Glutton for Punishment

I’m in choppy waters here.  The few times I have thrown this room open for suggestions it’s brought an incredible amount of opinions, information and criticism.  With a little help from a friend I decided to move the painting to the living room, move the living room prints here, paint the picture frame moldings black and recover the chairs.  I picked up an incredibly inexpensive ticking at Nell Hill’s which may or may not remain depending on the sure-to-never-be-ordered curtains.  (You can see the “before” here.)

I love the paper, still, but this room is a whole lotta brown.  Never a fan of brown table and brown chairs, I’m lucky to have this hand-me-down set.  

I do like the table, but it’s oval top is constraining.  The room is nearly square and round would be a million times better.  The front legs of the chairs are appealing.  You can’t see them, of course, because they are pushed under the table.

This really bothers me.  A lot.  It is not carved into the wood, but applied, and I think I could easily remove it.

Which would make the front look more like this.  Which would be better.  Assuming I don’t jack up the chairs.  My latest idea is to paint them black.  The only thing that stopped me Sunday was two other paint projects that I had started and not completed.  And, please, don’t advise the purchase of either table or chairs as my budget will not allow the purchase of as much as a picture of either a table or chairs.
Also, if you are going to say something unkind, at least preface it with “Bless your heart.”  All good Southern women do it and, oddly, it takes the sting out.  For example, “Bless her heart, I don’t know why she wears sleeveless tops when her arms are so heavy.  Sweet thing, maybe it helps keep her cool in this heat because she’s so big.”  Something like that.
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67 thoughts on “Glutton for Punishment

  1. Exactly what I was going to say – round table – but as you said no new purchases. What about painting the molding white? Still looks better than most. MB

  2. I've not heard of this, "bless your heart", etc., but reading the following sentences I see it does work!! Too bad I live up north, people would look at me like I'd lost it if I started a comment with those words.

    So, with no budget, do you happen to have another smaller rug to layer over the sisal rug, to bring in a bit of color and pattern?


  3. I quite like a gal with unfinished projects as well as one who is not afraid to ask for a little project advice.
    I love the idea of black, however I also love the idea of a little color. A pistachio green, jade or some sort of turq would be pretty. I would paint them a high gloss if they were mine.
    Bet you are glad you asked. Ha!

  4. MB – thank you – and no "Bless your heart" necessary.

    Isabella – I think that might be part of the fun. No smaller rug, BUT it is a good idea.

    Patricia – I was thinking turquoise in the non-existent curtains, but colorful chairs could be the ticket.

  5. I love your "Bless Your Heart" comment, it reminds me of my sweet eccentric aunt from North Carolina. This may be irrelevant and un-fixable, but from the photo the chandelier seems to be a bit too high for the table. I love the look of a two toned table so maybe painting the base black and leaving the wood top. I don't know what to think about the chairs. I would love to see the seats upholstered in something fabulous. Can't wait to see what everyone else says.

  6. Hi Patricia<
    I should be going to bed, but cannot resist a good design challenge.
    Ok, my suggestions are these:
    1. Either paint your chairs white(high gloss or lacquer) and upholster seat in either of the three following: brown/white graphic (think zigzag or equal), chocolate brown, or white.
    2. Or white slipcovers
    3. Drapes could then be either of the two following: a soft muted doe taupe brown to play off the brown/white palette or a dramatic red/orange/yellow to play off the new tables and the interior of your cabinet. The rod should be a simple black.
    I can see it now…ultra chic and sophisticated.
    Whatever, you decide it will be great…your room is almost there…just another 5% and presto…Magnificent!

  7. I love the slip-cover idea, but don't know if it would work without a bit of padding on the chairs? If it were me, precious girl, I'd just lacquer them black and put a dynamite cushion on the seats, which could tie-in to the someday curtains. And, bless your heart for asking us for advice when we spend half the night investigating things that happened in the 1600's. xx's Marsha

  8. Voice of experience calling. Only remove that applied moulding if you're sure you're going to paint, because they won't come off perfectly. You're going to leave some moulding behind, or take a little chair with it, so you'll be sanding down and/or filling and sanding.

    That said, I think the chairs would be super in a color. Reading PVE's comment my first thought was George Terbovich Turquoise, but that might be too dark. You'll find the right one. And you're absolutely right about the legs, the details really should be on the back.

    If it makes you feel any better I've got the same issue here, square room, rectangular table, zero furniture budget.

  9. I don't know if Mrs Blandings shops at TJ Maxx, but I think I'd check it out, keeping my eye out for a leopard print rug for under the table and and a Chinese Red ginger jar vase for a table centerpiece.

    If you decide the rug is too wild, I'll buy it at your next garage sale.

