In this post: Looking for dining room ideas? Find inspiration in this story of the evolution and refining of our french style dining room decor.⇒
This isn’t the first time I’ve posted about the transformation of my dining room.
And I’m sure it won’t be the last.
My rooms tend to be ever-evolving and, the dining room in particular, has seen a steady series of updates that are pretty easy to track. The room has completely changed over the past few years, despite the fact that almost all of the furniture is the same, and each round of updates has contributed to this gradual metamorphosis.
I initially planned to update the last post and add in the recent changes, but then I realized that it’s been three years since I documented the evolution of the room and I’ve revised a lot in that time.
Consequently, I decided to start fresh, summarize the earlier changes, but leave those prior posts in tact, in case you’d like to read more in depth about those beginning transitions.
This post, then, will delve more deeply into the later refinements, while outlining the full story.
Find Your Why
The most important question to answer when making changes to your home is WHY you’re making modifications. You can’t possibly achieve your goal if you don’t know what your goal is, so defining the why is critical. If you’re replacing the sofa because it’s worn out, that’s a very different process than changing the layout of the room because it doesn’t flow well.
In my case, in the dining room specifically, but more broadly in my entire home, my goal has been refining my style. This means making some difficult decisions about items that are in perfectly good condition but no longer express my preferred aesthetic. It has led to a basement full of cast offs that are too good to toss, but are not terribly coveted by family members whom I’d love to help. Certainly my daughter doesn’t need the matelassé sofa that I consider too outdated for my taste, nor does my son need curved French end tables.
But as long as you work within your budget, there’s no reason to live with a home that feels like it belongs in your past.
Today’s post is part of our Home Evolution Series, a succession of posts that I participate in with Ann from On Sutton Place and Yvonne from StoneGable. We’ve each moved into our empty nester homes in the past few years and have been working on aligning those homes with our current lifestyles. Be sure to check out their posts at the bottom of this one.
PART 1 OF THE EVOLUTION SERIES
The Family Room
The perfect family room is both relaxing and stylish. See how our space has evolved over time and be inspired by these family room ideas.
In my case, when we first moved into our townhome, I decorated much of it exactly the same as the family home we brought our kids up in and lived in for twenty years. It was the simplest way to make the move and gave me a chance to get used to our new home slowly. I do not regret waiting to refine my style, even though it meant making a lot of changes subsequently, in a relatively short period of time, because the gradual realization of my current style is something that needed time to simmer and mature. If there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that the process will continue on forever.
So let’s look at the evolution thus far.
The Starting Point
It’s hard to believe that the photo above is where our dining room started just a few short years ago. Every single piece came from the dining room in our old home and the draperies were moved over from our previous living room. I was fortunate to wind up with a larger dining room than before, so space wasn’t an issue.
In fact I think the limitations of our old dining room influenced my decision to prioritize a home with a formal dining room, despite it being our empty nest. I love to entertain and we use the space often, so I simply duplicated our previous decor and lived with it for a bit.
Yet, in little over a year, I was already looking to make changes.
The Path Toward Neutral
In truth, I think I was ready for a change long before we moved, but there’s something about the impermanence of living in a home you are planning to leave that quiets the part of your mind that redecorates your home as you scan your spaces. (Or am I the only one who does that?)
Sure enough, I knew rather quickly that my perception of french style was evolving and clarifying. First and foremost, my color palette was becoming more sophisticated with an emphasis on neutrals and simpler fabrics. Patterns were feeling dated, as were all those colorful faux florals, so instead I looked to antiques and vintage accents to provide interest.
At the same time I knew I was not prepared to spend a fortune on new furniture, so I needed to be creative in the way I updated the dining space. I opted to keep my existing dining table, a classic piece that could accommodate my guests, with a wood tone that works with a neutral color scheme. I added a white linen runner to break up all that dark wood and moved on.
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Instead I turned my attention to the dining chairs, and praised my earlier decision to go with slipcovered chairs. It was easy and inexpensive to get new ready-made covers in a pretty off-white shade that pops rather nicely against the rich-toned dining room table.
This is also the point where I began adding patina by peppering the room with antique decorative accents. The generous vintage dough bowl makes a wonderful centerpiece, flanked by a pair of distressed candle holders.
