Toni’s beautiful but boring dining room | Decorating Dilemmas

Marian ParsonsAll Things Home, Decorating, decorating dilemmas70 Comments

This post has been in my drafts for mooooooonths.  That means a long time!  For some reason, I just kept feeling like it wasn’t enough.  I needed to put together a cohesive and completed design before this would be ready to post and that’s just not the case!  These Decorating Dilemma posts aren’t about me working as an interior designer for a client, but rather giving a reader some opinions and ideas about their space.  When I frame it in those terms, I don’t have to have any answers, but just a few suggestions.  And I certainly have that for this dining room; at least enough to get this post out of draft purgatory.

So, here we go…

“This is my boring dining room. I love my custom farmhouse table and Ethan Allen buffet but the room is blah.  There is not much natural light (windows have plastic on outside right now due to painters outside).  I just don’t know where else to go with this room.  I live in a front porch community in Texas and it is a lovely neighborhood.  Any suggestions are sure welcome!”

-Toni

This room really stood out for me for a couple of reasons…  No. 1 – I think this is a very typical dining room situation.  Put a table and a buffet in there and then…Well, what more can you do?  No. 2 – This dining room has those high windows, which are such a cool architectural element but are not as easy to decorate around as traditional windows.  No. 3 – This dining room has great bones!  It just needs some oomph.

What I love about this space…

As I said, it has great bones.  The trim is fantastic, I love the transom window, and I think the table is beautiful!  I also like the putty-colored trim with the off-white walls.  I think it’s soft and pretty.

Because I think this room could go a few different directions, I’m going to make a couple of different suggestions for adding a wow-factor.

Before that, let’s talk about editing.  The elements that feel “off” to my eye are the curtains, the style of the chandelier, and the scale of the buffet/accessories.

I would suggest just removing the curtains.  They are not needed for privacy or light control and I think they detract from the casings around the windows.   I’m guessing Toni put them there to add some color, texture, and pattern, but we’ll talk about some more impactful ways to add those elements.

I would reconsider the chandelier.  I say “reconsider” because Toni might l-o-v-e that chandelier.  If she loves it, that’s enough.  Keep it.  From a strict design perspective, it looks a bit modern compared to the style of the house.  Now, that can be a fun juxtaposition, but since everything else has a traditional feel, I think it stands out.  So, I’ll offer a few suggestions on that.  (I heard from Toni on this and she does NOT like the chandelier.)

I think the buffet is a beautiful piece, but the scale of it feels a little off because of the height of the ceilings and the large expanse of wall.  I don’t think we need to move that piece out but look at some ways we can make the scale work better.

 

Oomph Idea No. 1 | Beef up the buffet with architectural elements 

I think the buffet is sized right when it comes to the footprint of the piece, but as I mentioned above, the scale looks a little off.  I had this same issue in my master bedroom.  Space was limited due to a traffic path and the placement of an air return vent, so I used a smaller piece with open legs but beefed up its presence by adding an architectural element (the shutters) expanded even more by the plates flanking it.  It’s about presence, not about size.

Oomph Idea No. 2 | hang wallpaper to add pattern & depth

I love the idea of adding some pattern to these walls.  It can be as subtle as tone-on-tone stripes or dramatic as a landscape mural.  It will help visually fill the space without crowding the room with furniture.

Oomph Idea No. 3 | Add built-ins under the windows

While the windows are a cool architectural element, they are a little awkward to decorate around.  They take up the space where you would typically hang art.  This is one reason I think wallpaper would work nicely, but I can also see shallow built-ins underneath the windows to display dishes, stack folded napkins, etc.

As far as the chandelier, I would suggest replacing it with something more traditional.  Of course, I am a fan of brass and crystal chandeliers.  I have six of them in my house!  (The style I collect is called a “pineapple chandelier.”)  But, I can also see a simple colonial-style brass chandelier in the space as well.  I would stay away from anything too modern and cool finishes like satin nickel and pure white.  I would lean towards traditional fixtures in warm finishes, like brass and bronze.