  10. Sigh, Mrs B, you know I think your tortoise jewel box of a dining room is super glam! It must look smashing in the evening by cndlelight. Love the ticking stripes….Go lacquer up those chairs- you are on the right track. I love the strict-ness of the Billy Balwin-ness of your dining room vs your yellow living room. You have great instincts, go with it!

  11. O bless, those are not the prettiest chairs I have seen. But really they're not that bad and they don't stand out at all beacause of the wall colour. I think the room needs an injection of life and colour to draw your attention away from the chairs. I would put a beautiful bowl of flowers on the table and maybe on the little side table as well. Narcissi are lovely this time of year and would pick up the lovely yellow in your china cabinet. Now I don't know whether they are expensive in the US (I am from Holland so flowers are in abundance here for reasonable prices), but the ones with the bulbs still on them make great table pieces and last at least 3 weeks to a month.
    Then I would also add two pretty little rectangular cushions on the end chairs, again picking up the yellow from the cabinet and adding some other colours you like (aquamarine?). There. That's what I would do. Much easier than painting the chairs and not expensive.

  12. Painting the chairs is a great idea. Perhaps taking it one further with a tailored slipcover for the bottom only. It is an easy DIY project and would require only modest yardage. The cleanablity alone would sell me on the idea.

  13. sugah puddin' is my fav southern term of endearment.

    a table cloth would go a long way in lightening up the space

    i would not remove the doodads on the chairs (some things are what they are). i'm not sure i would paint them black either. what about using a linen slip cover to match the table cloth?? add a glass top to the table when you can afford it.

    good luck, sugah puddin'

  14. PS If you think paint is the answer, I agree with PVE; those chairs would really be fun in a high gloss (again i would not remove the doodads). and i would use a color other than black.

    not sure how i feel about a smaller run on top on the larger rug. i think there is enuff going on w/o this. but nothing like giving it a try to see.

  15. Perhaps your issues with the room stem from the fact that you don't know what you want the room for…do you really have sit down dinners, lunches, in that room or is it just a collection of surfaces to keep vacuumed and dusted? There's not a lot of life in that picture. The corner cupboard looks like someone wanted a room brightener to fill with dishes…You nailed it when you talked about brown furniture…the walls with black trim are appealing…have you considered bleaching the dining room set? Cheap and with you as the labor could almost be free…would look striking against the walls. As a sample, try the back of a chair…

  16. What about black shades for the chandeliers and paint the chairs and table top in a red to tie back to the console tables? Not sure what I think about the red with the ticking but I like the ideas of repeating the accent color used already. Possibly a red silk or good cheap poly that's fun like silk (like Fabricut Topaz) for the curtains or roman shades? Lastly, what about re-binding the rug in a wider black binding.
    Sarah, fellow decorator with a small or non-existent budget:)

    Ps. I should have emailed along time ago but I loved your post about your son growing up….one of the sweetest things I've ever read. I can only imagine, it's how I feel about my son already and he's only 2!

  17. As a transplant from the Midwest to the South, I have become very familiar with the "bless her hear" phenomenom. However, in this case I don't think it's application is necessary.

    I love the idea of painting the chairs black. The contrast will add a crispness to the table and chairs. This being said, I have been considering painting my kitchen chairs black for several years and have not yet started other than buying my husband a good spray gun to make the project easier. Benjamin Moore's black oil paint and a spray gun give a wonderful finish.

  18. Mrs B. The room has challenges before you even get started.With the built in and then the window- a lot going on with that one wall. Here is my advice- Take the plunge and paint the moldings, with the addition of the black you've added the white trims are too white. I know this probably flys in the face of all the other trim moldings but that is ok. At least paint the corner cupboard 1st, it could even go a Chinese red lacquer if you prefer that to black(actually I think that is better!)Treat it like a piece of Furniture. Then you can get into a stronger pattern (black bold bamboo lattice-black and red, black and white)for the curtains-repeat the ticking with a piping or banded valance. Easy enough pull out 2 of the chairs to the outer walls. Don't paint the chairs yet(ever?)Though the room is brown-it needs more black,brown- go all the way!

  19. I may be in the minority – all of the brown does not bother me. I would like to see more black to support it a bit.

    If this room has four complete walls (isn't open or attached to another), I would have opted to paint the corner cabinet black (and even the moldings brown or blackin fact). Window treatments will soften the window casings – it's the white corner cabinet that is getting all the attention in this room. Paint that black with a colorful inside wall (pve's suggestion of pistachio green would be very livable). Your color can come in the form of beautiful vases, drapery and the inside back wall of the cabinet.

    I would do the black shades (someone else suggested above) on the chandelier, too.

