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Reader Decorating Dilemma: Kim's blank wall

Just 3 posts before this one, I posted about dumb things people put on their walls. (Reader Jules called this "Vern-Yipping" your wall. That cracked me up.)

Reader, photographer, and blogger Kim Hurst heeded my call asking for readers with blank walls to email photos so we could give advice about how to solve that decorating dilemma.

Kim wrote:

Ok, so I read your "things that are wrong" post today and marched
straight downstairs to my dining room, snapped a picture, and marched
right back up here to email you.

I have this wall in my dining room and I've become IMMOBILIZED with
it. Totally and completely uninspired. I've included a picture of
the Blik decal I put up on the other wall recently to see what the
other side of the room looks like.

It's a TINY dining room. I would love to put shelving or a buffet,
but there just doesn't seem to be room available.

I'd love some ideas from you and the readers!


Great question. It really does look like a tight squeeze in there. I can see why you wouldn't want to shove a fat hutch in there. What about a long console table that isn't very deep? You could put a lamp on it, and set up a tiny chic little bar on there... maybe group some Hendricks gin, a bowl of limes, other boozin' supplies. You could also then put a mirror above it. I know the console/mirror duo isn't the most original, but it always works. Plus, a mirror would give the illusion of more space and would also reflect more light.

Also, you might want to get a round table. You can always squeeze more people in when you are seating 6 or so, but day to day, it takes less space and will sort of let the eye move around the room a little more. Might make the console idea work even better. I bet you could get a pedestal table for not too much. Craigslist always seems to have people casting them off, and I just want to adopt them, paint them glossy white or glossy black and give them a knew home.

Decornophiles? Any bright ideas out there?


katiedid said...

I would consider changing your DR chairs to the Ghost chair. They are fun and take up no visual space. You could keep the same table. I agree with Decorn about the mirrors. Perhaps do a bunch of mismatched different sizes all over the blank wall. And add some drapery panels to get a "finished" look. They will also soften the room. Perhaps just some white sheers would do. But "hang 'em high". One of the most common mistakes people make is to get a premade drapery panel and hang them too low. If you must buy premade, double them up. I love your decal and your paint color! You have a nice starting point here.

Anonymous said...

Buy art, you need something hand made and personal there somewhere to break up the wall. Although I kind of like the empty feeling and subtle colour, so not something huge. A pale print on really fine paper, an interesting textile in linen, ...?

Anonymous said...

Buy a nice old vintage map, on eBay, and have it framed in the simplest wood frame.

pve design said...

glass top table with ghost chairs
artwork on wall, all in whites or pales
sun-shade blinds in a solar weave pattern.
keep is clean and architectural and warm it up with a rug underfoot.
what about white "silhouettes" framed in white high gloss frames.

Anonymous said...

Not crazy about a mirror next to a dining table. Some people don't like to catch glimpses of themselves shoveling food into their mouths. And a grouping of different styles of mirrors just sort of announces "We couldn't think of anything else."

Shelving could look nice. Don't get the little stumpy shelf units they sell at places like The Container Store and Bed Bath & Beyond. Those are meant for bathrooms and kitchens. Get nice loooong shelves. You can have a hardware store cut paint-grade wood shelves to your measurements, then take 'em home and paint them a nice oil-based neutral color.

Paola said...

I love the icy colours and feel - so think mirrors fit right in. Don't put a big one near where people are eating though, it's so offputting. I still quite like the wall of mismatched mirrors idea though, or - and I know they've been done to death but I still like them anyway - two curvy matched Venetian mirrors side by side which would echo the mood of the tinkly chandelier decal. Or maybe some real tinkly chandelier wall lights either side of a big white painting. A mirrored console table might also be fun (instead of rather than as well as the mirrors).

Then get a nice glossy big round Saarinen tulip table and a shaggy rug and white sheers and pretend you're the Snow Queen. I love your lightshade BTW...

Anonymous said...

that's truly awesome you should mention the Saarinen tulip table. It's my dream dining table!

I also love the idea of the mirrored console.

I think a very smart point is a muted piece of art...just WHAT piece of art is what's making me crazy. Any suggestions on where to start looking?

White sheers should be coming soon as well.

Thanks all!! Keep the ideas coming!

jamie meares said...

