Updating a Traditional Dining Room



I bought a home on the North Shore of Boston twenty years ago this spring. Everyone, including my husband, thought I was CRAZY !!! It was an old turn-of-the-century Mediterranean style stucco villa, with a spectacular loggia and an old world style ballroom. The house had been abandoned for years and gone into foreclosure.

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I have spent years redoing each and every room in the house, and have collected antiques at auction and from local dealers to furnish it. It has been forever, a work in progress.

I had no shortage of ideas for every room in the house except the formal dining room. It is an odd-shaped room with three low squat windows, totally out of proportion to the room and four doors, one being a double sliding pocket door, so there is very little wall space.

Initially, I had the walls faux painted (at great expense) a very boring beige. Everything neutral was the fashion at the time, so beige walls, beige Stark carpet, brown furniture–when I look at it now it was just as boring as could be. Even with all the silver pieces on the side board and crystal in the room, nothing stood out.

Original Boring Beige Dining Room
Original Boring Beige Dining Room
Beige Stark Carpet
Beige Stark Carpet

I had the feeling I wanted an italian theme to the room, as I had purchased a lovely 18th century Italian corner cabinet that was hand painted in a Venetian style. With the house being a Mediterranean style villa, it just seemed to go with the house.

We purchased two oversize sepia photographs by the photographer Michael Kahn, which depicted details of sculptures outside the Uffizi palace in Florence. The subject matter kept the Italian theme alive, but the sepia coloration just meant more boring beige in the room. Continuing with the Venetian theme, I bought a huge Murano chandelier at auction which arrived in a million pieces and had to be assembled before it was installed. Miraculously, we figured out how it went together and hung it up successfully.

Murano Chandelier
Murano Chandelier


The room looked better, but still boring. I went on to other decorating projects, as I still did not have a clear sense of how I wanted the room to look. I had no shortage of ideas for the kitchen and other rooms in the house but the dining room was another story.

Two years ago I designed and installed a spectacular Poggenpohl work area and created an open plan eat-in kitchen that could seat 10 comfortably for dinner.

Poggenpohl Brushed Aluminum Work Area with Marble Counter Top
Poggenpohl Brushed Aluminum Work Area with Marble Counter Top

We live in that kitchen and adjoining family room and our old formal dining room is used only for Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and a sometimes a formal New Year’s Eve sit down dinner. In other words, it was the forgotten room.

New Eat-In Kitcen
New Eat-In Kitchen



We moved to London for several years and I was inspired with how the English were decorating old stately houses with modern furniture, fabrics, and wallpapers. When I came back from London, there was so much to do to freshen other rooms in the house the dining room remained the same for several more years.

In London designers would pair traditional mahogany dining chairs with a modern glass and chrome table. I have a beautiful triple pedestal mahogany dining room table in the room and mahogany ribbon back chairs. I wanted a fresh modern looking room, but I was married to my traditional mahogany furniture.

It wasn’t until I recently found a beautiful raspberry fabric with a gold fleur-de-lis pattern that gave me the inspiration to change the room. The fabric has a decidedly Venetian flavor to it, and the huge scale of design I need for a room this large . It reminded me of Fortuny design fabric from Venice and I knew it would work perfectly with the Murano chandelier.

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I started by painting the room a raspberry color to match the background of the Venetian style fabric. Every stock paint color I tried was either too red or too pink. I finally had a custom color mixed that worked perfectly!

Paint swatches to choose the color!
Paint swatches to choose the color!

Everything raspberry!
Everything raspberry!

As you can see everything pops against the new bright raspberry color, even the traditional mahogany side board looks great !

George III Mahogany sideboard stands out against the fresh, new color!
George III Mahogany sideboard stands out against the fresh, new color!

There is much more to come as I have the curtains made out of that fabulous Venetian style fabric and chairs covered in a modern pink and green animal print to really give some new life to the old dining room but I will save that for another post !

Animal print fabric in raspberry and lime green for  chair seats !
Animal print fabric in raspberry and lime green for chair seats !

To be continued!!!!!!!