As a first time home owner, I was incredibly eager to start renovating our entire house the day we moved in. Of course, it usually doesn't work like that, especially when you're on a tight budget. The comparatively large and open kitchen/dining area was what had really sold us on this little house, but for a long time it was my least favorite part of our home, as far as decor was concerned.
As I recently prepared for our kitchen renovation (you can see my posts and follow along here), I became really motivated to make a few changes I had been dreaming about for our dining room as well. After two years of saving money and shuffling things in from my thrift store trips, I decided it was high time this space got a little love.
This is about as before as it gets, folks! I snapped this photo when we were just house hunters looking for a bargain buy. When we first viewed this house, everything was plain, dark, and basically a blank canvas, since no one had been living in the home for quite some time. Because we were really tight on money, I took a couple of years to really think about what I wanted for the space. While I waited, I filled the dining room with things I had inexpensively created or had found at thrift stores over the years. If my home looks like a hodge podge of found items, it's because that's exactly what it is! It's just taken me a while to refine everything to my liking.
The first change I made to our home was regrettable, and it concerned the purple-gray paint you see on the walls in the image below. When we moved in, all of the walls in the entire house were a light, bright green (see image above). So, in a hurry to be rid of it, I bought three gallons of paint after looking at swatches for only a few minutes at the store. Because I was pregnant, family offered to paint all of the walls in our dining room and living room while I hid from the fumes at my parents' house. When I saw the paint on the walls the next day, I didn't exactly despise it, but I definitely did not like it. I just didn't feel as though it fit our personality or style at all, and it made our generously shaded home feel even darker. (I used flashes to capture the image below left because I couldn't get enough even light for a good shot.) But, like I said, money was tight. I couldn't justify the expense of buying more paint and definitely couldn't bear asking people to repaint it for me. So I figured I'd wait it out.
Two years later I finally got the dramatic change I was waiting for when I dipped into our home repair fund and painted all of the trim a glossy white and repainted all of the walls with a carefully considered Benjamin Moore paint that I just adore— Bright White. (It's more like a very light gray— a shade darker than the untinted white paint on our trim and cabinet.) We also repainted the ceiling with untinted white paint and were surprised to see that the ceilings had actually been a really dingy, dark shade of white. No wonder it had been so dreary in our house!
The little white light fixture shown in the before picture below was something inexpensive I had hastily found on the Internet to replace the ceiling fan that had come with the previously un-air-conditioned house. The light was another unfortunate choice I made in the early days of home ownership, as its small size was severely disproportionate to our big farmhouse table in this wide-open space. Oops. I suppose it would be perfect over someone's small kitchen table though. I had a really difficult time settling on a light fixture to replace it. I was afraid of getting something too trendy, but I didn't want anything too traditional either. Eventually I settled on these two 12" globe pendants, which fill the space above the table quite nicely and add a nice sixties' flair to our home.
I excitedly spotted the shell chairs above on the sidewalk at Goodwill one Sunday when we were driving home from church. Of course, I ran into the store and bought them all, but I eventually decided they didn't work with our space very well. I ended up selling them for a profit and replaced them with new, more traditional spindle-back chairs. I really love these chairs and hope they last a long time!
In the before pictures, you'll see a beautiful Turkish kilim rug on the floor. When my daughter Lucy started eating food, it had to go. I pulled it up and stored it in our garage. I ended up selling the rug to an ABM reader, and the money from that sale, in combination with the sale of the chairs above, gave me enough money to buy the new dining room chairs. Now we are rugless in here, and I think it's the best choice for our messy family, considering my constant crafting and Lucy's penchant for throwing food on the floor. Terrazzo floors are wonderfully resilient.