Hi Kim!

in the event you can't change/buy
(which is my case - i show my ppl. my problem areas and they're like, um get a new table and chairs? and you're all, well, if i was going to do that i wouldn't have ASKED HOW TO FIX WHAT I HAVE)

anyways.... what if...
you put this against that wall.

or this, but i like the first one better

clear, not taking up too much space visually, you can still see the lovely molding, and you'd add a little something modern.
then put a bar on it? lean a picture up against the wall?

Jules said...

I would do as Decorno suggests and squeeze in a console with a mirror on top. With a space so small, you really need a mirror to open it up. My dining area is about your size--if not smaller--and I recently switched out a large painting for a mirror the exact width of the console.

It wasn't planned--we took the mirror out of another room and didn't have the heart to part with it--but the response has been annoyingly positive. One guest went on and on about my new console, not realizing it has been there for years. The mirror just let in a ton more light and everything seems bigger and brighter. (I live in an old house/very dark cave)

I wouldn't worry about people watching themselves eat if you keep that rectangular table. Their reflection will be mostly obscured by the person siting directly across from them. Even so, you can do what I did and hang the mirror about 5.5 inches above the console. I know it should sit lower, but I was worried about the reflection thing. Turns out hanging it a bit high was just enough to block out everything but the head and shoulders but not high enough where it looks too weird.

I have TWO blown glass lamps on my console (overkill, but you have no idea how dark my house is) and that brings in even more light and also helps with the reflection issue. People comment--and look at-- the play of light with the lamps/mirrors and don't notice their reflection.

p.s. For sheers I like linen. You can even get some nice ones at IKEA that you can cut long so you can hang them high. The texture is nice against a sunny window.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't use Ghost chairs in a dining room. They're going to get greasy and smeared and require frequent wipedowns. And they're polycarbonate, so you'll need to avoid cleaners with ammonia or the clear plastic will get cloudy. Plus scrubbing sponges, and wear and tear, can cause fine scratches in the plastic that look horrible in sunlight.

Jules said...

Anon--that's good to know. My dining area is so small and so dark that my planned update was a round table and ghost chairs. What low visual volume chair do you suggest instead?

Anonymous said...

Hey Jules,

Any number of Eames chair designs are low-volume. Check out the Herman Miller website, Design Within Reach, or, if you prefer the vintage stuff, eBay. (Warning: Half the listings you pull up from a search on "Eames" will have nothing to do with Eames. Sellers use it as a buzzword to mean anything mid-century.)

Gio Ponti's Superleggera chair is one of the prettiest and most refined dining chairs out there, plus slim and low volume. But I think it's expensive (the authorized version is made by the Italian company Cassini). This is one case I'd hunt out decently made knockoffs. They're out there.

Another low-volume option are the Cherner chairs, but they're very High Modern and not for everyone. (If you're a "Sex and the City" fan, they're the chairs in Alexander Petrovsky (Baryshnikov)'s dining room.) Again, you can get them either new (they're still in production) or vintage.

Jessy said...

I agree that there isn't enough room for a buffet. Why don't you just pick an assortment of plates that you love (antique china, melamine, whatever) and hang them in a pattern you like?

Anonymous said...

Nice one, Jessy.

Jules said...

Thanks, Anon. :)

Jean said...

"A pale print on really fine paper, an interesting textile in linen"

"Buy a nice old vintage map, on eBay, and have it framed in the simplest wood frame."

"Why don't you just pick an assortment of plates that you love (antique china, melamine, whatever) and hang them in a pattern you like?"

Yes, on all of those. No, on mirrors, shelves or furniture. You don't want people to feel as if they'll knock something over if they scoot their chair back. The table needs to have good circulation all around it. Furniture for the sake of filling a space doesn't make sense. I agree with anon about mirrors being out of place in a dining room. And why should you try to make a dining room or any room look bigger than it is? Furniture and decorations in the right proportions to the room and its uses: that's what makes it look elegant and feel good.

Jules said...

I'm going to go out on a limb and say people want rooms to look and feel bigger for the comfort of their guests.

Some of us live in older homes and are finding it difficult mesh to the culture of the current society with that of the past. Namely, in the year my home was built kitchens were for cooking, dining rooms were for family dinners, bedrooms were for sleeping, and the formal living room was for entertaining. Ergo, I have an enormous formal living room but a kitchen, dining room, and 3 bedrooms the size of a thumb print.

