several sets for different moods or occasions, taking up valuable storage space. Traditionally decorated homes are well suited to dinnerware sets in light, neutral shades. If you consider your style to be more eclectic you can also mix and match your dinnerware. For example, you can echo certain colours of the room in your glasses and others in your plates.

Where possible, opt for double-duty dishes and dinnerware that work for both casual and formal functions. When purchasing a prepackaged set of items, make sure you'll use everything that's included or opt for an open stock selection. Many sets come with items like soup bowls or whiskey glasses, but you're an enthusiast who frequently serves those things, save space by using standard bowls and glasses.

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Dinner table with food and flowers

When friends and family come over for food, keep the dining table clear of big dishes and serve up buffet-style, so everyone can see each other and eat without bumping elbows. As for refreshments, a portable drinks tray on wheels can be included and removed from the room when not needed.

As smaller rooms lend themselves well to intimate meals, work with this and not against it by keeping your table clear of large centrepieces that obstruct each person's view. The addition of a few tea lights in suitable holders, as well as matching table linen and place mat sets, will transform your table without taking up space.

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While you certainly don't need to have a perfectly decorated small dining room to pull off an entertaining evening soirée, taking the time to ensure that every element is working together in harmony will help set the tone for successful socialising.