Some of the rooms in our house, I had 100% planned out before we even set foot in the door. (Most of them didn’t stay planned, but shush. It’s a start.) Some of them developed plans naturally over time as I got used to the space. And some of them, I flung my furniture into and resolutely averted my eyes from to avoid thinking about.
The dining room was one of those third ones.
It was difficult to ignore the question of what to do with it for long, though, because we have to eat in there; our galley kitchen is too skinny to squeeze in a breakfast nook, and while we enjoy eating on the couch during Law & Order as much as the next crashingly boring twentysomething couple (drink whenever someone orders a hot dog from a street vendor!!), occasionally we eat grownup food that requires a knife rather than Bachelor Chow, and it’s nice to have a table at which to sit. Originally, I’d thought it would be nice to paint the living room-dining room situation gray, rather than the green it sported when we moved in. Over time, though, I started to like the warmth of the green against the cherry woodwork, and to admire the cozy cast it gave to the light, and to think about how godawfully much work it would take to paint that looooong, window-and-door-ridden space. I love painting (I really do, don’t judge me) but that looked like a nightmare even to me. And so we decided to stick with the green. And after we’d shuffled in our eight million pound ancient buffet—which we refinished in our last (stair-free) place—plonked in our dining set, and hung some stuff on the walls, this is where we left it.
It functioned…ish. Neither of us love how the buffet sticks out in front of the windows, but it can’t be helped; the room is almost entirely windows. Originally I’d planned to get a big dramatic piece of artwork for the wall behind the table, until we moved in and realized there was no wall behind the table. Two walls of windows, one wall of archway, one wall of kitchen + stair doors. I’m not complaining! The light in this place is incredible. It just requires some, er, creative solutions. On top of the layout difficulties, we decided some more storage was in order; our buffet is great for holding our china and various wine/liquor glasses, plus flatware and table linens, but we were lacking a designated spot for our serving dishes. We scoured Craigslist for ages to try and find a credenza, and found TONS—who knew Des Moines Craigslist would be such a goldmine of mid-century furniture?—but sadly, everyone selling one knew exactly what they should be charging for it, and so we couldn’t find anything under $500 we liked.
One morning, blearily flipping through the furniture section while I drank my coffee, I found a credenza listed for $40. It was a relic of the 90s, a piece of office surplus, nothing precious (or even pretty). It also weighed approximately as much as my car. We had to park in an alleyway and go in through a thoroughly shady side door, and were pretty sure this would finally be the Craigslist find that got us murdered. But we took it home anyway. I had A Plan.
I have left the photo purposefully grainy and cluttered so you can see the true horrorshow nature of picking this thing up. It’s not fancy. I know. It will be! Within moments of getting it we sawed the “legs” off, and I put “legs” in quotation marks because they were really just continuations of the sides of the piece, falling awkwardly to the floor. So, so charming. We reinforced the bottom, adding planks along the back in a spot that was hollow before, so that we could add the eventual feet. My master plan is to make it match the buffet by painting it black, adding white trim to the sides, pewter hardware to the doors and drawers, and some bun feet on the bottom. Bun feet aren’t my usual thing, but I think in this case they’ll suit it best, and make it look most like it belongs with the buffet.
Have I mentioned that I’m a professional graphic designer? It’s probably obvious. Anyway.
Obviously this room needs some love beyond just adding a credenza so we can finally empty all the boxes stacked in the corners. To get inspired, I spent a bunch of time Googling things like “olive green dining room,” “fancy grown up people dining room” and “design fatigue please help.” I actually found a lot of helpful images by searching Google and Pinterest for “dining room Sputnik.” You see, I’ve dreamed of a Sputnik light for years, and have decided that this is where I’m going to Make It Happen. In our old place, I lived with light fixtures I couldn’t stand just because I assumed it would be more trouble than it was worth to replace them. I don’t feel that way anymore, because a) I have learned how one changes a light fixture, and it ain’t all that, and b) the chandelier currently above our table hangs at an angle. I naively assumed it could be straightened—nope, the hardware is welded on in such a way that it hangs crooked. Some chandeliers just want to watch the world burn.
Look at all this spiky goodness:
I think the reason this exercise was so helpful to me, beyond just showing what the light would look like in a room, was that people who choose this light seem to generally embrace the same aesthetic I do: colorful, modern, not too serious, not too precious. It helped me set the tone, and from there it was much easier to envision what I wanted the place to look like. I also came across this image in particular:
This image was a huge help because it confirmed a lot of things I’d been thinking. The view here is so similar to our own—the arched wide doorway, the wall of windows, the round table—and it works so well! I want to go with a larger and lower Sputnik, but things are definitely on the right track here.
