I’ve read somewhere that in designing your home, the master bedroom sets the tone for your whole house and therefore is a good place to get started. For me, the “catalyst room” has always been the dining room. It’s a room synonymous with hospitality, and becomes the ambassador of your style to your invited guests. I knew immediately I wanted to create a “jewel box” feeling in this relatively small room (roughly 14’ square with 8’ ceilings) with rich wall texture, luxe fabrics and sparkling lighting. With the addition of a very special French antique cabinet to this room last year, we moved the gray lacquer console we had in here to our guest bedroom, and immediately decided it was time to redo the floors. My initial thought was to install oak chevron hardwood floors in the dining room and connected sitting room, but that idea had evolved into a softer, muted European white oak hardwood in a wide plank. From the time we first moved in to now, I’ve realized the importance of zooming out my focus from a single room to viewing the house as a whole, with a cohesive palette flowing from room to room. Decorating this way makes your space not only feel intentional, but also makes it easier to move pieces from one room to another as your life and space needs naturally change.
The first thing I did in the dining room after removing the former fixtures was to hang a beautiful gray grasscloth wallpaper. In the five years since then, it has (happily) taken on a beautiful golden patina as it has aged which complements the new floors and our French cabinet nicely. I believe in using only natural materials for this reason, because as things age, like people, they can become better versions of themselves. I fully embrace and prefer the patina of well-worn materials like real wood, stone, and natural fibers. When our hardwood floors inevitably become worn, I won’t fret over dings and scrapes rushing to refinish and will instead enjoy the evidence of a well-loved space, a wabi-sabi approach to living.
Of all of our rooms, this one is nearly complete. Compared to my original vision for our dining room, just a few things have changed. We have opted to have no rug in here so we can fully enjoy the new floors. We have no art on the walls; the hand-painted silk Japanese birds that used to hang on the walls are now nestled in the antique cabinet among our vintage crystal to add some depth. We have new sconces which remain to be installed on either side of the cabinet. They will complement the scale of the cabinet nicely and add more lighting from the side of the room, which is overall much more flattering light (as a rule, I am not a fan of overhead lighting with the exception of softly-lit chandeliers and pendant fixtures). Our blown-glass chandelier that once hung in my great-grandmother’s home now hangs in here, and the sparkle from this fixture is a foil to the otherwise muted natural tones and textures of the room.
Other changes include recovering our black, square-back Louis XIV dining chairs in an ivory cotton duck fabric. We relocated two of these chairs to other places in the house as accents, and added linen slipcovers and pillows to the chairs we kept in the dining room. They stand on either side of the cabinet, and can be pulled in as the head dining chairs when we add a leaf to our table. Our replacement dining chairs are a rounded Louis XIV form in gorgeous carved wood faux bois texture with oyster-colored silk, a gift from Nathan’s aunt from her home. To the windows, we added beautiful ivory, pleat-top linen curtains with lovely puddling at the floor, and just need to replace the drapery rods for these. I am keeping tabs on just a few remaining checklist items for this room to really feel “complete.”
Install sconces on either side of cabinet on a dimmer
Remove existing cutout ceiling and overhead recessed can lights; replace with new drywall and paint off-white (replaces dark gray-painted, recessed ceiling we have now)
Add decorative ceiling medallion around base of chandelier
Replace standard louvered air return with decorative vent cover
Install unlacquered brass drapery rods to replace the budget-friendly option we have now
Install decorative crown molding