When we are in our 20’s and 30’s, our dining rooms are often overlooked spaces, rarely used and often filled with hand-me-down furniture some one else didn’t deem worthy of keeping any longer.
When you decide it is time to have your own ‘grown up’ house and are ready to start decorating you quickly realize how prices add up and will often hang onto your table and chairs to avoid making a large financial investment.
If you are ready to decorate your dining room, but don’t want invest in a new table and chairs, I am going to give you a list of what I think are the key elements you can use to make your space fabulous, without having to buy all new furniture:
1. A striking paint selection
Flow and continuity is extremely important element to developing a ‘put together’ home. However, the dining room is an area where you can take a chance and be a little more dramatic. Look at the color strip for your main area paint and go to the last or second to last color and go with a nice, dark, tone.
Here is one example, I’ve used the Sherwin Williams color strip with SW7042-48 (or those close to it) quite a few times. Imagine painting the majority of your home in SW7043, Worldly Gray (light gray color block)- nice and neutral, right? If you like that color, I bet you love the colors to the far right, such as 7047 Porpoise. You probably wouldn’t want to look at Porpoise everyday on every wall in your home, but I am sure it would look dramatic in your dining room!
Here is a real life example from Atlanta designer Kay Douglass which shows lighter paint in the main living area and a darker selection in the dining room. And, great news for your budget, just about anyone can afford to paint a room, even if they have to do it themselves.
2. A really interesting light fixture
This one is a challenge, especially for new home owners. I mean, your dining room came with a light fixture and it works just fine, so why budget money to fix something that isn’t broke, right? It seems to me though, even in a million dollar home, most builders will put in really average ‘builder grade’ light fixtures in your main living spaces.
This is a great opportunity to personalize your space with some jewelry of it’s own. You can find interesting light fixtures at places like the Round Top Antiques Fair or at unique lighting boutiques such as Julie Neill out of New Orleans (http://julieneill.com/)
Here is a picture of a great chandelier I just used in a client’s home. I can’t wait to share pictures of the final room with you, it is so beautiful.
And don’t think you can only go ‘formal’ in your dining room. If you live a more casual life and want to be comfortable, here is an example of interesting use of light fixtures in a California Casual dining setting:
3. Intriguing wall décor
I’m a big fan of original artwork. Some of my current favorite artists are:
- Elizabeth Stockton (http://www.elizabethstockton.com/elizabeth_stockton/_home.html)
Here is a dining room with one of Elizabeth’s pieces on display. I think this is from an old Coastal Living issue.
- Mallory Page (http://www.mallorypage.com/)
- Joyce Howell (http://joycehowell.net/, available in Austin at the Wally Workman Gallery)
An amazing piece of art on your main wall, especially above a buffet, can really make a style statement.
If you can’t afford original art, here are my 2 next best recommendations:
1. Obtain a ‘series’ that you can frame locally and hang on a grid. These can be botanicals, sea life, etc. It is the repetition that makes the décor appealing in this scenario.
2. Install millwork or wall paneling to add architectural character to your space. If you are not ‘into’ art and would rather spend your money elsewhere, you should invest it in millwork. If your room has great architecture, you don’t need to ‘decorate’ it to the same degree. It looks finished even with bare walls.
Millwork is not an inexpensive option by any means, so if you already have it, make sure you are accentuating it by painting it with the right color scheme. Do anything you can to highlight this feature.
If your dining room just doesn’t feel ‘right’, take a step back and determine if you have any element of symmetry. Symmetry can be defined as an “an imprecise sense of harmonious or aesthetically pleasing proportionality and balance” (Wikipedia). Symmetry often provides a feeling of comfort or wellness and can often be achieved in using pairs of items, such as lamps:
or accessory items
or arrangements, such as inside your china hutch:
Here is another example, I just snapped this photo from my breakfast room. All the items are color coordinated and evenly spaced. I could fit more items in this cabinet, but it looks cleaner and more ‘put together’ with fewer items.
You need to pay as much attention to the arrangement inside your open display cabinets as you do everything else. This is not a place to cram in anything that can fit. Displaying items inside your hutch should be a thoughtful process attempting a repetition of color, size and scale. If your space doesn’t feel ‘right’, consider placing some of those serving pieces and crystal goblets away in a closed cabinet for future use.
These 4 elements should get you on your way to designing a fabulous dining room. As your budget allows, add custom drapery and a new rug. Once you are confident of your personal style and are ready to make the plunge, then go and purchase your new dining table and chairs that will hopefully serve you for many years to come!