Help me please. My husband wants a matched set of dining room furniture

Dear Laurel,

It’s me again, Barb Brake-Frunt. Thank you so much for the terrific post about the living room furniture. I forgot to tell you about the dining room furniture.

Granny’s dining room furniture is a matched set. I’m sure that you know what I’m talking about. In fact, I think I read about that faux pas in a post once upon a time.

Oh, and there’s more.


Her dining room furniture does not all fit into our dining room.


Gran’s dining room was a large room, about 14 x 20 and our dining room is 11 x 15. That large breakfront does not fit in the dining room. However, there is the perfect wall between two windows in the living room. Would it be weird to put it in there?

Oh, wait. There’s more. Half of the chairs are falling apart. I think that I have maybe at most 6 usable chairs. Maybe. I guess I could get the others fixed, but why spend money to fix chairs that I don’t like in the first place?

Barb Brake-Frunt




Hey y’all, this is part II of the post about the fictitious Barb who inherited all of her Gran’s dated furniture. But it triggered a memory that I have of clients from about 14 years ago. They were a nice young couple with three young children living in Chappaqua, NY. They were ex-Manhattanites who fled the city after 9-11.

My assignment was to help them with window treatments for several rooms, rugs, the entire living room and a kitchen table and chairs.


Since they had nothing to sit on in the kitchen, that project took priority.


I discussed my ideas with the wife in an early meeting and she loved the idea of doing a cherry table with a slight antique look with painted chairs. And then, I thought it would be nice to do an upholstered chair for the host chairs. She loved it all.

So, I went back to my studio and put it all together. For the next meeting, we met on a Saturday when her husband would be there as he had a keen interest in what was going in the home.

I showed them what I had in mind and I could tell that the wife loved it all, however, the husband looked at me as if I was threatening to torch the place.




I love clients who know what they want. :]

Seriously, I do. Fine. It’s their home. I don’t want anyone to live with anything that would make them uncomfortable. And hey, it makes my life easier. Cherry table. Matching cherry chairs. Done. I would die of boredom, but hey, it’s not my house!


However, this was the one and only time out of dozens of times I did dining room furniture that a client insisted that they match.


Otherwise, I never did a matching set. And almost always the chairs were something different than the table. Not all the time, but the majority for sure.

Oh! and I frequently put china cabinets large and small in the living room and they look great! Some put in china and some put in books or a combo.


Here are some examples of dining room furniture that in my opinion, I would avoid.

(and what to do if you didn’t/can’t avoid them)


There are a lot of pieces in the Furniverse that are perhaps loosely based on a style, but not designed-well. They tend to be disproportionate with exaggerated design elements. The one above is loosely some Baroque-esque, Venetian-esque, abomination that I’m sure costs a lot of money. And fine, if this is your taste. You need a very large dining room to accommodate all of this.

But let’s say that you were under pressure, confused and realized after the truck pulled away that it was all a big mistake, what can you do?

Well, you could put the chairs on Ebay and paint the china cabinet. Sure, your husband will think that you’ve lost your marbles or maybe he’ll secretly be thanking the heavens that you’re doing something about this!

Blan B. Keep everything.

And slipcover the chairs in some heavy white cotton duck or even drop-cloth fabric.

Then, paint the walls a wonderful navy like Benjamin Moore Deep Royal found in the Laurel Home Paint and Palette Collection.

Change out the chandelier for a beautiful crystal piece.

The heavy brown will “disappear” and it will take on a Ralph Lauren look. A little.


lovely dining room furniture - mahogany looks great against the navy walls

Tartan Terrace

One of the main issues is that the furniture is so big and heavy, it NEEDS the walls to be dark. See how it creates a more harmonious space in this beautiful dining room above.

Use crisp white trim and beautiful white drapes and lots of great lighting and mirrors. It will be beautiful.


Exhibit B = Gran’s dining room furniture– Queen Anne-ish.



It’s not that it’s bad, the dining room table and chairs, that is. It’s just horribly banal.

The breakfront is not Queen Anne. It’s not Queen anything.

