Before & After: A Slow Burn Dining Room Revamp Pays Off in the End

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Naomi’s dining room was cramped, carpeted and questionably colored. After removing the most unsightly elements when she first moved in, she let the room stay as it was while updating other parts of the home. Upon returning to it a few years later, Naomi created a layered and charming space, making the most of some of the elements she initially disliked.

From Naomi: When we first bought this house, the dining room was cramped and dark. The windows were small and fogged over, the walls were a sickly shade of beige/gray, and the carpet was a particularly smelly shade of forest green. The room was surrounded by decrepit built-ins that loomed on all sides, and a wall of them cut the space off from the kitchen right next to it, leaving only an inconvenient doorway to go between the rooms.

I knew the second I toured the space that the walls had to go, and as soon as we bought the house we started making plans.

I’d have to say this took five years… in starts and stops. We immediately had a contractor open up the dining room to the kitchen, and we also put in new windows, including a bay window to add light and a spot for houseplants.

However, after that big project and just a couple updates, it sat for a long time while we worked on other parts of the house, with just a coat of paint and some ragged furniture from my old apartment. It wasn’t until early this year that I finally decided it was time to focus on it for real. I’m at a point in my life that it feels right to make investments in nice furniture that will last! We splurged on the table and chairs from West Elm and the light fixture, and got the other pieces for free (even one that we salvaged from the science classroom of a condemned school and then dressed up with paint and new legs), on Craigslist, or DIYed to balance it out.

I had a lot of fun polling readers on my blog for their advice on different aspects of the room makeover, like what dining room table to buy. I took their advice sometimes, and other times I ignored it! I ignored them when they said I should just add a nice metal pail to store birdseed for my boyfriend’s bird feeders, and instead embarked on an overly long and complex project to build a container with a decorative wood front. That was definitely a setback, because it took me months to finish and delayed me getting to call this room “done”!

I am a more-is-more kind of decorator, and that can be hard to get right. This room is a full look at everything I love: warm wood furniture, bright colors and patterns, funky art and details, and plants and more plants. I love that it is bright and fun – not too serious.

I also particularly love all the sentimental pieces we’re able to display in here, which call up memories of our families and our time together.

One surprise is how much I love the built-in that remains. I HATED these things originally, but my boyfriend really wanted to keep one for storage. Now that it isn’t symmetrical with the other, and that it is painted a fresh white, I love the retro detail it adds!

Naomi’s words of wisdom: Take your time! People will try to rush you, thinking that you’ll be happy when it’s done. Enjoy the process, and give yourself time to see some fads come and go so you really know what you like before you invest in the big pieces.

Resource list:

  • Dining Table – 60″ Modern Dining Table – West Elm
  • Chairs – John Vogel Chair in Acorn/Charcoal – West Elm
  • Bar – Clive Bar – Crate & Barrel (we found a used one on Craigslist for much less)
  • Chandelier – Dot & Bo (no longer sold)
  • Rug – Amazon (no longer sold)

Thank you, Naomi! You can see more on Naomi’s blog Plaster and Disaster.