Monday, September 24, 2018

House Tour, Part III: The Dining Room

In an effort to get back to blogging for the main reason I was so dedicated to it for so many years (before the Instagram bug bit, and bit hard), I'm going to talk about something today at my neglected String of Pearls simply because it's fun for me and it makes me happy.  I doubt many people are even stopping by here anymore, because when they do, they mostly hear the sound of crickets (metaphorically speaking, of course); but if there's anyone reading this and you like a good home décor post (from someone who is most definitely NOT a professional home decorator--let's make that clear from the get-go!), you might enjoy this.  It's the third installment of a house tour I started not long after we moved to our new house (see Part I and Part II here and here; I also did this post about creating a home library).

Not too long ago, one of my daughters-in-law (blog handle "Preciosa," wife of son #3) and I were talking about whether or not a dining room is even necessary or practical anymore in this new age of mostly casual entertaining.  She was trying to decide whether or not to transform her formal dining room into a play room for her three kids who are three-and-under.  She and my son have a roomy eat-in kitchen, and their dining room is a rarely-used space.  It is quite lovely, with a Pottery Barn table-and-chairs set scored on Craisglist, walls painted a deep navy blue above the chair rail, and a gallery wall filled with their eclectic collection of decorative crosses.  But did they perhaps need a play room more?  They have one in the basement, but having one on the main floor would be so much convenient...What to do, what to do?

In the end, my daughter-in-law decided that although my son was more than ready to pull the trigger, she was not ready (yet, anyway) to give up her dining room.  And I totally get that.

I have always loved having a dining room.  The one we had in our old house in NH (where we lived for 26 years before moving to VA in 2017 to be near our kids and grandkids) was enormous.  Even though it had lots of furniture in it--including an antique buffet painted red, an antique reproduction pine pie safe with a punched-tin door, an antique sideboard that matches our oak dining set, and a lighted china cabinet--there was still plenty of room to navigate around the table.  And we're talking about a table that can comfortably seat 10 or 12.  In fact, I once set up two tables for eight in there, for a St. Patty's Day dinner party with neighbors, and it wasn't that tight.

To give you an idea of how much space we had, here are two photos from our Christmas Eve dinner in 2016, when our five boys, our four daughters-in-law, and the seven grandchildren we had at that time all came to NH for one last Christmas before our move.  We had to angle the table and add a smaller one at the end to extend it, but we all fit!

I was a little nervous about how we were going to squeeze all of our beloved dining room furniture into the space we were going to have in our new house.  As you can see from the pictures on the listing, although it is quite lovely, with that dramatic tray ceiling and the pillars, it is not enormous.

I actually considered selling my large antique oak table-and-chairs, which my mom had bought at an estate sale when I was in middle school and had always been in our house when I was growing up.  Mom had bequeathed the set, with its matching antique sideboard, to me when she and Dad downsized to a condo.  My husband and I were about to downsize now, and I thought maybe I should think about getting something smaller, something that would look better in this sort of room.  But I just couldn't do it.
All I can say is that I'm glad the new dining room opens up to the front hallway, because otherwise all of my pieces wouldn't have been able to fit.  We definitely would have had to take a couple of leaves out of the table if there had been a wall there instead of just those two pillars.

The old owners, who took a minimalist approach to this room, might look at what we've done and think it looks mighty crowded, and it kind of is; but I think we've been able to make it work.  The only piece we couldn't use in here is the lighted china cabinet that used to house some of our good china and crystal, which I repurposed as a display case for my porcelain dolls and put in our new master bedroom.

This old table was a hand-me-down from my mother-in-law.  I refinished it and gave the 
beat-up top a painted faux-marble finish years ago.  The pig is from my sister-in-law, 
who recently bought a restaurant and found it left behind. 
(I collect pigs.  Does that make me weird?)

This solidly-built antique buffet is one of my favorite pieces in the whole house.  
I found it a shop in our old NH hometown, where they sold antiques, secondhand items, 
and gifts.  I fell in love with the painted/distressed finish the seller had given it.

As you can see, there's a lot going on in this little room!  But I love a nice dining room, and I'm just so grateful that we have one in this new, smaller home in VA.  I would miss it terribly if we didn't...because I'm an old-school Grammy who likes to set the table with all the fancy stuff for holidays whenever possible.  It made me happy to set our 2017 Thanksgiving table like this.
Our new dining room is smaller than our old one, to be sure, but it feels bigger than it is because it's so open.  This is the view from the dining room table.

