Why is this room not inviting?
September 5, 2014 3:46 AM   Subscribe

What is it about my dining room that makes me not want to be in it?

Here are the pictures, ignore the obnoxious lighting, I was trying to get a useful picture.

First, excuse the detritus - school started this week and we have other things going on. Usually we're pretty spiffy, so 'get rid of the clutter' isn't actually a problem element.

Second, the rug underneath the table is too small, yes, but that's not it either - it's the second rug we've had in there, the first was bigger, more colorful and friendly, and I felt the same way.

We like the rooster and in fact like crazed and incompetent looking birds. In any case, he's not been a permanent fixture in the room and my feelings about the room have remained the same. The glower of the rooster may be a problem for some people but he's not actually the problem I'm having.

Also, please don't make fun of our general taste.

I think it has something to do with the oddly transitory nature of the room. I'm going to have to describe this the best I can and see if this works. Here is a terrible diagram of the room, and the probably-confusing hallway format:

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx[here we are extending into hallway/other room]
|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx[here we are extending into hallway/other room]
|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx[here we are extending into hallway/other room]

The kitchen entrance is actually back a few feet -- represented by the x's on the very last line. On the right side, higher up, it exits roughly into the front hallway of the house, by the television room.

So the room would really be a square if it weren't for the fact that part of it is sort of....hallway. That smidgen corner that is the bottom left of the dining room is real; it's an L shaped section maybe thirty inches long on the long side.

I hope that diagram works because it's really hard to explain. One thing I've considered, and will probably do regardless, is build a pantry into the dining room so that it truly is a square. I need the pantry space anyway, and I like building highly functional things.

I'm also thinking it needs to be softer, so maybe chairs with cushions, maybe a softer, more inviting rug. Maybe more plants. A different chandelier. But when I imagine those things, I think I'm still bothered by the centrality of the table, which -- what do you do? It's a square room.

We are not aiming for formality here, we're not the sorts to ask people to take their shoes off to not mess up the floor. We do not have separate 'fine dining' dishes -- our dishes are white utilitarian dishes and we have mismatched silverware and thats the way we's likes it. Our wine glasses come from Target. We very much like things "nice", but we like things to be comfortable, welcoming, neat, and pleasurable for us to look at, in no particular order.

Do you have a welcoming dining room, where you actively want to hang out and eat? What is it about that room that makes you feel relaxed? What is it about this room that makes me feel so....exposed, and what can I do about it, given the constraints of the room? (Mr. Llama feels the same way about the room, it's not just me, we just can't articulate what the problem is so we can't fix it).
posted by A Terrible Llama to Home & Garden (58 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, there are descriptions beneath those photos if you click into them or view as slides....
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:48 AM on September 5, 2014

One thing that strikes me is that three of the four chairs have their back to an opening. Two have their backs to open doors, and the third has its back to those two windows. That's inherently uncomfortable. Maybe re-position the table so that it's against one wall? That could feel a bit cozier, and help with some of the chairs not directly lining up with an open doorway.
posted by penguinicity at 3:55 AM on September 5, 2014 [9 favorites]

First of all, if you think that is cluttered, you are by far the neatest fellow parent I've ever seen. Second, I personally think it's a very interesting room.

One thing comes to mind as simple change-your-frame-of-reference things. You could rotate the table 90 degrees and move the bench the wall against the windows to replace the chair that's now there. That might make the room look very different to you and will probably pull people's attention to the lovely view out of those windows.
posted by digitalprimate at 3:56 AM on September 5, 2014 [6 favorites]

It is a hard room to get a conceptual grasp of, because of the L-Shape - but it looks like you have a wonderful view outside! Maybe you could arrange the table so that more people could look out while eating?

Also, the room has a lot of hard surfaces. Like you say, perhaps more soft furnishings, or even a bookcase, would make the room more acoustically comfortable. You could even put a curtain over one of the doorways? At the minute the room does look very formal, so perhaps making it more den-like would be one solution.
posted by The River Ivel at 3:57 AM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

I wonder also if the table is not too small for the space? You have a small square table with lots of space around it, making it look a bit stranded.
posted by ohio at 3:57 AM on September 5, 2014 [12 favorites]

First thoughts...your curtains don't give much...they're thin and.... ungenerous(?) Your walls need bookshelves or a music system or candles...there's no sign of life there.

The centre-yness of the table would make me feel on display. A bit skewed? And near the windows? Lose there random folding chair in the corner and make it all a bit more organic in lines and colours and textures.

There's nothing majorly wrong with it....but I understand your inability to put a finger on it exactly.
posted by taff at 4:00 AM on September 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

I don't know that it's your DR in particular - those separate-room formal DRs are hardly ever used. In our more casual dining culture, it's strange to carry all of the serving dishes and place settings into another room just to eat.

If you give the room a related dual purpose it will be cozier and more inviting. Two sitting chairs in the window corners with a game table between them, and turn the table 90degrees. Then you have a reason to be in there outside the appointed times of meal service. Some heavy floor-to-ceiling (96" not 84") curtains too, that extend to the corners, and wall hangings, to cozy the room up.
posted by headnsouth at 4:03 AM on September 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

For what it's worth, I love that dining room. But I love it because it has a lot of things I like: very clean colors, dark wood, lots of right angles, everything lined up perfectly. That may feel too formal and unwelcoming to you, though.

