Before and After: Villanova Modern Organic Dining Room

Recently a longtime client called us back to design her dining room.  It sat empty for the first few years of living in the home and she was finally ready to enjoy the space.  But she didn’t want your typical formal, no-one-ever-uses it, forgotten dining room.  Instead she was envisioning more a lounge space.  The catch was, while it DIDN’T want to FEEL LIKE A DINING ROOM, it still needed to be able to functionally sit 20 at holidays.  Huh?  How do you create a LOUNGE that can seat 20 people and doesn’t feel like a banquet hall?  Turns out, it just took a little creative floor-planning and one custom multi-functional table.

Let’s start with the space itself.  Pros: vaulted ceiling, nice natural light, french doors out onto a deck.  Cons: the red and gold color scheme, the lack of furniture.





We needed a focal point.  We chose a textural ledgestone for an accent wall in the dining room.  While the room would be mostly neutral, we opted for a little pattern in the seating area.  Natural materials are star of this room; stone, rustic woods, leather, bronze.  The scheme of mostly gray with a hint of teal/ turquoise felt just right.



Before & After: Indian Creek Dining Room

Yay its finally starting to feel like Spring around here so I thought I’d share a fresh dining room makeover that feels very fitting for the season.

I was called to do this project after we successfully updated their family room last year. I find a lot of people like to give me a “tester room” and once that goes well, we move on to a few more. Most of my clients are working with an interior designer for the first time and it can be a little daunting. I have no problem taking it slow and learning how to best bring their design goals to fruition. In this case, I had a good sense of style and the design and the room came together quite smoothly.

My client wanted to remove the dated elements (carpet, wallpaper) mix up the furnishings a little (So. Much. Blond. Wood.) and brighten things up in here.  Another main goal find a dining table that was more conducive to entertaining.  The loose leaves were too heavy for her to lift when she needed to extend the table.  After reviewing options we decided to build our own and teamed up with Coldren Design and build our own self-storing extension table.  The metal base provides a nice modern touch to the wood top.  And then there’s the sideboard.  We decided to keep theirs but had it lacquered the most amazing shade of blue (BM Bainbridge Blue) and WOW what a difference it made!  Art and curtains complete the room and add a necessary dose of color and pattern.


dining room before 2

dining curtain before

dining room before


Mixed Seating in the Dining Room

One of the most common requests my clients give me when designing their dining room is a mix of seating.  Benches, head chairs, a mix of firm of soft… gone are the days of the matching sets of table, chairs and sideboards.  People want flexibility and style to entertain in different ways.  We try to design dining rooms to be used as more than just the holiday dinner spot that sits empty most of the year.  Formal dining rooms can double as libraries, lounges, homework headquarters, or your favorite room to sip your morning coffee.


For our Chestnut Hill Project, we provided three types of seating in the dining room.  We wanted the flexibility to host large groups or intimate gatherings, formal adult events or children’s dinner parties.  The kids love to pull the bench up to the table and draw.  The head chairs, slipcovered in a linen are super cozy and provide a little drama in the room.  And the Louis XVI oval back chairs are surprisingly comfortable for a good price.  (Thanks Ballard Designs!)

Here is how we set up the room….

Layout Option 1: 6 chairs with 2 Head Chairs

5 chestnut hill dining room

Layout Option 2: 3 chairs, a bench and 2 Head Chairs

MIxed Seating in the dining room design manifest

When the bench isn’t needed, It sits against the window wall

dining room bench

How other people use mixed dining seating

mixed seating in the dining room christine dovey

Christine Dovey

seating with bench in dining room

Laura U

mixed seating in dining room tulip chairs with settee

Marie Olsson Nylander

mixed seating in dining room wing chairs with benches

Tracery Interiors


(Images of DM Dining Room by Courtney Apple)

Sources for the DM Dining Room can be found HERE

Dining Room Version 4.0

Hey, remember that time I had a house and used to blog about the great strides I was making in renovating and decorating?

I almost titled this post “Everything Sucks… At My House,” but I’m trying this new positive energy, positive life THING, so lets just discuss what I’ve got going on now and all the room I have to grow with my home.  The dining room has been a real challenge for me.  Mainly because I have these great vintage pieces that are all in bad shape.  I’m frozen in indecision about putting in time, effort and  money to fix what I’ve got, or scrapping it all and taking it a whole new direction.  Do you feel me?  Are you totally stuck in any area of your own home?

