Photography by Alice G Patterson Photography
We've all had a love/hate relationship with formal dining rooms for the past several years... and I'm not so sure the advice we've gotten from the interior design community has been altogether helpful.
We've been told to scrap our dining tables and turn those unused spaces into home offices or playrooms or reading rooms.
Which is all well and good.
Unless - like our recent clients - you happen to want to use your dining room for, you know, dining.
Just like with their living room's design, they wanted their dining room to be a space they could really use and enjoy with their kids - without having to compromise beautiful furnishings and decor.
Here's what their dining room looked like before.
This space was fine for them to use as a family - the tie-on chair cushions could be removed for cleaning if necessary and there really wasn't anything precious in harm's way that could get broken as people jockey for their place at the table.
But there wasn't anything particularly appealing about it either.
As it is now, though, it proves we can ditch our stuffy dining rooms and turn them into cool, classic, family-friendly spaces... that still look, feel, and act like dining rooms!
The overall design is relatively simple and unfussy.
We got the gorgeous new table from Harden Furniture, which means it's very well made, plus Harden uses fantastic sustainable practices, which I appreciate.
We kept the existing rug and chandelier, as well as the heirloom marble topped sideboard.
You can't get much more traditional than sconces, but the ones we chose are sleek and modern - not old-fashioned in the least.
The combination of traditional pieces with fresh, preppy elements make the room feel both updated and important.
And then of course, there's the paint color.
Oh, that paint color! Isn't it beautiful?!
We pulled it from the rug knowing we wanted to use something bold. And since blues are always timeless, we knew it would be an enduring choice, but this jewel toned hue is actually very trendy right now. If I were the type of person who says, "It's having a moment," I'd say that about this blue.
You don't need a lot going on elsewhere in the room when you're using a paint color this bold. In fact, it's best to keep furnishings clean-lined and simple and accessories to a minimum. That way the total effect isn't overwhelming.
As far as kid-friendliness is concerned, we used a few simple tricks here for making this beautiful dining room more manageable for the family.
First, we covered the new dining chairs in Sunbrella fabrics. Performance fabrics like these stand up to normal wear and tear and clean up better than regular upholstery fabrics. And since designers and homeowners alike are currently clambering for functional home fabrics, companies are creating more and better options all the time.
Just for fun, we covered the host and hostess chairs in a contrasting fabric. That "mix and match" look for dining sets is super popular right now.
The menswear-inspired plaid lends a little masculine vibe, which helps keep the room from being too fussy. At the risk of dating myself, I have to say that I can't help but picture Chuck Bass from Gossip Girl sporting one of his expertly tailored suits in this very plaid.
Preppy with a capital "P"!
Our other trick is to use a heavily patterned rug in a dark color palette under the table. That way, even if you wind up with stains that won't come out, they'll be well-camouflaged.
We added a few extra touches of color and personality with the window treatments and the artwork.
Adding Greek key banding to simple drapes makes them positively stunning. The high contrast of their light color against the dark walls is a nice spin on "classic prep" style.
By hanging the drapes high and wide, we created the illusion that the windows are larger than they actually are.
We took down all the small art pieces and brought in just two large, colorful pieces for a bigger impact.
This botanical chart from Teaselwood Design is big and bold enough that it doesn't get lost against the dark walls, even from a distance.
This painting that is a memorable piece for the family and was a wedding gift adds a little dash of levity and a big dash of modern style.
And what's a client space reveal around here without lots and lots of flowers?!
I hope this has convinced you that it's possible to have (and use) a beautiful formal dining room, even with kids at home.
How soon will you be turning your makeshift home office, playroom, or reading room back into your family's formal dining room?