Toni, I’m sorry this took so long, but I hope you gathered a few ideas from this post that would inject some character into your lovely dining room.

Does anyone have any other ideas to add?  I always love your suggestions, too!

Toni’s beautiful but boring dining room | Decorating Dilemmas

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70 Comments on “Toni’s beautiful but boring dining room | Decorating Dilemmas”

  1. Wainscoting, with wallpaper or a mural above it, perhaps? And maybe a longer rug (if the space will accommodate it),with some color/pattern if the wall treatment is subtle, or keeping a neutral texture if the wallpaper or mural is lively

  2. I would consider a traditional medallion style rug in lighter colors to brighten up the room. Also reupholstering the chair seat cushions with a lighter color would also bring more light into the room. I think board and batten walls on the lower two thirds of the wall could also add a wow factor. Maybe moving two of the chairs from the table to either side of the buffet could help to give the buffet more visual weight. Whatever Toni chooses to do will be beautiful.

    1. These were my exact thoughts too Kathy except for the lighter upholstery. I hadn’t thought of that. It’s such a great idea! I also agree that whatever Toni chooses will be beautiful.

  3. The one thing that stood out to me was the mirror, I love mirrors but it looks like a bedroom mirror to me. Maybe find a different mirror for above the buffet?

    1. I completely agree that the mirror smacks of bedroom. Also, you might consider removing the curtains altogether and do an accent wallpaper on that window wall. And DEFINITELY a drippy antique chandelier over your LOVELY table and chairs!!!

  4. I agree remove the curtains. What about putting the buffet under the window and then the windows become the height that is needed for scale. You also have more length in the room than width so it might make more sense to put the furniture lengthwise. That opens up the side walls for all the decorating ideas–either wallpaper, hanging things, etc

    1. I agree with your idea of moving the buffet under the windows, especially if money is an issue. Then a mural wall paper on the long wall gives a focal point without taking up any floor space.
      Painting the chairs off white would lighten things up.

    2. I definitely agree with moving buffet to under the windows. Use a sheer fabric in a treatment style you like. I am particularly fond of the sheer tie ups MMS has. If you move the buffet it will give more room for art and maybe some kind of cabinet.

    3. Yes, put the buffet under the windows after removing the curtains. Put the mirror somewhere else. Use that now empty space for a gallery wall. Find a decorative glass/stained glass piece to hang in the center window. Her table is fabulous.

      1. I still like the idea of a mirror in the space, but maybe round or oval or an interesting shape like Marion uses sometimes. I agree about moving the buffet under the window

  5. I agree with Mary. Different mirror, move buffer under windows. And still possibly add some built ins on either side, or where buffet used to be.
    Lovely room! I think crystal chandelier would be lovely!

    1. I agree with Mary and Eve about moving the buffet, or if you keep it in the same place move the vanity mirror over the buffet out of the room and replace with a taller, more important piece. A trumeau mirror might be nice.

      1. What a fun project pallet! Such a great room. Love the idea of putting the buffet under the window and stage with a summer white cake plate and “buffet” things .
        How about some bright seat cushions for a spot of easily changed color? Coordinate with table runner and a spot of same color on the buffet to tie it all together . This could be done in several light blended neutral shades or even seasonally.
        I have a rug addiction so highly recommend a fun bright rug. These are also easily changed out to other rooms when you need a change.

    2. Agree different chandy, remove window treatments, different mirror and I also think the top of buffet could be restyled. Consider one lamp rather than two. A tray large enough to hold a lamp plus two other items would be a possibility with something of equal visual weight on the other side instead of the second lamp. Or put the tray with counterbalance items opposite end of lamp. Feels like the visual proportion and what I call “surface rhythm” are out of sync on the buffet. Wallpaper could be a lovely addition to replace the pattern and texture that are lost with removal of the window treatments. Lots of potential in this room! Feels like it could be a very inviting cozy space.

