organizing the dining room

Marian ParsonsAll Things Home, Decorating, Dining Room, My House, Organizing23 Comments

If you’re going to join my live painting class/demo, I’ve scheduled it for Friday, April 3, 2020, at 2:00 CST.  HERE is the event in Facebook to let me know if you’re joining live.  It will be recorded and you can watch it later if you’re not able to make it.

Remember, this is just for fun.  No pressure about having all the supplies or the right supplies.  We’re just going to paint and learn.  It’ll be my first time doing a live oil painting demo, so we’ll muddle along together!

I’ve had “organize the dining room” on my to-do list for a loooong time.  Months.  It hasn’t hung out on the list because it’s a big project, it’s hard, or even that I’m avoiding it.  It’s just not that important when the mess is behind closed doors that I don’t open very often.  I only go in them when I’m setting a table, need props for a photoshoot, or I’m rearranging accessories.  If I was in and out of them all the time, they would’ve been a higher priority.

While I’m home, while we’re all home, I’m taking some time to chip away at little projects and things that have been languishing on the to-do list for a little too long.  This is also the natural time when the spring cleaning and warm-weather project itch starts to kick in, so it makes sense on a number of levels.

The thing about my messes is they normally aren’t visible.

I can’t handle clutter all over the counters and evident disarray in a space.  I’ve gotten much better at tolerating the normal mess that comes with living in a house with three other people (and animals who like to drag things around the house and deposit them in odd places), but my threshold is still pretty low.  I am much more willing to ignore messes that are behind closed doors.  I still don’t like it, but out of sight out of mind.

Here’s how the buffet looked…

You’ll see a common theme in all of these cabinets.  I just shoved stuff in wherever it would fit.

This one was the worst…

And all of them were arranged (or not arranged) in a way that it was hard to see what I had.  I believe if I can’t interact with my stuff in a meaningful way (I can actually see it and get to it when I want to use it), then I should get rid of it.  Most of this is stuff I don’t want to get rid of, because it was passed down to me, I like it, and/or I do use it often enough to justify keeping it.  So, my option is to organize it, so I can see what I have and put it to use when I need it.

I organized my table cloths, runners, and placemats in the hutch and put bulky things on the bottom shelf.

That is about a 40 lb bowl of alabaster fruit!  Most of the pieces belonged to my Oma.  She had them sitting in a bowl on her dining room table for years.  The funny thing is she started out with plastic fruit and wanted to replace them with alabaster.  My Opa, who was a child of the depression and was understandably thrifty ever since, didn’t see the value in replacing perfectly good plastic fruit.  So, she replaced them one at a time so he wouldn’t notice!  She was a collector and loved the hunt, so it’s a story that fits her perfectly…hunting for her next piece of fruit to swap out.

I found the rest at a thrift store, mixed into a bin of plastic fruit, for $.25/each.  If you’ve ever been in the market for alabaster fruit you know that is a crazy price.  They can be $20-50/each and even more for rare pieces.  I had honestly forgotten about them, since they were wedged in the back of a cabinet!  They would be good still life painting subjects.

One drawer is empty and the other one has some smaller linens (like tea towels, cocktail napkins, and bread basket liners.  I have another drawer in the living room for candles, but I put the candles in here that I typically use for tablescapes and around the holidays.

I moved all of the silver to the buffet…

Almost all of these are family pieces.  Most are monogrammed or dated.  The large silver bowl is a tennis trophy!  I think my Opa won it.  I bought the English hotel dome at an antique market.  I’ve always wanted to hang it on the wall somewhere and I’ve just never had the right spot for it!

In the butler’s pantry cabinets, I put ironstone and other white/cream pieces on one shelf and blue and white on another.

And the other cabinet is filled with fine china, my Christmas plates, cafe au lait bowls, and some other random pieces.

I don’t use the fine china very often, but I love these pieces and I do use them sometimes.  The pieces with the turquoise hand-painted border and gold rim are over 100 years old!  They belonged to my great-great-grandmother and are marked with her monogram in gold.  The dainty two-handed teacups are from Bavaria and I dug them out of my Oma’s attic.  The cream, pale blue & green pattern with the silver rim was my mom’s wedding china (a pattern by Lennox.)

I used to have a lot more china and crystal from various family members, but I had to thin it down.  It was just too much to keep packed away and it made me sad that they never saw the light of day.  The crystal was especially difficult to keep, because it was so fragile and there were so many pieces!  There was a size and shape for every drink from brandy to port.  I passed them along to people who will use them and kept just my very favorite pieces.

The drawers were already pretty well organized, but I straightened them up a bit, too…

My dining room always looks tidy when you see it, but now it’s “tidy on the inside”, too!

And, just to make you smile, here is a shot of Violet leaping through my picture…

No ironstone was broken.

If you’d like some more organization motivation, you can find more posts on cleaning and organizing HERE.

organizing the dining room

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23 Comments on “organizing the dining room”

  1. Marian,
    Oh, my goodness. . .amazing transformation!
    In the before’s,
    I cringed that some things might get broken when the doors were opened!
    The after’s now make it so~o~o easy to see what you need at a glance!
    Love the ‘quality inspector’. . .but the jump was a tad bit frightening!
    I, too have been doing Spring Cleaning within the Dining Room. . .
    mine is the wallpaper and the hanging plates. . .ah~h~h!
    Such a feeling of accomplishment!
    Thank you for always inspiring!
    Pat

  2. oh, your story about your Oma’s alabaster fruit reminded me of a story from MY family. My cousin had come to visit my grandmother, and being hungry, grabbed an apple out of the bowl on the table and took a big bite. Luckily it was plastic and not alabaster or there would have been dental bills galore!