Here’s what I’ve got going on now.  From far away, while squinting, I really love it.  Like when I walk in the door, I get all giddy.  I love the dark floors mixed with the light, organic shape of the cowhide.  The traditional wood table pairs so nicely with the sculptural white tulip chairs.  And my pendant… still love my pendant.  So in theory, its all good.

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The problem is when you inspect things closely or attempt to sit down.

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The chairs have no cushions and are in desperate need to a lacquer paint job.  (IE $$$ automotive paint job I can’t do myself.)  The table is too short, so If your legs have a circumference of more than 15″, they are not fitting under there comfortably.  No big deal, just need to get some casters to raise it up a bit.  What is a bigger deal is the scratched and burnt table-top.  Sanding it down and refinishing it is like #107 on my want-to-do-list.

Oh and just ignore that bottle of Jack.  I’m not a raging alcoholic, it was just a necessary accessory for watching the Bachelor the other night.

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In other furniture news, I love my vintage chrome console table but I really need closed storage over here. I have a serious storage problem in my little cottage.  So I’m thinking I may move my console table to under the stairs.  Right now I have two black lacquer cabinets there, but they will be headed out soon to my clients home.

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetThinking the chrome console and stools could look good along this wall.

So that means I need to find a credenza for under the window. ($$$)  And once that happens I can relocate my Nana’s server that’s been pissing me off ever since the table has arrived.  The two woods of the table and server just don’t play nice with each other.  Also, there is no shelf on the inside, so the storage is not functional anyway.

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This is literally the only spot on my first floor where I have open wall space, so I really want to put a bookshelf here.  Where else can I store my ridiculous brass menagerie collection?

So that’s the plan.  Sort of.  Still not sure about the table and chairs.  Or the new pieces I need.  So basically I’m at square one.  Decorator decorating her own house = shit show.

Hoarder’s Paradise

tables and chairs

When you complain about having too much furniture the common response is “That’s not a bad problem to have!”  But you know what? My first floor is a crowded mess right now and its stressing me out.  Forget Hoarder’s Paradise, this is more like a drive by furniture dump.

If you haven’t guessed, my wood table was delivered last week…

traditional wood table

It’s a nice little piece.  In theory, I like how it mixes with most of my stuff.  I like that its a family heirloom and was free.  I also like that it has leaves and expands for future dinner parties.  I say “future” because I have yet to throw a dinner party, but a girl can always dream she’ll turn into Martha one of these days.

So those are the pros.

Then there are the cons…  It’s too low: only 28″ high.  Chair arms (and thighs for that matter) do not fit underneath of the apron.  It needs to be refinished/ sanded / re-stained / painted?  Oh and it doesn’t really go with my new favorite vintage chairs.

traditional wood table with chrome and leather chairs

Too much mixology?  

What if I hoist it up 2 or 3 inches and paint it black?  Or strip it and do weathered wood?

Originally, before I stumbled upon the chrome and leather goodness, I was planning to purchase some (faux) Panton chairs or even refinish my original Tulip chairs to pair with my table.  I wanted to be all Vicente Wolf and do my dining room up like this…

vincente wolf ralph pucci dining room

or like this…

traditional wood table with tulip chairs

But in order to do that, I need to fix both my table and tackle my chair project.  That means an automotive paint job for the tulip chairs and new cushions.  So $$ and some $$.

And then, two weeks ago, I found my lovely chrome and leather chairs.  And I really like them.  But they really look better with a table like this…

nate berkus chrome chairs dining roomNate Berkus

chrome chairs round table ken fulk

Ken Fulk

David_Oldroyd_SF 1179

David Oldroyd

That last one is my absolute favorite.  I just need a tree trunk and some glass!!  That’s easy enough, right?  Then I would have 3 tables.


So I am in a quandary.  I obviously I need to get rid of a set of table and chairs because my basement is filling up quickly and my living room can’t handle this many occupants.

 What would you do?

And for those of you who like the Docksta/ Fake Tulip table… well honestly it looks like crap in person.  It’s always dirty looking and just brings down the quality and finish of my whole first floor.  So it may stay for a bit, but its not a keeper.