    Without seeing the console table up close, my instinct is to do a tailored slipcover here. I'd like to see something more substantial in that space and some floor length fabric could do the trick.

    Slip cover the base of the chairs. Though I love the look, I worry about the trend factor of hi-gloss black lacquer. And if you do intend to go that route, paint the table. Far less work and more impact. But go with a semi-gloss. I'm seeing less and less hi-gloss…

    Does any of this make sense?!? Keep us posted!

  20. Bless your heart! OK, right off the bat, this room is too brown. The area rug is way too large for this area. Something you may not have considered, but stands out considerably, is that there are too many legs showing. The room needs to be grounded with some heavy pieces of furniture such as a strong sideboard. The black trim on the walls just makes the room that much darker. A burlap tablecloth to the floor would cozy it up a bit. IMO the wall color is all wrong.

  21. One more comment. I think adding silk or faux silk panels on the windows would really help this room. There is nothing wrong with the chair. They are traditional and lovely. The problem is too much brown and the side table is all wrong for this room. The black trim with the brown walls is the first thing you notice about this room and all the legs. Nees some substatial pieces.

  22. Really, I think your room just needs some softness. Drapes will make the big difference, if you can possibly swing it – a black/white pinstripe with black iron rods would nicely tie into the black moldings. Add something dramatic on the center of the table (big black wire ball?) and maybe replace the white ginger jar with a yellow-gold one to pick up on the inside of the corner cabinet, and you're there. I think someone else mentioned a little skirted slip just covering the seat of the chairs – that would really give them new personality by covering part of the legs. Joni @ Cote de Texas has posted a lot of those. And Suzanne Kasler does them well. The chandelier does look like it could be a bit lower too, but that's an easy change. It looks great so far, you're almost there.

  23. I don't think that black chairs will make the room less "brown". I think I would paint the chairs a turquoise color (may have to recover, can't tell). I also like the idea of painting the china cabinet black (or another color). I acknowledge that both ideas are on the scary side, but I think they would work.

  24. Ok let me see if I can quickly get down my first thoughts and impressions. I don't think it's too much brown, but rather too many disparate elements. The corner cabinet needs a less commanding presence. I think painting the interior is essential. The exterior possibly too…knowing that the moldings and window casings may also need to change if the black picture moldings are to stay.

    I am still in favor of my suggestion to do a half slip showing the chairs legs since they do have a very nice detail. It would add some much needed softness to the space whether they are painted or not. The applied detail could cause damage trying to remove it…I suggest you attempt to ignore it.

    A fabric that could bring together the overall colors of the space would likely be just the thing to pull the room together and be the most budget friendly solution. Adding softness in the form of a fixed roman shade would be a nice addition too.

    I do understand "Bless her heart" and wanted you to know it was not needed here!

  25. I'm with the "paint them black" crowd. Just a little background on why those chairs have the detail all facing forward – if you research furniture/homebuilder renderings of dining rooms from the 1920's – '30's, (which is what these chairs date to) you'll see that very often, most of the chairs were placed against the walls. I've seen it portrayed were all, or all but two were placed this way when the dining room was not in use. Hence all the showy stuff facing forward. My American Empire dining rooms chairs are designed the same way.

    I'd also vote for some color/pattern on the chair seats, and something "more" on the floor – at least for the cold weather months. I'm also a big fan of curtains – lined, interlined with flannel and topped with a box valance with a graphically shaped bottom edge. Mount it flush with the ceiling.

    And don't give up on the search for the round table. I have a marvelous pre-war dining room table with 5 leaves by the late, lamented Berkey and Gay Furniture Company – thrift store, $25. Deals like that are a good excuse to keep shopping!


  26. Comment #2 from me. I should have been more specific on the slipcover idea. The bottom only slips could have a kick pleat near the front legs and grommets (to be laced with turquoise or whatever strikes your fancy this week) on the backs. It would certainly relax the dining room and done in cotton duck, would be totally budget friendly.
    The only thing I found out of place in the room was the wroughtiron side table. A laced slipcover for that would be super chic if you decide not to do that on the chairs.

  27. I would paint the chairs and base of table black and pause to see if top looks better brown. If not, soldier on. Before painting the doodads on the chair I would use gesso (you can get it black) to marry the doodads to the surface. I'm with LA about the built-in stuff and would treat it like furniture. But what I really, really suggest is that you give (In)Decorous Taste the Mrs. Blandings do-over. What that girl (and Mom) does with 500 mph brain and paint brushes is astonishing. I think you two would be so much fun together. Be bold!

  28. What about having the table ebonised (stripped, stained and sealed) and slipcovering the chairs to the floor in a yellow glazed cotton (aka plain chintz) trimmed with a black binding tape at the bottom? And, dropping the light and adding black shades is a very good idea too. Though I would like to see the chain bagged in vermillion with a flourish at the rose.

