The Retreat | Dining Room, Study & Foyer

by | Nov 11, 2015 | All Things Home, Decorating, Room Makeovers, Secret Weapons | 16 comments

I’ve spent most of the last few days at home with a sick boy.  My youngest has strep throat, poor little guy.  He’s on antibiotics now, though, and is finally on the upswing.

Several days at home, away from the studio, squeezing work in where it fits, doesn’t get me very good blog material.  Fortunately, I still have pictures of The Retreat to share.

In case you missed my initial post about it, The Retreat is a manor house in Virginia that was built in 1799.  We did a photo shoot there for our second look book and it was an absolute dream day.

It’s hard to even call this space a “foyer” with a straight face.  You would at least have to use the fancy pronunciation.  It’s basically a room all on its own with a grand staircase and magnificent woodwork.

I’ve never see the inside of a front door that is so impressive.

The foyer also has a side entrance, the stairs, a doorway to the study, which I’ll show in a minute, and to the living room.


The living room is where we shot the MMSMP Schloss dresser.  The light in that room was so beautiful.  That’s one thing about old homes…they were built to take advantage of the light.  Even the old part of our house, that was built in the 1940’s, is perfectly situated to get the best light throughout the day.

The study is a smaller, cozy space that still feels grand, but more intimate.

Here’s how it looked before…

The room is furnished with, what I would consider, antiquities and oddities…things that made you want to lean in and explore.  Natural elements mixed with old books and found objects.

One thing I took away from the decor at The Retreat was scale.  Suzanne, the owner (also the owner of Lucketts), bought furniture that was large enough to fill these grand, high-ceilinged spaces.


We shot a dresser painted in Mora in the study.  It fit perfectly in one of the doorways.  Since it was a smaller dresser, it looked best nestled in this recess.  And, let’s face it, those doors made an amazing backdrop.

The study opens up to a small hallway with a back staircase and through to the dining room.

The dining room was one of my favorites.  The creamy paneled walls and the partly stripped trim that was still holding onto a hint of green paint stole my heart.

I hope to use this same look in my own house somewhere along the line.  Not my current house, but some house.  Some day.


So, most of us don’t have a house that looks anything like a 1799 manor.  I was a little nervous about that fact when we were shooting there for the look book.  I don’t want our furniture pieces, in such grand surroundings, to feel like they aren’t relatable.

I’ve learned though, after years of looking at spaces that are far nicer than I could afford, that there are always decorating take-aways.

Here are some I gathered while shooting the space…


You can use any colors on any budget.  I love how Suzanne chose a fairly monochromatic color palette for the house.  Each room has a different paint color, but all of the taupes, grays, beiges, blues and whites flow together and create a sophisticated atmosphere.


I loved the fact that they left the stripped woodwork alone, left imperfections in the plaster and didn’t make everything look new and perfect.  This house is old and they let it be old and its the better for it.  You can use that same philosophy on antique furniture, textiles, etc.  Don’t stress about the stains, scratches, gouges, repairs and other “flaws”.  Those are signs of a life well lived.


I already mentioned this one.  Scale is so important when you’re furnishing a space.  I can’t tell you how often I see huge, overstuffed furniture wedged in a small room or, the opposite, a huge room with small furnishings and tiny wall art.  Proper scale is what makes a vast room feel cozy and comfortable or a small room feel ample.


This is another thing I see a lot…spaces that are overdone, overthought, over styled and over decorated.  I’m sure I’m guilty of that very thing, too!  It’s easy to do.  These spaces felt collected and arranged, but not contrived.  The dining room had mis-matched slipper chairs.  The accessories were all loosely placed.  Not everything was symmetrical, perfectly spaced or balanced, but it all felt right.

I hope you found a few take-aways in these photos as well!

For more inspiration, check out the before & after pictures of the kitchen.


  1. antiquechase

    Lots of eye candy here.. Very fun post. Marcy

  2. Sian

    I’m amazed at how thick (deep) the doorways are with the paneled wood work on the top and sides! So impressive and beautiful. Thanks for the pictures.

  3. dolores

    Went to the open house Suzanne had earlier this year and our mouths stayed open the whole time! Top to bottom that place is amazing as is it’s location!:)

    Your photos totally do it justice!! Great job!!

  4. Lisa

    Beautiful! Would it be possible to find out the paint colours that were used for the walls? I LOVE that it’s not all white on white on white!

  5. Marlene Stephenson

    Thanks for sharing was fun to go through this wonderful house.

  6. Erin Rizzo

    So beautiful. I have to ask, is that dining room table from RH? Looks like it to me.

  7. Sylvia

    The house is magnificent. Your blog is my absolutely favorite one. But, let’s call this house what it is… a plantation house. Manor houses were in Europe in medieval times when a manor was a territory of land controlled by (usually) one family. This house was the home of the family who owned the plantation. This is a part of American history. Period. Yes, this your blog and you can call this plantation house anything you’d like. I think you are avoiding calling it what it truly is out of concern of offending someone. I will not be surprised nor upset when other readers react negatively to my comment.

  8. Julie

    Everything looks great. Clean and peaceful, I wish my house looked just like it. Did you make the dining room chair covers? Is there a tutorial ? Hope your son gets well soon. Thanks

  9. Debbie

    Oooooweeeee!! That’s beautiful!

  10. Cindy

    This place is just amazing. … and i loved your “takeaways” list…


  11. Naomi S.

    What a beautiful and inspiring place. It looks like you might have decorated it, Marian! I would never have tho’t that woodwork less than completely stripped of its paint would look so appealing, but it does. I’m curious to know how many sq. ft. the house has; do you know? It is a great place to show off your work. Thanks for sharing all the beautiful photos.

    Just in closing–I don’t understand why anyone would be offended by calling this house a plantation house if that is what it is. Yes, there were slaves owned by plantation owners; we all know that. But that was yesteryear and this is now. Despite the fact that we still have many racial issues unresolved in this country, we do not have slavery. Let’s not stay stuck in the past and be offended by history, but rejoice in the fact that we, as a country, have legally ended the practice of treating other people like possessions for our own gain. End of rant.

  12. Carrie Schindler Schwab

    Such an inspiring space – thanks for continuing to share the photo – I love it!

  13. Anita Diaz

    Wow, I am just in awe of all the woodwork. It makes the house look fresh and new, but still keep and respect the historical character. It’s just an amazing space and so beautifully decorated. Wow.

  14. Anna-Ruth (ART) Murphy

    This is my dream place!

  15. linda

    Love it! I always wanted a home like that. Now I love my simple farm house and as I look at the trim that needs painting I am thinking can I just sand it? I have loved the washed wood look for years! Don’t know it Jim would go for it. Thanks for sharing. Glad your little guy is getting better. Seems like sick kids have come early this year. One of mine is sick too. Linda


Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…

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