This is an antique Queen Anne China cabinet.

It’s for sale at Melrose.


And a Chippendale style dining room furniture set.  It’s not terrible, but it’s an awful lot of brown. Again, I would paint the walls a deep rich navy. And how about painting the chairs like Mary McDonald did in her gorgeous dining room, below.

BW Home Chippendale style white painted dining chairs

Here’s a set of six such chairs for sale at BW Home.

Beautiful white painted chairs at

Vintage Refined Decor


Chippendale white bamboo chairs available at Chairish


Queen Anne-style chairs white-washed a chalky white. Love this.

Available at Full Bloom Cottage.

And looky here what the fabulously Karen (aka: The slipcover maker) did to this chair. Wow!

What a transformation! She is so talented! I adore her slipcovers.

And check out this baby.

This is a slipcover? (it really is!) I had to read it v e r y   c a r e f u l l y  to make sure that my tired mind wasn’t playing tricks on me. That is the most beautiful slipcover I’ve ever seen. It does not look like a slipcover.

Oh make no mistake, she can make them look less fitted, but I love this upholstered, but not really look.

Please follow Karen, the slipcover maker on pinterest.

One of my all-time favorite dining rooms is this classic by David Easton. Here, David used a Gustavian Swedish table and a Queen Anne chair. (Those are probably real antiques or else superb repros). He added an exquisite crystal chandelier and the wallpaper could very well be hand-painted.

Not sure. Zoffany does make a paper they call Eleonora

Image via Splendid Sass

However, this version seems to have more detailing. Just gorgeous.

Brooke and Steve Giannetti


cool caned chairs available at Miami Vintage Decor

I could see having some extra chairs on hand (but with different upholstery) if the Giannettis table expands and they need more chairs. (Mixing chairs is another post.)

Designer, Amy Morris Architect, William T. Baker and Photography, Erica George Dines.

“Traditional Twist” – Atlanta Homes &Lifestyles, Feb. 2012

Love the little dressmaker slipcovers on the seats. I think it adds a lot of style and knocks back the formality of the Sheraton Style dining chairs.

Studio Peregalli

(sorry, I could not find a website for them)

Fabulous dining room with neoclassical themes and slipcovered dining room chairs. I love the table!

A fun dining room by Eddie Ross with a herringbone ceiling! The French chairs from Ballard Designs with painted black frames are so chic in this dining room. And the fabric is unexpected and cheery.

Vintage Bette

Beautiful little cabinet painted a chalky black.

Pretty linen slipcovered chairs in a cool, rustic dining room by Wendi Young.

Slipcovers can be made for almost any chair.

And don’t forget that most chairs can be fully upholstered. Something to keep in mind.

From Colorful Home Designs on Etsy

 Love the color they painted this cabinet. I could see it on a wall in the dining room above it.


Royal Design Studio Stencils

So pretty! I would hate to put anything inside and I would definitely leave the doors open all the time!

dining room by designers Andrew Brown and Jane Hawkins Hoke, photo Annie Schlechter for Veranda. There are more images of this spectacular home on Habitually Chic.


A fabulous dining room by some of my favorites – Cathy KincaidJohn B Murray Architects – Zuber Les Lointains wallpaper gorgeous dining room-veranda-2016

Style At Home

Wonderful eclectic dining room. Love the mix of furnishings. Okay, the bling chandelier is way trendy. I’ll forgive them for that. I do like it, but they’ve become quite trendy and will be one day, so early 21st century.

Fabulous traditional dining room by Alexa Hampton

Christine Lennon

Love all of the elements of this dining room. I would never have thought to pair a rustic table with Biedermeier- style chairs, but it works! The wall color is Benjamin Moore Polo Blue.

For more great dining rooms click here and here and here.


49 Responses

  1. maybe you could do a post on your favorite books by your favorite interior designers. Prefer your style of decorating, not the HGTV style of decorating!!

