Dining room too stuffy!
victoria4831
April 2, 2013 in Design Dilemma
This is the dining room in the house we are about to purchase. This will be our family's primary eating area and it is just too formal for us! We have three small children and this is a room we will spend a lot of time in.

Eventually we'd like to open the space between the kitchen and dining room but that will need to wait a while. We are starting off fresh with furniture so our options are open. Our style is somewhere in between cottage-y and contemporary.

The room size is 12x13 and there are doors and/or windows on each wall.

Any suggestions?

Thank you!!
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handymam
Well obviously, the chandelier should be replaced with something less formal.

Do you like the white and grey? I think it is a bit cold looking for a space with children. Of course, since you are starting with a blank slate, it is hard to suggest anything without knowing your color preferences and personal likes. Have you scoured the houzz ideabooks for inspiration yet?
April 2, 2013 at 10:56am   
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0825sam
Hi - I really like this room. We have kids too but I am still a big fan of the formal dining room. Here is an ideabook on cottage style just to check out.

I would remove the valance/detail over the window and change out the light fixture. It might be fun to paint or wallpaper the backs of the built-ins for some interest.
Check out west elm for furniture. A lot of their stuff is pretty casual. I like the mix of a more rustic or farm table with contemporary chairs. West Elm has a lot of choices as do Crate & Barrel, CB2 and Restoration Hardware.
Our formal dining room is pretty similar to yours and what we did that recently made it more casual was paint the walls slate blue, natural fiber rug, farm table and sideboard, replicas of the Series 7 chair in white (Restoration Hardware magnus chair - comfortable and easy to wipe off), and West Elm natural drum pendant.
April 2, 2013 at 11:09am     
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victoria4831
Yes-- that chandelier will be first! And maybe take the decorative trim off the top of the built-ins (if that's possible). I do like grey and white but open to a fun color too. I have spent lots of time looking for inspiration but I'm having trouble visualizing how to convert the space.

I love aquas, blues, greens, yellows... something light and bright.
April 2, 2013 at 11:10am   
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victoria4831
Thanks, sam0705! I LOVE that idea book. And your dining room sounds just like what I'm looking for! I don't know what removing that valance will entail but I can't wait to tackle it. That alone might go a long way towards helping.
April 2, 2013 at 11:15am   
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PRO
Dytecture
the 'empty' room looks fine.
April 2, 2013 at 11:18am     
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carolins
I'd leave the trim, but remove the window-valance (or whatever it is). Could you turn the window sill into a window seat? Lowering the top and add white painted wood to the part under the window that will then be visible? In an ideal world you could make hinges in the top so you'd have storage underneath. It would be great with lots of blue, green, yellow cushions in it.

I like Sam's ideas.
April 2, 2013 at 11:19am   
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victoria4831
Perfect examples! Wonder if I can get my husband to like those chairs? :)
April 2, 2013 at 11:20am   
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carolins
Hmm... just had another look, it will probably have to be made deeper too. So perhaps not the best idea éver to make the sill into a seat.
April 2, 2013 at 11:21am   
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victoria4831
Oh, I would love a window seat but I don't think it would work. The window just juts out from the house. I think we'd have to do construction on the exterior.
April 2, 2013 at 11:25am     
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Cheryl Fadden
Oh my goodness...I love the architecture the way it is, well, minus the valance and a chandelier change. I personally would love to have a room like this and turn it into shabby chic!! :) I know that isn't your taste, just sayin'. Sage green would look fabulous on the walls.
April 2, 2013 at 11:35am     
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0825sam
I think using woven shades on your windows will also help it look a bit more casual.

April 2, 2013 at 11:36am     
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0825sam
If your husband is anything like mine he will like the chairs because (the replicas at least) tend to be less expensive than upholstered or leather chairs :) And they are easy to clean with kids.
April 2, 2013 at 11:37am     
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Granite Grannies
#1....change the chandelier. Personally, I like the room, but if you want more casual, than change to a less fancy light. Also, you might try a warmer color on the walls. Maybe even darker. It's very bright, and it might be more relaxing with a rich brown or yellow ochre on the top half of the walls.
April 2, 2013 at 11:41am   
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Amy Stanley
Changing the light, removing the window valance, and a warm color on the wall will change the entire feel. I love the idea of a distressed farm table.
April 2, 2013 at 11:56am   
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victoria4831
Thank you all! I really do like the room. I just have such envy for the casual style of an eat-in kitchen/family room. Great idea on the bamboo blinds. I have them in my current dining room and you're right-- they really did warm things up!
April 2, 2013 at 1:39pm   
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pcmom1
I like this room, and it won't seem too formal once you add your own touches. I would spray paint the chandelier a fun color. Get a rug you love first. Be sure it is big enough to allow you to pull out chairs. Then chose the color for chandy. Check out Ballard Designs for fun shades for chandy also.

