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November 1998 Issue
Delightful Dining
by Jenny Wojcik
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We’re trekking our way room to room here at Home Style, and this month we venture into the dining room. It’s the space that we may never use any other time of year, but our dining tables are the hubs of holiday meals. Whether you have an entire room expressly for dining or just a space allocated for that function - and whether you use it daily or annually - there’s something here for you.

Some of us have formal dining rooms - an entire space dedicated to feasting. Some dining rooms house hardwood tables and hutches with matching sideboards, and some boast glass-topped tables with pedestal bases of one genre or another. Many of us have what I call an implied dining room. In this case, the living room and dining room are combined, where one space is meant to serve multiple functions. The point is this: whether it is ample or abundant - your holiday meals are most likely served there.

Chances are when your dining area was built the electrician installed a chandelier or some sort of hanging light fixture in the center of the room. While centered in relation to the walls, once you add furniture it may not be. While I’m not the "centered" type, many people are. But before you hire an electrician, be creative and try angling your table in the room, or attach a toggle bolt to the ceiling and "swag" your light to reach center.

How about positioning your table so that the light source is toward one end, and place your "centerpiece" (oops - see they even call it centered) toward the opposite end? Drape a beautiful scarf or shawl over the table. It will pick up the sparkle and enliven the space by adding a different texture. Be creative - bold. My mantra? ‘If everything in the room is centered - there is no creativity in that room.’ (Yes, you can quote me.)

I am often asked questions about dining room area rugs. Everyone asks what the rules are - well, there is only one that I know of. The rule is that size is more important than shape in a dining room area rug. It should be large enough to allow guests to be comfortably seated on the rug. Area rugs can be placed atop carpet as well as wood or tiled floors.

Once you have determined the correct size rug, you need to decide whether you want to accentuate the shape of your table or de-emphasize it. If your room and your table are rectangular, you may want to soften the angles by using a large oval or round area rug. A round table might become the room’s focal point by using a rectangular area rug underneath. In this case, the room becomes more pleasing because of the juxtaposition of the table with the rug. That decorating word may be new to some of you, but simply put, it is a comparison; or how one thing relates to something else. It may be more interesting to oppose the shapes rather than mimic or relate them.

For those of us who have a singular space and try to separate it by decorating, an area rug is a marvelous tool. The position of your furniture along with the room definition that an area rug provides, may be all you need to delineate one area from another. In this situation, it is often tricky to select a wall treatment. If you have a natural break in the space between the living and dining area, you may want to consider a variation in either the color or texture of the wall treatment. This could be as subtle as a living area painted in solid celadon green and a sponge treatment over the celadon green in the dining area with a second or third color. This slight but effective paint variation from one expanse to the other, visually separates the space and yet maintains its integrity.

Dining rooms are extreme. They are either the most adorned rooms of the house or the most neglected. Specialty lighting in china cabinets encourages us to accessorize and display beautiful things. Left unfinished and empty, these spaces become an eyesore rather than a design feature. While you are waiting to fill it with priceless crystal or china pieces, accessorize them with teacup collections, brass or silver pieces, candlesticks, floras and vases, glasses, or favorite plates and platters.

As with any room, decorating begins with the floor, the walls and the ceilings. The look you want may be Euro-elegant, Southwestern or French country - no matter, do the floors then the walls. The dining room is the natural place for wainscoting or chair railings - which originated there - or other specialty trims and moldings. The walls provide an exceptional opportunity for faux finishes, from sponging to ragging to a tone on tone stripe done exclusively with paint. Love rich textured wallpaper? It’s a welcome addition to a dining room, used either above or below a chair rail.

Dining rooms normally adjoin two rooms - the kitchen and the living room. To assure a pleasant flow from one room to the next, you may opt to use your wall color in the living room as the ceiling color in the dining room. This technique cross-pollinates your color scheme and serves as a beautiful yet subtle transition from one room to the other.

Once your walls and ceilings are painted or papered, add art to the walls. You can use anything from oil paintings to wreaths, or small print groupings and sconces, depending on your style. Just remember that when friends and family are dining, they have time to take in your art. Hang it at an appropriate "seated eye-level" and keep it interesting.

Window treatments can be lavish or simple in the dining room. Depending on the selection of fabric and color, layers of sheers outlined by a decorative scarf that puddles on the floor will work in any décor. For a more tailored look, use covered valance boxes with layers of rich fabric underneath. Create your own look. Just remember that nothing says "elegant" quite like luxurious fabric.

During the holidays and beyond, remember that style is a gift we give ourselves. We decorate and celebrate and share our bounty with all those who gather at our tables - whether large or small. As we dim the lights, light the candles and give thanks for all that we have, let’s be grateful for our own home and our own unique style. Nothing could be better - and for that and so much more, I am thankful. Have a splendid Thanksgiving.



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