I love it when people tell me they have finally finished a room…I don’t think I have ever finished a room in my life. Or they say they hate modern, Victorian, stripped pine or you name it…life is just too short to get stuck in one period or mood. All Victorian can be a little depressing, too much modern cheerless, and all pine way too country, but a little bit of each can be just right.
Decorating in the 21st century isn’t about rules or absolutes. And don’t worry about matching so much–or size–buy what you love. I have a customer who bought a 9′ antique English pine farmhouse table that had to be placed on an angle to fit in her suburban New Jersey dining room. Twenty two years later she has retired to a custom-built post and beam home on a lake in Massachusetts and her table is the focal point of an open plan and everyone raves how perfect it is.
Part of the fun of owning a store is that our decor is constantly changing; we sell something and bring in another piece, then shift some of the artwork along with some of the furniture and the atmosphere changes completely. Often people, who have come into the store several days apart, will ask if we got in totally new merchandise and the answer is usually no, we just moved things around.
And you can do that at home. One of our favorite customers moved her furniture around so many times her father suggested she needed therapy. Her house is the sort of huge, open plan space we all think we want until it comes time to decorate. With room for three full seating areas, two dining tables and one baby grand piano it was a challenge to pull it all together.
Some days I would go over and the dining table would be in front of the fireplace and the piano would be where the table was and the next time it would all be put back. The last time I dropped by the big comfy couches from the kitchen sitting area were in the formal living room, the formal living room removed to the upstairs sitting area off the master bedroom and whew, the big table was back in the great room.
No wonder her father was perplexed, but in the end it all worked out fine. The more casual couches from the first house are now in the kitchen area in front of the fireplace, perfect for lounging. A rustic pine farm table is behind the sitting area for casual family dining while the main dining table is back in the great room section. The piano? In the large, mostly unused foyer.
The flat screen moved from above the fireplace in the kitchen, along with the casual comfy couches to the formerly formal living room and now the whole family spends a lot of time there. They are all enjoying space that was rarely used when it was decorated with the more serious furniture–and no television.
And that is another great blog topic–does it really take a television to make a room?
In this case the answer is yes. When it is time for entertaining other young couples with children, the adults can prepare dinner and enjoy cocktails in front of the fireplace in the kitchen, undisturbed by the television (or the children).. .Yet, when they have a formal dinner party, the TV is off, the kids in bed and the grown ups can enjoy the space.
The point is to be flexible. If the dining room seems too small, and the living room is a larger space you rarely use because you have a great room or a family room where everyone always hangs out, consider switching the dining area with the larger living room space. The former dining room then makes a lovely office, or a sitting room, and the new dining room is large enough to entertain the whole gang. It’s your house, you can do what you want.