Dining Room Concept: Part of a Whole Home Refresh

Dining Room Concept: Part of a Whole Home Makeover

A past client reached out to me last fall seeking help with planning cosmetic updates to their home, the updates would apply to the entire main floor and above grade lower level, similar to a split level style of home. The house located in a suburban subdivision had the original builder standard finishes which were looking dated and lacked any architectural features or character. One the of the most obvious challenges with the house’s design was that it was mostly open concept but with awkward transitions from one space to the next, ie; a change in flooring that didn’t align with any walls or doorways and tall vaulted ceilings comprised of varying angles and bulkheads with no trim work, symmetry, or alignment with doorways, walls or windows. Sometimes it takes a set of fresh eyes to point out design challenges or ‘flaws’ that exist but you didn’t know or understand how they were negatively effecting the space or how they would impact your attempts to improve or decorate them.

An master design plan would need to be created to address these challenges while incorporating a new kitchen, all new flooring throughout, fireplace makeover, staircase updates, entry way updates, lighting updates, as well as proposed new built-ins and millwork. After assessing the floor plan as a whole, I developed design concepts for each room/area. This post is a glimpse at the proposed design for the dining room.

Existing photos of dining room below.

The dining room posed a challenge that I see often with builder homes - a lone room that’s located off the main entry/foyer making it islolated from the rest of the layout. In this case it had an awkwardly small half wall separating it from the front ‘hall’ and was not directly accessible to the kitchen nor open to the living room. Although it had tall arched windows and a partially vaulted ceiling (more odd angles) it was small in size and could only accommodate dining seating for 4 or 6. Because of this, my clients always used the large open concept, eat-in kitchen for all their entertaining while the small dining room was used only as overflow seating (usually for the kids). They love to entertain and host larger gatherings, they also love to read, have family game nights (board games) and occasionally work from home.

Design Concept: My recommendation was to continue using the large extendable kitchen table for daily meals and entertaining, and make the small front dining room more useable and beautiful for day to day use by designin it as a library slash dining room - a place for their book collection, a place to do homework or work from home, a place to play board games and it would also be wonderfully flexible for entertaining - to set up a bar and appetizer buffet or coffee and deserts. Stylewise, i was striving for a timeless blend of contemporary with traditional arts and crafts references and a practical mix of high and low.

Dining Room Option 1

Dining Room Option 1

Concept Option 1 : First I address the physical details of the space. To add architectural interest I proposed eliminating the small half wall and building out a double thick, double wide entry trimmed out with new, substantially sized casing. Adding partial height panelled wainscot with a simple cap would add character to the room and a nod the craftsman style the homeowners were hoping to evoke, painted in a fresh warm white along with all the other new trim throughout the house. To minimize the visual business of the angles at the ceiling line, and not draw more attention to the arch lines of the windows I opted to keep the paint colour above the wainscotting a light neutral,,,this keeps it low contrast and thus doesn’t draw your eye to the irregular ceiling line as would happen with a dark wall/light ceiling paint colour. The room gets lots of daylight and so the goal was to just enhance the volume of ceiling height but not emphasize the opposing angles and arches.

In addition to the new millwork the room would feature new wood flooring in a medium rich brown to replace the broadloom, new large contemporary conical pendant, a pair of glass and bronze wall sconces, a traditional wooden pedestal table (with extendable leaf ) modern club-like upholstered arm chairs, and a richly coloured, patterned wool area rug. The light grey paint colour is sophisticated and fresh compliment to the warm wood tones of the floor and furniture pieces.

Dining Room Option 2

Dining Room Option 2

Concept Option 2: This concept is a variation of the first, but the subtle changes offer a distinctly different look. The cased entry into the dining room would be built with approximately 16” wide nib wall on the one side to allow for wall to wall book shelving across the back wall of the dining room. (From the foyer looking in - this would be the wall on the right hand side.) In lieu of panelled wainscotting around the room this tall wall to wall shelving will add architectural character and create a library for their book collection. Topping the units would be adjustable, traditional brass library lights, highlighting the wall of books and emphasizing the ceiling height. In this scenario I opted for lush forest green velvet modern arm chairs with brass capped feet,, which really amp up the cozy factor and evoke that library mood. Again a large scale conical pendant light adds simple contemporary form and creates wonderful atmosphere suspended low over the table. The earthy colours, wood, millwork and built-ins are a subtle reference to the arts and crafts aesthetic these clients love so much but without trying to inject arts and crafts details in a home that is not built in that style. Additionally if space allowed I would add a built in window seat but

Both concepts offer solutions that are easily attainable with light construction work (not extensive) but the net effect will add distinct purpose and function to the room while creating a beautiful and inviting first impresssion to guests. Adding character through new millwork and builtins gives a high-end custom look to the interior without a high end investment. The isolated nature of the room (from the rest of the floor plan) now becomes an appealing feature as a respite for homework or intimate cozy game nights or small dinner parties. On top of all that its also sure to make a stylish first impression.

Floor Plan - Before & After

Before & After floor Plans of a Whole Home Renovation

Floor Plan - Before | Carol Reed Interior Design Inc.

Floor Plan - Before | Carol Reed Interior Design Inc.

The before & after plans of this past project are a great example of how effective it can be to assess and make thoughtful changes to a floor plan.  This important step is the catalyst to achieving a successful home design or renovation - its also my favourite part of the design process because its when the potential is revealed and solutions are realized. The objective for this plan was to update an 80's suburban home for a busy young family of 4 who love to cozy up for movie nights and also host large family gatherings.  The most pressing issue was the need for a more functional kitchen and so the renovation planning started and extended from there. (See plan above and the key issues to be addressed.)

The house had none of the builder upgrades (like hardwood or crown mouldings or granite counters) and so not only was it in need of aesthetic updates the layout didn't function well for their lifestyle.  The hard working spaces like the kitchen, entry and laundry areas were inefficient. This put them in a dilemma many home owners face….endure a top to bottom renovation… or.... begin a search for another house that better suited their needs. Both can be equally daunting choices for a busy young family, ultimately they chose to undergo a full renovation but in the hands of a professional team and with the intent that the project wouldn't become an extensive gut-reno.   I came on board to re-design the floor plan plus all the new details and finishes that would transform the home - featuring a luxurious new kitchen (which by design, would not be the typical open concept configuration).

Floor Plan - After | Carol Reed Interior Design Inc.

Floor Plan - After | Carol Reed Interior Design Inc.

The “after” version of the floor plan shown above and below with notations of some of the key changes.  Although the changes to the layout were not drastic from a construction stand-point,  the combination of those layout improvements with the added functionality and all new materials, finishes and details resulted in a dramatic transformation.  

Floor Plan - After (showing proposed furniture placement)  Design by: Carol Reed Interior Design Inc.

Floor Plan - After (showing proposed furniture placement)

Design by: Carol Reed Interior Design Inc.