An easy change, well, really more like a temporary fix, was pulling off the brass fireplace surround. I thought it was kind of ugly and it wasn't serving a purpose on our unused fireplace. So we just ripped it off and cleaned the wall. Such a dramatic change! Eventually I want to install a gas fireplace insert because the chimney would need expensive repair work to make it wood burning, and there's already a gas line in place for an easy hook-up. The brick wall of the fireplace is also shared by the kitchen (see image below). So when we decided to paint it white during the stressful backsplash repair, the dining room was also affected. Painting the brick wall white wasn't something I had ever wanted to do, but now that it's done, I actually really love it! It's so bright in here now, and the built-in oven blends into the background so nicely.
The last big changes in this space are the storage pieces and curtains. My mother-in-law scored some major points when she got these curtains for me last Christmas. I love the pop of color they inject into the room, and the golden yellow hue is just perfect for my '60s-influenced style. Recently I whipped up this DIY curtain rod to complete the look.
I do most of my crafting in the dining room, and since I'm working on something every week, it's important to have somewhere to tuck away all of my materials so our dining room doesn't end up looking like a work zone. I ditched the old thrifted china cabinet and its clear glass doors for an antique cabinet that had plenty of hidden storage, which greatly reduced the visual clutter. I had to paint the cabinet to disguise extensive repair work I had done, so a fresh coat of white paint helped to brighten the dining room even more. The proportions of this wider cabinet work better than the narrow china cabinet did next to my large dining table. And I really love that, because of the cabinet's lower height, I now have a nice surface for decorating.
The vintage green locker was another piece that I bought for its storage potential, and it fit perfectly next to the sliding door without obstructing the path to our patio. I had considered painting the locker a different color, because avocado green would not have been my first choice. But I really love the patina and character of the finish, which makes me a bit worried I wouldn't like it as much if it were freshly painted. Maybe I'll try an antique looking paint job on it someday, though I don't know what color I would choose.
I plan to change up the vignettes on the cabinet from time to time, especially during the holidays. For now, I have silly little tchotchkes and Lucy's photo on display. I have a feeling they'll soon get displaced by pumpkins or maybe something a little spooky.
I had been looking for a cabinet like the one in our dining room for quite some time. I finally found the perfect piece and took it home in the midst of our kitchen renovation. It needed some work done to it before it could be used, so, as if I wasn't busy enough at the time, I decided to build a countertop for it. But not just any counter, you guys! I made a glitter countertop. Because of its height, you really can't see the glitter until you walk up to the cabinet. It's a fun little surprise.
You can check out how I made the glitter countertop at my personal blog here.
I've been collecting wall art for the past few years, and while I had been hanging mostly tolerable thrift store finds in our past homes, I finally have amassed a collection of pieces I really, truly love. Above you can see the vintage photobooth panel from a local Northeast Ohio amusement park, Cedar Point. Funny enough, we actually found it at a resale/antique shop when we were down in Columbus this summer.
The paintings in our dining room are both Milton Avery reproduction canvases that I framed myself. You can see my post about custom framing without any power tools here. Links to where you can buy them are at the bottom of this post.
To add some extra cheer to our kitchen and dining area, I like to impulsively grab flowers on occasional grocery store trips and rearrange them in my own pots and vases when I get home. I arranged these bright flowers inside of a vintage glazed pot on our table for an infusion of happy, end-of-summer color.
-Dining table— I made it out of old barn siding
-Dining chairs— Overstock
-Portable radio— Vermont Country Store
-Liquor tray— Wild Orchid Quilts
-Curtain rod— DIY
-Large Milton Avery canvas— Painting Star (stretched and framed by me)
-Small Milton Avery canvas over fireplace— Encore Editions (framed by me)
-Photobooth panel— vintage, purchased from Grandview Mercantile in Columbus
-Wall paint— Benjamin Moore "Bright White"
-Brick wall paint— untinted white semi-gloss paint
-Cowhide stool— eBay, reupholstered
-Faux cowhide upholstery fabric— Amazon
-Dog on wheels— garage sale find
-High Chair— Amazon (we removed the pad)
I loved looking at these before and after pictures! Our house really has come quite a long way since we first walked through its doors as potential buyers. We really love it here, and hope you enjoyed taking a peek! –Mandi
Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with Stella of the Signature Collection.