After living in our last apartment, where there was no designated eating area and we had to push a table against the wall in the living room in order to make the space work, I was very excited to have a dining room again.
Our home is a traditional colonial- when you first walk into the entry way, there is a staircase in front of you, with a living room to the left and a dining room to the right. While not being an open concept home may be a deal breaker for some, I actually really like having separate spaces to retreat to in my home. There is something especially cozy about being in a separate dining room, enjoying meals by candle light and listening to soft music with your family and friends. For this reason, we didn’t want to change the space too much, but there were some things that had to go.
The popcorn ceilings and brick red walls being some of them. (See all the cracks that had to be repaired? I told you, this house is old).
And there’s Kevin, reaching in for another beer. I wish someone would have told me how much of our renovation budget would have to go toward keeping the crew “hydrated.” But I digress…
Basically the only major change we made in this room was creating a pass through into the kitchen, to open up the spaces just enough to create some flow in our home.
There is my Dad, after putting those pretty butcher block counter tops into place.
As you can see, we decided to paint the walls a creamy white in keeping with the rest of the house. From there, it was just about bringing in some furniture and accessories, and making this dining room the pretty, slightly sophisticated lady she deserved to be!
At first glance, you can see it is not a huge space. Just enough room for a table, four chairs, and a bench for the girls. But what this room lacks in space she makes up for in character. Do you spy those built ins?
If a house ever wants to woo me into falling madly in love, all she has to do is have a built in or two, and I will be ready to sign on the dotted line. This one was already here, and after a fresh coat of paint and some new gold knobs, it was ready for business.
For me, styling shelves is all about making them pretty and functional. The glasses and liquor decanters are all out on display and ready for use, with some sculptural objects (like that old wood cigar mold and those Himalayan salt candle holders) and colorful prints peppered in for some added interest. Candles, wine, and extra glassware are stored in the cupboards below.
This gives you a better glimpse into the kitchen– you can see how much more open these spaces are to each other now.
To the right of that window is our mid-century style record player console. I love its’ slim tapered legs, and the fact that the little door slides over to reveal record storage. The shelves on the other side were another chance to bring in some personality with family photo albums and my old collection of Nancy Drew novels (because you’ve gotta have a place to store your Nancy Drew novels).
We play records during every meal, so having this little piece in the corner of the room has been very useful for us. I also love that it allowed me to bring in a table lamp for some soft cozy mood lighting at night.
Here is the view from the kitchen, and is one of my favorite views of the space. When we first brought furniture into the room, it really felt like something was missing. I kept playing around with things, trying to make myself like it more, but it wasn’t until we hung those curtains that the room finally felt complete. Fun fact: I actually don’t have curtains in any other rooms of my house. In the majority of our spaces, I was more concerned with keeping things light and airy, and they just didn’t feel necessary. But in the dining room, with all of the hard surfaces, it really did need some textiles to bring a little softness into the space. The moment I saw these curtains I was in love- they elevate the room with the soft creamy fabric, but the fun tassel detail at the top keeps them from being too stuffy and formal. (From Urban Outfitters, but it doesn’t look like they are carrying them in this ivory color anymore, so those girls better watch it with their sticky peanut butter fingers!)
The other thing that really made the room feel complete was that plant. The room is small, and I didn’t want to bring in too much furniture, but that corner felt empty until that plant was brought in to fill up the space. If you ever have a corner that you don’t know what to do with, I’m telling you, pop a plant in there and call it a day. So I guess those are my tips for making a dining room feel complete: bring in some textiles, (whether through rugs, curtains, and/or upholstered seating), and always, always, some plants.
And here is probably my least favorite view. Not because of the light fixture, which I am obsessed with (it’s not original to the house- it’s from ebay, but it definitely feels like it could be). No, it’s actually that air return vent on the wall. Do you see it? Me too. It is such an unfortunate place for a large vent to be on your wall. I tried to distract myself from its’ unsightliness by hanging a really pretty seascape ($20 flea market find!) but it’s only kind of working.
So instead let’s turn back around and take in this view one more time. Much better.
I have played around with many different centerpieces over the years, but this little set up is definitely my favorite so far. The driftwood is sculptural and interesting, but narrow enough not to get in the way of plates, and low enough not to block the view of people seated across from you. Some tiny succulents sit on top for a pop of green, and the candles are for ambience. The girls ask us every night at dinner to “hot the candles,” and we are always happy to oblige.
So that is our dining space! We don’t have an eat in kitchen, so this is not one of those rooms that only gets used on special occasions or when we feel like being fancy. We have breakfast, lunch and dinner here every day. For that reason, I really wanted it to be a comfortable space for our family. It has some more traditional elements that go with the style of the home, like the gold chandelier and the built ins, but they are balanced with modern pieces, like the black armchairs and record player console, so it feels like us. It’s a calm and relaxing space to be in, with a warm and soft color palette, but the mix of textures keep it interesting.
For us, this is the real heart of the home. This is the place where the girls tell Daddy about their day, where we go around the table playing silly games like “guess what animal I am,” where we uncork a bottle of wine and talk about our dreams for the future. No distractions- just us.
Tell me what you think! Are you feeling this old school, traditional meets mid-century meets rustic minimalist vibe we’ve got going on?
*Photos by Amanda Seifert Photography