Nadia and Paul's dining room had great bones -- tons of space and natural light, a beautiful wooden floor, a fireplace, crown molding and even recessed lighting. But this room was suspended in an unfinished state, lacking a cohesive design and wasting its true potential.
The homeowners and their two young boys have lived in this house for five years. In that time, the dining room has never really come together -- although it gets lots of use as a place to eat, play games, fold laundry and do homework. Nadia was pining for a new dining-room table and a chandelier, and Paul wanted to make the most of the space while incorporating a family-heirloom piano. They needed a plan that would give this plain-Jane dining room just the right touch of "va-va-voom."
As the focal point of the space, the fireplace was a great place to start. We gave it a face-lift by installing a new tile surround and hearth, and then flanking it with creamy-colored cabinetry that rises almost to the ceiling -- creating lots of extra shelving on top, with ample storage space below. The bottom cabinet sections were store-bought, while the top sections were custom-crafted. A decorative mirror and two sconces finish off the fireplace nicely, by reflecting light and adding extra illumination.
Nadia wanted an elegant new table that would be comfortable enough to host family dinners, while stepping up to more formal occasions as well. I chose a large oval two-toned wooden table with simple lines and a double pedestal base, which will maximize seating. We salvaged their old dining chairs with the help of some white lacquer paint and new deep-teal velvet upholstery, a color that was also picked up in the custom drapery panels and in accessories throughout the room. The table is centered on a custom-made 8-by-14-foot, flat-weave area rug, with a creamy border and a delicately patterned center.
Nadia got her chandelier, too, a gorgeous six-light chrome fixture with glass drops, suspended from the center of a new 30-inch ceiling medallion. Beside the table is a sideboard with mirrored doors -- the perfect place to lay out a buffet or display photos or interesting pieces of art.
We installed wainscoting and chair railing on three of the walls, with the exception of the fireplace wall, and added decorative panel molding to create some architectural interest. On the top portion of the walls, we hung printed grass-cloth wallpaper, which provides an elegant backdrop to a collection of family photos.
The room's large bay window practically begged for a comfy window seat, so we created one with the help of a thick base cushion, again in woven teal fabric, and a selection of funky pillows. A small round table and a new pendant light suspended above joined an overstuffed white wing chair to create a conversation nook, where guests can enjoy a cocktail before dinner or a digest if after a satisfying meal.
Paul's heirloom piano takes pride of place here, as well, looking like it was made specifically for this room.
With some planning, Nadia and Paul's unfinished dining room became a multipurpose masterpiece. Visible from the moment you walk in the front door, this warm and inviting space welcomes all who enter. Special touches, like the family-photo wall and the antique piano, make this dining room come alive with the personalities of those who live here. No longer in an unfinished state, this space is ready to serve up some happy family memories.
• Interior decorator Candice Olson is host of HGTV's "Candice Tells All."