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Setting the Table

Hello good people! Today we are wrapping up the first floor decorating plans with the Dining Room. We have worked through decorating the entryway, the library, the circle room, the family room, and the mudroom. We have looked at one, two, three, four, five options for the kitchen. The dining room will have the same basic decorating scheme regardless of which kitchen option we go with, so let's get to it. Here is the renovation link for the space just in case.

I looked through my binders of inspiration photos that I have been keeping since the 1990s and scrolled through my Instagram feed for dining room inspiration and I have almost nothing. I have bursting binders of kitchens, living rooms, family rooms, bedrooms, etc. No dining room. That says a lot. This is what I have saved in a teeny tiny sliver of a three inch binder behind the tab labeled dining room. These are in order of the way they were put in the binder:

The first eight pictures are definitely from the 1990s because I can see on the bottom of the eighth picture that it comes from the September 1998 issue of Traditional Home magazine. I'm fairly certain the first eleven are from the '90s. Looking at the pictures, we do not make it into the current century until the twelfth photo and there are only four pictures that I have ripped out in the past twenty-one years.

Looking through these photos I see that the first few pictures are inspiration for a formal dining room. This is what I grew up with as a child at home and when I first bought a house and began looking for inspiration I was trying to find some type of formal dining room that appealed to me. These three are all I came up with in all of those years. I always look for images that speak to me and formal dining rooms never did. I have had "formal dining rooms" in homes two, three, and four. I have not decorated them to feel fancy and formal though. That is not for me. By the fifth house I got rid of a separate "formal" dining room altogether and that is what we're doing here too.

Looking at the photos I can see that the following elements, refined a bit over time, have always resonated with me in putting a dining room together:

  • Mixing chairs

  • Skirted fabric on chairs

  • Pine furniture

  • Vintage rugs

  • Mixing fabrics

  • Unique lighting

  • Sitting area in the room separate from the dining table

I have always wanted a dining room that perfectly fits a round table. I haven't had that yet and still don't. I also love the look of bookshelves in a dining room that double as a library. The first time I saw this done was at John's best friend Bill's house on Long Island in 2004. Bill and his wife Liz had a great old house, full of character and the dining room was cozy and stunning with a full wall of floor to ceiling bookshelves (filled with books) and a beautiful, narrow dining table. It's one of my favorite rooms that I have even been in. The picture above (lucky number thirteen in the line of inspiration binder photos) with the green walls, gallery wall of art and exquisite dining table with books on it is a nod to the "feel" that Bill and Liz had. I would love to have my dining room feel like that some day. It won't work in this house though because there is not enough wall space and the room is on the small side.

We have a lot of furniture to work with:

The armoire/hutch has been in our dining rooms since Baltimore and holds everything from lightbulbs, to batteries, to wine, to tortilla chips. When my mother in-law was visiting years ago she asked my younger (very young at the time) daughter where the band aids were and she answered "they're in the dining room" and my mother in-law said, "no, that cannot be right". It was and still is.

The chest was purchased for our dining room in Chevy Chase and has been in our dining rooms almost ever since. For a short time it was in our kitchen in Grosse Pointe before my dad bought me an antique desk for that spot - and now that desk has been in our kitchens ever since. The slipcovered white chairs were purchased for our attic office/playroom in Chevy Chase and since moving from there they have been in our dining rooms.

I purchased the chandelier on an "I need everything" for my Chevy Chase house shopping excursion in Georgetown, D.C. with my mom and sister in-law. Something about that day was magical and I have a soft spot for that light in my heart, and many other things, because of that. We couldn't use it in Baltimore because there was no wiring in the ceilings in that 1790 house. Shortly after we moved into our house in Grosse Pointe I came home late from work and John said that he had "gotten some stuff done around the house". One of those things was hanging the chandelier in the dining room. He said "I think it's too long though". He had taken off the entire chain and hung it as close to the ceiling as possible. I was in shock. "John," I said, "the light is supposed to hang low over the table, no more than two to three feet." "Really?" he said. He put back on as much chain as he could salvage from what he had cut off and that is what we are left with today. We (more I than we) still laugh about it today.

