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.

E-Design Bathroom: From Concept to Sneak Peek

E-Design Bathroom Concept

Lindsay contacted me through my e-design website

rearding their 3rd floor master suite, located in a century home in the beaches neighbourhood of Toronto, it was a large full floor bedroom with sitting area.  Her goal was to turn the sitting area into a new master ensuite.  The wish list included; double vanity, freestanding tub, walk-in glass enclosed shower, a separate water closet and….create space for a walk-in closet in the planning of the new ensuite.

Before Plan - Master Suite

The before plan was a wide open space divided by a staircase and there was a low sloping dormer ceiling in the soon to be new ensuite area.   The staircase had a half wall on one side and a frameless glass guard railing on the other.  Spaces with sloped ceilings are always a challenge for most people to visualize because the plan view is deceiving, there appears to be lots of floor space but in reality the useable floor space is much less. Wherever the sloped ceiling dips below 5or 6', its not considered *useable* floor space because there isn't standing room, its not completely useless space but its not useable for anything that requires standing up, like showering or using a sink or using a toilet.  In a bathroom with sloped ceilings the layout and placement of fixtures is largely dictated by these slopes - the plumbing fixtures all need to be located where there is full ceiling height or at least standing height clearance.  

The initial space plans quickly determined it wasn't feasible to fit everything in this space that Lindsay had hoped.  The top of the staircase landing is only 24" wide so accessing the ensuite from the landing side of the staircase was out of the question - this meant the only access for both the walk-in closet


ensuite would have to be on the far side of the stairs.  I 


get everything including a walk-in closet in the floor plan but ultimately Lindsay decided she didn't want to walk-thru the closet to get to the bathroom.  So we'd need to give up either the walk-in closet or separate water closet....  

Layout option A reflects this compromise and came really close to ticking all the boxes.  The bathroom was spacious with the luxury of a separate tub centred in a dormer window and... a water closet.  While there is no walk-in closet the proposed wardrobes offered more space than the existing closets, but would require losing the long glass railing in order to fit a wardrobe wall.  I envisioned the wardrobes creating a beautiful wood veneer "wall"  backing onto the stairwell, stopping short of the ceiling to let light flow thru and also keeping the glass guard on the one end again to let light into the stairwell, possibly with mirror doors on the wardrobes too.  The glass guard rail though was not something Lindsay wanted to give up.  I would chose closet space or at least a half wall with drawer storage versus keeping a glass guard rail because storage is so very important and keeps your space/life organized.  However, I do understand how important it was for them to keep the glass, we moved on to explore more options and ended up at this final plan….

The ensuite was made a bit smaller to accommodate the closet location and thus the final plan doesn't have a water closet or walk-in closets but they were compromises Lindsay and her husband were happy with.  The closet space was great (deeper than the old closets) and the new ensuite was still spacious and bright with a large window, a new skylite,  interesting sloping ceiling and some built-in shelving. 

The concept board illustrates the fixture and finishes I recommended based on Lindsay's style survey and her desire for modern elements, white marble and rustic warm wood, in addition to these choices I also provided alternate options for each selection.  The vanity would be custom made and the inspiration photo is an example of the style and wood finish (character grade walnut planks). Here's an excerpt from her design summary of how I described the concept:


overall I took a contemporary approach using classic details and materials to create a timeless mix of modern and organic elements.

The high contrast of the ‘black’ metal finish with white also gives it an attractive graphic punch that feels modern and vintage at the same time."

"There is a great mix of materials; natural wood, natural stone, glass, and ceramic, as well an interesting mix of textures (both shiny and matte) and metals, paired with various levels of lighting all very thoughtfully applied to give the space great interest and depth. "

The tile options I provided worked with both her style preference and budget.  An elongated white subway tile on the walls, a white marble mosaic on the shower floor and a large format marble tile on the main floor as described in the written summary:

"...the large square in particular can give the effect of slabs especially if tight joints are maintained." 

As an alternate to the marble floor tile I also proposed a narrow rectangular black slate as I described in a written summary:

"This can be a very modern look paired with lots of white on the walls and natural wood, however, I do find that although its modern the dark on the floor is ‘heavy’ looking and a tad more rustic looking. 

To make it a little more elegant in feel, I’m suggesting a plank shape which you can lay in a herringbone pattern."

The concept for the cabinetry and built-ins, I proposed either a rustic walnut veneer that included the character of the knots, or a knotty european white oak. 

Here's the actual finishes that were chosen pictured here in an instagram photo, Lindsay ended up doing the europoean white oak for the flooring throughout the bedroom.  I believe the hexagon was intended for the shower floor (as per the design plans) but I think in the end it was either omitted or used only in the soap niche.  Can you tell how detail oriented and organized Lindsay is! I love that she has her materials mocked up so you can really see how the proportion of the tile sizes and patterns work with each other and how each material offers a different texture.

The floating walnut vanity would be custom made per the design elevations.  I provided a selection for a countertop mounted faucet or wall mounted (budget decision!), and a single long mirror would be floated off the wall, like so…..

"Have the float frame part of the mirror made from the same wood as the vanity or paint out in white to match the wall tile."

E-Design - In progress, custom floating walnut vanity.

I'm thrilled to see how this installation came together, and especially the decision to go with the wall mounted faucets, absolutely love it!

This option of the shower wall showed the wall tile continuing across the entire wall behind the toilet with a recessed soap niche in the shower and recessed wood shelves under the eaves and a wood shelf ledge above the toilet.  I provided another option of this same elevation with the wall tile stopping just past the shower glass which is in fact the way it was installed.

E-Design - The After, view of shower wall

In this instagram image you can see a sneak peek of the finished space with a glimpse of the herringbone floor, recessed wall shelving beside the toilet and the floating walnut vanity. It looks like they opted to forgo a shower threshold which also means they continued the black slate tile into the shower.  My one concern with this decision is that the dark tile could really show soap residue on the surface and in the grout so hopefully that doesn't prove to be an annoyance.

The oval freestanding soaker tub takes prominence centred in front of the large dormer windows and tucked under the dormer roof.  A simple roller shade that operates bottom up will provide privacy and daylight.

E-Design - After, soaker tub

I'm absolutely thrilled to see the progress of this bathroom renovation and how well the e-design plans were implemented.  With each e-design package there is always room (options) for clients to make decisions on their own and make personal choices and I love seeing which choices Lindsay ended up making and how beautifully its come together.

If you're interesting in E-design plans for your own bathroom or kitchen reno please visit my E-Design website


for details.  

All design rawings/plans:  Carol Reed Interior Design Inc.

Room and sample photos:  via Instagram