She Wants An Eclectic Dining Room But Not a Scary Mishmash!

Hi everyone! Surprise! Sarah McGee here, reporting live for duty. I’m super-duper excited to give Laurel a hand this week!

(please be gentle; I’m a blogging virgin!)

Laurel received this letter recently from Bianca, who throws the most delightfully detailed dinners I’ve ever seen. I would include the images of parties she’s shared, but she’d rather keep that private for now.


Instead, ala Laurel, please enjoy this painting by John Singer Sargent.

My Dining Room (also known as The Lunch Table) John Singer Sargent - circa 1883-1896 Smith College Museum of Art - Northampton, Massachusetts (United States) Painting - oil on canvas“My Dining Room” (also known as The Lunch Table) John Singer Sargent – circa 1883-1896 Smith College Museum of Art – Northampton, Massachusetts (United States) Painting – oil on canvas


I can tell you, however, that there is not one item Bianca overlooks when she decides to celebrate with her friends and loved ones; from cocktails, to the menu and especially the tablescapes.


Here’s what she wrote Laurel about the issues with her eclectic dining room:


Dear Laurel,

“…When I set the table, I never look only at the table. It has to work with the whole room, and I have never seen a room that will work for people like me (I know I’m not the only one) who love tableware. Pinterest is full of people like me…

I found your blog several months ago and I’ve been slowly reading all the old posts, but found nothing addressing my particular problem:

How do you design a dining room for someone who LOVES to cook, coordinates the table setting to the food, and owns about 20 different sets of dishes? Most are simple but some have a pattern and they’re all different colors.

Our dining room used to have a red oriental rug under the table but I took it out because it didn’t work with the rust tablecloth I use for Halloween and Thanksgiving, or the green dishes I use in summer. I covered the rust chairs in cheap black slip covers because they didn’t work with the red tablecloth I use at xmas, or the pink dishes I use in spring. The room really needs a rug (floor is Canadian birch) but what color goes with everything? I have some dishes that are white, and some that are ivory.

The dining rooms you’ve featured are all gorgeous, but most of them aren’t set for eating, and the few that are have the dishes coordinated with the room. While I love that idea… I could never make do with just one set…”



eclectic dining room green place setting


eclectic dining room green-black-white table top

Eclectic dining room red-orange place setting


eclectic dining table set


Dearest Bianca,

It’s Sarah McGee aka: McGizzles on instagram. Maybe you remember me from a post that Laurel did about me several weeks ago. Shock of the day, number one.


Then, shock of the day number two, she asked me if I was interested in giving you a hand because she knows that I adore dishes and I said, “is that a question? I’m on it sister!”


Therefore, I will answer your question with my deepest thoughts on your already charming eclectic dining room – just, um……. give me a second while I…erm…pardon me, but I have to…


SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE all over the place because I’m writing on Laurel Bern’s blog!!! There could be a Laurel fan club and I’d be all up in it. She’s the coolest, kind, funny and talented but keeps it real. I’m trippin’ out right now. And seeing myself running around and high-fiving all the other readers!

I mean I can’t even, can you even?

Okay. Sorry. I’ve taken deep breaths and collected myself.


BACK to you, lovely Bianca, and your Dining Dilemma (holy cow, I did not know how to spell dilemma – on my third attempt spellcheck just filled in with “lmao”).

Ah. I see why you’re frustrated, B! You have some seriously knock-out place settings with tons of personality, but when we put them in this room, they sort of go lifeless.

Or have too much life. Either way, I’m feeling a disconnect and the balance is off. And while we want your hard work on your table to shine, we need to set it up with the proper backdrop for a beautiful eclectic dining room!

In order for the table to look pretty, the whole room needs to support that. When we walk into a room, we’re taking it all in at once as a whole. The big picture, so to speak. It’s the ambiance, the feeling we’re after first, then we move on to appreciating the details.

Additionally, we want our elements to compliment each other, but not be matchy-matchy pants. We aren’t all about decorating garanimals-style (you millennials may have to ask siri about garanimals). ;]


Where do we start?


We start with eclectic dining room inspo!!!


And that means colors schemes, furniture, lighting and accessories. And it doesn’t have to be a dining room. It’s the feeling, we are after.

As I like to have choices, I am going to consider a few directions and narrow it down from there.

First up, a boring ol’ answer; if you want to coordinate with every color ever, then we go neutral and play nice. And don’t get me wrong. Neutral is gorgeous. I’m a big fan of neutral.

But, in this case, with the Victorian cupboard and the colorful dishes, it’s not going to work. We need COLOR!

And I feel that the room needs to be more fun, like the dishes.

Laurel talked about painted ceilings here:

That might be an option to consider.

I don’t want to spend a ton of time on neutrals, so I’m going to move on to my next option.


When I’m in doubt about a color story that plays well with others, I go to my tried and true scheme: black, white and green.


From now on, I’ll refer to them as “BWG.” Those are the colors that go with EVERYTHING!


BWG is like the cool group of girls that you’ve always wanted to hang with, And they’re so cool that they will play well with just about anyone.

This BWG color scheme is versatile in that it can be classic and timeless; while at the same time, it can be fresh enough to earn a slap from your mama. 😉

When I look through these images, I can’t think of a color that would give me a case of the sads if introduced to the mix:

Jonathan Adler

(oh! I just saw that they are have a huuuuuuuge sale right now!)

Daniel Romualdez for Tory Burch



Kelly Wearstler

(there’s an interesting story about Kelly in that link above)


Now, to introduce a little more color



Miles Redd above and below.



Ben Pentreath - The Parsonage, Dorset (24th November 2014) eclectic dining room


Ben Pentreath managed to pair BWG with grey and purple. PURPLE! Who’da thunk? Right?


Oh, I forgot to mention Bianca loves art deco!


My face is a big ole heart faced emoji.

And if I could get a drum-roll or something of the sort, I would like to suggest the following. Now, this may make you nervous, B, but please hear me out.