  29. Must get going; out for a quick run, but had to comment. I think black on the chairs will tie the moulding that already exists in the room. I paint a lot of curvy and adorned furniture and when paint is added what seemed to be a headache will go away and be enhanced.
    To the seat cushion, if you feel the need to slip into a softer seat, straight and streamlined will work with your decor.

    You could even pull a larger version of the scrolls on the chairs into a stencil pattern to put inside the black mouldings on the wall, nothing too modern but a bit of tonal texture? Or even wallpaper or another layer of leopard???
    Just thoughts? Off to my morning run,
    Thanks for sharing Ms. B!!


  30. Dont pop the applique off, it wont come out the way you want it too. I think you have two issues. 1)too much of the same(brown) and 2. too many legs. A floor length tablecloth would really help(you could do burlap from ballard its cheap) or pull a fun color(turquoise someone spoke of would be nice). this will make the pair of console tables seem more substantial. I would also find(from around the house?) some sort of antique(or pretend) urn or low vessel and thwack off some greens(magnolia is always ideal) and shove them in with some chicken wire. put this in the middle of the table. as a day to day this will make you very happy walking by. Also either pull the chairs to the walls or face them out from the table. you want it to look pretty and dressed day to day.

  31. Wow, glutton for punishment was a fitting title. You're a brave woman to open yourself up for suggestions.

    First of all, I love your blog, your style and your home. That's my Southern version of "Bless your heart."

    I know what you mean about the brown. It is a lot, but I do love the tortoise shell paper. I just painted my wooden dining chairs white, kept my table brown and purchased host/hostess upholstered chairs for my dining room (which is not brown so not exactly the same obviously); you can check it out here:
    In my old house, I used to have a chocolate brown dining room with a dark table/chairs, but one wall was basically a bay window so there was a LOT of light. Then I brought in color with a Heriz rug.

    I like the idea of changing your rug. Is it sisal or wool sisal? I know a lot of people are stenciling on rugs these days, so that's an option for bringing in color and/or pattern (if it's sisal, that is). Or if you have a couple extra hundred bucks lying around there is a nice jute diamond patterned rug at West Elm. I also liked someone's idea of skirting your console tables with fabric . . . although I know you worked hard on painting them. And maybe, you could just slipcover the end chairs to create host/hostess chairs and either leave the others as they are or paint them if you choose that route. I think curtains will do wonders to soften the room and break up all the brown.

    Overall, I think your room is great. Just needs some tweaking. I love the ginger jars and the yellow interior of your corner cabinet.

    Good luck digesting everyone's opinions. And you know what they say about opinions . . . I won't type it here as I'm a genteel Southerner!

  32. I'm Southern, and you're funny. So true. Would you paint the table or chairs a very light color, like white or ivory? I did in my dining room, and I love it.

  33. I would second the idea of black shades for the chandelier. Before doing anything as drastic as painting or altering the chairs, why not a black & white print for the seats, even an animal skin pattern. If you do use an eye catching color on the chairs, be sure it is repeated elsewhere in the room. Good luck!

  34. I vote for either glossy black spray paint (chairs only) or white slipcovers. Both require a lot of work I suppose……but would be inexpensive!
    Oh -and Bless your heart!

  35. Throwing some fabric into the room would be great…a painter's canvas drop cloth on the table? Or upgrade to rough linen or Silk Trading Co's linen "burlap". Would keep the window clear…love the light streaming in. You could "sandblast" the chairs (Greet's last post)…or strip and bleach the chairs. Or leave the table bare and throw simple, skirted slipcovers on the chairs. If you use a linen you can whip them off and have them redyed (out here it's about $40 a pound) when you're ready for a change, again. The room has great bones, as is. Thanks for allowing us to do the easy and fun part, whilst leaving you to all the heavy lifting! Trish

  36. Patricia, you've received so many ideas, many I know you can do yourself. I would play off the whites, the corner cabinet,ginger jar, trim. I still love the idea of either slips, or a great herringbone pattern. If you go ahead an paint the chairs, I'm not sure of turquoise though I love it, will it become a trend of the year, after a lot of work? Get some sample pots of paint, and fabric swatches for the window treatment. Even a great looking top treatment would be beautiful and keep the room lights.

  37. I have no room to make suggestions of any kind.

    But I must say how I do adore the last paragraph.

    Anytime someone says "Bless your heart…" to me, I roll the remainder of the thought shared in my head until I figure out the real commentary.

    Your example might have me shopping for a new keyboard. Coffee on a mac does not a happy laptop make. But the laugh was worth it.

