• Bre Oriolo

Where Do I Start? The Start to Finish Process of Designing My Dining Room

Probably the thing I hear most often from people is, “I’m overwhelmed.” Followed by, “I don’t know where to start.” If you’ve been watching my social media posts lately, you’ve seen my recently-completed dining space. You might be asking yourself: “How did she get there?” If you’ve been wondering the process from start to finish, this guide is for you!

How to Design a Dining Room

Step #1: Choose a Wall Color

I knew I wanted a black wall. I wanted a soft black to pair with an adjacent wall that is painted white, in “Snowbound” by Sherwin Williams. I got three black paint sample swatches and hung them on the wall for days. This allowed me to see the colors in all sorts of lighting and all different times of day. Even if an interior designer/decorator recommends a color for you, always do this step! Your home will reflect light and colors differently than someone else’s. I chose Sherwin Williams’ “Black Magic.” It’s soft and subtle--well, subtle for a black wall!

Inspo pic from Becki Owens' IG

How to Design a Dining Room

Step #2: Choose a Rug

As I searched Pinterest looking at ideas for dining rooms with black walls, I found a few black walls paired with vibrantly colored rugs. I loved the look and searched for one and a half years for the perfect rug. It had to be just right! I’d keep my eye on one, then by the time I was certain it was “the one,” it would be sold out. This happened with quite a few rugs, but I love what we ended up with. I also later added the jute IKEA rug you see here, to layer under it. You want your dining room rug about three feet wider and three feet longer than your table. By layering the jute rug underneath, I got the width and length I needed.

** A lot of times, steps one and two can be switched. You might find an “inspiration piece” first (the rug maybe) and then design the entire room around that piece.

Nahavand Persian Rug

How to Design a Dining Room

Step #3: Choose a Dining Table

This is where function really comes into play for design. We have a family of four (now five, counting the baby) in our immediate family. So we needed a table that seated about 4-6 on a daily basis. We also love hosting family dinners or holiday meals. So we needed a table that expanded to seat about 10-12. We couldn’t have a large table on a daily basis due to the limited space we have--although we did knock down a wall to give us a bigger space. Getting a table that could extend temporarily was perfect for us. I found this one at West Elm. We LOVE West Elm and love the mid century modern style. The white really pops with the black walls and I love the natural look of the wood legs.

How to Design a Dining Room

Step #4: Choose Chairs that Complement the Table

I’m not a huge fan of table and chair sets (i.e. ones that come together); I like to pair my own. I wanted something that would 1) contrast with the table, and 2) look good with the black walls of the dining room. I found these [faux] leather chairs from Target. They were soft, easy to put together, and could be wiped down. Again, function is important here. I once showed my husband a dining room idea with these beautiful velvet chairs. Then he reminded me that we have kids. Would I have loved those velvet chairs? Yes! And would they have been ruined the minute my husband’s homemade spaghetti sauce got splattered all over them? Also yes! Leather chairs that can be wiped off satisfies beauty + function.

How to Design a Dining Room

Step #4.5: Choose Additional Seating

I went ahead and threw two Mid Century Modern end chairs at the table that I already had from an outlet store years ago. They matched the Mid Century table and colors. We needed extra seating for when we extended the table, though. I purchased this leather bench (faux again) that could be placed under a nearby window and be more decorative on a daily basis, but pulled over to the table when extended.

How to Design a Dining Room

Step #5: Choose a Light Fixture

I had a picture in my head of a “sputnik” type of ceiling light. One with “arms” and round bulbs at the end. I knew I wanted gold metal. I found one at…wait for it...West Elm! This mobile chandelier goes along with the style of my dining room and is a definite statement piece when you walk into the room. It was a PAIN for my husband to hang by himself, and we had to adjust the height several times to get it just right, but totally worth it.

How to Design a Dining Room

Step #6: Choose Your Wall Decor

The wall decor is usually the last thing I decide. We don’t have a lot of wall space in this house to begin with, so I chose just a few spare items. The feather juju hat was something I recommended to a client. I sent it to said client, then immediately ordered one for myself off of Etsy because I HAD to have it! I even originally picked it out for a different room in the house, but thought it would pop better against the black dining room wall. The only other “wall decor” I put in the dining space is the giant palm leaf. I bought it without a purpose or place for it in my house. I saw it on Wildfire Home + Gift’s Instagram page and drove right away to Hamilton to get it. Only when I got there, it was truly GIANT. Remember, we have little to no wall space. As I looked at my dining room, though, the space to the left of the bench by the window was looking pitiful. I placed the giant palm in a wooden floor vase from Crate + Barrel and voila! A pretty little vignette. It totally completes the space for me. It’s something bold and different. Almost surprising. There’s a tip for you- always add a surprising element to your spaces.

How to Design a Dining Room

Step #7: Step Back and Enjoy

Enough said!

Have you ever said that same thing: “Where do I start?” What other questions do you have about interior design? I’d love to hear them! I hope to be able to share more about my process of designing spaces in future posts.

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