If you want to use any color dishes/table cloth/glassware, might I suggest making your dining room color friendly and using






Okay. Maybe not quite that dramatic, but I’m proposing that we embrace LOTS of colors. I happen to think this is what’s around the corner as far as “trends” go. And if I have only one super power, it would be that I’m pretty good at trend predicting.

However, I do not find the following images to be “trendy”. I think they are timeless in that the people who live in these rooms love these rooms. And that’s what really counts, guys. To L O V E your home. To that end, I urge you to take some risks.

Don’t be afraid.

Do what you want, do what gives you the happies!

And if people don’t “get” it they can suck an egg.



Every room that I ever get an effusive compliment on in my own home is always a room that I’ve just went all in on, no apologies. Because it shows who we are!


There’s love in that and personality and it comes through and speaks to the guests you care to share your home with.


And now here’s for some real fun. Check out these talented designers who I admire immensely.


colette van den thillart house

Colette Van Den Thillart house

Love her work!


Above and below by the insanely talented Summer Thornton. I’ve been a long time fan of hers and I know that Laurel is too.

For more of Summer Thornton, you can click here, here, here, here and here.


Dining room by interior designer Summer Thornton featuring F Schumacher Miles Redd Brighton Pavillion wallpaper

Look at this. Just look at it!

le sigh…..

There’s another great pic of that glorious wallpaper here.


Now I feel the urge to go repaint every room of my house. Before I do that, though, I will get my head out of the clouds, dear Bianca, and tell you what I would do. And I’m going to work very hard not to completely break the bank!


Let’s revisit our pic of Bianca’s eclectic dining room, as is now:



Bianca has a list of musts.


She needs to keep the following (for now):


  • Chairs
  • Table
  • Paint color – Although, if there was one relatively cheap fix she could do, I would definitely paint the walls are a far more saturated green. Laurel has at least four greens I could see in this room in her paint collection.
  • At least one of the storage pieces


She needs to keep quite a few of her items, as she doesn’t have the funds to make big adjustments right now (sounds familiar, I know that pain, sister), but as Laurel always says, we need to have a plan.


When you settle on the plan, keep the plan. Love the plan. Protect the plan. Now I’ve said plan so much that it sounds funny. plan plaaaaaaaaan.


Break down your plan into a prioritized check list and check things off as you’re able to get to them.


But the biggest, most helpful element you can do for yourself is to KEEP FOCUSED ON THE PLAN. It’s very very very easy to stray from the path and be distracted by other shiny objects along the way. Don’t do it! It’s a waste of time and money.


That is how an eclectic dining room can go from cool to crazy-pants-horror-show in no time.

Might I share my suggestions for said plan?

Cool! Don’t mind if I do.

Let me say: I adore the cupboard/dresser to the left. It’s absolutely beautiful. Sadly, though, I feel that this big guy is too big for the room. It’s rather massive. And the one place it could work, which is against the back wall, actually won’t work, as it leaves no room for an end chair.

I’m going to suggest moving that big boy out of the room and using the buffet for storage and serving. I would move it to the wall where the cupboard used to be. To pretty it up, I would consider using a great mirror for added light.

aperture mirror from Anthropologie perfect - eclectic dining room
I love the villa mirror from Aperture Mirror from Anthropologie!


Maybe we could put a lovely patisserie stand for interest?

She has enough dishes and other lovelies to do some gorg accessorizing.

Next up, and I believe is the most important, the back wall. That is our focal point.


William Sonoma Home Chinoiserie Panels
Now these Chinoiserie  dudes from William Sonoma are pretty pricey. But they are gorgeous and they offer a heck of a bang for the buck. They incorporate a nice palette of colors, that will help free up some choices when designing your tablescape:


Another idea that would be quite charming and a lot less $$$ are these colorful prints from Ballard Designs

Now that we have that finished let’s put something on the check list to get to later. How about we give a nod to Bianca’s love of art deco, and use this paper?
In the whooooooooole room.


walls need love art - deco wallpaper collection for an eclectic dining room

Golden Geo Removable Wallpaper – Walls Need Love

Self-Adhesive Wallpaper?

Oh yeah, now we’re talking.

Filippa Wallpaper Anthropologie eclectic dining room

Filippa Wallpaper


OR, we could have an accent wall in the back with beautiful flowers and an art wall on the adjacent wall.


Now, let’s choose a new chandelier


I looked at numerous chandeliers and feel that this piece is very important


Visual comfort four light Etoile chandelier - eclectic dining room


Etoile Round Chandelier


That will do very nicely I think. It’s stylish and fun!


You can see it in a room here.


This Alabaster buffet lamp from John Richard would add beautiful lighting to the buffet.

And then to round out the lighting, I would add two lovely sconces flanking the mirror over the buffet. check out these beautiful sconces!


If Bianca paints the room a more saturated color, I would do a sea grass rug.


Laurel has linked to a really affordable one in her collection of beautiful rugs on sale.


Williams Sonoma Home anatolia-overdyed-hand-knotted-rug-eclectic dining room

Otherwise, this handsome Anatolia hand-knotted rug at Williams Sonoma Home is so awesome. I love the antique look of it! And it just happens to be on sale right now. 20% off. Use code: HOME  – That’s easy.

By the way. Have you seen Laurel’s Hot Sale’s page? I want everything on the vintage page. And do you know that she has hot clothes on sale too? Those leopard pumps on sale at Ann Taylor have my name on them! But I’ll let you pick up a pair too. But really, she finds such pretty things and looks especially for items with super high ratings and/or she owns some of the hot clothes as well.


Oh, one last thing for the plan


I would definitely consider switching out the chairs down the road… Or up the road, if possible as this chair is on sale! It’s perfect!



Loving this classic Tia dining chair from Anthropologie and as I said, it’s on sale and under $300! I think it looks a lot more expensive than that. And it’s fine that the woods aren’t all matchy as long as the tones coordinate.

