I've been meaning to do a post on my parent's dining room for quite a while and was finally really inspired to do it when my Mom commented last week a Christmas dinner how much she loves the room. While my parent's taste isn't totally the same as my own - I do credit them with being my inspirations when it comes to a well appointed room that isn't overdone and for the quality and timeless style they achieved.
There are a lot of great design lessons to learn in this fairly small space and I wanted to share them. When they first moved into this house in 1984 (single story, planning for retirement years), the dining room had brown woodwork and the walls were gray paint - lighter gray above the dark stained wood chair rail and darker gray paint below. It was dark and nasty. What a difference a little paint, and good taste, will bring!
Their furniture is classic American style, complete with bullseye mirror with crested eagle, Hepplewhite style dining table and chairs, and a Duncan Phyfe inspired bow front buffet. This was furniture that they purchased when they got married in 1954. Somehow, hard to imagine a couple in their 20's today buying all this classic furniture (plus their still-in-use bedroom set)!
A little view down the hallway to the bedrooms.
The star of my parents' dining room is clearly the chinoiserie wallpaper. The note on the back of my Dad's file sample (yes, he has a file and notes for everything!) is that this is a Hobe Erwin design and we believe it was by Schumacher.
(This is where the Hollywood glamour comes in...) Hobart "Hobe" Erwin was a New York socialite designer who also worked as a set decorator and art director on such notable films as "Little Women" (1933), "Gone With the Wind" (1939) and most notably "Dinner at Eight" (1933) where he and Frederic Hope created the look dubbed the "white telephone" look for gold digger Jean Harlow.
The wallpaper is a skosch more subtle. Back to Cape Cod, my parents selected this paper in the early 1980's for the front hall and stairs of a house we had prior to their move to the Cape. A piece was tacked up on the wall for quite a while, but they never got around to installing it. So, when the move happened, the wallpaper selection came too!
The color palette is so pretty with it's blues, greens and terracotta's on a cream ground. With the newly painted white woodwork, it just pops and yet doesn't overwhelm the fairly small room.
The other star of the room is the beautiful window treatment. Classic and elegant - my parent's knew exactly what they wanted - both in style and color. They spent a couple of years searching fabrics stores across Cape Cod and most of Southeastern Massachusetts looking for a store that could provide the perfect shade of blue silk. Not ones to hire a decorator, they took the time to get exactly what they wanted. My Mom tells of many a sales clerk who tried to convince her that off white would blend better with the wallpaper, or perhaps they should go with the terracotta/peachy color. But, since their oriental carpet (inherited from Grandparents) was predominently terracotta, that color was out. Finally, they found their fabric and this beautiful treatment has been hanging in the window for 20+ years. Amazingly, it really looks brand new in person.
And, a little bonus image - this is their living room. The sofa is a Hickory Chair camel back with it's original cut velvet fabric. The colors have faded significantly since they purchased it in the 1970's, but the piece is otherwise in perfect condition and still quite comfortable (yes, I spent some quality time napping there on Christmas day!). My Dad refinished the antique desk many, many years ago. I think, actually, that his parent's owned it. I think the desk was purchased at a flea market or something similar and had been painted in layers of nasty green paint. Loving care and some new brasses brought this beautiful, delicate, piece back to life. The verre églomisé banjo clock has been vexing my Dad for years - getting it to keep time correctly! Also, you can see their tiny table top Christmas tree.
So, for me, the lessons in these spaces are:
- Buy the best quality you can - it will last longer and save money over the long run
- Have the patience to wait for what you want. Don't settle!
- Basic levels of care will help maintain furnishings for long periods of time
- Classic style is never really dated looking
- Don't be afraid of pattern - but do be careful not to overwhelm the space with it.
- If you love it now, you will most likely always love it!