Since you are cottagey style, I see a collection of tea cups in the built-ins. You can enlarge and frame up photos of vacations, kids art, etc. for the walls. This room will end up far from formal!
April 2, 2013 at 2:02pm     
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iknownot
We use our dining room daily. It really is all in how you set it up. I have turned mine into a dining room/library. Your kids would love it. Put books in both china cabinets and on the narrow window ledge. If you want some china out, put it on upper shelves. Or even more fun for your kids would be for you to pull up a bench to the ledge of equal height and length. This will create instant depth and now the kids can sit in the window to read. Put a row of books under the bench. Add pillows. They will love it. You can paint the wood trim a color. That will pull away from formality and warm it up. Use a round table with a lazy Susan in the middle. This is casual and I swear the key to lots of long conversations. You can "see" each other! Add a glass top to your table for display purposes and easy clean up with kids. We put notes to each other under it. Decorated under it for holidays, displayed kids art under it. Display maps, diagrams, etc for teaching purposes. Let your kids plan what to rotate displaying under the glass. Store art/craft supplies under doors of china cabinets. Let kids do art at table anytime. They can clean up after themselves. Let them read under the table. Put a rug down to warm up the room. Not sure if you have the space but we put an electric fireplace in our d.r./ library. I have my kids artwork in frames. Let this be the room where they perform a musical piece after dinner for the family, or present art or a show and tell. Make this the family's "creative, self expression" room of the house, incl. thru dinner conversation. Keep it neat but comfortable and you will make daily memories there! Under table play is allowed ( drape a sheet over for extra fun!) but MUST be cleaned up by dinner every night! I hope these ideas inspire you....
April 2, 2013 at 2:15pm     
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victoria4831
Iknownot-- I am totally coming to your house to play! Because our current house is on the market, we have been living in a staged house for a few months now. I can't wait to paint in my own color palate and let the kids make a mess!

I agree that a carpet might be key. We haven't had a carpet in the dining room for a number of years because of messes and spills but I know there are some great indoor/outdoor rugs that might fit the bill. And it will give us the warmth we need.

And I'm looking at farmhouse tables right now...
April 2, 2013 at 2:25pm     
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tabisman
Hi Victoria, you have a great space to work with. Before you do anything, I'd consider usage - what are you and your family going to do in that room? Are the kids going to do their homework in there as well as eat their dinner? Are you going to curl up with a magazine whilst having a glass of wine? Is your husband going to want to put his feet up in there after a hard day at work? Once you have worked out how the room is going to be used, then you'll know better what furniture you need. My personal suggestion is that you can informally divide the room - have an informal dining area (think wooden Scandinavian designs which look modern) which can also be used for the kids to do schoolwork at, and combine that with a more cottage-y snug area with a couple of big comfy chairs and a low table. For a room with heavy traffic, I always suggest staying away from carpet - you want to enjoy the room, not spend most of your time cleaning the floors in it. Of course a beautiful rug placed under a glass-topped dining table (super easy to clean, and no stains from things being spilled on it) can bring colour and warmth to a plain floor whilst avoiding the perils of getting too dirty. Think of artwork the whole family can enjoy, too - that will make the space more personal than any shade of paint! Good luck and do share your photos.
April 2, 2013 at 2:51pm   
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judianna20
Think you need to go darker. The room has wainscoting which, by itself, makes a room more formal. Get a great table, slipcovered chairs and a new chandy.

