This “Blank” Dining Room Got a Groovy Space-Age Makeover

published Mar 10, 2024
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There are a few mid-century design styles that remain iconic. One is the clean-lined mid-century modern look, which has become a classic that majorly influences current retailers like West Elm. But another that is criminally underused is the very fun Space Age style, which is all about oblong shapes, tulip-like lines, and chrome finishes in furniture that looks like it could appear in an episode of The Jetsons.

If you’re intrigued, there are plenty of archival interiors Instagram accounts to scroll for retro inspo — and this dining room makeover by husbands Matheus Ilt and Célio Olizar looks like it would fit right in.

It’s mod-meets-2024, totally one-of-a-kind, and a majorly chic upgrade from the “blank and not-well-used space,” before, as Matheus describes. Matheus says the apartment was “blank in a positive way.” He liked the original 1950s floors and the light fixture he already owned (and of course his mid-century-modern tulip-style table), but he did not like “the emptiness feel to it and the lack of personality,” he says. A DIY shelving project changed the game. Here’s how they did it.

The shelving is made from MDF.

One reason Matheus wanted to add some shelving to the back wall of the dining room is because his cats often climb up the railing to the highest point, and he wanted them to have a (literal — and safe!) jumping-off point from there. “The lack of storage used to make everyone prefer gathering in the living room,” Matheus adds. His shelving unit adds storage, personality, and color to the space. 

“I started by building a whole-wall cabinet-like structure with plywood, then I covered the front of it with thin MDF sheets, making arch-like features,” Matheus says. He ended up with six cutouts with four different uses: a vinyl-playing area, additional seating, a coffee bar with a cupboard, and, last but not least, a cat playground.

“Making a cabinet this big with rounded corners was a first,” Matheus says; however, he’s a seasoned pro at cutting and assembling. He shouts out Celio for helping him measure and plan out the spacing. 

The green paint color brings a vibrant look.

After the plywood was in place and everything looked seamless, Matheus painted, and he says the masonry absorbed the paint well. He went with a soft green for the inside of the niches and white for the unit’s front. 

“The idea was to emphasize the shape of the niches by making this contrast between deep green and white,” Matheus says.

Each niche has a particular purpose.

Matheus says if he could change one thing about the project, he’d hang the pendant light fixture a little lower, as it slightly bugs him, but mostly what he notices is the room’s added personality — and functionality. 

After painting, Matheus added the bench, cabinetry, and glass fronts. “Our friends have already come over to dinner and told us that seating under the arch is the best thing about our home lately,” Matheus says. “They told us it is comfortable, and the acoustics are a whole new experience … they never want to leave!” The bench added two or three additional seats to the table and “also made the room cozier,” Matheus says.

The coffee cabinetry adds storage, too. “Having a cupboard is a real game-changer for us. Then, we had to go all the way to the kitchen to grab things — glasses, cup[s], plates, serving dishes — which now are literally a step away from us,” Matheus says.

And last but not least, the cats love it as well. “A note here: In the pics, only one cat, Joaquim, appears. The other one, Bila, is too shy, but she loved it, too!” Matheus says.