Friday, October 4, 2013

craigslist the prosaic, part two: the dining room




(2) A wife and mother in the Omaha area would like to give her dining room a bit of a face-lift.  The room is average-sized for a dining room in the United States, about 13 x 15.  She's not just starting her first job, but she'd have trouble justifying spending a fortune on replacing the perfectly functional dining room she has - it's just dated.  She's fallen in love with the "Restoration Hardware" look, and in particular the images below.  She doesn't need to replicate the photos exactly, but would like to capture the overall look.  And while she has no experience restoring furniture, she's game for a little bit of work if it's not too difficult for a novice to do.  What can you offer her?  Show your work.

Inspiration photo A:

Inspiration photo(s) B:

Of course the place to start for the dining room is the table.  The inspiration photos suggest some important elements: the tables are heavily carved, with a significant amount of presence - but a somewhat rustic finish, lending the rooms a relaxed feel.  Craigslist is, of course, at its best when offering options, and several tables offer possible ways our homeowner might achieve the look she's after.  

First, this $80 table might work: 

Of course we must first note that this is an actual antique that has been painted, which is not acceptable.  However, the damage has already been done.  The unevenly-applied finish, though in a light color instead of dark, might help achieve the formal/casual tension of the inspiration photos.  Alternatively, it could be painted black (and finished with a satin wax - a reasonable project for a beginner).  Another option: 

This $50 table has a more strictly antique sensibility, with a glossy even finish that highlights the wood grain far more than the finishes in the inspiration photos.  It does have some of the restrained formality, however, and mixed with other finishes, might achieve the proper effect.  Another possibility: 

This table is, of course, round instead of rectangular.  However, it has the dark color, substantial pedestal, dark color, worn finish, and straight-line ornamentation of the inspiration pieces, and might work well.  It is offered for $200 with matching chairs (which do not look as if they would fit with the style we're working toward), and the seller might be willing to part with it for $100.  

Next, of course, we need seating.  The chairs in the inspiration photos are tailored and traditional in their lines - one set even has tufted backs - but they are restrained, not over-ornamented or overstuffed, and their upholstery has the look of unbleached natural fibers.  These four chairs are being sold in conjunction with a table: 

Their style appears to capture the feel of the inspiration photos well.  (They could be painted black or stained darker, but the existing finish would probably work as well.)  The table sold with them is not pictured, but the full set is offered for $65, so the four chairs could probably be purchased for $30.  And these two pricier chairs ($225 for the pair) might work as head chairs: 

These two chairs (not clear whether $50 each or $50 for the pair) might also work: 

A bench is another possibility: 

This $100 piece would actually need a less-distressed finish to fit into the look - perhaps a coat of black paint.  This $50 piece might also work: 

If the paint is green (the picture is not clear), it might need to be repainted black or ivory (with less contrast on the carved details, to make it work with the relatively less formal look of the inspiration photos), and the seat would need to be recovered in neutral-colored fabric (which should not be difficult to do for a simple rectangle).  

And of course, we'll need a storage piece.  The inspiration photos both prominently feature large, stately case-pieces in dark neutral colors with worn-looking finishes, with a decent amount of carving but only square lines.  While those pieces really make the rooms, the rooms in the photos are huge.  For an average-sized dining room, a buffet might be a better use of space.  This $75 piece might fit well: 

While it has a curved shape, its ornamentation is all linear, and fairly consistent with that of the inspiration pieces (particularly photo B).  Its black paint job also helpfully comes pre-distressed.  Another possibility: 

This $100 buffet is a genuine antique.  While it doesn't have the dark or distressed finish of the inspiration pieces, and is somewhat more ornamented, its low-gloss, two-tone finish actually achieves a similar formal-yet-casual feel.  Ideally, it would be paired with a table and other pieces in contrasting (perhaps painted) finishes, to avoid a too-formal effect.  If the homeowner prefers a cabinet rather than a buffet, this antique would not take up too much space: 

It's only $49, and appears to have earned through age and use the exact finish Restoration Hardware attempts to create artificially.  In style, however, it may be too rustic and informal a piece to achieve the desired effect, depending on the other items with which it's paired.  This $125 cabinet has already been painted and distressed, landing somewhere in the vicinity of the style of the inspiration cabinets: 

Other necessary elements would depend on what already exists in the room.  The overall effect is a product of an extremely restrained pallette - natural wood tones and fabric in the color of natural fibers; ivories and distressed blacks instead of true black or white; and low gloss, muted finishes.  Either a worn-looking hardwood floor or a natural-fiber rug would work - such as this 8 x 10 bamboo rug, for $40: 

An oversized light fixture with a rustic sensibility would also contribute to the effect.  For example, this $25 fixture would work (provided it's large enough): 

Or maybe something like this $30 fixture, perhaps spray-painted black, with Edison-style light bulbs: 

Completing the look would require walls painted in a color approaching the natural plaster look of the inspiration photos, and light-colored neutral window treatments.  (High ceilings and numerous windows would also help.)  

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