Thursday, November 10, 2011

Once Upon a Dining Room: A New Ceiling Reinvigorates an Ever-Changing Space

Finally, my dining room ceiling is finished!  In person, it looks like a midnight sky; pictures (my pictures, anyway) don't do it justice at all.  The ornamental scrollwork design around the chandelier is barely visible in this picture.  It's subtle in real life, but you can see it much better.  It's kind of like a shadow or an echo of the scroll work on the chandelier, and it's embellished with decorative upholstery nails.  The crown molding has a metallic foil finish selected to complement the gold drapery hardware and accents on the light fixtures.

Now, this room is not "done."  My own home is like a design laboratory where I continually change things up, and frequently change my mind about the Big Plan for a space mid-stream. 

So today, I thought I'd share with you The Story of My Dining Room. 

This is a photo of the dining room in my last house, taken just before we put it on the market:

I played around with that room a lot over the seven years we lived in that home.  The carpet had come from our first home in New Jersey.  The first wallpaper that lived in this room was a pale neutral toile/botanical bird pattern with sage green; I couldn't find a picture of that to show you, but it went better with the chair fabric and the swag valance.  I got bored with it after a few years and changed it up for large scale red damask.  If we had stayed in that home longer, I would have changed the window treatment to better complement the walls and carpet.

You'll notice that the furnishings are the same as what we have now, but the fabric on the chairs was originally a more casual, "durable" olive green and beige chevron -- that's the way they came from the factory.  The dining room furniture was an early purchase, and neither of us loved it when we bought it.  However, we couldn't afford anything that we did love at that time, and it was important to us to have furniture in the dining room for holiday meals and special occasions rather than let the years slip by without making those memories.  Then over time, as our children and their messy dining habits came into play, we were glad we hadn't invested in dining room furniture that we would constantly be worrying about and afraid to use.  My dining room table gets used for homework, jigsaw puzzles, giftwrapping, and as a conference table when my vendors come to show me new product introductions.  So instead of replacing the furniture, I had the chairs reupholstered in silks and velvets to glam them up a bit when we moved to our new home. 

Robert Allen silk/viscose Lattice Sheen in Aegean
Robert Allen viscose velvet Stylish Stitch in Peacock

I put a silk/viscose lattice fabric from Robert Allen on the seats and inside backs of the chairs.  Although the swatch photo looks dark, in real life this fabric has a lively, shimmery irridescence that takes on different blue tones depending on how the light hits it.  I selected a silky viscose cut velvet stripe for the outside backs of the chairs, incorporating different shades of blues and greens.

Reupholstering dining chairs is a really easy, budget friendly way to give your dining room a face lift, by the way.  If your chairs only have upholstered slipseats, you can usually figure 3/4 yard of fabric for every two chairs -- that means six yards of fabric is enough for eight chair seats (depending on the pattern repeat of your fabric).  Even if you splurge on wildly fabulous, expensive fabric, you won't even come close to what you'd spend on all new furniture, and it's amazing what a difference a few yards of beautiful textiles can make in a room.  I would recommend that you order an extra yard of fabric to hold onto in case of a disaster.  Yes, you can have your upholstery stain protected, but it's still a good idea to have a backup plan and stockpiling a little extra fabric ensures that you have the same fabric from the same dye lot in case you ever need to recover one of your chairs.

Here's what the dining room looked like when we bought the home, with the previous owner's furnishings:

I was NOT a fan of that dinky little brass chandelier, so I took the Currey & Co. Largo chandelier I'd purchased for my previous home with me when we moved.  Here's the same dining room with our furniture, carpet, and Currey chandelier, taken shortly after we moved in:

Our larger furnishings and light fixture fit the space better, but the builder-beige flat wall paint and faux wood blinds were going to have to go.  I regretted leaving all of my window treatments behind, but the buyer for our old house had specifically requested them and I knew I would want to do something different in my new home anyway.  However, moving into a new home is fraught with unplanned expenses that pile up and hit you all at once, and I wasn't able to completely customize and decorate the new home immediately.

Fiorentino silk damask in Cypress from Vervain, discontinued
PLEASE!  LEARN FROM ME AND NEVER, EVER DO THIS: I couldn't bear looking at that plain, ugly window in my dining room, and I came across this gorgeous silk damask fabric from Vervain that I fell in love with.  I had no plan per se; and got this insane idea to just order 7 yards of fabric, enough for two single width drapery panels, thinking that I would order more fabric for some kind of valance and figure everything else out later.  Just seeing the pretty fabric next to the windows would make me feel better in the meantime.  Hah!  I still can't believe I did that.  Of course I had a terrific idea of what I wanted to do with the fabric by the time it arrived, except that now I would need a lot more than seven yards, and -- lo and behold! -- now the fabric was DISCONTINUED with no stock, and I had the last seven yards in existence.