  2. Laurel,very thoughtful post – as always! When I first started my career, my parents had a booth at an antique market. I’d go every Sunday to help out AND of course, check out the latest finds from each vendor. I was very much into ‘upcycling’ & painting old furniture to give it new life, so I’ve seen my share of Queen Anne styled chairs & matching tables! I love how a coat of paint and a a newly upholstered seat can spark new life in these pieces of furniture.

    And of course, my dear, thanks so much for the shout out. Your look lovely on camera and your willingness to give so much, is just one of the things I love about you. xoxo Looking forward to the next interview with you already. 😉

    1. Hi Claire,

      Well, you’re a natural at the interviewing webinar thing. In fact, I’ve been wondering if you have a background either in theatre or journalism or something.

      That’s so cool about helping out your folks with their antique booth. My folks had a shoe store. Oh well…

      As for how I look on camera. I dunno. I’m struggling here. lol And as I was listening and realizing that I was sharing ALL with the world, I quickly checked to see if I had any subscribers left. haha. As it turned out, the attrition rate was less than usual after posting.

      I can’t wait to hear Linda. Both of you have such beautiful voices! The power of that is not to be underestimated!

  3. Your prescription for dark walls with brown furniture (plus mirrors and white) is amazing! A miracle drug – really wonderful solution. I love the Cathy Kincaid dining room – just to pick one of many images.

  4. The beautiful dining rooms (coming after the granny-ones) are way to luxe to think of actually using to EAT in… Do you suppose they are ever used for dining?
    Very nice to look at though.

    1. Hi Sandy,

      Yes, lol, they are used for eating.

      But, nothing is totally real in photos. You know they are primped and polished, styled and bathed in golden light.

      But gosh, I don’t see that any of them are super formal. That’s not my style.

  5. Laurel, I have this exact dilemma. I have a Queen Anne dining set made of beautiful crotch mahogany, so it all matches, and my husband would commit me to an institution if I even suggested painting any of it.

    I already had the thought to bring in blues to tone down the wood. The rug is a Persian Nain with creams, light blues, & navy. I’m not a slipcover kind of girl, so I’ve reupholstered the chairs in a blue and white stripe (the blue similar to BM’s “Blue Porcelain”).

    I wanted to paint the walls navy, so imagine my excitement at your advice! But here’s the problem: The room has no windows (we live in a townhouse). Will it look like a cave?

    There is white wainscoting 3 ft up the wall, but our ceilings are 10′, so it would be a lot of navy. Would I be better off with a floral navy & white wallpaper?

    HELP me Laurel! You’re my only hope. 😉

    1. Hi NS,

      Oh dear… I wish I could see this space, but I can’t. There are so many things I don’t know and N, it’s frustrating for me too. I wish I could help everyone with their problems, but it’s everything I can do, just to answer some 200 blog related comments/emails every week.

      The only thing I will say is that I don’t think that the navy and white floral wallpaper is the answer.

      I do have an idea that I will try to address in an upcoming post.

        1. Hi NS,

          I respond to everyone unless they are nasty. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. Their problem.

          I think that paper would be quite intense in a double story room. Better to stick to a solid color.

        2. Oh no, not double story, just 10ft. The entire main level is 10ft. Thank you for your advice, Laurel!

    1. Hi Susie,

      It depends on the china cabinet and the room. It’s fine to have a large china cabinet in the dining room if it can be accommodated and it’s even fine for it to be a dark stained wood, but if the wood is dark, the walls need to be fairly dark too. Usually. It’s the balance thing.

      And also the matched set thing that’s not-so-great.

  6. Ok, so my dining room is the EXACT furniture in Number 3 above and my husband will not agree to get rid of it. I could probably swap out or paint the chairs but that’s about it. Right now the room is red above the chair rail and white wainscotting below. (Yes, it’s been that way for about 15 years). As far as paint, I considered going either white/very light or a navy. Now that I see your photo with the light walls and my exact furniture, I am thinking that the light color will be a bad idea! Your navy inspiration photos really make me want to head in that direction even though I thought I wanted to lighten up the room since it is north facing. So maybe paint the top part of the walls navy, the chairs white and maybe buy a couple fabric head chairs? I want you to know that I get so much inspiration from your blog and admire your taste so much. I always look forward to every single post! Thanks for the great ideas!