  6. Remove the curtains and build a plate rack – wainscoting- around the room! Hang plates under the windows on that plate rack…. those windows are awkward. That’s where the architecture elements need to be emphasized…

  7. Thanks for sharing! Might just be the photo angles but the curtains and windows make the room look long and narrow. That wall/trim paint combo suites more modern styling I think and in such a traditionally styled room it blends rather than being an architectural feature. I suggest painting the crown the same colour as the ceiling and choose a slightly darker colour for the walls, which will help the room appear wider and balance the windows. A floor lamp in one corner by the window will spread light up, and the pineapple chandelier sounds good.

  8. My first thought was to move the buffet under the windows. A mural similar to Marion’s could look really cool along with the buffet on that wall making the scene thru the windows flow into the mural.
    Maybe someway to lighten/brighten the chairs……? The light fixture is really neat but I think too change it out to something bringing sparkle.
    Great space and great pieces to work with…..fun.

  9. All of the above sound great! I would also move the plates to the top of the windows when the curtains are removed. I do like the chandelier but sparkle would be better here.

  10. I like Marion’s ideas and would add a few from one Toni to another –
    The buffet and mirror look like part of a bedroom set. If the mirror is there to reflect light, consider antique mirror on a whole wall.
    Try paneling under the windows to make them milkwort and built in.
    Consider bookshelves on the side wall
    Consider wall paper or color on the ceiling.
    :).

  11. I too have a dark dining room so I understand the desire for more light but I think the lamps are way to heavy and big for the buffet and detract from that beautiful mirror. I think wall sconces on either side of the buffet would be awesome along with your recommendations Marian. The shelving under the window is a great idea and it looks like the corners are deep enough for corner cabinets at each end of the shelves. Or corner shelves with a window seat with storage in between. The corner shelves could be lighted which would also help.

  12. These are always so much fun. If it were my room I would…find three mirrors the same size as the windows and butt them to the bottoms of the windows to give the illusion of double hung windows. Keep the dummy drapes. Implement Marion’s suggestions of thin profile shelves under the windows and classic chandelier. I would replace the mirror over the buffet with a beautiful piece of art, roughly the same size as existing mirror. And repurpose the lamps elsewhere in the home. Good luck .

  13. I would add wall sconces to the buffet wall. It would bring some needed light as well as freeing up the buffet.

  14. I like the idea of the board & batten wall with a plate rack/wide molding on top. I’m having trouble seeing so much wood and I think it needs some softening. May I suggest a fabric settee either under the window or where the buffet is. Remove the 2 middle chairs.

  15. I enjoy these “dilemma” posts very much. Who can’t relate to feeling bored with or stuck with a room or area that needs someone else’s input? I like all of your suggestions, esp the one about the built ins below the window, Marian. And wallpaper, perhaps grass cloth, or a mural to add visual interest and color and/or texture would be terrific.

  16. I think high wainscotting that finishes under the windows would make them look less awkward. It would look more intentional. I am not a fan of dummy drapes although I love the fabric. I have the same fabric in my home. A nice wallpaper could then go over the wainscotting. I think a large rectanglular mirror over the buffet would look nice and then put the plates on one side of the mirror with more plates or a piece of art on the other side. I would put the chairs that don’t match the set on either side of the buffet. I agree a more traditional chandelier would look nicer with the lovely table. Have fun and good luck. I would love to see the finished room.

  17. Oh, yes. The curtains must come down and the plates must go up. Move the buffet under the windows. All great and easy suggestions. Wouldn’t it be fun, after these suggested changes are made, if someone with good camera equipment and professional lighting to go in and take some after shots? I’d love to see this room transformed.

  18. I love the wallpaper or mural idea. I would also remove the mirror. And the two lamps.. If it is possible, I would move the buffet to the windows, remove curtains and turn the table? To offset the look of ‘narrow’?… Maybe add an oval mirror? Sconces? And brighten the chair seating.