    – MC

  38. A couple of things are throwing me here. First, I think there are too many colors on the mouldings. You need to commit to either black or white on all (I would choose white, based on the glimpse of the adjoining room) or take a nod from seemingly ALL shelter mags recently and paint them all brown. Secondly, while a combo of formal and informal can be charming, they still need to relate. I think you need to commit to being a bit formal, given the room. Maybe go a notch above ticking to, say, a Rogers & Goffigon linen sateen damask (not too precious, but polished). Or a lovely, sophisticated print (Bennison-ish?). I am adamantly opposed to painting the chairs tourquoise – too folksy-cutesy. If you must paint them (and I don't think you must) choose black or white or red, or even Hermes-orange, making sure they still relate to something else in the room. Most importantly, have fun, and good luck with your project!

  39. I love the prints in the dining room. And I love black anything! But cool slip covers (without spending energy on messing with the chairs) might just do the trick! Have fun–it is going to be Spring soon!!

  40. i agree with several folks – i would love to see a strong contrast color – chinese red is a fav= and would love to see that corner cabinet painted in red with black highlights and then some gorgeous rich damask red curtains or a strong print with red and brown…

    and the same for the chair cushions – with all those windows there is so much light i think the room could stand the color.

    and it would warm it up

    as for the white moldings – well thats hard to do if all the other in your formal rooms are white also – but with the addition of more color – it would take away from the moldings and once some curtains are up they will block the window moldings.

    love the table and chairs –

    also a nice deep colors oriental rug under the table…

  41. Hello Mrs B…..
    The ceiling looks pale blue? If so I would paint it white and use that same ceiling blue on the inside of the china cabinet, replacing the yellow, which I find a bit distracting and a tad clash-y.

    It 'tis lots of brown – the walls, presumably stay tortoise print paper? It is pretty – I like how the sconce light reflects off it – and compliments the gilt edges on your botanical quad… there a match to the single sconce above the white urn? That reflective glow is what the wallpaper needs ! ! ! A matching sconce replacing the round mirror next to the china cabinet would be luscious…..

    The ticking fabric on the chairs is a bit subtle and not bold enough….Lots of small scale leggy, liney stuff going on from panes, to legs to moldings, trims, etc…..I would "bold" things up
    with a bigger/chunkier sideboard or table to replace the (is it iron?) one under the urn and put a fitted full length slipcover the chairs in a bolder black/white stripe playing off the black wall trims and tortoise print – covering the wood and softening all the small scale linear line stuff…..

    The white urn is blocking the painting under the sconce, is there another spot for it?

    The rug does not do the room justice – perhaps remove it and have nothing (except felt pads on the table and chair pressure points) until the budget allows a change…'s hard to discern, is it sisal? Perhaps have it crisply trimmed?

    Oh, so easy handing others suggestions, now to figure my own out !

  42. Another vote for painting the dining set in high gloss black — and adding a flirty short skirt slipcover just for the seat! (maybe in a Chinese-toile-type fabric? Check EBay! Or Perhaps you could have the cushion slipcovers done in reversible form — with pattern on one side and plain on the other? IF you have the funds — perhaps you could have a long slipcover (in the same fabric) made for the glass table that you could use for parties? Love the idea of switching to black chandelier shades!

    Jan at Rosemary Cottage

  43. Patricia!
    So funny about the "Bless her heart"…my daughter and her friends (14 yrs. old) have started using the phrase…and we are in Northern Cal. I listen to them when driving them here and there and just grin. I don't even think it is conscious on their part.

    Now to the room: I think you are right. A lot of brown…but you have spots of color: red on the tables, yellow in the cabinet and is it light blue on the ceiling? I agree with others that a new rug would do wonders. And draperies to soften. After that, you may find that all you need to do is add a brighter color to the chair seats. I keep coming back to the beautiful green Miles Redd used for the draperies and lamp shade in a dining room shown in Elle Decor and also in Elle Decor's Style and Substance book (pg.82). The room even has blue ceilings, and black, red and yellow in the color palette as well. Also a crystal chandelier! The table is round and draped.One last note…perhaps paint the china cabinet black like the trim. I like the green because it would tie in with your Family Room, if memory serves, and the yellow ties in with your Living Room.

    I hope you are having fun with this project! You have wonderful things to work with. (Love the tortoise shell!) I look forward to seeing your choices!!!

  44. OK Sweet Pea, I'm going to give you a chance at greatness.

    Go to Michael's buy 20 bottles of their gold hobby paint. It's about $2. It comes in several different tints of gold. Now here is what you do: use a small cloth and wipe the gold on the furniture, tables and chairs. Be sure to wipe UNEVENLY. Let some of the current table show through. Let it dry. Now wipe on another tint of gold and make it streaky if you can. Keep this up until you have an interesting build up of surface. Three coats might be sufficient. When its dry, it dries quickly, polyurathane the surface. Cover those seats in black, paint out that corner cabinet to go with the walls, drop that light a little and use black shades. Lose that small iron thing. Get a good size green plant for there.

