When I moved into my wonderful cottage/bungalow, the 11 x 12 dining room was painted dark crimson—a result, I’m sure, of the 1990s Feng Shui/red-is-an-auspicious-color-for-dining-rooms craze. It’s a rich and dramatic color—which is great if you have a house and a room that can support the color.
However, when I think cottage, I don’t think dark and dramatic. And while the color looked great at night, it wasn’t very pretty in the daytime.
I’m a nut for natural light—it’s one of the reasons I bought the house. The dining room, as well as the kitchen, is bathed in sunlight in the mornings, but unfortunately, all that beautiful light got sucked right up by the red paint. Needless to say, although I didn’t hate the color or anything, it was destined to go bye-bye from the start.
Just getting the primer on the walls made a huge difference. It was as if the room was finally able to breathe. I chose a pale muted green called Scallion White—almost a neutral, just a hint of color.
I’m a gardener and had several old-fashioned botanical prints and lots of gardening books. Combine that with my eclectic mix of old furniture, and a rustic/natural/woodland garden theme began to develop…the soft green wall color and the neutral browns of the wicker and wood create a restful mood.
The chest on the left is an old washstand I got from my ex-sister-in-law. The chest on the right is a yard sale purchase that I rehabbed. The “sculpture” over the door is made from a couple of pieces of old ivy vine.
The table, which was a barter item, has wrought iron legs and a wood veneer top that’s seen better days. One of these days I’ll refinish it, but for now tablecloths are the perfect solution. Besides, I like that the softness of the fabric gives some relief from all the hard surfaces. The wicker and wrought iron chairs I bought for $10 each at a friend’s yard sale.
The glass platter on the table came from Crate & Barrel (on sale for $13) and is almost exactly the same color as the walls. It contains my collection of mostly natural items that I’ve discovered on walks or in my garden…a bird’s nest, feathers, leaves, rocks, shells, though there are a few things that I’ve added that are distinctly man-made…I add whatever strikes me in the moment.
I chose not to have curtains at the windows. I like floor-length curtains, and the radiator made that a problem. I also wanted to let in as much light as possible. And finally, this house seems to call for simplicity. Plantation blinds provide privacy at night and keep the room from baking in the summer, but also allow me to quickly and easily let the light in when I want it. The antique sewing machine belonged to my grandmother and still works. I haven’t used it in years, but I like having it around, and it works well as a side table/console.
I found the mango-wood library cabinet below at Crate & Barrel. (Doesn’t look like Crate & Barrel, does it?). I was told by a friend who once lived in Indonesia that mango wood is an extremely renewable source (evidently, mangoes are considered weed trees over there), which makes me love it even more. It’s perfect for storing china and stemware as well as books. The rug came from my old house and continues the botanical theme.
The bookends were made by my mother when she was a home economics major at Meredith College. Back then, smoking was still cool (although my mom never did), so those are glass ash trays on either end, with a cut-out in the wood to hold them. Since I don’t smoke, I decided they were a perfect spot for a couple of tealights.
As the room began to come together, I realized that I wanted to be able to hang out in there and enjoy the morning light. So about six months ago, I commandeered one corner of the room to make a reading nook, where I sit and read and journal and have my coffee in the mornings. It’s a great place to start my days.
The room isn’t finished by any means. Some of the accessories that worked in my previous (Victorian) house don’t really work in this house, and the walls need more art. That being said, I already love the room. It’s become one of my favorite places in the house, and I’m looking forward to finding just the right pieces to complete it.