Well, I could keep going… But I’m sure that you have better things to do like clean your oven? 😉

Do you guys have any ideas, you’d like to share?


eclectic dining room


The mood board above includes a few different ideas.  Hope that you guys like it. It’s always a challenge coming into the middle of a situation. But I think that adding a lot more color will help make the room feel more cohesive– and fun!

*Please keep in mind, I’m not working with actual dimensions here, we always need to measure twice before making commitments. These are more of an idea for direction and scale.*


secrets to creating an eclectic pretty dining room without turning it into a horrid mishmash


Love and good luck to you, Bianca, on whatever direction you decide to head towards!

Thank you again, Laurel for trusting me with your blog!



aka @mcgizzles on instagram. Please follow me. I’d be tickled green!


PS: MOM! MOM! Look at me! I’m on Laurel’s blog!


119 Responses

  1. So….
    IF I decide to go with the deco paper on the ceiling, what color should I paint the walls?
    In the photo of the DR that SARAH posted, the spot where I (the photographer) was standing is open to the rest of the house and the DR is visible from the family-living-great room. The great room is painted Litchfield gray and decorated in tweedy brown, rusty red, aqua and black-white. It’s more Colorado mountain home style and not deco at all. All the rugs are oriental from when we lived ‘overseas’ and they tie into the rusty-red. The ONLY greens in that room are the plants.
    I’m OK with using a more saturated green in the DR but I’m not sure the one SARAH chose would work with the colors in the rest of the house. SARAH, why did you chose that one? Because it worked the best with the dishes? You mentioned there were other greens that might work. Can you let me know their names?
    And…once I settle on a green, do I then find chairs the same color as the walls or was that a coincidence?
    On the other hand, if I use the deco paper on the walls, what do you think of painting the ceiling a light aqua to tie it into the great room?
    Once again, THANK YOU to everyone who’s commented. Every one of them was useful!

    1. Hi Bianca,

      I would paint it a rich green, but it is my policy not to give specific colors in most cases. Since we are not in your home, can’t see what else is going on or the lighting in your room. Hope that you’ll understand. It’s not your fault. I didn’t give Sarah any direction, but I always tell the person that this is only an exercise to say what we’d recommend based on what we see and there is no follow up other than comments on the blog. Otherwise, it’s a consultation and there’s a fee for that. Sorry, I should’ve said something.

      If there’s a room that I’ve done, I’m more than happy to give out the color. If you’d like to have a selection of beautiful greens, there are at least 12 in the Laurel Home Essential Paint Collectionand comes with a companion product which is 40 palettes and much more. You can read more about it here, if you’re interested.

      1. No problem! I’ve gotten so many ideas already I’m having trouble figuring out what to do next.
        I moved the furniture around and I love it! I have pictures but don’t know how to share them so I created a blog page (new blog, nothing on it but that one page). I’ll post the link if it’s OK.
        Thanks again!

  2. A very thought provoking and informative post and it sure is creating a lot of interesting comments and perspectives which is always (IMO) a sign of an interesting post Sarah! It would be fun to see the hutch in the back of the room (maybe not so much fun to be the person to actually move it) since it is one of those pieces you love and just can’t part with (I couldn’t remove it either) as it is a beautifully intricate piece and I think people will be immediately drawn to it and maybe it would seem balanced being opposite what I imagine to be another opening to the room but that side is not pictured?? Anything that seems to have a history behind it adds so much character to a room. Moving it to the back will also allow that window to be more of a feature (there was a comment that the room was without any natural light but moving the cabinet would allow that window to be a more prominent feature in the room). Hope to see the final changes. What is great is by even using just a few of these ideas you can really change your space. I took Laurel’s advice and used a Jute rug under the table (she had said Jute is much better than Sisal–at least I hope I am remembering that right) and it adds great texture (which would look nice against the shiny wood floors) and feels nice on the feet (and she is right they are very cheap and but not cheap looking)!

    1. Hi Travis! Thank you for your fun comment. 🙂

      I totally agree with you about anything with history or an antique feel – it adds so much more richness and interest to a room. Maybe she’ll find a way to use it, after all!

    2. TRAVIS (and SARAH), I moved the breakfront and the sideboard (all by myself) and I love the new arrangement! So does my husband.
      Moving the table where it works for me, rather than under the light, makes the room look bigger somehow. Big enough that I’m going to put my old table back – the round/oval antique – as soon as I figure out where to stash the newer one.
      There is more light coming into the room now, too. The breakfront was blocking the light from one of the windows (there are two in the room).
      I do have pictures which I will share when LAUREL approves the method.

      1. That is so great to hear! Whenever there is something I really want to do and my contractor or some friend with good intentions (aka Knowitall) says don’t do it, I think back to Laurel’s advice about “if you love it go for it” or I think it was something like that. When my kitchen is finished I’m going to send her a photo if I’m brave enough! I am REALLY happy with it but she might just think, “This is not my advice!” I can definitely say that I am very happy with so many choices and directions that I have taken from Laurel’s blog and that wouldn’t have been the case otherwise. Thanks Laurel and Sarah!

        1. Hi Travis,

          I can’t tell how how many times a client has said to me, “no, Laurel.” Then they showed me what their vision is. And, immediately, I realized that their idea was far superior.

          What irks the crap outta me is after my client and I ruminated over a decision and believe me, I can obsess with the best of ’em, made our decisions and very happy with them. And THEN, some dumbass contractor opens up his inappropriate yap and puts the fear of doubt inside my trusting client’s head. And in some cases, mine as well.

          And for any contractors out there, this is by no means ALL contractors. I have worked with some that it felt like we were separated at birth! It’s always a wonderful collab, in that case. And they would run past ME first anything that they had a question about.

          But, unless someone is asked, they really shouldn’t volunteer their opinion, unless it’s a positive one.

          That probably goes for everything in life!