    When I look at a room I want to see some strength of character, balls, man with a mission, know what I mean Sweet Pea? The girls on the blog will gasp "Oh my God, Blandings has lost her mind" but you know what happens next – they all get gold dining room tables and chairs. YOU set the standard instead of copying others.

    Love your blog. Ann

  45. I had the same issue of too much brown in my dining room. Covering the seats of my not very attractive chairs with a tie on heavy linen slip with a 6 inch drop and keeping my oval table covered with a generously sized rectangular linen tablecloth (topped with smaller oval cottons or damasks that can be used daily and easily washed) helped a lot. Love your blog, and had a good laugh over the "bless her heart" line.

  46. 1. Just an idea, I had my carpenter put a facade at the top of my two corner cupboards, and I loved them 10x better.
    2. Depending on the worth and the joining seam, can the table be cut down to make a round table.. a friend recently cut down a drop leaf and it made a world of difference. Regarding your about a simply demi-slipcover that just sits of the top of the back of the chair and on top of the seat. In a pinch, you might consider just folding and draping those inexpensive pashminas that are found on ebay in a color that works w/ your china
    In lieu of curtains how about a bamboo shade that starts right under your molding

  47. Just a thought, work with the red of the table. Replace yellow in corner cupboard with a red, or deep pink and may change the blue ceiling to a salmon. I seem to remember a post Megan had when her former partner was moving and she posted photos of her house. There was one beigy brown room with a salmon ceiling- I think.

  48. I tried to resist, but couldn't. You are so brave to throw this out there. I love your blog and there is such a lovely civility and genteelness about it. You may think this suggestion is too far out there, but….

    I missed that the room was tortoise wallpaper until I started reading the comments, but that only added to my initial impression that the "box" had a chic Billy Baldwin/Albert Hadley/David Hicks feel and I wanted immediately to see white lacquer dining furniture(Parsons table or Sarineen) and contemporary art. But why don't you mix it up a bit? What about Echo chairs from CB2 in custard to pick up the yellow in the china cabinet…yes around the brown wood table(West Elm also has a yellow chair and you could mix and match…all cheap). I think painting out the china cabinet to black is a good idea and black shades on the light. Also filling in the top of the china cabinet would be good, either built or with items to fill in that space. Then add chinoiserie red lacquer accessories…in a group somewhere for impact. The console is too spindly. CB2 has some great Acrylic peices – topped with the redlacquer stuff? And for the time being just some shades(of course another thought process) on the windows. More ying and yang.

    My friends and I play this game all the time….the catalogs are easy and stylish until you can get what you want(the ceiling, rug and other details may need some tweaking, once you set some things). Good Luck!

  49. Mrs B, we are in a similar situation! My inherited dining room furniture is also a double-edged blessing. i have so many other rooms that need help that alas it is at the bottom of the list!

    Several people have mentioned that the room needs an injection of color. I agree. I think that perhaps red and turqouise are the way to go.

    As for my "bless your heart" moment, oddly I preferred the moldings "before" when they blended with the paper. It may just be personal preference, but it is also hard since i am judging only on a 2D representation and not seeing the black in-person. My concern is that in the photos I feel that the black is the most dominant element in the room where really i want the chairs to sing and be the visual pop in the room.

    I agree with your idea of painting them. Have you thought about a super glossy red? I have vague recollections of a Domino where someone did this to great effect.

    I believe that Dan Marty did something similar in his dining room (April/May 2009 Western Interiors). Looking at it now he upholstered the chairs in red and used turquoise nailheads). And they look stunning in that room with simple curtains and a fabulous carpet (which I think could also help. Do you have one you could poach from another room?)

    My last thought is that you really can find amazing things on Craigslist. It has been a source I have turned to in the past when money has been tight. Our nightstands where rescues that i paid $20 for, threw on some paint and they look like I paid $2000 at Pieces. You may yet be able to score a gorgeous round table and a great carpet to layer in the space.

    Chin up!