I also thought that finding the right rug would help things along in terms of color. The dining room is the “elbow” between the kitchen and the living room. In the living room, which is also green, we’re using white, deep teal, red-orange, and mustard yellow (more on that in another post); in the kitchen, the walls are seafoam green, and the accents are teal, navy, and apple green. I wanted a scheme that would bridge the two and not offer a horribly jarring view no matter which way you were looking. While I’m not a fan of “themed” rooms, I thought a general sort of peacock scheme would tie everything together nicely—deeper greens to pull in the kitchen and walls, blues and teals to tie in the living room. A five-second Google for “peacock rug” turned up this:
I had thought that maybe, in this room, I would stray a bit from the Marimekko-esque big pattern/mod/loud vibe I’ve always liked for rugs. Maybe do one of those tasteful overdyed vintage ones, perhaps even a kilim if I found the right colors? All that went out the window the moment I saw this rug. It was loud. It was patterned. It was plush and woolly.
It was a thousand dollars in its smallest size.
But it’s totally OK, and here’s why: I’ve been intrigued by floorcloths for years, ever since I was babysitting (read: sitting and doing my college drawing homework in a super fun couple’s house while they went out for karaoke and their kids slept; I met the children precisely once in three months of babysitting, and that was when I came to chat about the job) in college and the mom was working on one for their living room. Basically you prime and paint a canvas cloth, seal the heck out of it, and it lays on your floor and resists spills/foot grime/etc. Prior to finding The Rug, I had actually been thinking this dining room might be a good place to try a floorcloth; staring down the hefty price tag for the dream rug, I decided it was time to DIY. (I’m hoping to start on that in the next week or two.) And from there, the rest of the room came together pretty naturally.
So here’s the master plan, starting from the floor up:
1. The aforementioned DIY floorcloth project. I will of course be sure to take pictures and do a tutorial if all goes well, or to commiserate if it doesn’t. There are plenty of great tutorials out there already, though, so if you’re impatient, check some out!
2. The table that will eventually live in our dining room is not the one that’s currently there, though they’re both round. The one we’ll end up with is an antique, bought by my mom and birth father for their first house together. It’s similar to the one in the picture, with the pedestal base. It’s bigger than the one we have now, so I think it’ll help fill the room up more—not to mention the extra seating.
3. Our current chairs are a family antique as well, and while they’ve been great, they really aren’t meant to hold up to the rigors of everyday use anymore. This was illustrated for me in dramatic fashion about three days after moving in, when I sat down in one with a cup of coffee and it shattered into a zillion sharp, wooden pieces. It wasn’t great for my self-esteem, but at least I didn’t spill my coffee. I’m a pro! To make the antique table look a little more fresh and modern, we plan to buy a couple sets of these shell chairs from Overstock. Yes, they’re knockoffs. What can you do. I have the real deal Eames in the living room, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but ain’t no way we can afford a whole set of them. Until we leave the lifestyle of the Dollar Menunaire behind us, these will do.
4. I put some dishes on the table because I’m a nerd who gets excited about table settings. Leave me alone. We already own all these; the white ones are lovely hand-me-downs from my aunt, the green squares are from CB2 (and apparently discontinued, so no link for you!), the green wine glasses are another awesome hand-me-down from the same aunt, and the aqua water glasses were a fortuitous thrift store find on our last weekend in Columbia. They come in an adorable brass carrier and everything. The vase is from that Missoni for Target collection everyone went nuts over a few years back; I’m hoping to put some kind of incredibly low-maintenance plant in it, or failing that, maybe some paper ones?
5. The Sputnik, I’m hoping to acquire either through thrifting, Etsy, eBay, or by having it made. I keep having dreams of wandering through the Habitat ReStore, looking up, and magically discovering the big brass beauty of my dreams. (Then I run into Lee Pace, who is doing the same thing. We laugh and flirt a bit, but then he goes to buy it for himself and I kick him in the shins and steal it, because cute celebrities are a dime a dozen but these chandeliers are getting pretty rare, guys.)
6. The room came with, from what I can tell, custom-made linen curtains on all the windows, which is great! I love them! But I’d like a little more color, a little more wow factor, so I’d like to layer them. These peacock blue shantung panels jumped out at me (again, on Overstock; I swear they aren’t sponsoring this post—if they were, I’d probably have pictures of actual finished product to show you right now, rather than just a board of wishes).
7. Finally, we need some kind of shelving in the corner for my cookbooks, and maybe also our booze? I’m currently thinking that we’ll build a painter’s ladder shelf from these Ana White plans, and probably paint it white to keep the room nice and bright (all this black furniture could kind of bog it down).
I realize, thanks to my little WordPress ticker, that I’ve now been rambling on for over 2000 words. Maybe I should stop typing and get to painting/sanding/etc., hmm? What do you think? Do you have a dining room, homicidal thoughts toward a light fixture, or a Sputnik lamp? If you have said Sputnik, can I have your home address? Just for research purposes, of course.