  3. Love your suggestions, Sarah! Prints, a mirror with gold, new chandelier! Moving the large piece (that has to stay) to the back wall will immediately improve the look of the space. I vote for a rug in the space: keep what’s there or replace with your suggestions. I love your wall treatment suggestions, too, Sarah, yet recognize Bianca’s desire to keep her paint scheme. She has great advice from you on how to tackle the walls in the future, if she goes that route!

    1. Oh Libby (my daughter’s name is Libby!), I really appreciate the kind words.

      I did really try to keep in mind that she wanted/needed to keep some elements so that she can make some changes now while also making a plan for the future. Love that you recognize that. <3 Thank you!

  4. Love it! I love black, white and green interiors but frankly I always struggle with adding green. I’m super picky about greens!!! When I saw the conundrum I assumed the answer would use blue so I love that it’s my fave instead 😄

    1. Yesssssss! I love that you were surprised (for the good, ha!) Green just makes ya happy, doesn’t it?

      1. YUP! Even my blues, I like ’em with some green. That’s actually the current design corner I’ve painted myself into bc I HAD to have the Beatrix chairs from anthro in the teal linen (sale was on sale!! basically free chairs) and I haven’t figured out yet if they won’t play with my fave emerald velvet pillows or if i’m a freakin’ genius. #StayTunedToThisRivetingTale #KeepLayeringTilitWorks

  5. Those are great suggestions, Sarah. I love the Summer Thornton images you included, and I love green. They remind me of Laurel’s post about a Spring Palette.

    1. Thanks so much, Susan. And I really love Summer Thornton, I think her bold choices are just the coolest!

  6. It occurs to me that if the china cabinet goes to the back wall and the sideboard on the left with the chandelier moved, what is really needed is a new table and chairs based on Bianca’s comments about the chairs and table. I’d like to see the table without the tablecloth.

    I have no idea what style of table to recommend, but I bet something secondhand would do as well or better than new.

    Also, displaying some of the china in the china cabinet would help.

    1. I have a photo of the room with the breakfront at the back, the sideboard on the left, and the table naked but I don’t know how to post it.

      The mirrors on the right are still on the wall and there’s nothing underneath them. I also have a picture with two of the dining chairs under the mirrors and that doesn’t look too bad.

      I have another conundrum – if I move the breakfront, what do I do with the round table with the large blue glass vase on it currently in the far left corner? It’s a beautiful antique piece with a marble top that I won’t get rid of but don’t have any other place for. Can it stay in that corner next to the breakfront?

      Aaaaand… moving the breakfront makes the windows cry out for some treatment but we have NO drapes anywhere else in the house. Every other window has only those white blinds, which my husband likes. I love the way drapes look in all the photos on Lauren’s blog but we’ve had drapes in other houses and they are such a pain to clean.

      The previous owner had ‘things’ over each window – twigs in the bathroom, magnolia branches in the DR, fish nets in the screen room, garlands of fruit in the kitchen, etc…

      Regarding displaying my china: Inside the top of the breakfront (china cabinet) is some of my collection of stemware (I have hundreds of glasses, too). In the center, where the glass doors are, are all the aqua/robin’s-egg-blue pieces.

      I’d prefer not to display the china for two reasons. The first is that it’s stored in protective cases; and the second is that I’ve never liked that look. If it were all one color – if I had a massive amount of something special, that is – it would look OK, but my collection is pretty much a mish-mash.

      I have our glassware displayed throughout the house, but the china stays under wraps. SARAH, please don’t suggest that!

      1. I think the only way that table could stay might be as a plant stand.

        I would look at various sources of used tables and chairs. Chairish is really good. I found stuff on Ebay, not to mention Craigslist.

        There is a beautiful table (not for you) on Chairish right now and I found the same table from House selling for hundreds less.

        I wish we could post pictures in the comments section.

        Roman shades on the windows would do fine.

        But decide your layout and furniture first before committing to anything else.

        I thought Sarah’s suggestions were gorgeous!!

  7. Hi Laurel & Sarah Since this about dining rooms I have a question. Laurel I know you like seagrass rugs. Wondering would you recommend using seagrass in a daily used dining room? I really like the look but wondering how well they hold up with chairs moving in & out. As always look forward to every post

    1. Hi Carol,

      It really depends. If you have kids, a husband, etc. I wouldn’t put any rug except maybe a floorcloth that can be mopped. Sea grass rugs are incredibly durable and they inherently repel stains as the waxy fibers can’t absorb anything. This is why you never see sea grass rugs stained.

      Sea grass is a woven fiber and they do have a latex backing that holds the fibers in place.But, but, but will a chair going back and forth in the same spot hundreds of times possibly breakdown the fiber in such a way that it will start to unravel?

      I don’t know the answer but sea grass rugs are not expensive. so, if it’s in an area where you feel that you need to have a floor covering, my best guess is that it would be okay for at least a few years and after that, it really doesn’t owe you anything.

      But, I have clients who’ve had their sea grass rugs for many, many years and they’ve held up beautifully.

  8. Yep, you’re ready for your own blog! Sarah, wonderful color plan I’m so swooning at your picks. You and Laurel make a gggggreat pair!! Love you girls! Karen

    1. Oh thaaaaank you, Karen. I have to tell you, it sure is fun to work on a blog post but I had NO IDEA how much work goes in! I’m not sure I’m woman enough…
      But I’d team up with Laurel any any ANYtime.
      And Laurel – Karen and I are friends now because of your post about me last year. So thank you (and thank you and thank you)! xo

  9. No need to call the electrician to move the ceiling fixture. Just put a hook where you want the chandelier and swag it over.

    Loved the post. Thanks so much.