  7. My “dining” table is a thrift store table ($60), but it is solid as a rock. (have to keep a tablecloth on it, however) The tables around it are mis-matched but similar in that they are all stained a similar shade and all have caned seats. I have a nice baker’s rack which complements the whole thing (kind of has scrolled metal work on it, not just a plain baker’s rack). In my small condo, can’t have anything too cumbersome or space-consuming.

  8. This post and your previous one brought up a problem I’ve had for years. My husband inherited Victorian furniture from his grandparents. Some of it is beautiful like the incredible bed that dates pre-Civil War with a bullet hole in the headboard! Others, not so much like the 2 parlor chairs, one for a lady and one for a gentleman…and the sofa to match. Heavy mahogany wood carvings that circle forward, and the upholstery is worse…gold on the chairs and burgundy on the sofa, all with button-upholstery seat backs. I’ll try to link a good example of the chairs and an example or two of some re-done…but I haven’t found a good example of the sofa yet. Mostly I find them in the French style, but not the English Victorian and they are quite different when trying to update! The pretty white washed and slip covered Baroque chair you linked was inspirational! I would love to hear your ideas on re-working this type furniture and apologize if you already have!

    1. Hi Judy,

      Have you checked out chairloom that I linked to in the previous post? They have 100s of examples of old pieces they’ve redone. Maybe you’ll find some inspiration there.

  9. Every one of your posts is like a beautiful gift- I love being in your world 🙂
    That Cathy Kincaid dining room with the Zuber wallpaper is just drop dead gorgeous, with one caveat on the antique chairs.
    Before you buy them- be sure to measure for seat height if the table is of a different vintage, because modern tables can be higher.
    I know that because my sister-in-law bought similar beautiful set at a Texas Antique auction house that was closing, and when the chairs arrived, we discovered that now we could lap up the soup without having to lower our heads to the bowls. Too funny!!

    1. Thanks so much Dolores. That’s three in a row for Cathy!!! I think what may be the problem is more that the seats are lower in older chairs than the tables are higher now. Maybe some of each, but older chairs can have seats 15″-16″ and now chairs are usually 18″-19″.

      1. You are so right- her chairs had a seat height of 15″, and they looked positively ‘Lilliputian’ around her taller, modern table..
        But they were soo beautiful. I think she wound up re-selling them..

    1. Hi Mary,

      Ya know, that didn’t even occur to me. But now that you’re mentioning it, it could be an area off of a living room or even a more formal breakfast room. My breakfast would be all over that pale rug, however. This is a pretty grand home. Maybe there are two dining rooms. Or maybe the table expands a fair amount. It is definitely a separate room because I saw an image which was taken from further back which shows the doorway.

  10. Laurel,

    Great post – every time I see one of these matched sets it always reminds me of dollhouse furniture (I actually remember buying almost this exact same Queen Anne-esque set as a kid).

    Thanks also for sharing the fabulous Cathy Kincaid dining room! With the upholstered banquette and no traditional breakfront/buffet it really has the feel of a living room that you can also eat in (an “un-dining room?”) without being too casual. Reminds me of the post you did on whether formal dining rooms were “out” or not.


  11. Wonderful post Laurel, as usual 😉
    I recognised the photo of the
    rustic dining room with the slip covered chairs, that’s Wendi Young Design.

  12. Hi Laurel,

    What a timely (and fantastic) post! I’m in the process now of updating my dining room. I switched up my old blue paint for BM Chelsea Grey, which I absolutely adore. And I’m in the process of having my upholstered chairs slipcovered with a lovely Perrenials fabric in an off-white. I’m struggling with my drapes though and your suggestion to do white ones. I feel like blue walls + white slip covers + white drapes = a little too casual for my formal dining room. Shouldn’t there be some pattern somewhere to break up all those big color blocks? Your post shows a wonderful mix of patterns but I’m really struggling with visualizing the drapes.



    1. Hi Therese,

      Ahhh, you lost me there because in the beginning, it sounds like your walls are now Chelsea Gray and then later on, sounds like blue.