When you're having a large gathering at this house, you can be lingering at the table here and interacting with other guests who are sitting in the living room right across the hall.  (I know this because it's happened already!)  While I'm actually more of a fan of houses that have separate rooms and lots of walls on which to hang artwork and family photos,  I do think this house makes the most of its square footage because of its open-concept design.

Okay then, what about you?  Do you think a formal dining room is a necessity?  Do you like open-concept homes, or do you like separate rooms where you can go to escape the noise and the mess every now and then?  Leave me a comment, I'd love to hear from you!


  1. We have a tiny house, which works for us, but only because our "dining" room has always been a playroom. A few times we have put our table in there for eating on special occasions but we couldn't dedicate a space for a dining room at all. Someday though, I will buy a larger home and have a dining room! I am so happy for you that you didn't have to sacrifice your big table. Your pumpkins are all so festive!

    1. We started out tiny. At one point, we had four boys in a little ranch that was about 1,100 sq ft, no dining room. It was such a treat to finally get our big house in NH. Even after 26 years, I would walk from room to room and think, “I can’t believe we live here.” I know that I’ve been way too blessed! That big dining room we had there spoiled me rotten!

      I am almost finished the W’s, and will post soon. Now I think of you and your little guy whenever I work on that page with the walrus (which I’ve been doing today)!

  2. This question is very interesting and prompted me to think what you really meant.I'm assuming you mean a dining room vs eating in a kitchen. Not two dining rooms, a formal and an informal, basing this on your d-i-ls dilemma. Everyone I know here in Australia has a dining room and eats in it daily, three times a day, our kitchen's aren't really set up for dining in, although the breakfast bar has started becoming a trend, everyone I know still has a dining room or at least a dining room table, generally right off the kitchen.

    1. Erin, I think it's sort of the same here: one place to eat most meals, although it's more normal to have an eat-in kitchen and no formal dining room. I think we've gotten much more informal in this country since I was a kid. I love the idea of always eating in the dining room. I think eating in the kitchen, even for special meals, is tough, because when you cook a big meal the counters are all a mess! It's nice to eat in a place that's separate from the work area.

      Sorry it took me so long to respond to this!

  3. Having an open kitchen into dining area into sunken living room running the back half width of our house, I may have the best of both worlds. I love our hand-made plank table for 6 and keep my everyday pottery AND my 14 placesettings of wedding present Mikasa china in our china cabinet for every-day use. The potential is there to dine at the table if the kids are home and/or if we chose to if it's just the 2 of us, or "dine" in our casual living room which is just a couple of steps further away.

    1. I love the sound of this set-up! It sounds ideal.

      And I'm with you: if you have good china, you should use it! What good is it if it just stays stored away all the time!

  4. Absolutely beautiful!! So glad you decided to keep the set; it looks lovely and I'm a bit envious (in the good way) of your red sideboard; so cute and "new englandish"!!

    1. Oh my goodness, I love that sideboard, too. I think I spent $250 on it at the secondhand shop, which was more than I usually am willing to part with. But I just fell in love with it. It is the most solid piece of furniture (you can tell when you look inside that it's old, and they don't make furniture like they used to!), and red is one of my most favorite colors for decorating. It makes me happy!

  5. Replies
    1. That's an antique knock-off, but I love it, too. I keep wine glasses and other bits of china in it. No pies! (I think what I really need is a cake keeper!)

  6. Love it .... and I will always come to read your blog!! I love it!

  7. When we bought our home 4 years ago a "formal" dining room was a must have. I have the dining room set that my grandparents received as a wedding gift in 1908. We ended up with an eat in kitchen and a dining room/living room set up similar to yours. I love nothing more than filling up the kitchen table with 6, the dining table with 14 and adding a card table to the living room. We have a 1 and 3 year old so we compromised with adding an ikea bookshelf/bin setup in the dining room so the kids do have some toys on the main level and can entertain themselves in the living room/dining room. And, the dining room makes a great folding table for laundry! :)

    1. Your set-up sounds wonderful! Don't you love having an old dining room set with that much history? How special!

      I think ours is at least 100 years old, and probably much older. I am currently refinishing the large chair with arm rests that matches the rest of it. My dad wanted to keep that when my mom gave me the set back in 1989, but he died two years ago and now I've inherited his chair. I am currently in the process of refinishing it so that I can have my husband start using it when we have big family dinners.