21 Small Restaurant Design Ideas in Low Budget

Opening a restaurant is an exciting venture, but it can also be incredibly expensive, especially when it comes to interior design. As a restaurant owner, I know firsthand the challenges of creating an inviting and stylish space while sticking to a tight budget. 

However, with a little creativity and some smart choices, you can transform your small restaurant without breaking the bank. In this article,  I have shared 21 clever design ideas that I’ve used to save thousands on my own restaurant’s decor.

1. Embrace Open Shelving

Open shelving is not only trendy but also cost-effective. Instead of investing in expensive cabinetry, opt for open shelves to display your dishes, glassware, and decorative items. This creates an airy, spacious feel and allows you to easily change your decor as needed.

2. Repurpose Furniture

One of the easiest ways to save money on restaurant design is by repurposing furniture. Look for vintage or second hand pieces that can be refinished or painted to match your desired aesthetic. For example, an old dresser can be transformed into a unique server station or a rustic farm table can become a cozy communal dining spot.

3. Use Chalkboard Paint

Chalkboard paint is a versatile and inexpensive way to add personality to your restaurant. Use it to create a feature wall where you can showcase your menu, daily specials, or even local artwork. Plus, it’s easy to update as your offerings change.

4. Get Creative with Lighting

Lighting can make a huge impact on the ambiance of your restaurant, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. String lights, paper lanterns, and even repurposed industrial fixtures can create a warm and inviting atmosphere. Mix and match different types of lighting to add depth and interest to your space.

5. Incorporate Plants

Adding greenery to your restaurant is an easy and affordable way to bring life to your decor. Plants not only look great but also help purify the air and create a calming environment. Choose low-maintenance options like succulents or snake plants, or go for a statement piece like a living wall.

6. Use Mirrors to Create Space

If your restaurant is on the smaller side, mirrors can be a game-changer. Strategically placed mirrors can make your space feel larger and brighter, without the need for costly renovations. Plus, they add a touch of elegance and sophistication to any room.

7. Create a Feature Wall

A feature wall is a great way to add visual interest to your restaurant without overwhelming the space. Choose a bold wallpaper, a unique paint color, or even a gallery wall of local artwork. This creates a focal point that draws the eye and makes your restaurant memorable.

8. Invest in Durable Flooring

While it may be tempting to skimp on flooring, investing in durable options can save you money in the long run. Look for materials like concrete, tile, or vinyl that are easy to clean and maintain. You can always add warmth and texture with area rugs or runners.

9. Use Colorful Accents

Adding pops of color is an inexpensive way to make your restaurant feel fresh and vibrant. Choose a few key accent colors and incorporate them through your decor, such as throw pillows, artwork, or even your table settings. This creates a cohesive look without the need for a full remodel.

10. Create Cozy Nooks

Cozy nooks and intimate seating areas can make your restaurant feel more inviting and comfortable. Use curtains, room dividers, or even bookshelves to create separate spaces within your larger dining room. This allows for more privacy and a unique dining experience for your guests.

11. Repurpose Industrial Materials

Industrial materials like metal, wood, and concrete can add a cool, edgy vibe to your restaurant decor. Look for ways to repurpose these materials, such as using metal pipes for shelving or creating a concrete bar top. This creates a one-of-a-kind look that sets your restaurant apart.

12. Use Textiles to Add Warmth

Textiles like curtains, tablecloths, and upholstery can add warmth and softness to your restaurant’s decor. Choose fabrics in rich, inviting colors or interesting textures to create a cozy atmosphere. Mix and match patterns for a bohemian feel, or stick to a monochromatic palette for a more sophisticated look.

13. Create a Gallery Wall

A gallery wall is a collection of artwork, photographs, or other decorative items displayed together on one wall. This is an easy and affordable way to add personality to your restaurant and showcase local talent. Choose pieces that reflect your restaurant’s theme or cuisine, and mix and match frames for an eclectic look.

14. Use Chalkboard Menus

Instead of printing new menus every time you change your offerings, use chalkboards to display your menu items. This not only saves money on printing costs but also allows you to easily update your menu as needed. Plus, it adds a rustic, charming touch to your decor.

15. Incorporate Natural Elements

Bringing natural elements into your restaurant’s decor can create a calming, organic feel. Use wood accents, stone surfaces, or even a living plant wall to add texture and warmth to your space. This creates a connection to the outdoors and makes your restaurant feel more inviting.

16. Use Mismatched Furniture

Mismatched furniture can add character and charm to your restaurant’s decor. Look for vintage or second hand pieces in complementary colors or styles, and mix and match them throughout your space. This creates a unique, eclectic look that feels cozy and inviting.

17. Create a Focal Point

Every restaurant needs a focal point – something that draws the eye and creates a lasting impression. This could be a statement light fixture, a bold piece of artwork, or even a unique architectural feature. Choose something that reflects your restaurant’s personality and makes it memorable.

18. Use Texture to Add Depth

Texture is an often-overlooked element of restaurant design, but it can make a big impact on the overall feel of your space. Use a mix of smooth and rough surfaces, like polished concrete floors and reclaimed wood walls, to add depth and interest. This creates a layered, dynamic look that feels inviting and comfortable.

19. Incorporate Local Artwork

Supporting local artists is not only a great way to give back to your community but also an affordable way to add unique, one-of-a-kind decor to your restaurant. Reach out to local galleries or art schools to find emerging talent, or even host a rotating exhibit of local artwork. This creates a sense of place and makes your restaurant feel more connected to its surroundings.

20. Use Lighting to Create Ambiance

Lighting is one of the most important elements of restaurant design, and it doesn’t have to be expensive to make a big impact. Use dimmer switches to create a warm, inviting atmosphere in the evening, and consider using colored bulbs or filters to add a unique touch. Candles and string lights can also create a cozy, romantic feel.

21. Keep It Simple

Finally, remember that sometimes less is more when it comes to restaurant design. A simple, uncluttered space can feel more inviting and comfortable than an over-decorated one. Focus on a few key elements that reflect your restaurant’s personality and cuisine, and let them shine. This creates a cohesive, memorable experience for your guests.


How much should I budget for restaurant design?

While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, a good rule of thumb is to allocate around 6-10% of your total budget to interior design. However, by using some of the clever ideas in this article, you can create a stylish space for even less.

What are some easy ways to update my restaurant’s decor on a budget?

Some easy and affordable ways to update your restaurant’s decor include repainting, adding new lighting fixtures, incorporating plants or greenery, and updating your table settings with new linens or centerpieces.

How often should I change my restaurant’s decor?

It’s a good idea to refresh your restaurant’s decor every few years to keep things looking fresh and inviting. However, you don’t need to do a full remodel each time – small updates like new artwork or accent pieces can make a big impact.

What are some common mistakes to avoid in restaurant design?

Some common mistakes to avoid include overcrowding your space with too much furniture, using harsh or unflattering lighting, and choosing trendy decor that will quickly go out of style. Focus on creating a timeless, inviting atmosphere that reflects your restaurant’s unique personality.


Designing a small restaurant on a budget doesn’t have to mean sacrificing style or personality. By using these 21 clever ideas, from embracing open shelving to incorporating local artwork, you can create a space that feels inviting, comfortable, and memorable for your guests. 

Remember to focus on a few key elements that reflect your restaurant’s unique personality, and don’t be afraid to get creative with repurposed materials or vintage finds. 

With a little imagination and some smart choices, you can transform your small restaurant into a stylish, welcoming space that your guests will love.

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