      But here’s the thing. I can’t see your room. I can’t see what else is going on. I don’t know what your definition of formal is.

      And no, there doesn’t have to be any pattern. but you also need to consider what’s going on the walls.

      It’s not easy, I know. But if you’re really struggling, then I would seek out some help from a local professional. Many designers will happily come to your home for an hour or two and I know that when I was doing consults, the clients always got a lot out of them. The designer will undoubtedly point out some things you had never thought of.

      But if you go this route, select someone whose portfolio is inline with your own aesthetic.

  13. I bought the mahogany chippendale set with china cabinet about 10 years ago along with an oriental rug and crystal chandelier because I wanted it to look like my mom’s dining room. Now we have moved a house with a more modern vibe which I love. I had the movers put down and immediately remove the oriental rug because it, and really the whole set looks very out of place. We don’t have the budget to replace the furniture (in the middle of a kitchen remodel), but we sure could paint the table and recover the chairs. Thanks for the great ideas and the pictures!

    1. Hi Stacy,

      There are lots of ways to go. You could also keep the table stained and just take care of the chairs. And yes, going without a rug is another way to make traditional furniture feel more modern.

  14. Laurel- clearly you enjoyed doing this post. It shows. My Italian husband has shown me for 35 years, that dining is a celebration. Who are we kidding with formality and matching anything?
    ( I just want my socks to match, thanks)
    Dining rooms ought to be celebratory. Or what good is cooking?
    I rest my case.

    1. Hi Paula,

      Matching socks is a big deal! When I moved 4.5 years ago, I threw out all of my black socks and bought about 12 pairs — ALL the same. It worked for a while.

      1. I know! It works til that one sock goes missing. Then there’s that odd one!
        Here’s a trick for you– my husband kept stubbing his toe on a leg of a sofa at the foot of our bed. I put really thick black socks on those legs!
        The sofa’s going for a ride downtown soon.

  15. Laurel – thanks so much for lovin’ on my slipcover work and including me in your post! More and more of my clients are wanting to un-match their dining room furniture with a slipcover, or two, or simple seat covers. A canvas, linen or denim slipcover is a very pretty contrast to wood and much more economical than throwing out the entire dining set and starting over. Your idea to slipcover all chairs in heavy weight white canvas…fabulous!

    1. Hi Karen,

      I was hoping that you’d see the post. One thing I was wondering is if you ever have someone ship a chair (a dining chair) to you who doesn’t live close enough to bring it over. Say if it was dining room chairs and they needed eight of the same slipcover, if they shipped one dining room chair, you’d be able to make them all the same, of course.

  16. I love your blog! Todays was very timely as I just, after a trip to GA purchased a lovely French walnut antique dining room table. There are no chairs so I do not have to worry about repair or fragility (have had those in the past) and will add painted chairs to my collection. Thank you for the visuals as I try to explain “painted” to my husband.

    1. Hi Karen,

      That’s terrific! And one other thing is that chairs, if they’re painted don’t have to be white, black or gray. They could be green or red or blue. It just depends what else is going on. Also, they might be mostly upholstered.

      There are so many options that it’s impossible to get to everything.

  17. I am one of those readers that lurks around and seldom comments. However, I need to tell you that this blog is one of the very best on the web! I enjoy it and have learned a great deal.Thank you Laurel!

  18. You look lovely! Not gross at all.

    Looking at these pictures, I’m admiring the wall art. The screens, the large interesting things on the walls besides mirrors. Would love a post on how to fill a blank wall. (I love the gallery wall idea. My husband — who exercises his veto — does not.)

    Per dining rooms — I like a formal dining room, although I know it’s anachronistic. The baroque furniture in the first picture? Not so much. But overall, all the other pix are inspiring! Thanks!

    1. Hi Tracy,

      You’re too kind.

      That’s a good idea about the gallery wall. I have done some posts about them, but not in a while and not addressing one very long wall with nothing to break it up.

      I had that in my old place. So, I’ll add it to the list.

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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