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Project: Dining Room Refresh

I mentioned in my most recent newsletter that I had big plans for the dining room. I've been pinning and designing and scheming for how to finally tackle this space. Here's a little back story and my plans so far.

One of the reasons I liked this house when we toured it before buying was that, design-wise, it felt like a blank slate. Yes, it’s a 90’s colonial revival, so I knew I was going to have to work within that architectural language to make any design work, but while the bones and infrastructure of the house seemed solid, so many surfaces needed refreshing and it was an opportunity to make this house exactly what I wanted it to be. 

But all of that was going to take time, and time was not something I immediately had. When I moved into our Williamsburg house seven years ago, I had a 3 year old, a 6 month old, a full time job, and a week to move houses. So I made the easy decision to paint everything white before we moved in, and told myself I would tackle each room one at a time once things had calmed down.

Seven years later…. Most of the downstairs is still white. And not like a lovely warm designer-white. Like, off-the-shelf, no pigment added, temporary white. I’ve made it work, but I’m finally feeling ready to make some big decisions and add some color and textiles to the space.

It certainly helps that the 3 year old and 6 month old are now 10 and 7. 

Since moving in, I’ve tackled some big-ish projects, but mostly small ones that are really just bandaids to bigger design issues (looking at you, primary bathroom with your ginormous 90’s garden tub). Last summer, in one of the biggest tasks to date, we finally replaced the 20+(??) year old carpet in the upstairs and stairway. I can’t believe I waited so long, and yet the project was just as disruptive and expensive as I feared it would be. But so worth it! And that’s kicked off a series of projects that have begun to spill into the downstairs, like adding some much needed character and wainscoting in the foyer. 

A photo of dining room table and chair turned wood legs
Look at those legs

Next in my line of sight is the dining room, which while not a big troublesome project, has been giving me design trouble since the beginning. First, our table from the last house came with us, but was really too big for the space. It took a couple of tries buying and selling FB marketplace tables to find one I like. And surprise! It’s also a little big for the space. But it’s a solid wood, turned leg beauty handmade in France, so I’ll make room. 

This house also came with a lack of storage, so I added these Ikea Havsta cabinets to function as a built-in china cabinet and storage. Except, we never actually made it a built-in, because… covid? A lack of motivation? There were reasons, I’m sure. I had a piece of marble cut to fit the center section, and added unlaquered brass knobs and called it a day. But what I didn’t consider at the time was that this would make it impossible to paint the room in any logical way. I can’t get behind it, and yet you can see around it, so where does the paint end? And thus, the dining room has remained white.

Let’s talk curtains. These white ones were in my last house and came with us when we moved. A decision I regret. Yes, I was trying to make do with what I had at the time, but these grommet style curtains were definitely a mistake. In order to wash them, you have to take down the curtain rod. How many times do you think I’ve done that in 7 years? If you guessed zero, you’d be right. I do get a weird sense of nostalgia everytime I see the strawberry yogurt splash at the bottom of them from when the baby was in his messy food stage. Again, SEVEN years ago. 

But, things are changing around here, and Jay and his power tools and robot vacuum have moved in, and accommodations are being made for them. Mainly, for the robot vacuum.

safety pin shame

My love of long curtains that kiss the floor is definitely superseded by my hatred of vacuuming. So Jay’s Rosie the Robot Vacuum has won me over, and all my curtains have been raised to “not touching the floor.” And because I can’t adjust the dining room grommet curtains, they have been safety pinned higher to be safe from Rosie. SAFETY PINNED! I have told myself that this is temporary, and this time, I really mean it. Not like, “I’ll just paint the house white for now” kind of 7-year temporary, but “by the end of the summer” temporary. There will be new curtains, and I am already working on the fabric design for them.

Rosie also had a hand in another big design swap in the dining room. Two years or so ago, I found these upholstered skirted parsons chairs at a local antique store. They weren’t antique, and in excellent condition. The pattern was loud and a little grandma, and definitely funky, and I thought they could be a fun addition to the dining room. Impulsively, I bought them. I tried to love them, because they were so comfortable! But ultimately, the pattern was just really overwhelming the space, and pushing me in a design direction that I wasn’t excited about. 

I lived with them for 2 years, because when you make a big, impulsive decision like that, sometimes it’s hard to admit you made a mistake. Enter: Rosie. The skirts on the chairs prevented her from vacuuming under the dining room table, which is main place I want her to vacuum! The chairs had to go. And in my turmoil over what to replace them with, I stumbled across these beauties on marketplace for a steal. Classic Hitchcock chairs in excellent condition, and with just the right amount of design character to be interesting, while not overwhelming the room or narrowing my design options. Simply letting go of the upholstered chairs has opened up so many creative ideas for the dining room! 

I’m thinking I might make some very functional and sweet custom chair cushions for the Hitchcock chairs. (I do miss how comfortable the old ones were). I’ve also picked out a new chandelier that I plan to switch out soon, and I’m contemplating the center wall area of the china cabinet. Do I want to put up some shelves there? Feature a work of art, like my Ansel Adams print I recently acquired? So many possibilities! 

And eventually, I want to finally add some crown molding and paint this room! But that requires me to address the china cabinet. It’s time to finally trim out the cabinet and finish the job that I never really started about 5 years ago. It’s going to be a bit of a project.

When will this happen?? I hope this year, but there’s a few other pressing projects on the horizon and a big trip to Peru happening this summer. But even just getting the plans out there in the world feels like a step forward. 

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