Today people (may age, at least) usually entertain around the table. Before, it was canapes and brandy in front of the fire. I've got to find a way to make today's party work in yesterday's house. If people are going to be sitting there for the better part of two hours I would like for them to do so without feeling like they are sardines in a tin, even if it is only light and mirrors.

My dining room table is the wrong shape and size, but until I can afford to buy the pedestal table and chairs I want (no longer ghost-- thanks Anon!) I'm keeping that ginormous mirror, out of place or not. :)

Anonymous said...

The smaller the space, the more uncomfortable wall mirrors would make people. The reflections become near life-size.

Now if you got a beautiful old antique mirror with some discoloration and darkening in the glass, it might be easier to live with (less reflective).

Anonymous said...

To the people who are against a mirror here, I say: absolutely ridiculous! Of course a mirror would help! Anytime you're reflecting light, it's a good thing. And as far as people not wanting to see themselves when they eat, what kind of an uptight American mindset is that? French bistros have always had mirrors and nobody seems to mind. My advice:

No to a console table. It's not needed and there's not enough space.

No to the chandelier sticker. That sticker mimics a reflection. If you did have a chandelier, it would certainly not be reflecting on that wall.

Yes to a mirror. One large, larger than you think. Preferably with an interesting frame.

No to a wall of mirrors. Ugh!

No to curtains. Avoid fussiness and hang soft roman-type blinds in a white linen. Hang them outside the window frame, up high.

Yes to a round table. Regency tilt top? Why not!

Ikea has some AMAZING simple lined acrylic chairs that could kick the ghost chair's butt. (There' armless and would look great in this room.) They're only $89.

Check out the last issue of blueprint for an amazing dining room that's small.

You might consider painting stripes on the walls (to add height) or painting the room a dark color. (Instead of fighting the size, you'd make it cozy, womb-like.)

Jean said...

Re mirrors. American or French, a restaurant is a different kind of space than a small dining room in a private home. Mirrors in a restaurant are to enjoy looking at others, not oneself. But there's no scope for delicious spying on strangers in a small, private room.

Maybe part of my feeling about it is that mirrors as decor seem old-fashioned, and I can't place one in that space. Also, it would be nearly impossible to get one big enough to not look lost on that wall. But... maybe a montage of various sized mirrors with interesting frames? That might do it. If they're the right sizes to each other, they could even be put in a row. Maybe. just an idea.

Re glass-top tables. I used to have one, and got rid of it. I hated the feeling that a wine glass could chip or break just by being put down, I hated the reflections on it made by the light, I hated the smudges. My mom hated having her legs and feet on display along with the food. (I can always count on dear ole mom for frank opinions!)

"I'm going to go out on a limb and say people want rooms to look and feel bigger for the comfort of their guests" Of course, you're right and that's a wonderful motive. But I would still maintain that bigger and comfort aren't synonymous.

Jules, I feel your pain. My house is much like yours. Luckily, the POs made a passthrough from the kitchen to the LR, so it's not totally walled off, but I'd love to have a more open floor plan and yes, a bigger DR--really bigger, so I could fit my entire extended family into it!

Jules said...

Anon-I just saw those chairs this weekend! They were the most comfortable dining chairs I have ever sat in, and they are so cheap! I had actually planned on buying them until the other Anon made the point about scuffs and scratches. I guess for $89 I shouldn't care? ;)

Jules said...

Jean--missed your post. I have a feeling we're at the same place, just getting there differently. :)

We actually left a well-to-do neighborhood and McMansion in favor of an older home (1958 ranch) because we wanted something original. We were just fed up with our previous lifestyle. It's been a challenge fitting our ugly McMansion furniture in our one-day-will-be-beautiful fixer-upper (especially since we're 1 income now and can't afford to change anything), but I love the Hell out of this old house.

I think the mirror works ok in my dining area because since it's a ranch, it's not a room as much as it is a dining "space." I have two perpendicular 8 foot walls in that space--one has the mirror, the other is a wall of glass. So, in reality, it's not a huge mirror in a little room. More like a huge mirror defining a small space. Clear as mud?

Anyway, I think I've monopolized poor Kim's post and the gracious Decorno's blog enough today.

Thanks for not blocking my comments, Dec.