  10. I am so glad Bianca is going for the gorgeous chandelier!! I saw that in her comments, It is stunning and I am sure it will be worth every penny. I second what Laurel said about seagrass rugs. I just bought my first seagrass rug and it is working out so well. It could go anywhere. I have preschoolers and it takes anything they throw at it and cleans beautifully. I would not hesitate to put one in a dining room. I also just purchased my first large wall mirror and the impact is amazing!! The aperture mirror that Sarah recommended is on my personal want list. Sarah’s suggestions are wonderful!

    1. Eleanor – what good, fun feedback! I’ll bet people will love to read your first hand account of preschoolers and seagrass.
      And I’m with you, cuz I love that chandelier to bits!
      Thank you for your kind words. 🙂

  11. I love the chandelier (art deco) and would like your opinion if it could be used with antique country French antiques.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Pat! Absolutely this chandelier will work. I think this fixture is very versatile and will work in a number of different styles. I think it would be especially lovely with it’s clean lines, paired with French country antiques.

  12. Great post! BWG with dashes of “everything” thrown in is one of my all time fave palettes. I really hope she paints her walls a more saturated green — it will be gorgeous! Love the botanical prints, too. You’ve definitely checked all of MY boxes here! Very Laurel-worthy. 🙂

    1. Carol – thank you so much and BWG is just my all time fave, too! I may even have “Laurel-worthy” printed up as my very own inspirational poster. <3

  13. Love the color scheme, and all the furniture placement ideas (and the post – it’s clear to me that you, Sarah, somehow share humor as well as design DNA with Laurel!). I’m going to take the risk of sharing my one feeble thought…when I saw that geometric wall paper all I could think of was how beautiful it might be glimmering on the ceiling. I don’t know what that would look like with a saturated green wall (maybe reflect the color and change the feeling – in an unsatisfactory way?) but..

    1. Ruth!!!! YEESSSSSSSSS!!!!!

      *and thank for the compliment – Laurel is never getting rid of me now – I’ll claim a genetic link… bahahahahaha!

  14. Great post, definitely in the spirit of Laurel! I, too, have many sets of dishes in many colors and patterns, but one lucky decision many years ago means that they all look great in the dining room. The decision? A patterned drapery fabric that incorporates a jillion colors. The drapery fabric is complimented by an area rug with the same, but more muted colors, and deep gold walls that act as a neutral. I know Laurel appreciates the work of Sarah Richardson, who almost invariably begins a design project by selecting a patterned fabric and then builds from there. As an amateur, I recommend this technique! (I once even pulled colors from the fabric on porch chairs to paint the exterior of a house, with great success.) Looking forward to Bianca’s decisions……

    1. Kathy – what great advice!
      And now I’m dying to see your eclectic dishes as well. I just love a beautiful table!

  15. THANK YOU Laurel, Sarah, and everyone else who has provided suggestions!

    Bianca here (oh, how I wish that was my real name!) and I have to say that I LOVE Sarah’s suggestions! Black and white are my favorite colors and green (as in the color of plants) goes with everything.

    I was actually considering wallpaper with lots of greenery but that deco wall paper is to-die for! It will work with the rest of the house, too.

    Moving the breakfront will be a problem. There is nowhere else in the house it would fit (lots of windows in this house with no walls large enough for it) and I adore it. I could never get rid of it. HOWEVER…I could put it on the back wall if I could move the table forward which would be possible if the light were in a different place (the room is 17 x 12 and open at one end). Since I do plan to replace the overhead light (I LOVE the one Sarah chose) would that be an acceptable solution?

    If it is, what would I do with the side walls? I have a photo of the DR with the breakfront at the back and the sideboard on the left, which is where Sarah recommended I put it. Instead of the mirror she chose, which I do like, I have an antique mirror that used to hang in my mother’s DR that I could use there. It doesn’t have such an interesting shape as the one Sarah chose.

    What do I do on the right, then? A glass beverage cart? I’ve always wanted one…. But won’t the sideboard need something to balance it? The existing sconces are deco-ish and might work with the wall paper but the paired mirrors would have to go. What do I replace them with? The colorful wall?

    Regarding the chandelier, it’s 28 wide and 25″ tall. Our ceilings are a normal 8′. Is it too tall? I would like to be able to use candles on the table.

    I like the idea of the seagrass rug (and the price) but will it work with my formal china? It’s ivory, gold, burgundy and black.

    As I told Sarah, I hate the DR chairs – they’re too low for the table. I looked into having slipcovers made with an integrated cushion and a skirt but they were $1500 EACH and I figured I could buy new chairs for that. How do I insure that what I replace them with isn’t also too low? Alternatively, would it be possible/advisable to have the table legs cut down?

    I also hate the DR table. I wish it were oval with a pedestal and more leaves. It only grows to 101″ and I’d prefer 120″. At that size, the chair at the head would be between the pillars at the open end of the room but it would only be there on the rare occasions when we have 10+ people for dinner.

    I’m willing to replace the sideboard but it’s cavernous and holds a lot of my china so the replacement would have to be just as utilitarian. Perhaps the glass-front cabinet GAIL CARYN suggested?


    Is this an acceptable plan:
    paper the walls
    move the breakfront to the back wall
    move the sideboard to the left wall
    mirror over the sideboard
    two buffet lamps on the sideboard (love them, too)
    ??? on the right wall
    ??? over ??? on the right wall
    replace the chandelier and reposition it (yes, MRSBEN, it’s off center!)
    seagrass rug until I can afford an oriental
    replace the table and chairs

    1. Hi Bianca!

      Thank you so much for this! I’m not going to address all of this. Sarah is more than capable, but a sea grass rug goes with EVERYTHING!!! In fact, I see them as being the great equalizer. How high is the table? Standard is 30″. Can you add a card table with table cloths to an end for more seating? It depends on the width of the table. While not ideal, if it’s added to the far end, nobody will hardly notice. If it’s a little smaller, in width, you can fudge perhaps with table pads. This post will show you what I did a few years ago. Please excuse the plastic table cloth. It is all I can do to do to cook. haha. And it IS meant to be a joke, of course. All in or Hallmark plastic. ;]

      I’ll let Sarah handle the rest.

