Columns are majestic, festive, impressive style-changers. Whether you work with architectural elements built-in to your home, interesting salvage to embellish your home, or occasional fantasies to enliven a party at home, decorating a dining room with columns creates a dramatic effect. Think of columns as chameleons to be adapted to your family's needs, and sophisticated shifts in your own design style, as those exuberant children grow.
1. Contemporary Literary Columns
Your dining room is separated from the rest of the house by open half-walls topped with columns, in Craftsman -- or just quirky -- style. It looks dated, and your attempts to infuse some design with accessories are overwhelmed by the dominant columns and the mountain of kid stuff dumped on the half-walls. Grab the reins back with a lively, kid-friendly makeover that updates the space. Paint the columns with chalkboard paint and encourage plenty of notes, graffiti and scribbles as well as sticky notes all over them. Replace a traditional chandelier with a horizontal tree branch wrapped in fairy lights or hung with small LED pendants. Cover the floor under the plain wood table with a bright contemporary rug. Hang paper kites or model airplanes in between the columns and over the half-walls, and enjoy a more relaxed family space.
2. Walls Without Walls
When the open-plan common areas of your home seem just a bit too open, add columns to define the dining room. Determine traffic flow before setting columns at intervals to describe the shape of a room or just break up the space. Paint them to match the walls so they are not too obtrusive. Columns that reach from floor to ceiling can house extra electrical outlets; three-quarter-height columns create the illusion that they touch the ceiling. Using columns to delineate the dining room leaves the sense of airy, expansive space and brightness -- the enclosure of walls without the expense, or the loss of light.
3. Lunch Room to Library
A dining room with decorative columns flanking windows or interrupting the flow of a wall is an elegant multipurpose space in-the-making. Build bookshelves between the columns, using the columns as the sides of the shelves. Reimagine the dining room as a library; the columns give it some formality, and walls of books are decorative as well as useful. Dedicate the dining room as a homework, reading and gathering spot when the table's not set for dinner. If your home didn't come with columns, hunt for old columns with character in architectural salvage depots and incorporate them into the bookshelves.
4. Key to the Castle
The dining room becomes a magical party space with columns of ribbons, balloons or streamers that transform your four square walls into a castle or fairy bower. Tie, tack or glue floor-length multiwidth ribbons in two party theme colors -- or a riot of rainbow colors -- to embroidery hoops suspended horizontally from hooks in the ceiling. Place one in each corner or "frame" a throne for the party princess with two columns, one on either side of an ornate chair or a salvaged chair sprayed gold and decorated with paste jewels and a satin cushion. For a marine-themed party, string together paper cutouts of sea shapes -- fish, sea stars, shells, boats -- and suspend them from the ceiling-height hoops. Temporary columns work as well to set the scene in your outdoor pergola dining space -- hang strings of fairy lights and paper or silk butterflies and flowers, alternating with satin ribbons.