Anonymous said...

"a bunch of mismatched different size [mirrors] all over the blank wall"

Please: no. This is so...Michael's Crafts Stores. So Blueprint Magazine. It's too cutesy by half. It's why people hate decorators.

Get one or two pieces of art you love, or if you can't find or afford art, then old vintage travel posters, or concert posters, or whatever you can find that will make you have happy fantasies about the future or bring back sweet memories. Get simple frames for them, hang them up, and call it a day.

Don't put up a mirror unless it's a gorgeous one you fell in love with, one you stumbled across at a flea market or a swanky design store and couldn't live without. Don't put one up just because someone said it's the right thing, that a mirror in the dining room represents "proper decorating." That after all, the French do it, so it must be right.

Anonymous said...

The wall color is gorgeous.

Anonymous said...

Nobody said to put up a mirror because the French do it. Put a mirror because it reflects light and gives depth to a small space. And of course it should be a beautiful mirror.

Unless you're planning to carve your initials into the acrylic Ikea chairs with your steak knife, I really wouldn't worry. They look like they'll hold up. Hundreds of shoppers rough up the display ones every day, and they looked fine to me.

As far as entertaining, you can always use your dining table to serve a buffet spread and entertain everyone in the living room. You can have people eat on their laps (plan the menu accordingly and offer large napkins) or make it a tapas type meal.

Also, if your LR really is that large, consider splitting it up into two areas, one for reading/hanging out and the other as a "formal" dining area. Then turn your current dining room into a breakfast room/study.

More important, set your house up for the things you do every day, not the things you do once in a great while.

Anonymous said...

What matters is your own experience in your own own actual home--not the hypothetical experience of a hypothetical Frenchman 3,000 miles away.

If you're not comfortable in your own dining room, that's all that matters. There's no use gritting your teeth and trying to overcome your "uptight American mindset."

Decorate your house to suit yourself, not some imaginary bistro-guy. If shelving or art or a display of vintage plates makes you happy, go for it.

If light IS the priority, then don't paint your room a "dark color" to create a "womb-like" atmosphere--one you'd then have to try overcoming with mirror reflection. Who wants a mirror-lined womb?

If you want to increase light, avoid "Roman-type blinds"--they reduce sunlight.

Sheers, on the other hand, let sunlight in. And don't worry: Plain sheer panels aren't "fussy." Check out the austere country houses in Andrew Wyeth paintings; that's exactly the kind of curtains all those plain no-nonsense farm families use. No fussiness there, and plenty of sunlight.

Decorno said...

Um, for the record, I have the best readers and commenters of all blog land.

Thank you for actually WRITING. I know it sounds crazy, but I love this blog the most when it takes on a life of its own. I have, like everyone here, a regular job. And for this job I have a blackbery and I check it obsessively because I am chained to my work (and the damn blackberry) but I have to say, seeing everyone's comments always makes my day. Even when I don't agree, I still love that your comments are full of real ideas and not just "Oh.... pretty!" I think that is what sets this blog apart... not my posts as much as the comments that people leave here. And for the record, I never delete comments. I leave it to you crazy decornophiles to duke it out. Makes it much more fun.

Anonymous said...

your new motto:

"Decorno: It's Not Your Mother's Style Court"

Topsy Turvy said...

Place a banquette against the long wall and if space allows, wrap it around the corner under the windows. (Might not be too difficult to build or have built.) Replace the table with the white round saarinen tulip table & you might could keep 2-3 of your existing chairs (put the extras somewhere else). Then 2 sconces on that long wall over the banquette.

Anonymous said...

This has been so much fun to read through. Thanks again for everyone's suggestions! It's both informed me and given me plenty of jumping off points for my dining space.

Maybe one day the Saarinen table will be mine, maybe some awesome new chairs will come my way, and I hope and pray something comes of that bare wall.

Thank you thank you!

alis said...

I'm with decorno on the non-deep console and mirror combo. but you could put up a very bold, statement chandelier, and then double the effcet by using the mirror to reflect it. also, put a few vases on the console, and always keep them filled by either fresh flowers or branchy things.
chandelier + mirror + soft green branchy thingies =good.

I did 2 major posts on dining rooms not long ago, this one is about a million ideas to do with the saarinen table:

and this one is about mixing different chairs:

hope that helps!