  50. Wow, lots of advice, I see! I did not take the time to read them so forgive me If I am telling you what someone else has said. I know you said no purchases but this is just a little purchase and one I did to get rid of all the brown furniture in my dining room. I bought white slipcovers at Bed Bath and Beyond, plain white and had a monogram put on them. I also have a full length to the floor table skirt in white from Ballard, I can not tell you what a breath of fresh air it gave the room, You can see it here if you would like to see it.
    I also think painting the mouldings white would really give you a brighter look and the addition of pistashio green would really look wonderful. Maybe simple white panels with a green trim at the bottom or around the edge. A great white bowl and green apples on the table and Voila!! No bless your heart needed here, Even if you make no changes it is still a lovely room. I know with Spring around the corner we are all looking for ideas to freshen things up, Good luck, have a great week,Kathysue

  51. Your answer is slipcovers! in a white cotton duck (inexpensive) or creamy linen with a short pleated skirt-will lighten things up and then you can keep your wallpaper. Also add more blue and white items and a big bromeliad for the table!

  52. Mrs. B,
    With all due respect, you are showing too much leg! The room needs grounding, and fast. A good tablecloth could really tie the room together. I would do a good linen tablecloth to the floor, with a nice heavy seam. Although the room could use a little color, one will never tire of a good linen tablecloth and you can use it forever. I am all about some flowers to lighten up the space. Also, I think that since you painted some of the trim black, you need to do all of it, and I would do a chic red lacquer on the interior of the corner cabinet. Curtains would help as well to "ground" the space.
    All the best!

  53. My dining room is nothing to look at, but yours is lovely. A painted red border stripe on the rug would pick up the red of the accent table and bring some color to the room.

  54. Your example of "bless your heart" is the funniest thing I've read in ages. And accurate; as a native Georgian, I've noticed that few non-Southerners use this phrase correctly. That second sentence is the essential piece.
    I have a square dining room and got a round table for it, and regret it. It looked great, but it wasn't large enough for large dinners, and if it were, it would have taken up too much space in the room. Now it's an oval, and not as nice to look at, but much better for use.

  55. Given the fact that you have great bones to work with, here are my thoughts:

    1. Paint the chairs black high-gloss and don't bother to remove the detailing at the top – too much bother for the little gained.
    2. Paint the interior of the corner cabinet whichever accent color you decide to use – I think red would be great!
    3. Cover the chair bottoms in short pleated skirts in a brown & white or red & white clean trellis pattern.
    4. Bind the sisal with red.
    5. Move the prints – unless you have enough for all same-sized panels, it looks chintzy.
    6. Decoupage/cover the chandy shades with whatever you use for upholstery.
    7. Brown & white transferware or red & white transfer would look fabu. Or plain white ironstone. Nothing like starting a new collection!
    8. I only see one window so I would recommend a roman shade in the upholstery materials or another pattern in the same colorway. It is in keeping with the clean & elegant look of the room.

    Don't forget to post the results!

    P.S. As I live in the former capital of the Confederacy, whenever I hear someone say, "Bless her heart," I just cringe because I know something unpleasant is about to be said, no matter how its phrased!

  56. There is an incredibly beautiful wallpaper form Kravet called Silver Screen (W3004). I think it would bring your entire dining room to life. Best of luck!!

  57. Dear Mrs. B–
    Sorry I haven't had time to read the 56 comments preceding this–and for what it's worth, I think you need some color in this room. As you said, there is too much brown! To keep costs down and work with what you have, I would look for a great fabric for Roman shades for the two windows–I see that one window has a radiator beneath, so Roman shades would work well with these limitations.

    I would pick a fabric with a ground color that you could paint in the back walls of your china cabinet–that would balance the color and mass of the shades.

    Two quick suggestions from Calico Corners (both shown online at Tonkin in color Wedgewood, an Asian toile pattern with a silversage ground and Paxton Stripe in color Sable, a silk stripe. Both have shades of brown and black as part of the design. If you selected the silk stripe for the shades, you could put the toile on the chair seats. And yes, I second your idea of painting the chairs black. I think it will make them look much more au courant!
    Jan Jessup

  58. Dear Mrs. B–
    A postscript to my previous email:
    You can buy a 60" to 72" caterer's table (with folding legs) and have a floor length tableskirt made for it. (You can buy used tables from a party rental place to save some money.) This would give you the round table you want–and also solve the problem of too many legs. Then your black painted chairs would look great pushed around the table. I have a large round table that is great for entertaining–and a few different floor length cloths plus different squares to go over the them, depending on whether we're dining formally or casually.

    This gives me a wardrobe of table linens to use…and I always put a long length of flannel interlining or bump cloth over the table so that it feels luxurious when you touch the linens.


  59. Bless your heart. Are you in love with brown walls? 'Cause it doesn't sound like it.

    Now back to yankee speak. Wait until you have a vision about the room. I think its more than a tweaking problem, although I love the ticking. Is the ticking where you want to stop? Or were you really thinking about lighter walls, and visions of coastal cottages. If you paint the chairs, its a different thing entirely, and the ticking will be less exciting. I agree with people who don't recommend peeling the floral molding off the chairs. Not worth it. Might you also sell them and get something else perhaps.

