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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:

Orange Dining Room 2  Orange Dining Room 1

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.

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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:

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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:

March9-May3 2014 228  Nov10-Jan21 2014 231

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.

March9-May3 2014 338 March9-May3 2014 394

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
  • Socializing
  • 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:

Aug10-21, 2014 655   Copy of Aug10-21, 2014 763

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:

May4-June18 2014 333

 

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:

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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:

May4-June18 2014 246

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:

Aug.28-Sep.2, 2014 231   Aug.28-Sep.2, 2014 242

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:

Attic2 (2)

…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:

Desk File Organizer  Clear File Envelopes

I’d love to fit this shelf in somewhere, but don’t see how that’s possible just now:

Turntable Book Shelf

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:

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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.

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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.)

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August, 2014 – Painting the Walls and Ceiling –

As you can see, I finally got my dining room painted. A long-time internet friend whom I’d never met came with his girlfriend in July, for a long visit. It was the nicest time I’d had in years, and provided a much-needed lift to my soul. Richard hates to come to anyone’s home empty-handed, so had asked me what sort of gift I’d prefer. He was thinking about a sword, since we both enjoy weapons, and have done some collaborations on fantasy and sci-fi stories. I told him this would be wonderful…but what seemed more necessary is paint for my house. I had already researched the possibilities, and so the trip to the paint store was an easy and pleasant one.

Much plaster and electrical work needed to be done before painting could begin:

Much of the updating of electricity in the house had already been done, but some things needed tweaked, and we added a couple light fixtures. Billy, above, learned quite a bit about electrical installation techniques and plaster repair from a grandfather with much experience.

Next came the painting itself:

Here are the results:

Copy of Aug10-21, 2014 763Since the painting was finished, the house has been cheerful even in dark winter. Also, the walls are a breeze to wash now, and I can sponge-mop the ceiling in 15 minutes, eliminating smoke build-up from the wood fires.

I left the north wall bare for now, as it is going to be wallpapered. The trickiest part of the whole painting process was measuring to get the blue background (same shade as the ceiling) just so behind my set of shelves, without its sticking out beyond the shelves, but not leaving a yellow rim inside, either. (The house is nowhere near square or level.) I am very pleased with it. I have many blue-themed dishes, and it suits just right. I am thinking of repeating this effect in the kitchen cupboards, but am not sure yet. I’ll think on it a bit.

(The bookshelf near the stove was moved before we used the stove again in the early fall.)

November 27, 2014 – Picture and Project Wall –

Nov.12-Jan15 2015 307This is part of our homeschooling method. It is our “bulletin board” for all kinds of things – famous speeches and portraits; maps; Scripture verses to memorize; anything that helps with planning art projects (such as the printouts of willow trees, which I am studying for a mural elsewhere); and animals that are beautiful or fascinating. Also, sometimes, we add things that are on our to-do lists – rockets to build, flowers to plant, special foods to try. It is a lot of fun, and many of the pictures get changed every two weeks or once a month, so there is always plenty of variety. I make a point of adding poetry, too, and information on the arts, as we all enjoy exploring many fields of thought.

Autumn Leaf Project –

I had read in an old kindergarten projects book that one could take preserved leaves, and make decorations by ironing them between sheets of waxed paper. So early in the year – the preceding Christmas, in fact, we had begun to save leaves, pressing them between paper towels in various large books. The kids collected throughout the spring and summer any leaves which caught their fancy, and when fall came around, we had a good selection from which to choose. I took ordinary sheets of waxed paper, arranged the leaves however it seemed good (with the kids’ input), laid another sheet on top – waxiest sides together, as the two sides of the paper are not identical – and went over them briefly with a medium-hot iron. They tape to the windows easily with Scotch tape. In bright sunlight, the arrangements look like stained glass. At night, they become opaque, but are still interesting.

When we were finished with the arrangements, toward late winter (it is essential to have colorful things up during the darkest part of the year), we laid them away in a box, ready for another time.

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This is the wall that started it all. We call it the Picture Wall – an honoured title, not a description, you will understand.

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My sister and I began painting this wall, at our mother’s, the week our paternal grandfather died, in 2004.

Christa had carried ideas for this painting for at least two years, and when we got together for the funeral, she sketched out the basic shapes, and went ahead with the solid yellow and shiny black sections.

She and I had talked about doing this together, even though I had never bothered to paint in this manner. But I had done much graphite drawing, and thought I’d go ahead and try my hand at something else.

After seeing my first attempt with acrylics, random16-014Christa agreed we should work together.

So by afternoon, we had a waist high stone wall, the yellow sky, mountains, and thoughts of knotty and ancient willows, and dragon flies. The picture seemed magical, and thrilled with fantastical suggestions.

