crossing over: to the light side in decor

subtitle: while leaving our dining room furniture unscathed.

Over the last year, I’ve really finished off some of those “corners” of the house that weren’t quite cutting it for me. I changed things from dark to what I really loved, and tackled the things that I was otherwise afraid to tackle. And the biggest lesson I’ve learned, was that the “Just Do It” Nike slogan also applies to home improvement and design. It’s all about taking risks in the design of your home, {and in life} to do what makes you happy.

A sweet reader, Ally, asked me recently, when she saw a mention of my dining room in another post, how I went about changing the dark to light in this particular room. She wrote:

“I have this nice dark furniture in this big dark room, and the idea of painting something nice and expensive, that we paid a whole lot of money for, is completely daunting and really just not doeable. But my style has changed, and it’s frustrating. And then I stumbled across your blog. I love how you have dark furniture, but you make it work in an eclectic way. Can you share with me what your process was? I’m just not sure where to start! HELP.”

It’s really funny to me that she asked about this room. Because this room really tells a story of where I’ve gone and how far I’ve come in my color choices for our home. If many of you are anything like Ally and myself, you probably have a few key pieces you started out with. Before you knew that your taste really was, you probably splurged on a new bedroom suite or dining room set. Because that’s what we’re supposed to do, right? Probably before you knew that there were other, more affordable options out there. When matchy-matchy was what you were supposed to do, and Bombay was mainstream. {Bombay is awesome, it’s just not me.} And now that I feel like I’ve truly accepted the fact that I finally know what my taste is, I have a lighter me. Here’s the steps I took to slowly but surely cross over to “the light side.”

It all started with a table runner. Okay. Hold that thought, because I’ll get to that. It actually all started with taking down my blinds. I’ll come back to the table runner. Here’s a few {shoddy} pics of the before, and it’s as good as it gets because this is before I actually thought to take pics of before’s {DUH} So bare with me…

This photo was taken right after Emerson was born. My AWESOME mom came over to help and totally vacuumed. Godsend much? (Look how little Aidenman was!) But as you can see, there was no rhyme or reason or planning to what I did. And I was using some bad experimentation with some ikea lamps {above, in this totally unedited photo} and the blinds were KILLING me, and the color was just not me, and this cave of a room was our dining room. And I threw things where they were because I didn’t have any furniture or the means to and I was looking for the right piece…Why am I showing you this? Because I didn’t just wake up one day and my dining room was all, TADA! It was a process.

So I took the blinds (that came with the house) down. And I loved how it opened up the space. And there’s just something about living in a space for more than three years, that really teaches you how you use it. It gives your design a purpose, a direction, and a function, and you gain a real feel of where you are and the direction that you want to go. I even took a few rogue jewels from our new kitchen chandy, and placed them on the dining room one. It was the little things.

You would think that the first thing I did was paint. But alas, we held off. I had a few friends who were in love with my brown space. Who even said they were going to paint their spaces brown. So I felt that I should be grateful for what the construction gods had chosen for me, and accept the brown. {EEEEEEEEEEE. {obnoxious buzzer noise} WRONG.} I never liked it.

SO, I decided to learn how to sew. And this was just the very beginning. {of the end, as Jamin tells the tale}

Jamin had purchased a sewing machine for me for mother’s day. It was just a simple singer. He made fun of me, because it sat in our laundry room, unused for three whole months before I got up the nerve to bust it out. I was horrified. But I asked a friend to teach me how to thread the needle and load up that bobbin, and a non-seamstress was born. {so much so, that when Andrea helped me make that slipcover last week, she asked me when the last time my sewing machine was serviced. I responded with a blank stare, as I didn’t know such things needed to be serviced. BWAH.} But I loved the personality my new found hobby added to the space, and the empowerment it gave me in between colicky newborns.

After that, I decided I wanted to build something big for our wall to display all of our children’s photos.

And I loved the feeling that the blue frame brought into the brown space. But I wanted it all lighter.

I put a back on it. I couldn’t paint my nice dining room furniture, but the overwhelming heaviness of it was too much for me. Jamin is open to a lot of things around here, and pretty much agrees with anything that I pick out. When I slightly toyed with the idea of painting that little china cabinet, the idea was immediately squelched. And I agreed. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to paint the first, nicest, and last thing like it, we ever purchased. SO, instead, I simply backed the small china cabinet in grass cloth, after it was stamped with a stencil in aqua paint. (It will probably be separated from its matching dining room table in our next home) What did I put it on with? Slightly de-stickified scotch tape. When I grow tired of it, I can simply take it down. No harm no foul. I’ll probably just switch it out for something else.

I also purchased some cheapo white/cream plates from walmart. It made a world of difference.

After that, the changes were systematic and came quickly. I knew what I wanted to do, so I went for it.

I decided to stop fighting that awkward window and the awkward limitations that came with it with some poorly thought out golden curtains who had the lifespan of one year because they totally grossed me out. {Have you ever made a spur of the moment choice, and then regretted it later? When we first moved in, those curtains were on sale. So, I grabbed them up. And then I realized they just weren’t me. They kind of made my dining room look dated.} I chose a super fun fabric, and I sewed some new ones.

