I have designed several “perfect” dining rooms, since I started planning houses in my mind, when I was in perhaps the third grade. Some I struggled with for many months before I was satisfied with their dimensions, features, and colors, being aware that they were not going to efficiently do all the jobs required of them. (Some simply wouldn’t fit into the floor plans and still do what they needed to do, so had to be discarded.) Since then, I have learned a few things. One, is that there is no “perfect” room; a room is always undergoing evolution of some sort, and is not a static idea. Nonetheless, I keep reaching for finality.
When we moved into the farm house, and it kicked in that here was a house I could practically start fresh in, I was excited. I have a huge collection of pictures of decorating ideas of all kinds, and when I had sorted through these, and had picked out ones that spoke to me for this house, I had a fair idea of what I was after:
Red walls, or red-orange
Woodwork as is (probably is fir wood, cherry stained)
White or light ceiling
Sage green and fire-orange accents (unspecified)
These were a couple of my inspirations:
All that has changed several times since that decision in 2010.
At first, I tried to accommodate Will in the planning. I felt I had to take into account the fact that, since a series of min-strokes, he is practically blind in one eye, and that dark colored walls may not be acceptable. After much thought, however, I realized that he didn’t really care what the house looked like. If he did, he’d have tried harder to make sure our previous home was pleasantly maintained. As it was, in seven years he’d never made it possible even to finish painting the kitchen, and it had a well-worn look right up to the end…scarcely better than what I was starting with in this house. I decided to do exactly as I pleased, and if he didn’t like it, he didn’t have to look at it.
So I decided to try to find a retro area linoleum similar to the rose-colored poppies I currently have. I couldn’t love it more! But it is getting hopelessly worn, to the point that there is almost as much brown showing (the backing) as there are poppies.
Paint colors were still a problem, but I knew I wanted red-orange on the north wall. I found the perfect wall paper – a pattern with a brilliant red-orange background, sage-green foliage like twirling vines, and lively-looking birds that did not seem to have just flown in from the tropics. (I don’t want tropical-looking birds in the midst of my house on the plains.) Of course, by the time I scraped together the funds to purchase it, the pattern was discontinued. Plan B was another bird pattern, this one with a white background, the birds and foliage being black and silver. It will do nicely, and I feel I will remain happy with it for some years.
I can do the red-orange theme in some kind of flooring, or perhaps paint the black heating stove some wild shade. Engine enamels and wood-stove paints come in an amazing array of colors. I’m thinking of this brand:
What else? I knew I wanted birds in other ways than wallpaper. Lots of birds, because nothing is quite so lively and inoffensive as a songbird, unless it be a butterfly. I was feeling inspired by ideas such as this:
I had regretfully discarded several other ideas, such as rabbits and coffee, deciding that they simply didn’t cover all the ground I needed covered emotionally for a dining room.
I had put together a list of words and phrases that described my hopes for the “feel” of each room in my home, and the words for the dining room were:
Growth, Cheer, Nurturing and Productive Curiosity, Organization
I had listed all the things my dining room regularly gets used for, including:
- Food preparation, including meat processing in freezing weather, and processing garden produce in summer
- Cooking (on heating stove) – 2/3 of year
- Meal planning, recipe and cookbook storage
- Eating family meals, and with occasional guests
- Dishes storage and display
- Some food storage
- Formal study periods in our homeschool (Scripture study, history, science, music, art, home ec., crafts, etc.)
- Household planning, also school books organization
- Art display, both school and formal
- Watching videos and movies
- Listening to music
- Office work and writing (Will and I)
- Laundry (during winter weather) – including drying clothes near stove
- Sewing and similar
- Rock cutting and polishing
- Tool and chainsaw repair
- Care of wounded and sick critters
- Raising small batches of poultry in a box or large bucket
Clearly, organization and cleanability were paramount. Besides getting used for almost everything, it is the room that is on it’s way to practically everywhere else in the house. The floorplan of the house is fairly open, as well, requiring that areas be especially compatible in decorating feel. I had originally desired to make the dining room and adjoining living room quite different in colors, but realized this was going to feel odd, as well as cost more in paint and supplies, and in the end, decided to use different wallpapers, but the same paints on most walls and ceilings. I was going for a woodland feel…so discarded the traditional white ceiling idea. The walls of both rooms were broken up by many doorways and windows, and there wasn’t much clear space to enjoy wallpaper. Only the north walls are clear enough for this purpose.