April 2, 2013 at 3:14pm   
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Connie
remove light, trim from windows. I would paint the wainscoting either the same as the wall above, so it "disappears", OR paint it in a really vibrant high gloss contrast colour, to make it more playful. I'd also remove the doors from those display cabinest, and make them open shelving. Or if possible, I would actually remove them complety . I think they are the biggest problem - looks much like my granmas cupboards! But its all little things - the room has brilliant bones.
April 2, 2013 at 3:29pm   
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victoria4831
I like the idea of removing the glass doors! I had thought about painting or putting paper on the backs but hadn't considered taking the doors off.

It's funny because I really do love molding and trim work and plan on adding some to other rooms (board and batten is more my style), it's just a little much and like someone went on colonial-style overload ;)
April 2, 2013 at 3:43pm     
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victoria4831
And-- as far as how we'll use the room... we'll have all of our meals here together. The kids are 2, 6, & 8. The older kids will do their homework here and draw/paint/etc. Our guests will probably gather here too because the kitchen is pretty small. I like the idea of a conversation area and because I don't need to bring my china cabinet into the room, we might have room in the corner between the kitchen and living room doors.

In our current house, the dining room had a similar purpose but it just became a dumping ground. I like the idea of having it organized but family-friendly.

You all really are amazing. I try to have conversations like this with my husband or my friends but it's not nearly as productive or fun!
April 2, 2013 at 3:51pm     
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Connie
husbands-converse about decorating? am yet to run across one anywhere. Mine just ort of glazes over the eyes, and runs to the shed to "build" something
April 2, 2013 at 4:00pm   
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victoria4831
It's definitely a one-sided conversation--especially because I'm asking for an opinion...but not really ;)
April 2, 2013 at 4:16pm     
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victoria4831
And Judy-- I hadn't even thought about going darker with the wainscoting!
April 2, 2013 at 4:17pm   
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0825sam
Land of Nod has a blog called Honest to Nod and there is a section called shares spaces. There are ideas about incorporating kid friendly areas into adult parts of the house. It is driving me crazy but there was one about dining rooms but it might have been in the catalog and not the blog.
April 2, 2013 at 4:32pm   
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victoria4831
Oh, I am going to check that blog out right now!
April 2, 2013 at 5:07pm   
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arpt
Quick modern update, change the light fixture, and remove the top early american things on the corner built-ins. Remove window valance and treat window in your choice. Could be easy and cost effective.
April 2, 2013 at 5:51pm     
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Lkristine
This table and chairs would make a nice mix IMO. And the chairs could be easily wiped. The table website appears as though you can customize. http://www.custommade.com/rustic-round-kitchen-table/by/ECustomFinishes/ Here is the link for chairs, http://www.overstock.com/Home-Garden/ETHAN-HOME-Mendoza-White-Keyhole-Back-Parson-Chairs-Set-of-2/5178479/product.html
April 2, 2013 at 6:18pm     
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pcmom1
Ballard Designs has many rugs that would work in your space (flipping thru my catalog here!). The one below is indoor/outdoor and they say it is soft under foot. Be sure to buy one large enough!

Also check out item number RW211 for one in a chevron stripe. And RT102 for one in a French, "Le Poeme".
http://www.ballarddesigns.com/le-poeme-indoor-2foutdoor-rug/13282?listIndex=1&searchTerm=Rt102&listId=SEARCHRESULTS

And:
http://www.ballarddesigns.com/suzanne-kasler-ikat-indoor-2foutdoor-rug/235875?listIndex=1&searchTerm=RW216&listId=SEARCHRESULTS
April 3, 2013 at 9:48am   
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victoria4831
Great rug and furniture suggestions! I discovered a local craftsman selling farmhouse tables on Etsy last night. Can't wait to get the keys to the house and get to work!
April 3, 2013 at 5:56pm   
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DIAspoton
victoria, congratulations on the new home. this DR is wonderful.

please google : sarah101 , season 2 modern family dining. watch the episode.

this is canadian decorator sarah richardson. she turns an outdated DR into a fun, beautiful space for a family with 3 kids.
it even has a built in corner cupboard that turns out great. the only thing i'd have changed was the rug. love the look but she should have found it in outdoor material for easy clean up.ballards has chevron outdoor rugs if you like it.
April 3, 2013 at 6:11pm   
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victoria4831
What a fun room! A little brighter than my comfort zone but some really great inspiration.

I think I'd like that Sarah101 show-- unfortunately every time I go to watch HGTV, that Love It or List It show is on! Off topic ...
April 3, 2013 at 6:46pm   
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