Anonymous said...

Diggin' Topsy's sconces idea. It breaks up the wall, and it gives you light in a form that's warmer than an overhead fixture.

Jean said...

Kim (and Decorno) I hope "after" pics will be posted at some point. I have a feeling you will come up with an interesting solution that will incorporate all and none of the advice given here!

Jules said...

I forgot my manners yesterday, so I just wanted to quickly thank Anon for the chair advice. I love all the samples, so it will be a tough choice.

Can't wait to see what you come up with, Kim.

Jean said...

and... yeah, the multiple mirrors idea is a little "twee," as the brits say. But to be fair to myself, I wasn't thinking of mirrors from a crafts store, but rather cool mirrors lucked into at antique store crawls.

Jules, I really hear you on the one-income deal, too. Freedom sometimes clashes with decor dreams. And congrats on getting out of the mcmansion!

katiedid said...

Ahem- I think I need a little claification, since my comment provoked such mirror vs. no mirror responses.
But first, to the anon against ghost chairs...why in the world would anyone want to sit in any kind of chair that was "greasy and smeared"?! Maison 21 did a great post on how to maintain lucite and other similiar plastics.

As to the mirrors on the wall. I had meant smaller mirrors with interesting frames that you could pick up from flea markets and antique stores. Hopefully some of the mirror would be aged. With smaller mirrors, you would get some nice reflection without having people have to "look at themselves". The more interesting the frames, the better the look.

I have to disagree with the round table idea. The space is not big enough to fit the proper size round, which would be at least 54" diam, if not 60" (assuming you want more than 4 people to dine at once.)

I had also assumed there was a bit of a budget involved here, so that some chairs that are indeed fantastic would be out of the budget at least for the time being.

Lots of great ideas here though! I like the paint idea too. It is the cheapest, fastest way to get a fresh look.

Anonymous said...

Anon wrote:

"I wouldn't use Ghost chairs in a dining room. They're going to get greasy and smeared and require frequent wipedowns.. you'll need to avoid cleaners with ammonia or the clear plastic will get cloudy. Plus scrubbing sponges, and wear and tear, can cause fine scratches in the plastic that look horrible in sunlight."

Okay, dude you must be sitting on your ghost chairs bare-assed with a bad case of buttne (that's butt acne) cause ain't nobody but NOBODY needs to scrub down their dining chairs that much. I mean, do you extrude grease from your rear or what? Are you serving food directly ON the ghost chair?

Seriously, I've never even scrubbed my STOVE that hard.

Anonymous said...

Hey Kim,

There are excellent knockoffs of Saarinen tables out there for a tiny fraction of what they cost new. Check eBay, etc.

Anonymous said...

Decorno, for more ways to waste time, check out pigtown's post on fish forks.

Anonymous said...

design sponge has a ton of dining tables posted today, in all price ranges

Anonymous said...

PS Kim: in the 3rd picture of the design sponge series, there's an IKEA Saarinen knockoff called the Docksta.

Anonymous said...

c'mon kids, let's see how far we can take this baby for decorno. she needs to win some kind of an award for her hard work (she really did deserve something for the table skirt post) So keep posting more ideas, catty comments, whatevaz. As Georgie BUsh likes to say, "Bring 'em on!"

Anonymous said...

Jules--no problem (you are always mannerly). Another chair I've always liked is this one:

but it's plastic, and some people aren't big on plastic chairs at the dinner table. Don't know if it's plastic-y looking in person or not. Have only seen it in catalogs. But it does satisfy your "low volume" requirements.

Elizabeth said...

Whenever people recommend ghost chairs in a dining room I always think they must never have actually seen a dining room outfitted with them. I have, and it's not the prettiest sight when people are actually sitting in them. Think - everyone's back and butt squished against the chair and you can see it all because they're squished up against essentially a pane of plastic.

They're beautiful pieces of furniture, and work really well as side chair in a room, but please please don't use them as dining room chairs.

Anonymous said...

Okay, ghost chairs or not, when you're sitting down at the dinner table, how in the world do you see the butts and backs of other people? They are facing into the table just like you. Are you sneaking a peak while you go to the kitchen to pull the rump roast out of the oven?

And why is it acceptable to see squished butts in the living room and not in the dining room?

Anonymous said...

I declare this thread officially played out.

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