Most significantly, if not in an obvious way, a 19th-century tole candelabra that I added to the sideboard set the tone for the future direction of the entire dining area.
Read Stage 1 in detail: Refining an Existing Dining Room
Honing in on Defining Pieces
Later that same year I made a few more modifications that served to push the room closer to the space it is today. While I continue to refine, these few important revisions were quite defining, all the more compelling given they were comprised only of accessories.
The first was the addition of a vintage chandelier, a piece that drew inspiration from the tole girandole on the sideboard. The commanding light fixture draws the eye up to appreciate the tray ceiling detail.
Next I removed the flimsy plate racks that flanked the trumeau mirror and replaced them with carved wood candle sconces. In the absence of a fireplace, this helped create a focal point on the dining room wall over the buffet.
Lastly, while technically not an accessory, they are used as such here, I purchased a pair of antique cane-back gilt armchairs to place at the ends of the table. More than anything else in the room, they anchor the room’s french style.
Stage 2 in detail: Dining Room Accessories That Made a Huge Difference
Pulling It All Together
The next round of changes took us into the following year, and it was here that my dining room decorating ideas finally began to realize their potential. You can see that each of the early stages made a huge impact on the room, culminating in this latest iteration, while what follows hereafter is better described as refinement (but nonetheless significant).
The most salient updates here were the addition of an area rug, always an item that has the capacity to pull a room together, and the replacement of the floral draperies with laundered linen panels. The relaxed look of the neutral curtains made a particularly noticeable difference.
Stage 3 in detail: Transforming a Dining Room Without Replacing the Furniture
Focusing On Refinements
I was really very happy with the direction of the dining room, but there were still a few details that were nagging at me. It was time to take care of the pale pink walls and I chose my favorite neutral paint color, Benjamin Moore’s Tapestry Beige.
I also felt the rug that I had selected was not quite right. The pattern was too bold, drawing too much attention to itself, plus the size of the rug was a bit too small. I preferred to have a rug that could accommodate the chairs when pulled out and I also wanted to cover as much of the floor as possible, as I really don’t love the reddish stain color. The new carpet complements the wooden dining table and offers a much quieter underpinning.
There’s not much room for artwork in this space but I did add a small painting that you can glimpse in the mirror’s reflection. I topped the storage cabinet (which has shelves for dishware) with a distressed crown and felt the space was pretty much done.
Where We Are Today
And that’s pretty much how the room sat for a couple of years. But alas I was still not done. I certainly felt I had found my style and I looked to this room for inspiration as I updated the rest of the house.
But the one thing that has always bothered me is how dark the room is. Despite have a large double window, its north facing position and its situation on the wall attached to the next townhouse keeps the lighting very uneven and quite dark on one side of the room.
So when I had the painters in my home working on a few other rooms, I took the opportunity to lighten the dining room. It is now painted Sherwin Williams Alabaster, a lovely neutral almost-white with warm undertones.
In the last year or so, I also chalk painted two pieces of furniture that were reading too dark. The buffet is now graced with soft shades of white, while the tall cabinet was painted a soft taupe.
I’ve lightened up some of the decorative objects, as well, taking an edge off the formality of the room. The perky rattan basket atop the china cabinet lends a casual air to the corner.
Another bare corner that was overdressed with a bar cart now has a diminutive table with a tall vase. It’s a lovely very simple solution to a problem that didn’t require much in the way of an answer.
The petite buffet sideboard has a beautiful new tray, which replaced a skimpy one that was there before. Distressed candlesticks round out the picture, elegantly contrasting against the sleek crystal decanters.
I no longer pretend that the room is done, just like any other room in our home. The ever-evolving nature of our home just means it’s growing along with us and our needs. As my eye becomes increasingly discriminating, I find more things to tweak and refine.
But I do think I’m done for a while!
More Dining Room Ideas
- Old School to Modern: The Evolution of a French Country Dining Room
- How I Transformed My Dining Room without Replacing the Furniture
- Dining Room Accessories: 3 Updates That Make a Huge Difference
- Elegant Dining Rooms: Refining an Existing Space
- Dining Room Storage: The Ultimate Guide to Organizing Your Tableware
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