  19. This room has many pretty elements and doesn’t need a lot to make it sing, in my opinion.
    I agree that moving buffet under the windows is a great move. And flanking it with two chairs from the table will settle it there and give the table more breathing room.
    I would consider a console table along the wall where the buffet used to be, long enough to look substantial against that wall and not quite as deep as the buffet so the table still has comfortable walking space around it. Put two matching lamps on the console table to provide more light and interest, ensuring they are tall and skinny enough to be out of the way when it is used as more buffet surface (can you tell that’s my favourite way to entertain!) and one big creamy coloured bowl in the middle. Over this console, a large piece of art or a collection of framed pieces (not too small) in your favourite colours would add interest and make a pretty view from the kitchen. If the console has a lower shelf, one or three large items could be displayed there—two vases and a big bowl for example—making sure they are pieces you love.
    A standing lamp might be helpful if the room feels gloomy during the day—having many sources of light allows you to enjoy what’s it the room. Last, I would focus on ensuring all the additions are light coloured—e.g. creamy whites and a mixture of reflective (glass, ceramic) and soft textures (upholstery, maybe wallpaper). The dark furniture will look great with it. Shop your house for favourite things that are tucked away or purchase a couple of new lamps etc to freshen it up. Have fun!

  20. if there is no floor above i would add a skylight to properly fix the light issue. if not possible i would embrace the cocoon feel and paint darker

  21. 1. I really like the idea of adding built-ins below the window to sort of ground them. It would also provide a space to store beautiful items and have them conveniently located for use in your dining room. (Think about Marian’s Butler’s Pantry!)
    2. I also saw where somebody suggested adding panels – I think that might work as well. Why not do something similar to board and batten or panels that would be relative in height to that suggested built-in? You could go with a light paint color for the architecture you add and a darker color for above to really highlight the moulding.
    3. Marian made suggestions about the light fixture and I think the idea of lightening up and making it more airy and open is a good one.
    4. Finally, have you considered using paint to unify or coordinate items there in your space? And since you have some symmetry going on with your lamps and the mirror, you already have a start for the platters to hang on either side of that!
    I hope you will share an ‘after’ to show what you actually do with your space!

  22. Maybe moving the cute plates above each window after wallpaper. I love the wallpaper idea or a soft farmhouse paint to frame the windows and add a touch of color.

  23. Ha. Thought of something more to add:
    Put the 2 small middle chairs on the ends of the table. They make the table look off scale. Or add some soft fabric covered chairs just on the ends of the table and leave the original chairs in the middle, but removing the small chairs at the dining room table and putting them next to the buffet to elongate it a bit.

  24. Maybe some board and batten with a plate rail that comes to a few inches below those high windows? Soft color or wallpaper above the board and batten. Add some plates or artwork on either side of the buffet. I agree with switching out the chandelier and maybe the buffet lamps too? And when all else fails, I always at a big potted palm tree to the corner!

  25. Personally, I like the curtains. A different mirror would be great. I think the idea of tone on tone wallpaper, painted stripes or just a nice contrasting paint would improve things dramatically. I would like a nice large piece of artwork under the windows. I don’t hate the chandelier, in fact, I kind of like it. I like how it mimics the shape of the table. I’ll bet it has a nice glow when turned on. With this said, my taste and style is eclectic.

  26. Or put the buffet under the windows with extra chairs or potted plants in either side. Mirror where it is with a shelf under it.

  27. I agree with the suggestion of moving the buffet under the window. I also think some upholstered chairs either on the ends or all chairs would help to break up all the wood. Maybe a rug layered over the carpet. Just my non-professional opinion.

  28. So many good ideas! A beautiful bay window would solve a multitude of problems, but that is not an inexpensive fix. I like the idea of board & batten. Take down the drapes & use the fabric for cushions to go on top of the rattan. Add a lovely chandelier, antique mirror and traditional Persian rug. Flanking the buffet with 2 of the chairs would look lovely. Two candlestick lamps might work better on the buffet. I hope we get to see the finished product!

  29. Lots of good ideas from Marian and the rest of you. As in most traditional dining rooms there seem to be too many matching chairs. I would put an upholstered bench on one long side of the table and a simple upholstered chair at each end. I would take away the wall-hung plates. A large painting above the buffet would add some much needed depth and a focal point.