Another thing to consider is our typical weather. For up to eight months out of each year, we have snow. Not nice, Christmas-card snow (though I’d tire even of that), but snow that is equal parts dirt, having arrived in blizzards, being driven into our yard along with topsoil from the neighboring fields. White, gray, and nondescript brown dominate. So all neutral colors were out of the question, as far as decorating was concerned. I craved something springy and vivid. Hence, the red-orange, like poppies and red-wing blackbirds, and the hearts of certain new buds.
The answer was spring yellow, and deep robin’s egg blue:
These colors go with everything in a sweetly integrated way, and so far, everyone I’ve shown the results loves it…except one friend who happened to have a migraine headache, and felt overwhelmed by the yellow.
Relaxing in this room with my favorite mug of coffee certainly makes the gray snow more bearable. I can think of strawberries, iris blooms, lilacs, meadowlarks, and baby lambs, when I contemplate my main rooms now, even when it’s -30* F. (Living room, dining room, and kitchen all partially share the new-leaf yellow and robin’s egg blue, so I get to enjoy it nearly all the time.)
I still have a ways to go to make the room everything I want it to be, and the weather has still been too cold to risk trying to hang wallpaper. (It snowed again this week, twice…though hopefully this will be the last time this spring.) I would like to make the entertainment area more efficient, less cluttered, and easier to care for. I would like to modify my set of open display shelves, to accommodate some storage drawers, a platter rack, and also glass doors. I still haven’t found anything like the right flooring to replace my linoleum…which was laid in 1928, according to the condition of the floor under it…which has never been finished at all. The first owners simply finished the hardwood around the perimeter of the linoleum.
I might go with the red-orange, as specified before, or I might pick a black-and-white pattern, maybe something like this:
It looks overwhelming on the page, and I’ll have to see how things are after I have my bird pattern wallpaper up, but I think it’s going to be lovely in action. We’ll see how things feel in a bit. I might save the black-and-white continuing theme for smaller areas, such as potted plants, thus:
It would be fun to paint up some pots similar to these (above), don’t you think? And I love the sunflowers, too. I even have a copper kettle (too dilapidated to be more than decorative) which would lend itself to this lovely idea.
That brings me to what kinds of flowers I’ll need, to compliment my birds. The roses below are inspirational:
But perhaps will not be the right item. I’m thinking, morning glories, or orange mallow flowers, or day lilies. Sunflowers are really very over done. There’s a lot to choose from there…but whatever I do, it also has to allow for Western meadowlarks, since they are my favorite songbird. There is nothing in the world quite like their liquid-sunrise music.
And of course, I’ll need some barn swallows painted on the walls of dining room and hallway (maybe living room too?) here and there, for accents and to drive home the outdoor feel of the place:
I also have a lot of figuring to do, regarding the remodeling of the understairs closet area between the dining room and hallway. I’ve chosen to split about half the space right down the middle, and make highly accessible cupboards opening off either side. (The front section, opening into the hallway, will remain a coat closet, and I want rabbits, thus:
…lining the cabinets.) This means careful re-thinking of all the uses for dining room and kitchen, too, as the kitchen needs some help, and I am planning quite a big remodeling project for it. It has great potential, but is neither easy to use nor easy to care for. So I have a stack of pictures, lists, and thoughts related to this subject, and need to let them incubate before I’ll know enough details. Finally, I want to make my school book section more refined. These products should do:
I’d love to fit this shelf in somewhere, but don’t see how that’s possible just now:
Meanwhile, I feel at last that I have a space in the dining room that I can begin to be proud of, and truly revel in.
Last, but not least, here is an inspiration for outside the windows:
My house isn’t built of brick, but I can make a similar sweet look, after a nice painting job on the exterior of the house.
Note: All paints and wallpapers have been from Sherwin-Williams, and I am very pleased with the knowledge and friendliness of their staff. The desk and file organizers, as well as the rotating book shelf, come from Levenger.
Update, June 26, 2015 –
Well! I found some chairs I love.
They are designed by a local woman, are reasonably priced, and are very complimentary to what else I have going on in my home. What do you think? (I’m not sure what the woman has available these days, as these photos were taken in August 2014, at a local fair where she was selling them.)