      1. Laurel – that’s such a good idea about the table! hmmmmm. Reminds me that I need to grow up and own a card table. It’s, like, one of those household things you know you need when you’re an adult but takes you forever to get to because it’s no fun to spend the money on.

        Like, a blow up mattress or salad tongs.


        Hiiiiiiii B!!! So happy you are loving the ideas! And seriously, what a WEALTH of information and suggestions in the comments. Pretty cool, huh?

        I’m going to think over your question and get back to you – I do much better with a little marinating time. 🙂 But I wanted to be sure to say hello and I’m so happy to see you happy. xo

        1. Yes, I’m very happy!

          I do agree about the comments – I’m getting a LOT of ideas from them!

      2. LOL! I LOVE your thanksgiving solution! At first, I thought those demilunes would work for me, too, but all those extra legs would be a problem.

        Our old DR table, before we bought this house, was an antique tiger oak claw-foot table – 48″ round with a center pedestal. When you separated it to put the leaves in the center pedestal opened to reveal a leg that supported the leaves, while the pedestal supported the ends. With no legs in the way, I could seat 14 people at that table!

        Unfortunately, it’s too wide for the new DR. At 12′ wide I would only have 4′ on each side for the chairs AND whatever sideboard I use. With the new 42″ table I currently have 31.5″ between the table and the side pieces and it’s really tight when people are seated. Even if I move the breakfront, the sideboard is 19″.

        The table is 30″ high but the top of the chair seats is only 18. Is that normal? I’m short and many chairs are too low for me but my husband complains, too, and he’s 6′.

        1. Thanks B! The chairs are not abnormally low, but on the lower side of normal. 30″ is the normal table height. The solution would be a thicker seat. But you will probably prefer a chair with a 20″ seat.

    2. Update on the overhead light:

      The current one is 25″ wide and 33″ tall so the one Sarah chose, which is only 25″ tall, would be a huge improvement!

  16. I just wanted to say that I really really appreciate the warm reception!!!!!!!!!!!

    And so much love to Laurel for not only inviting me to have some fun, but also for the type of blog she hosts:
    I’m reminded that one of the most fun things about reading her posts is how everyone is welcome to share their thoughts and ideas and how much fun it is to read and consider all the creativity.

  17. The fun of reading this blog is the comments from everyone! Thank you Kirsten….I just bought the calendar of botanical prints for my green laundry room. They were exactly what I had in mind but I never wanted to spend a lot since it’s my laundry room : ). Such a fun, inexpensive idea to share! Kudos to you!!

  18. Dear Laurel/Sarah,
    Thank you Sarah, for the awesome ideas.I love the idea of lots of color too and I adore your lighting suggestions. However, I think Bianca will have to do more to make the room complete but I’m not sure what. Here are the questions I have about her dining room if she were to make the changes you have outlined. She moves the buffet to the left side and removes the other beautiful, too large, piece adding the fab art on the back wall. Now the window becomes more noticeable and the wall on the right is blank. What should she do with those two opportunities? I know, I know, I’m never satisfied. Thanks for all you’ve done to make my Sunday morning so enjoyable ! I love it all

    1. Jean – thank you for your kind words and good questions. I love that you are right there with us puzzling it out!

      This is where the whole idea of personal choice/taste in design starts to flush out. Personally, for me, I leave the wall blank because I think our eyes will need some negative space to rest on. Our minds crave it a bit, it could feel over-designed or cluttered if we try to fill that spot. Especially if I manage to talk B into the wallpaper. 😉

      Same for the windows: I personally like to leave them blank so we get a clean line and clear light if we use dramatic colors on the back wall.

      From that thought, though, I will say that sometimes you get the whole room finished and you realize: ‘nope. I was wrong. We definitely need something in that spot after all.’ And that could very well happen!

      I guess it all comes down to finding a direction in which to start…

      Wow! Thanks for the comment, it was fun to think through! xo

  19. Bravo!!!!! High fives for all with this post! My very favorite part is the BWG!!! I always tell my clients this is the perfect pallet for fresh and works with every season! Green is basically a neutral. 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼. And I totally agree with the lighting recommendations. Nailed it. Bravo ladies. This was genius collaboration! Sarah, I really hope you are having mimosas this morning! 🥂

  20. Love the suggestions, Sarah, I feel that a saturated green (Grass, Kelly, Emerald or even a dark Forest) can act as a neutral, but be both fresher and more grounding than colours we usually think of as neutrals. Here’s a budget way to get the look of the series of 9 framed botanical prints. Get these frames at IKEA

    Paint them with spray paint, topped with a good quality gilding paint to achieve a warm, layered gold.

    Then choose a wall calendar to your liking, and the size of the frames here’s one from the UK but I’m sure you can find a US one you’ll like:

    Hope this is useful, and good luck with your redesign, Bianca!


    1. What lovely, thoughtful suggestions Kirsten! I’ll bed B will find them useful – I hope she’s encouraged by all this kind consideration from readers, I know I would be. 🙂

  21. Wow Sarah congrats! Your post was all things Laurel – funny, kind, creative and filled with smart solutions. You nailed it!
    Bianca. Lovely table art. I definitely agree the room needs to sing to show off those wonderful collections. I’d love to see a shallow glass-fronted china cabinet or book shelf (buy an old second hand one cheap) painted with Annie Sloan Antibes Green filled with you gorgeous dishes as the principal art piece on the back wall. Have fun!

    1. Wow, Gail, what a HUGE compliment! Thank you! Makes me wanna spin around and sing from a mountain top!
      But I live in Indiana. womp womp.
      Anyway, you’re right about a B’s beautiful table art – and a way to showcase it while not in use would be a wonderful way to bring happiness every time she walked into the room. 🙂

  22. I really love ALL the ideas you have for this room. I would only add that if money is tight, there could be interim changes to the furniture she has to better reflect the sense of fun her china has. The chairs could be reupholstered or slipcovered in a great fabric with a fun trim. She could paint or refinish any or all of the wood. (Although I would understand if she doesn’t want to paint the antiques!)