Here's one option I considered with this fabric, if I had been able to get more of it:

Unfinished Rendering of the Draperies that Never Came to Be
I have since learned from my Vervain rep that the Fiorentino damask was printed on a Shalini silk dupioni fabric from Fabricut, and if I really wanted more badly enough they could do a custom order for me, but I'd need to order 50 yards of it.  Hmm -- no thanks!  At the time of the design crisis, however, I wasn't able to locate a coordinating fabric that was a close enough match either to the yellowy-gold or the irridescent sage green of my discontinued fabric.  I could have (should have?) abandoned the discontinued fabric, but I had my heart set on it and I'm stubborn.  So I decided to mix in some deep blue instead and started off on the long, difficult road of trying to make my oops look like "I meant to do that."

Robert Allen Soho Velvet in Indigo

The drapery fabric is a silk/viscose rayon velvet from Robert Allen with wonderful drape and vertical creases in the pile that catch the light and pick up lots of different shades of blue.  The passementerie is from the Beacon Hill Lavish Silk trim collection, Prussian Blue colorway. 

Here's what I came up with for the draperies:

Now, I have to tell you that I think the drapery panels are too skinny.  It's a 48" wide fabric; I should have at least done a width and a half per panel, maybe even two widths per panel.  I have some more of that velvet, and I might do something about that.  Eventually.  When I run out of other things to do.  But what I really do love is the deep peacock blues and greens, a color scheme that evolved as the happy outcome to the Drama of the Discontinued Damask.  I reupholstered the chairs soon after this photo was taken, because the casual, bland fabric wasn't holding its own with the Diva Draperies.

The next casualty of the room was the Karastan carpet that we'd had since our first home in New Jersey. It was just feeling too somber, too traditional in a safe, sensible way for me. I wanted more drama, less burgundy, and a rug with a bit of yellow to help my gold/green damask tie in better. I found the perfect carpet at a great price when a local furnishings retailer was going out of business and liquidating their inventory.
Meanwhile, I'd been looking for a pair of somethings to flank my china cabinet.  I considered art, a display of decorative china, architectural elements, etc., and finally decided that I really wanted wall sconces.  Although I loved the whimsical elegance of my Largo chandelier, I really hated the coordinating sconces and I couldn't find anything that went well with the chandelier.  I eventually replaced the Largo chandelier with an oblong Dominion chandelier, also from Currey & Co., that had beautiful coordinating sconces.

Oblong Dominion chandelier from Currey & Co.

Now that the room was finally starting to come together for me, I hired my decorative painter to do a multi-layered metallic finish on my celing in deep blues and greens with a dark brown stain and a 4' x 5' design around the chandelier.  I planned to scatter some Swarovski crystals randomly across the ceiling like stars, but once the finish was done I felt like the crystals didn't belong there, so we embellished the decorative motif around the chandelier with some bronze upholstery nails instead.

Kris Kuchavik of Casa Bella Faux Finishes

What's next for this space?  Well, I'm loving the way the deep, lush blue flows from the ceiling, down the drapery panels, to the border on my rug.  I know the room is a bit over-the-top and not for everyone, but to me it's dramatic, fun and very theatrical -- which is exactly what I wanted.  

I'm not so fond of the wall color (Sherwin Williams Camelback, nowhere near as yellow in person as it looks in these photos) and I think I'd like to do something special with the walls at some point.  I found a grasscloth wallpaper in the right shade of green recently that I might put on the walls if Bernie ever gets around to trimming the arched entrance to the room.  The way it is now, I wouldn't do a paper or any kind of textured paint finish because of how it would look on the outside corners transitioning into the foyer.  I really love the rich, cozy texture of the grasscloth paper in my office, directly across from the dining room, so doing the same texture in a different shade would flow nicely at the front of the house.  The white trim will probably stay, but I might tone it down by doing something interesting inside the rectangle "panels" below the chair rail.  Maybe the same paper, but with a custom painted damask pattern to mimic that elusive discontinued Vervain fabric that started it all in the first place.  For now, I'm just glad my dining room is put back together in time for Thanksgiving entertaining!


Ivory Spring said...

WOW! Scroll work on your ceiling is such a great idea.

Rebecca Grace said...

Thanks, Marie! The master bathroom tile has not been changed since we moved in. It seems to be a fairly inexpensive ceramic tile, and we've talked about changing it for limestone or tumbled marble for several reasons -- I would prefer the continuity of having the entire bathroom floor and the shower walls in the same tile for continuity, I wish they had laid the tile on the diagonal rather than like straight railroad tracks going from the master bedroom straight through the bath to the closet, and finally, because it can be cold in the bathroom in the winter with the tile floor and vaulted ceiling. If I ever redo the tile, I'll put in radiant heating underneath the tile.

The paint is holding up well, but remember that it was done professionally. The surfaces were sanded down, primed, painted, glazed, and then sealed and allowed to cure. Whatever clear coat they sealed it with was selected so that it would stand up to the wear and cleaning necessitated by its location in the bathroom. It would be the same for kitchen cabinets. Good luck with your project, and thanks for stopping by!