Wall color changes the character of a dining room.

How to Design a Dining Room Makeover

by Benna Crawford

Whether you have moved into a new home with an old dining room, or the kids are finally old enough to get most of the food from the plate to their mouths, it is time to rethink the dining room into a space that reflects your taste, with or without a supersize budget. Color is a quick and inexpensive way to update a room. The right rug or lighting fixture could be an investment in enjoyment.

Squalid to Sunny

When the dining room kills your appetite, lose the dreary paint from a bygone era, the cat-scratched, chair-scraped floors, the found-it-curbside chandelier and the curtains not fit for dust rags. Start by sanding, re-staining and finishing beat-up hardwood floors. Their battle scars evolve into an appealing patina of age under a coat of clear polyurethane. Paint the walls and trim snowy white -- eggshell for easy wipe-downs, matte for a Mediterranean-stucco look. Ditch tired old curtains and invest in custom shades to fit the windows and match the white paint. Replace the dumpy chandelier with a huge white paper globe centered over the table. Add eclectic cabinets and furnishings or a matched dining set with newly upholstered mismatched cushions and a flat-weave dhurrie rug in a vivid contemporary pattern.

Gone Green

Surprise your dinner guests with a jewel-tone dining room makeover that treats walls and floors like style divas. Paint walls in luminous apple green, framed by glossy white enamel trim. Cover the floor with a gleaming royal purple carpet and then keep things spare. A glass table lets the color shine through and a mirrored dresser, repurposed as a sideboard, reflects more of the tempting purple and green. Paint reproduction Queen Anne or Louis XVI chairs distressed white and cover chair cushions in geometric, rough-woven fabric that picks up the wall and rug colors. Add a modern art poster framed in orange or turquoise enamel. Hunt for an unusual contemporary pendant or chandelier -- a “bouquet” of Mason jars with reproduction Edison light bulbs or a grouping of industrial wire cage work-light pendants.

Mellow Mix

Color wash the walls of the dining room apricot for a warm, welcoming room that earns its keep on two levels. Stain hardwood floors cherry for more flattering pink-toned light in the room and choose a red-based Persian rug for under the table. Dedicate one or two walls, floor-to-ceiling, to bookshelves with cabinet doors below. Paint ceiling, trim and bookcases ivory and tuck an ivory-and-peach upholstered reading chair in one corner of the room. A wood table with Windsor chairs dresses for dinner with a lively Provencal print tablecloth. Botanical prints on the bare walls bridge the worlds of library and daily fare. Cream and cinnabar striped silk balloon shades or ivory slatted wood shutters would work equally well as window coverings.

Understated Style

Put the pewter on the walls for a sophisticated dining room that transforms from forgettable to trending with a lick of paint. Keep wood floors polished and protected with a thick contemporary abstract carpet. Paint walls in pewter or charcoal gray with white ceiling and trim. A slab of smooth hardwood with rounded edges, flanked by transparent Louis XVI ghost chairs or contemporary chairs deeply upholstered in gunmetal-gray velvet takes care of seating. Hang a wire-and-paper chandelier over the table -- the light is surrounded by paper-clipped slips of handmade parchment printed with scraps of love poems or left blank for your inspired verse. A sunflower-yellow enameled sideboard and a matching ceramic bowl for flowers in the center of the table supply the necessary burst of color.

About the Author

Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .

Photo Credits

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