  60. Mrs. Blandings,
    Sorry to be late to the table.
    Could you consider wrapping the table top with either galvanized steel or copper and trimming around the side with nail heads?
    I used galvaneel on my table and love the patina but wish I had used nailheads on the edges. The galvaneel is also magnetic which is why my china is upstairs and my sideboard is full of magnets.
    Also, no trivets or coasters necessary. School projects, Lego assaults, add to the character.
    I know a local sheet metal shop if you would like to learn more.
    I love the idea of black lacquered chairs. There is a local auto body shop that could do it but after seeing your other work, I think you would make them look fantastic yourself. I think you will enjoy the flourish on the chair tops more when they are glossy black.
    I see what you mean about the front legs of the chairs. They would look beautiful with wheels to draw attention to them….or maybe some sabots on the back legs just to draw the eye to the legs?
    Looking forward to seeing the final product!

  61. I agree with Peter. Figure out what you want to use the room for and how you want it to feel. That will guide you. Peter Walsh's book, It's All Too Much, is about decluttering but has some wonderful questions to guide you. Do you have family meals there for dinner? If so, i think it's too dark for the boys. Mr. B. and the boys should help you with the answers to the questions. It wil give the boys a sense of ownership. Your boys will be gone before you know it and it's worth it to have a space they and their friends enjoy eating in and it could still be "dressied up" when needed.

    I think it's too dark. i'd paint the trim white again, send the pictures off for a while and replace them with white platters and maybe even silhouettes of the boys and you and Mr. B., and add white fabric – skirts on the chairs, a tablecloth, curtains, panels, or at least valences, and a skirt on the side table. These would pop with a black band trim. Look for a new carpet remnant in a contrasting color, cut it to surround your existing rug as a border, and attach it with duct tape on the back. I think finding a way to introduce turquoise would be the final touch.

  62. I agree with Peter. Figure out what you want to use the room for and how you want it to feel. That will guide you. Peter Walsh's book, It's All Too Much, is about decluttering but has some wonderful questions to guide you. Do you have family meals there for dinner? If so, i think it's too dark for the boys. Mr. B. and the boys should help you with the answers to the questions. It wil give the boys a sense of ownership. Your boys will be gone before you know it and it's worth it to have a space they and their friends enjoy eating in and it could still be "dressied up" when needed.

    I think it's too dark. i'd paint the trim white again, send the pictures off for a while and replace them with white platters and maybe even silhouettes of the boys and you and Mr. B., and add white fabric – skirts on the chairs, a tablecloth, curtains, panels, or at least valences, and a skirt on the side table. These would pop with a black band trim. Look for a new carpet remnant in a contrasting color, cut it to surround your existing rug as a border, and attach it with duct tape on the back. I think finding a way to introduce turquoise would be the final touch.

  63. Mrs. B., you are sure to find the perfect solution(s) for your dining room somewhere in all these wonderful comments. I do, however, feel duty bound as a southern gal, born and raised, to inform you that the phrase "bless her heart" was mostly used by our mothers and grandmothers. Nowadays, the thoroughly modern southern gal tends to preface her stings with, "Bless her pointed head. . ." Much more fun, don't you agree?

  64. I love your blog but I think this is the first time I've commented.

    Actually, I think you've got a terrific base here. I'd paint the outside of the corner cabinet a lacquered chinese red (which would make the yellow interior really pop). I'd avoid taking the decal off the chairs because I think it could turn into a real nightmare. Paint them black with a red chinoiserie pattern (stencil or freehand) on the back stile. Someone else mentioned a black base on the table with a brown top–I like that. If you have a yellow or red ginger jar to swap out for the blue one in the photo that would be great. Chinese red shades on the chandelier would be inexpensive and pretty too.

    Eventually I'd save up and get chinese red roman shades with a black border about 4" from the outside edge and recover the seats in chinese red or alternating chinese red and the chrome yellow on the inside of the cabinet. I'd also get an area rug for under the table with a black border about 6" from the edge.

    I can't wait to see what you do, whatever you choose!

  65. Nothing wrong with an oval shaped dining table
    that a sturdy floor length cloth would soon cure.
    See Martin Wood's book John Fowler, the dining room
    at Fenton House, Hampstead. Admittedly the weighty
    wool bullion fringes lend gravitas, but why rule out
    a simple braid to finish the hemline of this element?
    I join the chorus of friends who advise against removing the composition ornament on the backs of the chars. It is a recipe for madness.

  66. Oh my goodness, but I'm full to overflowing with ideas. Thank you so much for such thoughtful feedback. Stay tuned to see if I can put anything in motion.

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