  30. While I’m putting in my two cents worth, I’d also add a much airier centerpiece, perhaps just a fern trimmed so some light passes through it. I’d also use lamps with less bulk. I’d also buy a lottery ticket and win to pay for it all!

  31. I’m sure I am in the minority, but I like the buffet, curtains and light. I would invest in a much bigger window. I also liked the idea of replacing the mirror with an architectural element. I would be in favor of paint over wallpaper. Maybe add a large plant. Just my two cents 🙂

    1. Those were all great ideas. I can see it in my minds eye after those tweaks and it looks great! Come to my house next😀. Come during the winter cause Florida is
      much warmer than you house!

    2. I agree with you Lori, put in french doors, or a slider, or a much larger window! Keep the drapes and pick up on one of the colors in the fabric, maybe the red tone and paint the buffet. Take the mirror down and add a large colorful painting instead. Move the plates to a vertical small wall by the kitchen. The chandelier shape should be rectangular like the table, but I like the casual feel of the one she has, as it looks nice with the rug. Would it be possible to hang two of them over the table? Is the rug a jute type? I love the look of a jute rug as they make the room feel updated and fresh.

    3. I changed my mind about the two light fixtures as I now see that this one Is oval, and has crystals, It looked like a round basket weave rush shade on my device screen, when I first saw it. So keep the light fixture, it adds a nice updated look. I also agree that the lamps look a bit heavy for the size of the dresser buffet, so maybe just one as it is a nice style with the casual feel.

  32. Roman shades instead of the curtains starting at the ceiling and dropped down to top of windows to look like larger windows OR plantation shutters for windows with plates hung above windows. Curtains MUST go. (sorry!)

  33. Curtains should go. Also, I agree that the mirror makes the dresser look like it belongs in a bedroom. I would change it and possibly put tall architectural pieces on either side to beef it up.

  34. If she has room – can she lose the trio mirror and move buffet under the windows??
    The curtains don’t look right in that space – I wouldn’t have any curtains. Or if you must – would short plantation shudders work??

    Love the idea of board and batten for some interest without being too “busy.”

    I like those high windows. They are usually used for privacy – they’re usually used when a home is right next to another – seeing it a lot in newer homes right now – beats seeing the siding of another house right up against yours.

  35. Board and batten around the room with a height that ends right under the windows. Remove drapes for more light. I’d love to see color in the room. To me the chairs are screaming to be a colorful blue. Then put a blue and yellow wallpaper above the wainscoting. Fresh wide striped seat covers. Paint mirror blue. Use sconces or smaller lamps for scale. Light natural weave rug would lighten the room also.

  36. Move the buffet under the window is a great idea. Remove the curtains. Easy fixes! Begin layering the room with accessories and fabric will bring this room to fabulous. Once. the buffet is moved, that wall is freed up for art, accessories or a different mirror. Continue to the next phase with lighting changes. The lamps seem too heavy and the shades are wrong size. Like everyone else, change that chandler! Then add some texture and color. Art or wall accessories add depth and dimension. I do like bringing in some nature through flowers or greenery too. Another possibility is changing wall color like to a soft blue or green or a bolder color would lift the room out of bland shadows. Changing chair covers is another way to bring texture and layers to the room. Have fun!!

  37. These posts are my favorite! Your ideas and all the readers comments are great. Have we seen the finished rooms on any of these posts? Would love to see the outcome.

  38. What if you had pretty fabric Roman shade for each window, but have them start much higher to make the windows appear larger.
    Loose the mirror and have buffet style smaller lamps
    And use the plates over the buffet.
    And a more open light fixture.
    Use two chairs on right left of buffet when not in use perhaps pretty fabric tie cushions on the chairs.