  3. Beautiful reorganization! There’s a whole new level of peace when everything is in its right and proper place. I’d love to learn more about the alabaster fruit – how do you identify it vs. other types?

    1. It is very heavy because it’s stone and it feels cold when you hold it. They are also hand-painted, so they usually look pretty realistic. Some have wood “stems” or look like they’ve been sliced. if you do an internet search, you’ll see a bunch of pictures of different varieties. I believe they originated in Italy.

  4. Yikes! That cat has a mind of her own! It has been years since I had a young kitty in the house, but I don’t remember my Bailey ever being that energetic! She was a couch potato!

    I love to see when you have a new post. Your words are thoughtful and your photos are beautiful!

  5. Love all of your posts. The “two handled tea cups” are actually soup bowls, either for bouillion or cream soup.

    1. I’ve always wondered if they might be bowls instead, but I wasn’t sure. I know some teacups were made with no handles or two handles before the single handle became the standard. Good to know they were for soup!

  6. I was raised by my dad and we moved when I was young way out West (I’m originally from Ontario, Canada) to Southern Oregon. So, didn’t have any family here to show me cool stuff like your alabaster fruit….it looks so real!
    I have been trying to tick off projects on my list(s), too. I get a keen sense of accomplishment when I can line through a task or check it off….

  7. I enjoyed your post (as usual). You have so many beautiful pieces. I have a big, open hutch without doors that I have so many of my “nice” things displayed. However, with our recent earthquake in Utah, (and the dozens of aftershocks since) I am seriously rethinking what to put on my shelves. When the earthquake hit, I could hear all the glass rattling and it was truly a heart stopper. I would love some ideas! Other than baskets I’m stumped what I can put on my shelves that will be pretty.

    1. Wooden items would be good, small paintings could be leaned up at the back of the shelves, a stack of vintage books, a wooden bowl full of balls or yarn, moss, rag balls, just to add texture and color, small faux plants, a stack of linen tea towels or napkins ties with twine… I think there are a lot of non-breakable options!

  8. Hi Marian,
    working from home has been weird, I have not been doing all the stuff I thought I would. This post inspires me to get busy and get some stuff done! I also wanted to thank you for the continued blog posts. As someone who lives alone and is under a stay at home order, it is nice to have some familiar things to see and not feel so alone. Thanks for being kind and thanks for being an inspiration.

  9. I have a set of your mother’s china, I think… I did a double take when I saw it as they were passed down to me from my great aunt who passed away almost 20 years ago now… wow, it’s been so long. I haven’t thought of her in a long time. They’re still in a box because I don’t have a place to put them. I was hoping to use my grandfather’s secretary for them but it doesn’t fit plates very well… so I’ll be hunting for a buffet or a step back cupboard when things hopefully get back to normal as I’d like to take them out of their box one day…maybe put them with my grandparent’s wedding crystal- it’s engraved with a lovely floral/leaf pattern and very delicate and also in a box, Thank you for sharing!

  10. The two handled bowls are cream soup bowls. They typically are used with a “liner” underneath which is like a saucer but maybe 1/4″ larger in diameter.

  11. Thanks for showing us the cupboard bit of clutter. I agree with the 2 comments about the 2 handled soup bouillion bowls. I had just learned that on a estatesale mn auction sight. I peeked at your stack of unmatched blue/white plates. My stash is similar & oh, would never part with them. Sometimes I move a couple of plates to a bookcase, the blogs call it “shopping the house”. When we can’t thrift or antique, we must resort to these methods. We are all trying to find new ways to enjoy life simply. I gave away 2 sets of china that I used infrequently, I do enjoy the beauty and the art of the old pieces, the many unique serving pieces. There is art to setting a table, it used to be demonstration 4H event. It was very unlike the tablescapes of the bloggers of today.

  12. Enjoyed the post and seeing your treasures. Like you, my exteriors look pretty neat, but the interiors are overcrowded. I have always been a sucker for a pretty plate, delicate cup and saucer and anything bedecked with flowers, so too many orphaned dishes live here. Adding to the mix are pieces I inherited from my family and my husband’s folks. Now would be a good time to shake it all out and
    prepar to downsize.

  13. I have the same Lenox China as your mum … I got mine in 1962. Its called Musette by Lennox,. I display it in our built in china cabinet. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Love the before and the after pictures. Unfortunately my buffet looks like your before. You’ve inspired ( shamed ;)) me into dealing with it! I love your silver and the china. I’ve bought a lot of silver at yard sales lately. Great Job!

  15. Wow! I have a similar tea set in the pattern of the two handled cups! My mom is from Cuxhaven ,Germany and these were a gift from her mother.
    I have never seen a similar set before.

  16. Marian, even your disarray is pretty because the items themselves are so lovely! I’m sad to hear you don’t use that beautiful room more often. When I saw in my email that this was a dining room post, I thought “Oh, she must love spending time in that special room!”
    Maybe you can treat yourself to a cup of tea there once in a while. More being, less doing. Wishing you and your family continued and abundant good health!

  17. Hi Marian!
    It feels so good to spontaneously straighten up my cupboards, closets, and drawers .. things are shaping up at my house too. Your beautiful items are highlighted by being orderly.
    Stay well,
    Cynthia

  18. I’m completely smitten with all your lovelies! The alabaster fruit is amazing, looks as real as if it were just picked from the tree. Can’t wait to see that in a still life. What are the cute little alpine fellas wearing lederhosen next to the black & wht checked napkins? I styled the kitchen bakers rack my vintage milk glass, some my brother and I bought our mom in the later 50s, & a small mustard pot w/wooden paddle from our years in France, etc & was telling my husband over dinner about their provenance when he said those memories will die w/me if I don’t write them down for the kids and grands. Now yours are written down, thanks for sharing.

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