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An Affair with a Dining Room

OK, I'm not really having an affair with my dining room but I like the way it sounds.   A tweak on a title borrowed from Bunny Williams' book An Affair with a House.  Unlike Bunny Williams, I did not fall in love with my house (or dining room for that matter) at first sight.  Instead over the past 10 years I've been slowly turning my colonial style house into a home that I love.   Some rooms have received more attention then others and it's my dining room that has the most stories to tell.  So I wanted to share with you my experience of decorating my dining room over the years and a few things I learned along the way.

It all started with Hurricane Isabel, the big storm that bombarded the mid Atlantic region in September 2003 causing a four foot surge in downtown Annapolis.

Isabel also happened to cause some damage to a black walnut tree in our backyard.  So instead of chopping up the tree for firewood I decided to have the four foot sections sent to a sawmill and made into boards and then dried for 6 months so it could be used to make furniture...specifically a table and buffet for my dining room.  A good friend's dad and part time joiner, was willing to make the furniture for me.    So between waiting for the wood to dry, finalizing designs for the furniture, and having the furniture custom made it took nearly two years from the time Isabel come through to when the dining room table and buffet were delivered to my house.  It was well worth the wait.

Now for the design inspiration.  I came across this picture close to 10 years ago while looking for some inspirational images for my dining room, long before I knew who was famous in the design world.  Just a few years ago, after being a Michael Smith fan for some time, I came across this picture in my files and discovered that he had actually designed this dining room.  I loved the Regency circular table with its graceful curved legs, the Louis XVI chairs with red leather (so practical for a young family), drapery with a creamy background with pattern, oriental rug, the variety of finishes (bronze chandelier, brass mirror, and silver bowl on table), and the mix of styles used... French, Spanish, Orient.  A look that I felt was timeless.

Since the first year we've been in our house it has been used for just about every major holiday.  For Thanksgiving we have between 15-20 people visit each year.  So a table that could expand and seat lots of people was a must.  So we designed an eight foot oval table that could use two 2-foot leaves.  We also designed two pedestals to have the same leg shape and brass claw feet as the antique table in Michael Smith's room above.  Turns out finding brass claw feet in such a large size wasn't easy.  Luckily we discovered a foundry in Seattle, WA who was willing to make the mold (at no extra charge) to create the larger feet for us.

Here's the buffet that was made out of the same black walnut tree.  Aren't the turned legs gorgeous.  I have to admit that the design is a knock off of a buffet from a well know furniture company.  If you can name the manufacturer and piece I'll provide you two hours of free design services!  I'll give you one hint...their piece has a black granite top.  I opted for a creamy marble top.  The abstract painting is by Emilija Pasagic, an artist from Belgrade (formerly Yugoslavia).   A gift to myself after going part time when we started a family.

I'm a big fan of Currey and Company lighting.  So my first big lighting purchase eight years ago was this chandelier with crystal accents.  I recently added sconces to either side of the painting for additional accent lighting.

I'm also a big fan of blue and white porcelian.  Earlier this year I devoted an entire post to it which you can check out here...Blue & White Everywhere.  Here's one of my favorite Michael Smith images of blue and white.  It is so versatile.  So I've used it through out my dining room.  Coordinates nicely with the blue ceiling.

Recently, the window treatment in the dining room went through a major change.  Eight years ago I used a local designer to find me fabric for a treatment.  I had showed her my Michael Smith room and asked for a fresh floral with a creamy background.  After showing me fabrics three different times, I finally settled on something.   Not a creamy background but red.  The fabric worked ok but I was never in love with it.  Please don't ever settle!  Much prefer to have the background of fabrics match or be similar to the wall color.  I should have just waited until I found just the right fabric.  I finally decided to replace it with something I really love.  Fortunately these treatments are now in a good friend's house and they look awesome.  

I had purchased a Restoration Hardware rod above.  I was never crazy about that too.  I don't like seeing the brackets, the panels were stationary and there's nothing to provide privacy.  The window has so many lines both vertically and horizontally that using a rod just added another horizontal line making it all too busy.  So this is what I ended up with...

Actually that's Aoife who was not happy to move in order to take this shot...

Hanging the valance as high as possible helps make the eight foot walls seem taller.  A sheer linen from Pindler & Pindler was used to make panels that traverse for some privacy in the evening.  The floral print is from Schumacher, one of my all time favorite fabric companies.  A big improvement.  

Last but not least...floor coverings.  Since my fabric for the window treatments had a lot of pattern I decided to use a simple rug.  So I ordered a custom sisal like rug made of wool (so much softer to walk on and durable) that was bound in a soft black twill fabric.  I'm very happy with the rug but felt the room needed a little extra something...maybe something a little unexpected.  My very first post for this blog was on Darryl Carter.  One of my favorite rooms of his is this study with the tiger stripe rug.

So I picked up a tiger stripe rug for a very good price as a fun accent.  My mom and husband think I'm crazy but it makes me smile when I see it.  You can also see that I did go with red leather chairs, like the Michael Smith room, but with a spanish style.  They are so comfortable (in fact it's hard to get people to get up from a meal) and no worrying about spills.  

The room is almost done.  I need to start looking for a cute accent table and lamp for this wall.  

The decorating never stops...thank goodness!

I'm happy to say that I'm booked with client projects through the end of August but looking for new projects to start this fall!  Contact me soon if you want your projects completed for the holidays.  

Have a good rest of the week! 

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