Dining Rooms

Dining Room E-Design: 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 designing 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 addressed 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 to 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 busy-ness of the angles at the ceiling line, and not draw more attention to the colonial arched 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, a 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 a 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 an 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 articulating 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, natural 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’s not built in that style. Additionally if space allowed I would add a built in window seat.

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 view 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.

My House: Dining Room Progress

For the past 11 months we've had the front part of our East Coast house and the entire 2nd floor undergoing an extensive renovation.  The reno area consists of a living room, dining room, hallway/staircase, 2 bedrooms and a bathroom - in total less than 1000 s.f.  Its been 11 months and this new work is still not finished.  I expected we'd  have the entire house reno completed by now but reality is I'm dealing with Atlantic time here. Nothing happens quickly.  This first phase of renos is complete enough now that we've moved into the new area and its a huge relief to have the extra room and to have the tools and dust and daily trades gone.   

Its fitting that the very first room we used in the new part of the house was the Dining Room (even before the bedrooms).  What better way to christen the new space than a special dinner with family, our very first house guests.   I never imaged 3 months previous when we planned their visit that w'ed be scrambling to get the new space livable by July 1st.   It was a close call,  I'll be honest, new beds arrived for the bedrooms on Thursday, the plumber arrived on Friday to install the bahtroom fixtures, boxes were being upacked on Saturday and our guests arrived on Sunday.  I had hotel rooms reserved just in case but miraculously we didn't need them.   Shortly after they arrived we gathered in our "new" dining room for a big dinner.  To give you an idea of how far this room has come, here's a little before and after along with a peek at some of the progress.

Dining Room Before

Dining Room After (same view as "Before" photo)

The only redeeming feature about this room "before" was that it was a decent size.   Fake wood panelling, acoustical tile ceiling (its everywhere here), nasty pet stained carpet, mis-matched trim work - it all had to go.  With a house this old a coat of paint and a steam clean isn't nearly enough to bring the space up to todays standards.  Behind the walls and above the tile ceiling your likely to find no insulation, mould, loads of mouse droppings, critter nests, faulty wiring and water damage.  We found all of that and more.  The only way you could move forward with this interior was to go backwards first.

On the floor we stripped back a layer of carpet, a layer of vinyl and a particle board subfloor to reveal what I had suspected (and desperately hoped) was there. Original solid wood wide plank floor boards, complete with a solid wood subfloor beneath.  I was ecstatic when we uncovered these and that they were throughout the entire house.

These are what the floors looked like after stripping off layers of paint. 

The next most exciting discovery was uncovering these original timber ceiling joists in the living and dining rooms.  Just like the wood floors, these beauties hadn't seen the light of day in a looooong time and I had no intention of covering them up again.

Almost there,,,many months later here's the dining room just after the drywallers finished.  We reframed all the exterior walls, added insulation, new drywall and new wood windows and all new trim work.  The wood ceiling beams were left bare and new drywall was seamlessly fitted around them.

Below is a sneak peek of what the dining room looked like the day we used it for the first time with our guests, I literally took the building permit out of the window seconds before these photos were taken.   The room was far from finished; there are no light fixtures, no electrical cover plates, no vent covers and barely any furniture.  The table and chairs we moved into the room are completely temporary but work for now - it will ALL be replaced in the near future.  The fact that the room isn't complete and is a long way from where I want it to be, would never stop me from making use of it now as best I can.

This is how the table looked while I was half way thru setting it for our first dinner.  I filled the bottoms of the hurricane lanterns with sand from the beach and added wild daisies and ferns that I picked from the side of our road (there's no flower shop to run to).  In case you're wondering what was on the menu for this inaugural dinner - we had a lobster feed of course. : )

So that's a sneak peek of the new construction in the dining room, the furnishings and artwork are another story all together.  Stay tuned for sneak peeks of the other "new" rooms which I'll be posting soon.  You can also check out some before photos of the exterior on my first post about the property here and one other post on some of the demo progress here.

Room Design and all Photos by:  Carol Reed