    1. Thank you, Sally! Painting furniture is such a great affordable option when we’re stuck in the land of a mini-budget… I surely know that first hand.
      Laurel did a great post about painting furniture, I wish I’d thought to include it!

  23. Really enjoyed this post! Especially appreciate being able to see “before” pictures. Maybe, sometime down the road, we will be treated to some “after” pictures, as well? I think all of Sarah’s ideas are great. Personally, I like the Victorian piece in there, and dislike the buffet. If a serving piece is needed, perhaps a wall mounted or a long narrow console table? I also think the room has too much wood. A rug will definitely help, but perhaps a painted piece would lighten the mood. Also, the chairs could be salvaged for the long term if they were treated to slipcovers. These would be fun and would provide an affordable way to periodically change the look of the room! If slipcovers are not an option, two upholstered armchairs could be the ticket.

    1. Karen, wouldn’t it be so great to see some “after” images? Maybe B will love the choices and make some adjustments, or maybe she’ll run for the hills… 😉 Maybe she’ll find something in a comment that lands with her and she decides to do that, instead! <3
      One of the things I love about design is how it's so personal and everyone can find a way to tweak it and let their own personality shine through.
      And two upholstered chairs or a painted piece would be a good way to soften the room. The possibilities are endless!

      1. There will definitely be ‘after’ pictures but it might be a few months.

        KAREN, I agree the room has too much wood. I would never paint the breakfront but I’d be willing to paint the sideboard. What color? Aqua?

        There are (cheap) black slipcovers on the chairs currently. Underneath, they’re upholstered in rust with gold nailheads. They’re good quality but the rust was so limiting….

  24. Your idea to go with a BWG color scheme is genius! I never realized how well it worked with other colors until you showed the examples.
    I’m on the fence in regard to the lighting recommendations. Having sconces & buffet lamps seems redundant. And the lighting would be on the one side of the room making it feel unbalanced. But your choices are bang on for giving the room a more upscale feel/look.
    I was also wondering if the table was rotated if it would allow more room along the back wall.

    1. Thanks, Mary! BWG is a great consideration if I ever find myself floundering. I appreciate your appreciation too- 😉
      I had also considered that, about rotating the table, but I’m unsure if that will create more $$ to then move the fixture?
      This is fun to go through and read all these thoughts and perspectives!

  25. Needs more color than just brown. Any way to put some “skirting” on the chairs? Yes, the BIG storage piece might look better in another room. I’d love to see what the finished look is like.

    1. Susie – I hope she reads something here that she implements and we get to see a finished look! I would love that, too.

  26. Love it! Great suggestions and green and Miles Redd were my first thoughts too (which personally makes me happy bc I’m not a designer but I must be learning a lot)!! I’m super jelly of Bianca–both her china and her being featured here! Good job with the writing Sarah, your fun personality really showed through, which is part of what we all love about Laurel!

  27. Do love your recommendations, Sarah! That said; am not a designer and agree with mostly what you said that being treat the far wall as a focal point with some wallpaper however I would personally consider leaving the buffet/side server where it is and add the mirror with an addition of a lamp. Remove the large cupboard as suggested, add the Ballard Design gallery in its place and shift the table slightly to the left to center the ceiling fixture. (It appears a little off kilter to me.) Last but not least; add some type of window covering that would work with the overall design/colour scheme and/or an optional area carpet if included. -Brenda-
    P.S.: Am wondering if the Living Room is adjacent to it.

    1. MRSBEN,

      The living room is adjacent, but in sort of an askew way. If memory serves, you an see half of the wall that the windows are on.
      I enjoy your thought on window treatments. I did leave them off due to overcrowding, but if she leaves her server where it is and moved the large piece out, they would be a lovely addition. 🙂

  28. I would love to hear what Sarah and Laurel recommend for properly lighting a dining room, which is usually used at night? In the photos at least, I think the lighting could definitely be improved and would show her china to greater effect.

    1. Hi Susan,

      I’m sure that we’ll be hearing from Sarah, but for this room, Sarah added two buffet lamps and two sconces in addition to the chandelier. I agree with that plan as well. That should do it with all on a dimmer for a soft all-over glow.

      1. Oh, yes, I do agree. And I would add I think a chandelier that allows more light will be helpful as well. Even with the shades, the one suggested should offer more radiance than the current one. And Laurel is so right about a dimmer! Dimmers make everything better.
        I’m learning that lesson ESPECIALLY the older I get… 😉

  29. Great ideas. The room could definitely use some more personality. Love the gold and white wall paper idea and green chairs. If she is unable to move the large buffet, she could maybe take off the top part? Unless the wood is a beautiful finish, it’s so nice to paint and wax a piece of furniture to spruce it up and give it more character. A deep green with a brown wax finish would be nice. She definitely could use more art. Love the collection of colourful floral prints. That would be nice with her dishware. Love the light too.

    1. Margaret – thank you! And painting furniture is always an affordable option when we’re ready for a change but our wallets are not. 🙂 Thanks for the reminder!

  30. I think your suggestion for different color on the chairs is great–but before buying new ones, the existing chairs look like they would be really easy to slipcover–and I am not a seamstress!

    1. GGG – you are so right on – as a matter of fact, these chairs are actually rust color with black slipcovers! Great eye!
      One thing I should’ve mentioned is that B expressed a want of new chairs as she does find hers to be too low for comfort. Since she can’t put them on her “immediate list” we’ll just add it to “the plan” ;).

  31. Brilliant suggestions, Sarah! But I absolutely LOVE the big cabinet, especially if Bianca needs the storage! Could she, perhaps, move it to the back wall and add lights to the inside to showcase some of her beautiful pieces on the top part? It seems a waste to part with such a beautiful piece. Perhaps she could have the light fixture moved off center and move the table down a bit. She could even replace the clear glass with mirror and let the light bounce off the piece? Love all your other suggestions! Congrats on the guest post!