Everything went well at first, with her showing me techniques as we went along, and with each of us doing the parts we had the clearest mental pictures of.

Then, all at once, things changed. Somewhere into the picture, death had crept. We could feel it, like the oppression before summer thunder.

And the painting was going all wrong. That’s not what I wanted, thought Crystal…then voiced it to me as she continued putting red highlights on the stones. “That looks like blood. That’s not what I wanted.”

Like Abel’s blood, I thought. Yes, like his blood, crying out from the rocks. Cain had been cursed for that death.

Then, in a rush, I felt a presence standing beside me. “So I wish curses on my husband’s murderer,” said a female voice into my mind.

Immediately I could see other Beings, spirits of evil intent, who would stop at nothing short of destroying our progress on this wall. They grabbed at Christa’s brush, pushing and straining like frenzied children, in attempts to blotch the truth of what had happened…why the spirit-woman was standing at my shoulder, speaking of curses. Christa pressed on, ordering these spirits to let go, and kept painting. They stamped in indignation and tried numbing both our minds.

At last, we had to stop, and began to pray for God’s aid in getting this project on the move.

He gave us several impressions and pictures, and suddenly, we realized we were dealing with a real murder, indeed, somewhat like Cain’s work.

To be continued…

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Within 12-24 hours of putting up my Projects Examples page (I haven’t even gotten my lists all posted in my various rooms yet), my husband approached me and suggested we get busy – that day and the next – on some of the projects I had listed. He knew nothing about the list, and I had not mentioned to him most of the projects on it.

 

We:

 

1)      Built a set of shelves in my cellar room (which suited my expectations perfectly)…

2)      Arranged items on them and cleaned up the mess from building them…

Before the shelves. I ripped down buckets of molding drywall from off this wall, and swept up much ancient dirt which had leaked in over the years. (The corner, where basement meets dirt, is only sealed by a strip of yellow cotton cloth.)

Before the shelves. I ripped down bucketfuls of molding drywall from off this wall, and swept up much ancient dirt which had leaked in over the years. (The corner, where basement meets dirt, is only sealed by a strip of yellow cotton cloth.)

The shelves after their first arranging. I am sure this is the first of several evolutions, as my thoughts on the subject are cloudy just now.

The shelves after their first arranging. I am sure this is the first of several evolutions, as my thoughts on the subject are cloudy just now.

A messier view, as this is still a work in progress. Many of these things are still waiting for their own homes to be fixed. They belong on the opposite side of the room, where neglect still reigns (hopefully not for long).

A messier view, as this is still a work in progress. Many of these things are still waiting for their own homes to be fixed. They belong on the opposite side of the room, where neglect still reigns (hopefully not for long).

3)   Planned another set in the stove room, to make use of an unused corner…

4)      Extended my counter space in the kitchen, with a rustic arrangement of pre-used 2X4’s and 2X6’s, and got it painted (and cleaned up the mess from sawing again…the kids kept slipping on the sawdust in the laundry room)…

My hard-working husband putting in the first boards.

My hard-working husband putting in the first boards.

The finished product, which may not be fancy, but it suits my purposes, and leaves room underneath to stack firewood for the cookstove.

The laundry room as a skating rink, with hazards (sawdust can be great fun when you're in socks).

5)      Bought foam to fill in the cracks in the walls downstairs…

 

…plus I got a sewing project settled (more on that later)…

…got the wood stove ash and dust bunnies removed from the surfaces in my bedroom (with the kids’ help)…

…and experimented with milk-based paint. This was something I had been meaning to do for at least three months. My experimenting took a quart of goat milk, and a lot of shaking of the jar to mix the ingredients, before I was happy with the proportions of oil, milk, lime and washing soda, but I am getting satisfactory results on one of the worst walls downstairs. It doesn’t look like much yet, but at least the paint has stopped the constant crumbling of the 50+-year-old original paint, and the cement underneath.

 

I am not sure why things finally snapped so effortlessly into place, but I thought this idea was worth throwing out: Did the public announcement of my list help it happen?

 

Other possibilities include 1) much subconscious prayer to God (I have woken up several times recently in the early morning hours, in conversation with Him), and, 2) a conversation with my husband, regarding a commitment to tell each other about things in our hearts and minds in a straight-forward, yet generous way…before they become issues.

 

So, let me know if this concept of publicizing intentions seems to be effective in your own life. I aim to find answers, and confirm or disprove this hypothesis. You have my invitation to post your own projects lists here, and see if you don’t get exciting results, or link to them, so the rest of us can wish you well and encourage your endeavors.

As always, walk in Yahweh’s grace.

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