There’s a Stephen Sondheim song titled, “A funny thing happened on the way to the forum.” That’s how I felt on my way out the door after meeting new clients for the first time. They had asked me over to discuss the remodeling of their master bathroom.
As I was leaving, they wondered if I might look at their formal dining room. “It needs something”, they said. “It’s blah.” This couple entertains frequently and has always felt underwhelmed by the room’s ambiance whenever they hosted a dinner party.
It was a lovely space with natural light and a view. The table and chairs were white, the buffet was white, and the shutters were white. They had the right idea in painting the walls a color — sky blue. But, truth be told, it did need something. Some oomph. The adjacent kitchen, by contrast, was filled with vibrant — red, orange and gold. The living room on its other side also had the same warm colors.
While a white and sky blue space can be soothing and elegant, this fresh eye could see the problem right away. It was flanked by rooms with a different style and feel. Not only was the dining room’s color scheme contrary to its neighbors, but its furnishings were contemporary, whereas the other rooms were very traditional.
As I pointed this out to them, I could see their expression of fear, thinking I would next suggest all new furnishings. Not so. It was just a matter of tweaking with paint and fabric. We eventually carried the living room’s gold walls into the dining room and reupholstered the chairs in a small gold and red, textured fabric.
The most impactful oomph came with the drapery. Since they already had shutters, there was no need to make fully functional draperies but just stationary panels on the sides. Affordable without compromising dramatic effect. We chose a large, Arabesque (scrolly-curvy) patterned red and gold silk that might be as scrumptious as any meal.
My final touch was to relocate a large, abstract painting I had spotted in their home office and put it above the buffet. You might ask why I would bring in a modern piece when I was trying to make the dining room more traditional. The first reason is that it fit our new color scheme. The second reason is more nuanced. This move showed confidence and a level of sophistication in creating the overall design. While we deliberately added traditional fabric, the art was a nod to the contemporary furnishings. The space, as a whole, reflected thoughtful layers and balance.
With relatively small effort, the dining room was completely transformed and flowed with its adjacent rooms. And, the cost did not interfere with their plans to remodel their master bath.
As a side note, traditional art would have worked as well – but the abstract piece showed more thought. If you’re interested in art, seven of my columns on the subject are archived on the Napa Valley Register online. Or, for easy access, send me an email.