29 June 2009

Is it me? Or is this room as fab as everyone thinks it is?

Greetings readers! Paul has graciously handed you over to me for a short time and I thought I’d take advantage of having the ear of so many kitchen professionals and enthusiasts but presenting you with a small battle that is currently being waged under my roof.
We recently moved into this house

With which I am absolutely smitten. It’s in Lancaster Pennsylvania and was built in 1930 of local stone and German design, reflecting the regions settlers and their influences. Paul once described it has having “good bones” and it certainly does. Not only does it look like a small castle, it’s built like one. The stone isn’t some factory-contrived fa├žade, but real stone complete with 18” thick windowsills.

I am fairly happy with the interior except the kitchen and dining room. My husband and I both agree that the kitchen is in sore need of a renovation, but things start to get a little dodgy regarding the dining room. Take a look:

Every single person, and I do mean everyone, who’s seen this room has commented positively on it and I am left standing there, jaw agape, wondering if I’m the one with the problem. I am a biologist by trade and simply do not possess the vocabulary to describe what’s wrong with this room. I just can’t articulate it. Visitors think it looks unique. I think it looks trendy. Like something that may have been all the rage six or seven years ago. Maybe the previous owners went to Lowe’s or the lady of the house found this paint pattern in Woman’s Day magazine and they decided to be clever and pick up one of those do-it-yourself kits. Throw some fir boughs around and coupled with the gold lighting and fixtures, it looks like the storefront of a hardware store mid-December. Eternal Christmas. Not my bag in the least

Or, is it just me? Is there something wrong with my tastes? This room looks like it’s trying to do formal and I think the only people that should do formal are the DeMedici’s and the Rockefellers. The kind of people that have rooms in their homes referred to as “salons” and hire full-time pool boys. For someone like me, it would only look like I’m trying too hard, so I want to keep the house looking accessible, unique and someplace where one doesn't have to be afraid to plunk a beer stien down on the table and fall into a chair.

So, dear reader, I ask you to give me some ammo so that the next time a visitor says “Ooooh! I like this room!”, I have something more substantial than “Oh really? I hate it” in my magazine with which to fire back. Alternatively, if you really like it and find that it’s a work of art, let me know and I’ll try and see your point.


  1. You do NOT have a problem. I can't see the paint job in detail, but a red formal dining room doesn't appeal to me either. Maybe to comments, you can say, "It's OK, but I like something less formal."

    Sometimes, when people see an ugly shirt, they feel compelled to say, hey, what a great shirt! because they are so shocked by the shirt they have to say SOMETHING. Maybe that is why people are complimenting this room. Whaddaya think?

  2. I think people like it becuase there is something inhertently handsome about a formal dining room. However, its screams '90s to me. I think what you have is a very superficial and cosmetic problem. I think with some interesting paint, lighter colors, maybe the paneling in a darker hue of the lighter color, some cool art installion, and a new light fixture you have a new space. I am not sure how I feel about the french doors, normally I love them, but they add to the formality of the room, maybe loose them all together or swap them out for hanging rigid panels that work like curtains.

  3. Nice house.

    And yes, it looks like the previous owners were trying too hard in that room.

    If it were me, I would get rid of all the polished brass/gold fixtures and cover plates then throw a coat of sage paint over that red-faux-crap thats currently residing on your walls. Were talking $45.00 for paint and primer, maybe .09 cents for new white cover plates and a few hours labor. It will give you (and your guests) an entirely new prespective on the room and allow you a little creative freedom not influenced by the preconceived formality that the burgundy and gold palette force on you.

    That's what I would do anyways.

  4. thanks guys! You're great! Erika, sorry for the lousy photos, but it's a deep, dark red with black swirlings or sponges working into it.
    Mypoliticalexile, thanks for the 90s comment. I knew it was nineties without even knowing what the nineties looked like!
    Jeff, thanks a ton for the sage idea. The living room is that color and I really like it. I don't know if we should do both in sage, but maybe a variant on it.

  5. What a lov-i-lee home!

    Regarding said room, I agree with Jeff that a new paint color in particular wud do wonders for the room. If you wish some examples, perhaps log on to Cote de Texas Blog (Joni)and browse thru her many postings as you may find something that will inspire you. Good Luck!

  6. thanks Brenda! I really enjoy Cote de Texas and was a regular reader until this move upset my universe and schedule. I'll check it out now. Thanks for the reminder!

  7. Wow, your house is GORGEOUS!!!! I absolutely LOVE the design and the stone exterior. And the gardens too :-)

    As for your dining room -- I really like it. The red with the black swirly faux finish is a bit much, but in general I think red walls in a dining room work and I've seen some beautiful red dining rooms.

    Your wainscoting and doors are great -- I hope you have no plans to remove/replace them. Try painting the upper walls a softer colour and replacing the chandelier with something less ornate. I think a metal like oil rubbed bronze or iron would work well. I can totally picture a big harvest table in there in a sort of rustic-looking wood, in keeping with the age of your house.

    Home Depot has a good selection of reasonably priced chandeliers, as well as lampsplus.com

    Good luck!!


  8. Thanks Kelly! I had that exact table in mind and you can see some good examples at Staples Cabinetmakers (just Google them). That guy makes some incredible pieces of furniture and I'd die to have an old chestnut barn-board table. We will definitely keep the wainscoting and doors, but the paint and fixtures will surely go. Luckily, this room will be an easy fix!

  9. Lose the faux! Paint it over in a less-contrast-y color and look for new lighting fixtures from Hubbardton Forge (http://www.vtforge.com/). I like Jeff's idea of a sage-y wall color and a warm taupe would look great too. I'd keep the wainscot painted white though. Lose the brass! One of Hubbardton's modern interpretations of a Williamsburg chandelier with coo-ordinated sconces would make that room sing.


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