A “not so formal” dining room

The second appraisal was a little while ago so everyone keep their fingers crossed!  I also heard rumor that we are still hoping to move next week (out by TUESDAY) so you may also want to send support, encouragement and love to Brendan as I will be a bit “hard to handle” for the next few weeks.

So since we may be moving sooner rather than later..I want to dive right into the inside of the house and share my design boards.  I am hoping that this will bring some clarity to the exterior home debacle because I seem to be on a constant spin cycle of what I am thinking.

When you enter the foyer the first room that you see on the left is the dining room.  I REFUSE to use the term “formal” because our lifestyle is anything but.  We have three kids and entertain a lot (which both typically involve red wine) and those two things do not mix anywhere in a “formal” house.  While you all may think some of my choices are crazy for our lifestyle, please know in advance that I have thought it through over and over again and chosen only things that can be easily replaced or washed quickly.  No dry-cleaning for us!

I want to create a warm and inviting space in our dining room while keeping it simple.   I don’t dream about art or wall hangings…I dream of finding the perfect light fixture to “entertain” your eye.  I want to mix white (machine washable) slipcovered dining chairs with a heavy, rustic table.  I want it to be a space that you  sit in for long dinner conversations and feel comfortable .  Slouch in your seat…spill  your drink…break table manners.  It’s ok.  We won’t judge.  Just talk about my awesome antique store finds are and we will be fine!


The paint color is the existing color chosen by the builder’s designer.  It is a warm taupe/gray (depending on the light) and I can live with it.  The wainscoting is bright gloss white and I like the warmth that the color brings to the space.  My dream table is from Restoration Hardware.  I would be tempted to spend the $4000 to buy it (not really) ..if I hadn’t found a very close “look a like” at World Market for closer to $500 (with one of their awesome furniture sales!)  I have debated white slipcovered chairs a lot.  Having three kids makes it seem like a really bad idea but I love the look.  The chairs shown are from IKEA and are a mere $89 a piece (including the slipcover.)  Because I want a cover to the ground..I just don’t see the point in paying almost triple that for something from Pottery Barn or Ballard.  Not to mention, their slipcovers are dry-clean only and the ones from IKEA are machine washable and only $40 to replace if something really bad happens.  The “china cabinet/bookcase” is my splurge in this room and the reason I am so frugal in other places.  It is rustic black…from Restoration Hardware…gorgeous and ridiculously expensive. I will be making that purchase at a later date in hopes that I find an affordable alternate before I do. I will probably just have  a custom piece  built by our amazing neighbor in lieu of the RH piece.  He is incredibly talented and I will be giving him lots of props for the kitchen re-do at a later date.  I know that I can show him this picture (hint, hint Andy) and he will make something even better! Check out his work at http://www.atgcustom.com/

The rug is a natural grass rug (also from IKEA and an unbeatable price at $99) and will bring a natural element to the space.  When choosing to use a natural rug in a dining room…beware that spills are not easily (if ever) cleaned off.  I am willing to gamble with this one but because of the use in the dining room I wanted to find something inexpensive so that will not gag when it gets ruined and the IKEA rug does look  great in person.

I did a show for Mohawk last year and the theme of one of my vignettes was “recycled.”  I found the coolest mirror made out of recycled railroad ties and I plan to lean it against the smaller wall in this space.  It is a definite “conversation piece.” I also have a wine rack made from reclaimed ship’s wood and hope to find a corner to stick it in as well. That’s my idea of artwork.  A mirror and a place to store wine.  Perfection!

The china is our wedding china and I will keep the table linens simple and in a natural linen with white monogram.  I mean after all, I am southern and know every good space has “ownership” with your monogram. I have a hodgepodge of mercury glass candle holders to decorate the table and a will use  a bunch of fresh lavender in a simple white vase to add the only punch of color in this room.

The white curtains will dress the windows and keep the look simple and clean. I plan on visiting my favorite antique stores (http://www.merchantsonmain.co/ and http://www.knittingmillantiques.com/) in search of a mix of unique pottery and vases to go on top of the china cabinet that I add later.

Now I have saved my favorite part for last.  The light fixtures in the house currently are heavy and large and not my style at all.  I knew immediately that I would be swapping 90% of them out for something more our suitable to our designs.   I wanted to find something that would really add interest to my monochromatic natural space while maintaining my overall natural theme.  If you don’t know already…two of my favorite things are a great sale and an interesting piece.  After days of searching, I hit the jackpot with this light fixture.  It is a wood polyhedron pendant from Restoration Hardware and was 1/2 off!  They have these in three different sizes and we decided to go with the 24″ medium for fear that the 32″ large pendant would be a little “too much.” I do worry that the single light bulb may not be enough so be prepared for lots of candellight dinners at our new house. Fortunately, thanks to flameless candles that shouldn’t be a problem.

Let me know when  you can come over for  dinner!  I will try to work on my cooking skills before then so hopefully you will enjoy the food as much as the space!


2 thoughts on “A “not so formal” dining room

  1. Hi Ashley, I stumbled onto your blog while searching “not so formal dining room”. I felt compelled to write because our stories are so similar it is eerie! We struggled with leaving our small home on a fabulous lot and building ( or buying existing construction) in a neighborhood full of kids ( we have 2). On 11-1 we moved into our new home. We have a formal dining room- which we never had before. We are not formal people! Get this- we have grey walls, white trim and dark brown floors. Last weekend we looked at that same table at World Market. I am considering it, but still not sure. Good idea with the washable slip covers!
    I am curious to know how it is going!
    Thanks, Megan (Minnesota)

    • Hi Megan! I am so sorry it has taken me so long to see this but with the nightmare move/realestate transaction/Christmas I am JUST starting to find time to get back to my blog!

      We are finally settled in the new house and couldn’t be happier! My dining room has come together (I will actually blog it tomorrow so that you can see it) and it honestly it is my favorite room in the house! We have even used it TWICE!!

      The white slipcovers are awesome and have already had red wine spilled on them (and not noticed until two weeks later) and cleaned up beautifully.

      Did you decide on the table? I love it and have been really please with how nice it looks.

      I plan on blogging the “finished” spaces (we all know that things will probably never actually be to my standards around here) so stay tuned for more! If you ever need any help with your new house let me know! I love sending ideas boards all over the country!


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