Before & after: warm retro dining room

7/20/2016 12:16:00 am HELEN STILES 1 Comments

Yesterday I showed you the before and after photos from my recent East London living room project. If you missed that post you can see it here. Today it's time to look at the dining room. In some ways this was the most challenging room – it is a bit of a corridor room as the only way to get to the kitchen is to walk through it. A quick look at the before photos tells you this was a rather frumpy, sad looking room.


 As I explained in yesterday's post, the clients are a very cool couple with a distinct sense of style – which this room just did not reflect! All of that stripped woodwork – dado rails, architraves, skirting boards – is not in keeping with the Edwardian period of the property (these details would ALWAYS have been painted) and the orange lines just serve to divide the room up. Far too '90s for this family...

 Clearly the floor had seen better days and the wall colour was cool and unwelcoming. As for the wallpapered chimney was probably pretty in its day (if I'm being very generous) but it's just not a good look.

Technically this room would have been built as a breakfast room – designed to be a smaller, less formal eating area directly adjoining the kitchen, rather than the formal dining room – but for these clients it made sense for this to be the main dining area. They are a family that eats at the table every day, so it was a key room for them.


This room presented a few design dilemmas. First and foremost, the clients wanted this to be a functioning and much-used dining space to seat 6-8. It needed to include some additional storage (as the adjoining kitchen is on the bijou side) and we had to make sure that the dining table and chairs didn't obstruct access to the kitchen, which is only accessible via the opening you see at the end of this dining room. There would be nothing more annoying – to me, at least – than constantly having to squeeze past a table and chairs to get in and out of the kitchen; particularly with constantly hungry/thirsty small children in tow! 

So, the first thing I advised the clients to do was to move the column radiator that can be seen on the left hand side in the pictures above to the other side of the room, under a window. This removed one obstacle en-route to the kitchen and is also more energy efficient.

Next the clients got the rather manky (that's a technical term) wood floor sanded and refinished. Finally they removed the strange, extra-long net curtains from the 2 alcove windows. They wanted to maximise the light, as the room faces East and gets little sun after mid-morning, but I knew we had to provide an alternative window-dressing as those windows look straight into next door's kitchen/dining area. (Let's face it, it's bad enough having to look at your own family first thing in the morning, without having to watch your neighbours eating cornflakes in their PJs!)


So the design scheme looked something like this...lots of wood and pops of colour against a neutral but warm backdrop. 

The solution for those windows was a pair of muslin roman blinds. Left down, they softly filter the morning light and provide privacy whilst looking fresh and tailored (they also hide the UPVC window frames effectively).

As you can see from this shot, painting out all of the woodwork to match the walls has made the room feel much lighter, brighter and more spacious. You immediately lose the visual boundaries and focus far more on what's in the room instead. This included painting the fireplace surround. This was a little controversial to start with, but I think it really works. I do love wood, it adds warmth and texture to a room, but that fire surround was an inexpensive softwood and not an attractive colour. We've brought in plenty more with the table and sideboard and just didn't need that wooden surround as well. Painted in Farrow & Ball Shaded White, it blends in with the walls and looks fresh and clean.


As it is a relatively narrow room, there is no space (or need) for extraneous furniture. The key items were:

The table

This is made from reclaimed scaffold boards on a steel base. The clients really wanted a wooden table, although had been thinking of something more farmhouse in style. After a thorough scouring of vintage and off-the-peg options, we agreed that having something made-to-measure was the best route to go. This allowed us to specify a relatively narrow width without compromising on the length (and maintain that all-important through-way to the kitchen). The style has a slight industrial edge that balances all the wood in the room and echoes the living room shelves

The lights

The simple glass pendant lights from Heals add a warm glow to the room. I love the retro colours – amber, rose and smokey grey. The client also added a copper floor lamp (which is just out of shot next to the right hand window) which nicely reflects the copper ceiling roses of those ceiling lights.


The sideboard is made from teak and provides storage for crockery and dining essentials within easy reach of the kitchen. It is a new piece but with mid-century style, and the faceted teak doors add some much needed texture to the room.   


We mixed 2 chair styles to keep things informal and interesting. The tan leather chairs again have a mid-century appeal, whilst the classic black thonet-style chairs tie in with the black of the fireplace.

The Rug

Finally the rug grounds the whole scheme whilst softening the room. We opted for an overdyed, vintage rug in a gorgeous teal colour. It's always key to ensure that a rug under a dining table is large enough to allow the chairs to be pulled in and out without any legs catching on the edges – this one is wide enough to do the job perfectly. The style is also fairly forgiving as it is already relatively threadbare!


Finally, of course, there are the all important accessories. The clients had some great items to use in this room – from the gold mirror that sits nicely above the fireplace (adding another metallic accent) to the Chinese art print on the sideboard. I just love the designer whiskey collection on the mantlepiece too – very cool.

So, there  you have it, a warm, retro style dining room. I'd love to know what you think! Stay tuned for 2 more before and after posts from this project soon.

1 comment:

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