Let's face it: some rooms are just HARD to design. I'm pretty sure we all have those areas in our homes that we get stuck on. It could be an awkward corner, or an entire space. For me, right now, it's my dining room.
To be honest, this has always been a tough room for me. The flow is a bit strange, the size a smidge too small for the furniture that I'd like to have, and the wall color has changed more times than any other space in the house. Also - the dining table has been a constant source of annoyance because it was my husband's before I moved in. As he likes to remind me, I've change everything else in the home, can't I just let him have this one piece? The answer? No, not really. But I've been working with it.
I had finally gotten things to a 'good' spot with this room a while back. It wasn't perfect, but it was good. Then... one thing changed. The art.
The piece I had in here was awesome. It was modern and I liked the color it brought to the room! But it bothered me a little bit. Maybe a bit too mid-century? And it turned out my husband wasn't a huge fan either. So, when I scored this oversized piece of vintage art online, and my husband actually liked it too, I knew it would be perfect for this space!
Except one thing: The walls.
You guys, I love this wall color. It feels unique, happy, and like blue skies on a cloudy day (which we have a lot of around here). But putting this art on that blue? I just don't know...
And this is when I started to feel stuck. Because, frankly, I'm tired of fussing with this room. I don't want to change the wall color just for a piece of art to work in here unless it's finally the last time I paint this room. While I'm definitely a gal who loves to change things up, it's getting to the point in the house where I'm really ready to have things feel slightly more permanent and finished. At least when it comes to the big stuff. Which means it's time for me to tackle this space once and for all!
First: Get the room back to basics.
If you're struggling with a space, it can be hard to see what it is that's really not working if you've got a lot of clutter. The first thing I do if I'm really stuck is to remove all the knick knacks and keep only the large pieces (furniture) and pieces I'm 100% sure of.
This room got stripped back to the dining table, dining chairs, rug (I was too lazy to move it - I'm not totally attached to it, but I do like it), the larger artwork, and the mirror. Sidenote: I love having a mirror in here because it's a dark room and the mirror sits directly across from the windows, reflecting more light in and expanding the space. Again, don't necessarily love this mirror, but I do love having one here, so it stayed.
Second: Fill in the gaps and play with what you've got.
After getting things pared back in here, I took a look around the house for items that might make sense to add. It's always best to 'shop' your own home for solutions before spending more money, right!? Try some weird stuff - you never know, it might work better than you thought! Or it might confirm that that would be a horrible decision. Either way, at least you know, right?
I started with this corner of the dining room that has always been a little awkward to me. The blank space to the right of the windows usually has some rotating art, and I've considered putting floating shelves in here in the past, but it felt like it needed something a little more grounding. So, I pulled this console (it used to be in the entryway but has since been floating around the house), and tried it out.
Here's the deal: even if it's not the perfect piece, getting a placeholder in there that's similar to what you think you might want can be helpful. If the scale of this console hadn't worked, at least I would know that yes, I want something in this spot, and now I can hunt for a console in the right size and feel confident that it will work. In this case, however, I actually do think the scale is perfect, so it's staying put for now! Yay!
Once that console was there though, I thought... well, maybe I don't really want a similar console on the other side too. (If you don't remember what it looked like before, check out this post here.) So, I tried the bench! Things I like about it: it could be used as extra seating when we have people over. It keeps that wall really visually quiet. Things I don't like about it: The mirror feels weird with it, and also maybe too high? It's longer than the console was, so in a way it takes up more room, even though it also creates more of a 'hallway' feel. Also, maybe it's just boring? The jury is still out on this move, and that's ok.
Third: Assess what's working and what's not.
Yes, you've probably already been doing this or we wouldn't be here in the first place, but after playing a bit with the room (sometimes that means moving big things around, or sometimes it's just swapping out pillows), you can usually start to tell where the real problems lie. I've got a whole host of them here. On top of just not being happy with the dining room table or the tone of it, to me it's a bit too large for the space. I'd rather get a smaller one that extends out when we have guests over! I also don't like how the chairs (which I do love) blend too much with the table tone.
So, before I go fussing with paint color or consoles, my real question should be: change the table, or change the chairs? (I'm pretty sure you all know what I think the answer should be.) That means, in the meantime I'm going to hold off on making any final decisions about the bench, the paint color, or anything else in here.
Yes, it's ideal to have an overall plan for the room from the get-go, but I also think that if you've got big problems, then you should probably fix those first. You may find that the other small stuff doesn't feel so annoying - or that those smaller decisions become much easier - once you've tackled larger issues.
Now, I'm gonna suggest a fourth step IF you have the right outlet for it. Getting a second opinion from the right people.
Designing your own home is the hardest! You stare at your space every day. You see all the tiny things that drive you crazy. Which makes it even more important to take a step back and hear some feedback - both good and bad - from people who know you and your home best. Sometimes it takes another perspective to appreciate the items you have (so many of you have told me that you actually love our dining table, even though I don't!!) or to bring some ideas to the table that maybe you haven't thought of! And while crowdsourcing ideas on instagram can be helpful, I highly recommend asking your design-minded friends over for some in-person feedback. Being in a space is so different than just seeing images online.
Lastly, as you make small changes, live with them for at least a few days. When my husband first got home he wasn't so sure about the bench there, but now it's growing on him. That doesn't mean that it's right for the space, but any change can feel a little awkward at first. Just remember that these things take time, and the process is far from flawless!
As for my dining room, well we've got a lot of work to do, so stay tuned!!