Decorating: The Dining Room

Tuck’s nursery was the first time I ever decorated a room from the floor up, with nothing existing to go off of. Since we moved, I’ve had another opportunity to give it a try: The dining room. We sold our old table and chairs to the tenants in our apartment, since they fit perfectly there and were way too small for the new room. We also left the bookcases in place, since they were practically customized to fill that wall. The rug ended up in Tuck’s room, Ben’s desk went into our bedroom, and the piano is in the living room. Thus, an empty box when we arrived here.

The dining room is part of the modern section of the apartment, renovated beyond period recognition back in 1978 during the condo conversion. It is blessed with very tall ceilings aside from a soffit at one end (which is still at about 7.5 feet), two large windows on one wall, massive sliding glass doors on another, and the pass-through to the kitchen on a third. The fourth wall has a wide opening leading to the hall and the entryway.

Before we moved in, we ordered a new table, french farm-style, from Restoration Hardware. I agonized over the cracks that seemed like crumb magnets, but it didn’t occur to me that the dusty grey finish (no wax, varnish, etc.) would be literally impossible to clean with anything but a dry cloth, and would suck up unsightly water marks like a sponge. A patina is terrific, but this was just going to look terrible. I have embarked on a quest to seal up the top a bit, starting with Danish Oil and probably finishing with some sort of wax, per my brother’s instructions. The color and grain are much more pronounced now, but I still really like the look, and I’m relieved to be working towards some protection. We bought simple ladder-back black chairs and felt seat cushions from Ikea to fill in until we find the perfect chairs.

We use the back doors as our main entryway (they will likely be replaced with French doors in the near future, since the existing ones are old, hard to close, and are destroying the wall every time they have to be slammed), so I got a shoe-storage bench to keep the shoe pile under control. Very pleased with it, it’s the Eureka Storage Bench from World Market and is solid wood, came quickly, and was easy to assemble.

On the other side of the doors is a narrow space where I slotted in a skinny bookcase from the clearance section at Ballard Designs (sold out now). Again, solid wood, very easy to assemble, and it was about $10 more than a Billy from Ikea. That holds most of my cookbooks and some of my food books.

Finally, we needed something to hold our china and some serving pieces. We never had a hutch or buffet since the butler’s pantry in the old house held *everything*. After much deliberation and a lot of shopping around, I stumbled across a Curtis Furniture on Etsy, which does custom work in Nebraska. They had a cherry console, very rustic, that appealed to me, and I worked with Jonathan to design the perfect buffet for our one blank wall. I wanted it to be 50″ (standard sizes seem to be 40″ or 60″) so we could slot in an extra chair and Tuck’s Tripp Trapp high chair on either side.

I can’t even, you guys. I first contacted him on February 11, and then we went back and forth until I finally committed and ordered on the 16th. He emailed me progress shots as they worked on it, and the buffet left the workshop March 2. I got it in a GIANT CRATE (see below) on the 7th. It is gorgeous, if hard to photograph–tons of characters, really great knots (two knotholes, which serve to open the doors; they have slow-close hinges so they don’t slam shut), perfect color, beautifully crafted and very sturdy…I couldn’t be happier. It was a bit more than the pressboard junk from Crate and Barrel, but WAY less than the solid wood stuff, and worth every penny.

Anyway, contact Jonathan! Tell him I sent you!

The custom buffet came and I'm in love.

So the final piece (besides hanging art and that clock–I have a Stendig calendar coming for over the buffet!!) is to curtain those huge doors. I got a plain wrought-iron rod, and I’m just trying to figure out the curtains themselves. They will be about 96″ long, and 120″ wide. I got a bunch of fabric swatches:

Exciting! Fabric samples for dining room curtains.

Which I narrowed down to two (I LOVE the multi-colored zigzag but I think it’s better for pillows):

If I get the grey, the texture will actually be the slubby material of the yellow. I love the yellow and I’m obsessed with yellow, always, but I wonder if it will be too much or too limiting? The grey is probably more sophisticated but I just can’t decide. Any opinions?

One other project that we put off for ages but I finally just got done last week: Getting most of the family photos that lined our 18-foot hall in the old place hung in the upstairs hall. We used picture rail before, so all the hanging wires were for that, and the whole thing was a giant pain. But now it’s done and Tuck can say hi to everyone again!

Upstairs hall, before

Upstairs hall, after

And in conclusion, Tuck is hilarious and so cute. He’s chatting constantly with varying degrees of clarity, continues to be obsessed with digging, continues to be very stubborn about food (I’m working very hard on sticking to Ellyn Satter’s PHENOMENAL advice from Child of Mine) and is loving this incredibly lovely weather.

OH! And!

It’s a girl!

5 thoughts on “Decorating: The Dining Room”

  1. Yaaay! A girl! Hooray! Tuck is going to be an awesome big brother.

    Also you are so right, that sideboard is GORGEOUS and I love the knot holes. LOVE THEM. Now I’m looking around my house trying to find a spot that might need furniture. Heh.

  2. Kate- love the new house update! Keep ’em coming- your decorating is really inspiring me. And CONGRATULATIONS on the baby! So excited to hear it’s a girl and can’t wait to hear more about how Tuck handles that adjustment as well.

  3. Hi There Kateflaim,
    Interesting Thoughts, I have an open floor plan in my dining room/kitchen/living room. I have beechwood cabinets that I love and I found a beechwood dining table. I don’t want to buy matching chairs though. Would white or black chairs go well? I also want to add a buffet in the dining room and I only seem to find black or espresso colored buffets that I like. Would a beechwood table look right with white chairs and a black buffet or should I go with the black chairs and buffet?
    Nice One!

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