A lamp inspired my dining room. Actually, it was a pair of lamps I found at a second-hand store in Jacksonville Beach. They are a beautiful pale, matte blue porcelain with intricate gold flowers painted on them. They were delicate and strong at the same time, and in the midst of a menagerie of things they caught my eye.
One of my favorite interior designers, Bunny Williams, said that pretty, stylish pieces catch her eye because she learned to have a “trained eye” from Albert Hadley and Sister Parish. You always learn from people with great taste. Mrs. Williams has Hadley-Parish, I have my mother, Mary Browning, and Mt. Vernon. Oh, how I love Mt. Vernon. George and Martha had impeccable style and great taste. I find myself drawn to certain architectural details, colors, and objets d’art because they remind me of Mt. Vernon. My favorite room is their Front Parlor which is full of trim and molding, and is painted “Prussian blue,” which was quite a modern, fashionable choice for 1785. It is beautiful without being stuffy, and I can just picture the Washingtons playing cards, having drinks, and hosting guests in this room. In 1768, they had guests over for dinner 82 nights! Can you imagine planning, hosting, and serving 82 dinner parties in one year? That’s an average of 1.5 a week. So much for my “once a month” goal. Thanks, Martha. 🙂 You have to really love your entertaining rooms to get through 82 dinner parties.
So, between Mt. Vernon, my mother’s eye that found us a fabulous black 1920’s Jacobean buffet (another great secondhand gem from Cottage by the Sea ) and my two blue porcelain lamps, I had the inspiration for my dining room. More later on how it all came together, but before you can set up your table and pull up a chair, you need to do a bit more planning.
I was inspired, now what?
Besides the kitchen, the dining room is the second most important room for hosting and serving. What special memories are made around the dinner table! So, think about your dining room from each guest’s perspective including your own! Often times, you are the most important guest. So, go take a look at your dining room with fresh eyes and these questions:
- Is it configured easily for people to move around?
- Is it lovely to be in?
- Can people get up easily from their chairs, or do they feel stuck once they sit?
- Is it too crowded?
- Is it inspired? What “style” does it have?
- How do guests feel in it? How do you feel in it?
Even though Washington’s Front Parlour was not their dining room, Washington is recorded as saying it was his favorite room in all of the mansion. I bet it was his guests’ favorite room, too.
Just because a room is currently a family room, doesn’t mean it can’t be something else! The room that is currently our dining room was the previous owner’s living room. But their layout, which had their dining room at the front of the house, didn’t fit our needs or my Mt. Vernon vision.
George and Martha’s front door didn’t open into their dining room and I just couldn’t escape my colonial inspiration
That’s how you know you’ve truly been inspired: you can’t escape it until you act on it. I filled my pinterest boards with trim-filled rooms. I love wainscoting, but I wanted something more… and I found my style board filled with a mix of sources.
The key word is “mix.” Another of the many things I learned from my mother was that style is more interesting when there is a mix of “looks.” You don’t want your house to look like the showroom of Pottery Barn or Ballard Designs, or like the Founding Fathers just signed the Declaration on your dining room table. You want your home to look like YOU.
My “Mt. Vernon Dream” would only exist on my pinterest board if it weren’t for Frank. Frank is the best carpenter in Jacksonville. Not only is he an expert in his craft, but he can see your vision and give great suggestions. Now, convincing our painter Joe that we wanted all the trim and walls the same color was another story, but he finally caved. He was probably tired of me showing him my pinterest pictures.
The last feature we changed was their sliding glass door; Frank installed beautiful, outward-swinging French doors with side-lights. Albeit, this was the most expensive piece of remodeling in the room, it makes such a difference.
Here is what I learned (from other people’s blogs) and Frank’s advice:
- *Choose a molding/trim style and keep it consistent. A great guide was created by Windsor One
- *Keep consistent spacing between all of your trim and molding; around 4 inches is normal
- *If you are doing it yourself, I can not give you any advice at all! We had Frank!
- *Choose a pale color. We picked Glidden’s Antique Silver because it matched my lamps!
My Mt. Vernon Vision with a Modern Twist
[sources & products: World Market Greyson dining room table with Hayden wing chairs, Glidden Antique Silver paint, an antique bar cart from the Antique Market of San Jose , large, framed print from Home Goods]