    1. Tea – you have a beautiful name and I can’t figure out how to get my accent to work on my keyboard, please accept my apologies…
      I hear you on the big cabinet, and what a lovely idea to light it from the inside. 🙂 I had wondered if there was a way to make it work, but I couldn’t figure it out without moving the chandelier and I know she has a tight budget.
      However, one thing I didn’t ask her was how handy is the Mr.?! If he could do excellent drywall repair, that sure would make the project more feasible!
      And thank you SO much for the kind comments. 🙂

      1. On my mac, I hold down on the “e” and different accents and stuff pop up! Can you please post a follow up, if there is one??

        1. Thank you for the tip – I’m on a boring ole chromebook and it’s not nearly as cool: eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee ha!
          I can’t speak to the update being posted, that would involve both B and Laurel – but it would be cool to see. 🙂

  32. The room seems not to have much (any?) natural light, so I’d play up the dark moodiness. (After all, it probably is mostly used after dark anyway.) I know she said no painting, but eventually having walls and ceiling the same dark green could be wonderful.
    If possible, I’d like sconces or art lights on all four walls.
    It looks as though Bianca already has a couple of mirrors over the sideboard. How about simply gilding their frames?
    And ditch the white, white table cloth. Ivory or a color in the china she is using would work better, IMO.

      1. Thanks so much, Virginia!

        Can I just say I looooove your idea of embracing the moodiness. Like making it a little jewel-box of a dining room!

        1. I’m willing to paint the ceiling! If I use the wallpaper, what color should the ceiling be?

    1. Excellent points, VIRGINIA. The room is very dark even though there are 2 west-facing windows. There’s a porch outside them.

      And it is mostly used at night, which makes it even darker.

      I took the pictures I sent Sarah without ‘prettying’ up the room or the pictures. The mess on the table isn’t normally there and the cloth that’s normally on the table is ivory.

      I have lots of sconces but they’re for candles. Should I use them? Some of them are from my husband’s grandmother.

  33. Great post!!! I love these posts that take a REAL room/problem and come up with ideas to solve it!! It really opens my mind to ways to solve decorating problems.

    1. Maggie, thank you so much! And it really is fun to look it over and try to come up with real solutions. It’s fun too, to see all the comments and creative minds at work. Lot’s of ideas to get our wheels spinning!

  34. As the paint needs to stay for the moment I would suggest creating three big panels of a pretty Chinoiserie paper for that end wall. The paper is expensive but you could probably do it from just one roll as with panels there would be no matching.
    Or go out and make a struggling artist’s day by buying a seriously big work, or three of a series.
    I love your BWG foundation, and it’s true that every colour works with green, that’s why in The Old Days art gallery walls were often painted a quiet green.

    1. Jane, I didn’t know that about art gallery walls! I love that piece of information, thanks so much for sharing!
      And yes, if she did the Chinoiserie as you’ve suggested,she could look into Laurel’s source that she mentioned in her last post. Sounds like a win to me! 🙂

  35. When you change the wall color, and you must, why not move the taller storage piece to the spot facing the window and paint it the same color as the walls—so it doesn’t dominate the room. Paint the window frames the same color.

    If the chairs are comfortable, why buy new ones? You can make seasonal slipcovers for them to match your table decorations.

    When you move it, ebonize the smaller storage piece (buffet server) and put a huge mirror over it to open up the room. Place a pair of lamps on it and the mirror will reflect the light.

    Don’t replace the rug. Re-stain or paint the floor to coordinate with the new paint color on the walls. A rug will just clutter the room,

    Spend generously for big art for the back wall.

    Absolutely make a plan, and a budget, and stick to it.

    1. Margot – well said – though it does remind that I forgot to mention that B did complain that the dining chairs are a tad too low for her table…it seems as though she inherited them along with the home and they’ve been making due.

  36. If the long term budget allows: perhaps beef up the baseboard and add moulding for architectural interest.

  37. Great post Sarah – thanks for contributing! I love the black/white/green backdrop suggestion. Sounds like she is committed to the walls as-is so I advocate the art. Great thing is you can spend little or a lot – buy new or used – and bonus! you can switch it out easily.

    1. M A M – Thank you!! And GREAT point about the art and being able to source where it makes sense for any budget – along with the flexibility of moving it around.

      Sometimes I dig deep on Etsy when looking for affordable pieces. There are endless talented artists to be found!

      1. Hi Sarah,

        I couldn’t agree more about Etsy. There are fabulous artists selling their original art at affordable prices. Or dealers who have great vintage art. Maybe I should do a post hi-lighting some of them. I also keep threatening, haha to do a “best of Etsy” guide because there are so many great vendors on there. But right now have to many other things that are crying out for my attention.

  38. Good job,Sarah! Were you excited about doing this blog? Somewhere, in between the lines, I think I sensed excitement. And I think Bianca will be excited too with your recommendations.

    Glad you moved the big cupboard out and recommended painting walls a more saturated color. And oh, if Bianca could sell the cupboard and purchase the Williams Sonoma prints, it would be perfect. Her friends would wonder how she did it. But may I add one other thing? The table needs a cloth with a more generous drop.

    1. Hi Gaye! Thank you!!! I really appreciate the kuddos – and it’s very perceptive of you to see how excited I am to get to do this blog 😉
      You are so right about how nice it would be to sell the big piece in exchange for the WS prints. I know that I’ve done that many times to be able to afford something that makes more sense in my home – even though some of the items I let go were painful to see leave. In particular, I had a gorgeous old typeset that I’d found for a steal on craigslist, but it was big and bulky with too large of a foot print for any place in my home. It was tough to let go, but I’m still glad I did.
      Thanks again for your kind comment!

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