  39. Great ideas. Definitely remove the curtains. I think the buffet needs to be a bit taller to mimic the height underneath the windows. Or keep the buffet, move the mirror up and maybe add a horizontal mirror underneath it or some other architectural element. Maybe more mirrors with interesting shapes on the buffet wall since it’s dark in the room. Maybe continue bookcases under the windows to the buffet wall so it’s cohesive. Wainscoting or a plate/picture rail all around the room, starting at the height of the bottom of the window casing would look great.

  40. I would move the buffet under the windows a longer one would be better so that 2 lamps can be accommodated. Hang a large horizontal mirror over it. Paint a mural on the wall to the left. Paint the table and chairs. Recover the seats with a lovely fabric. Add a large fabulous chandelier above the table.

  41. Additional thoughts. Or bench seating taking away all but 2 chairs. Make sure your chandelier is large and different. Place a large sisal rug underneath table. Add plants in the corners where drapes were or … one to the right of the buffet and start your hand painted mural at left of buffet now placed under windows. Additionally I would think about replacing your windows with something like French doors to let more light in. That’s all I’ve got for now 😉

  42. Here are some thoughts:
    Moving the buffet under the window may make the space tight and cause the light fixture to be off balance over the table. It may be wiser to add furniture such as shelves or a narrow console under the windows or as suggested, a bench.
    Keep the windows as they look like they are a vintage feature in an arts and crafts style home, but lose the curtains.
    Lose the bedroom mirror as well, but replace it with something lighter such as a lightly painted wood, or my preference would be gold.
    I agree with Lisa P. that the lamps should be buffet style pieces, tall and slender.
    Wallpaper, wainscoting, mural or contrasting paint are all good suggestions. I would add more reflective items to bounce light such as glass, crystal, metal and light colors. Consider a runner with metallic threads.
    Lose the light fixture and add a more traditional chandelier in a gold or brass finish. LED light bulbs could add a lot of illumination, but sconces and candlesticks help as well.

  43. I did a basic interior design course this year. I see potential for lots of changes. The big one….change up that area rug!! It gets lost ….need something lighter and of interest.

  44. Everything together makes the room long and tunnel-like. Possibly: remove the curtains and do a roman shade that hangs from the ceiling molding; put the chest on the far end, under the windows; invest in a round table rather than the rectangle, get a different chandelier; lighten things up through paint or fabric.

  45. We had windows like this in the two bedrooms in our house when we moved in 4 years ago. Being under 5feet, I could not cope with not being able to see out and we replaced them with double hung windows. My rooms are filled with light and I love it. I would also suggest using the material in the curtains to make seat cushions and maybe a matching table runner if she likes the fabric. I agree with the suggestion of replacing the mirror, but if cost is an issue, perhaps painting it would work.
    So many great suggestions from everyone.

  46. Hi,

    Is that a mural in your dining room or a mural–it is absolutely gorgeous. If a mural, where could I purchase it. Thx much

    Donna

  47. I absolutely love your suggestions Marian! Especially the mural on the walls. It would give a sense of depth and open up the space. In addition to your suggestions of changing the chandelier out I would probably consider moving the additional lighting on the buffet out and consider instead sconces on the wall if lighting is an issue. Looking forward to one day getting some tips for my home from you. You’ve got this Toni! Looking forward to seeing your room, whatever you decide.

  48. I love all of Marian’s ideas. I would try moving the buffet under the window as she suggested. I think leaving curtains, but have a pretty rod that extends across that entire wall for unity of the windows, and maybe do a small print curtain (think check, gingham, or vertical stripe) and def keep curtains pushed to the corners. Then maybe a monochromatic wallpaper on the long wall (toile, maybe?) with a large mirror or simple plate wall (one color
    Plates ?). I would paint the other walls a light color or maybe a lighter version of the color used in the wallpaper print. I’m sure whatever you settle on will be beautiful and hope to see the “after” pic! Best wishes!

  49. I agree with taking down the curtains. And I love the idea of a really fun patterned wallpaper. What a lovely room and it’s going to be even better!

    PS. I know that your chandelier doesn’t really go with your decor but I am in love with it I wish I lived near you and I would snap it up in a minute!!

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