So then, we finally painted. We’d just painted Emerson’s big girl room, and in that same weekend, we decided to finally tackle the dining room with the same color. I LOVE this color. Behr’s Irish Mist.

I brought in a lighter piece. This helped break up the monotony of the dark. The blue, two tone, definitely brought in a fresher appeal.

We rearranged the furniture. We decided to take out a leaf, and turn the table inward. It completely transformed the room. We played a little with the furniture to see what worked best, and added two larger, mismatched pieces on the outskirts of the space.

It brought the space together a little more, and served well in the whole “mixed look” by bringing different finishes together. The foyer was right beside the dining room in a seemingly awkward configuration. But the additional pieces that could be versatile in their use, really made the room seem larger.

I was fearless and decisive with the art pieces that I chose/made. These were pieces I already had in my home that I simply rearranged or made. It was a process in leaning, hanging, rearranging them. But over time they came together.

The table top, for now, is covered in a cool fabric I simply pulled right off the roll. This one is a little different than my salvaged fall tablescape, and if you look carefully has a little bit of funk to it. But that was one of the best steps for me, with something so cheap that really lightened up the area. It took the heaviness of the table away, and made it look less unified. Bonus: it provides a great blogging space for me while protecting my surface.

Finally, we {very} recently had our chairs reupholstered. I was going to tackle it myself, as it was something I’d been putting off for years. But a WONDERFUL friend took on the task for us, and she did an AMAZING job. I kept it casual and traditional with the fabric choice: I didn’t want to be replacing them twice a year, and the peacock fabric in the curtains were a bit much in the pattern department.

I LOVE them. They’re a little unexpected…a little classic…a little shot of color, all rolled into one. I’ve got more on this, later. I debated forever, but in the end, went with the simple.

So for now, this is where we’re at.

With a few steps to get us there, and leaving our dining room set unscathed. Wood purists everywhere may release a sigh of happiness. ;) If any of you are wondering about hardwoods, I guess that is the next logical step. We haven’t bothered with it, however, due to three teetering babes. Now that Malone is up and walking (and as soon as he’s out of his klutz stage) I’m sure we’ll be looking into it.

But for now, I love this room, and the steps that it took to get here, in learning about myself, and what I love. Probably one big symbolic look at where I’ve come in my own design journey {now that I shamelessly shared the above photos with all of you.}

I hope this helps answer any questions out there, and perhaps inspires you to work with what you have to make your room one that you love.

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19 Responses to crossing over: to the light side in decor

  1. Hillary says:

    Wow. What a huge difference a little paint, fabric and elbow grease can make! Thank you so much for sharing this! I love seeing how rooms and homes evolve over time. Love it.

  2. Janet Syltie says:

    Thank you so very much for sharing this with us. I love it. I love the way that you handled all of the little delimas and I especially love your style. This is great!

  3. Rebekah Bloyd says:

    I loved seeing the progression of your room! You have great style, and I really admire your "just do it" attitude. Awesome post!!!

  4. Shaunna says:

    Looks fabulous, of course. And you KNOW I LOVE those ticking stripes!!!
    :-)
    shaunna

  5. You had me at ticking stripes. I'm a fool for your style, Lady.

  6. Jackie says:

    I have seen many posts similar to this one on internet but all other have filler content and are not up-to-the mark. This post especially made me to post my comments as its credible, Karen Millen shoes it’s very good!

  7. andrea says:

    thank you SO much for this post. this is exactly where i'm finding myself. we've been in our house for 3 years and i finally feel like i'm finding my decorating groove – only our paints are earth toney and i also have lots of wood that i can not paint. love all the ideas for little transitions … :)

  8. Oona says:

    Love the new chair fabric! It's perfect.

  9. Yarnista says:

    I must say that I love the large-scale artwork you have scattered around your house — are you a painter? Love your dining room, too!

  10. Rhonda Vaudt says:

    This is absolutely beautiful! I am in the same position Ally was in, I have beautiful Cherry wood cupboard, fireplace mantle and entertainment center! I love Cherry wood and I would hate to paint it! Your photos tells me there is hope!

  11. Brooke says:

    I just found your blog yesterday through Shannon’s blog. I LOVE YOUR HOUSE! YAY!!!!

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  13. sara says:

    Just found your blog via Me Sew Crazy and LOVE IT! I have some big blanks walls in my house that I’m just waiting to ‘decide on’ …I am in love with the blue board (?) with your children’s pictures on it! Thank you for sharing – Sara

  14. What a transformation!!! I have been thinking about “lightening” up my living room. Okay, you gave me inspiration! Thank you!

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  17. I like the helpful info you provide on your articles. I’ll bookmark your blog and test once more here frequently. I am moderately certain I’ll be told lots of new stuff right right here! Best of luck for the next!

  18. Rebecca says:

    Do you have a post on how you made the blue board for the pics? I have tangible ideas now. Thanks.

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