The six chairs are the ones my mom and I bought at a consignment store in Salt Lake City and have been with us ever since. The wicker chair is from my parent's house in Miami and was a labor of love for my mom. I covered the foam cushion with fabric from Etsy shortly after we moved in. Lastly, the rug is an indoor/outdoor rug from our Holland house. (It was in the great room there).

I have to say, humbly, that our last dining room is my inspiration for this dining room too. The dining room was my favorite room in our Holland house:

I cannot replicate it exactly because our dining room in this house is not as large as the one in Holland. It is narrower and shorter. The chest and armoire are in there, as is the table and the six chairs. The wicker chairs from the Holland dining room are in the basement now and my mom's wicker chair is in there instead - fulfilling the separate seating element from the list above. The rug is in the family room, replaced by the indoor/outdoor rug. I would love to get a rug similar to the one that was in the Holland dining room, it is not a "have to have" though. The indoor/outdoor rug is practical for spills, we'll see, maybe some day.

I have a few concerns about the dining room. It feels tight in there. I know a main reason for this is that the soffit (with the twenty three lion heads!) makes it feel like the room is closing in on you. We also have the rug in there on top of the wall to wall carpeting and it feels thick underfoot and it's hard to push and pull the chairs in and out. Those are easy fixes. We are also planning to open up part of the wall between the kitchen and dining room which will definitely make the room feel more open.

Another concern is the chairs. Some of them are in rough shape and they are not the most comfortable perches for long after dinner conversations - which are my favorite kind of conversations. What is perfect about them is that they take up almost no space when they are pushed in. We only have two of the slipcovered chairs. I tested out what it would be like if we had six chairs like that:

This definitely works with three chairs on each side and we could take the two consignment chairs that are in the best shape and put them at the heads of the table for extra seating when needed. The problem with this is that these slipcovered chairs were purchased from an office store in Bethesda, Maryland almost twenty years ago and they are not made anymore. I have checked. There are similar chairs out there with different dimensions or I could explore having four made that match the measurements of our existing chairs. This is my ideal plan right now for both comfort and looks. The fun part will be picking out the fabric! This would fulfill the "mixed chair" element that I gravitate to mentioned above. And I could try and use the other chairs for desk chairs and such:

Here are some inspiration photos from Amber Interiors who is a mastermind at putting old chairs to good and very attractive use:

For lighting, I would like to try and use the chandelier we have rather than buy a new light, although I love the light we used in Holland and the similar lighting vibe shown in the last two inspiration binder photos above, it is not an absolute need to get a new light. I would for sure put some vibrant fabric shades on it to modernize it up a bit, like these from Etsy:

I want to wallpaper the dining room above the chair rail. The actual wallpaper will be dependent upon the kitchen option we go with. The dining room wall extends into the kitchen beyond the wall where the kitchen desk will be so I need to pick a wallpaper that will make a great sight line from the kitchen. It will also need to be subtle because the plan is to have a variety of fabrics in the dining room.

Currently there is a chair rail and a baseboard around the room, if they survive in usable shape after taking part of the wall down, I would like to do a "paneled look" below the chair rail like this one. My neighbor and I were chatting about something you could do to incorporate the existing chair rail and baseboard rather than rip it all out and I found this image as inspiration to follow up our conversation. Something along these lines would work really well to incorporate the existing woodwork profiles:

The last decorative element for the room - drapes. I want drapes from the ceiling to the floor with a simple rod. This will allow me to further fulfill my mixed fabric love mentioned above. The chairs, the wicker chair, and lampshades, and the drapes would all have complimentary fabrics (and the wallpaper will need to complement all). I cannot wait!

Here is the furniture layout on the floor plan as our final visual for the day:

Wow, this post turned out longer than I expected! If I am able to pick between my kitchen options by next time I will try to put together a full look at how the colors and fabrics will go together and flow on the first floor. If not, we'll move upstairs on Tuesday and save that for another day. Stay tuned.

Thank you for coming by today,





Hi, I’m Kerry, a true lover of all things home design.  Thank you for stopping by to check in on the journey.  Please feel free to reach out to me, I love to talk design!

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