I suggest breaking up the shapes to make it a friendlier room. Perhaps roman shades in a buff color on the windows instead of dark drapes. A round rug beneath the table. (Or a round table on a larger, rectangular rug.)

You might replace the wall full of perfectly square picture frames for a more collage-like frame. A brighter, more colorful table cloth could help, as could brighter, more colorful chair cushions.

(I would be inclined to choose a citrus palette for this room.)

If you want to do way more than just move furniture and hang curtains: Pull down the chair rail and paint the walls a softer, creamier color to go against the dark wood frames of the windows. Replace the light fixture with something more modern or whimsical.
posted by headspace at 4:04 AM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Okay, all I know about decorating is from watching HGTV so... my first impression is that your dining room is very severe, black & geometric.

I'd switch out the rug, just because the black border is very... restrictive.

The chandelier is too high, can you lower it until it is just over your head when seated? and soften the lighting with little lamp shades. They don't have to be twee, you can get modern ones.

You could change to (printed?) cafe curtains that just cover the lower half of the window.

The line of small pictures, can you group them together in a square shape and put on another, smaller wall because they look kind of lost on that big wall. You can get a big painting for that wall, even if it's just canvas on stretchers that you paint yourself. Like paint it basically one color, with some white or a bit of black mixed in for variation.

I really like the idea of turning the table 90 degrees. I'd get rid of the wire shelf thing in the corner.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:05 AM on September 5, 2014 [9 favorites]

I'd turn the table the other way (from portrait to landscape), put more art on the bare wall and get rid of the table cloth. The reason for losing the table cloth, for me, is that table cloths are "fancy" and something that has to be kept clean and protected. So if I lived in a house with table cloth on the table, I'd never eat at the table in order to keep the table cloth clean, defeating the purpose of not only the table cloth, but the actual table itself.

Also maybe some potted plants.
posted by mibo at 4:08 AM on September 5, 2014 [5 favorites]

There are a lot of little or delicate things—a line of small framed art, the bird cage thingy (I think?), the drapes, the chandelier. None are inherently bad but together... Might your room benefit from adding objects of more substance: larger and/or denser art (as others have suggested), much more significant drapes, a lovely sideboard where that bench is (bonus for adding storage!), etc.
posted by JackBurden at 4:09 AM on September 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Also, if you paint above the chair rail a darker color, it will bring down the height of the ceiling and make it look cozier. The first thing I'd do is lower than chandelier though.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:15 AM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'd turn the table 90 degrees and put it against the wall with the windows with two (kids) chairs facing the windows and one parent chair at either end, if that social arrangement works for your family's age.

I would add some large pictures to the walls and a bright rug or two on the floor near the entrances. I don't like irrelevant patterns or visuals so my artwork choices would be for shape and colour, and the rugs would link the colour and/or the visual texture of the outside/artwork.

Take out the birdcage, the spare chair and seat unless you actually use them. Replace with decorative tables with plants or flower cases. Bring in colour and life.
posted by Kerasia at 4:18 AM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

The rug is sucking up some natural light in a room which doesn't seem to have much to play with. Consider a mirror on the east wall also.

I would also agree with moving the table, perhaps against the west wall, to bring out if you are dining with company.

Perhaps consider some additional lighting sources, the chandelier lighting seems unpleasant to me.

(I am taking the top of your diagram as north.)
posted by biffa at 4:21 AM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

In my designer's opinion (I have a design degree, just not interior design!) you have a lot of the elements right (furniture, art, rug etc) but the proportions are wrong. You basically need several large elements, like a large rug, dining table, sideboard etc to ground the room but what you have instead are a small rug that doesn't fit the proportions of the room, small pieces of art scattered so that they don't make a cohesive shape for your eye to go to etc. Basically its very itty bitty which means the room doesn't tie in together and your eye goes all over the place. Once you get the large things worked out, you can then add smaller items of interest.

I would aim for 3 at the most colours or shades in the room. If you know what you're doing you can have more, but three is easy to work with and makes it simpler to get right and have the look pulled together. Try different textures and fabrics to add interest. I would aim for one large artwork (or two) rather than multiple small pieces. A good site to look for ideas of how other people make a similar room work is Houzz.
posted by Jubey at 4:24 AM on September 5, 2014 [10 favorites]

Seconding some of the above....

1. a bigger table would help BUT we can work around that....
2. your lighting looks too stark and high up- can you lower the chandelier a bit?
3. your drapes are doing nothing for you. trying nothing, and see if that helps
5. sideboard along the wall for candles/extra lamp (ie adding lighting)
4. sorry to say, but the small art is not doing it for me, BUT it could be easily fixed by larger scaled art, or by grouping it more tightly. Speaking of Art, can you put the wire thing in the corner on a stand? so you can actually see the weirdness and not just have a lurking thing in the corner? maybe center it along the wall on a sideboard/serving table (also bonus- extra storage for fancy plates, and I'd surround the wire thing with candles for DRAMA).

mostly do MORE bigger scaled art (the giant rooster on the wall is magnificent). Also for every day dining, do you need the table cloth? It might help to just have the table set with placemats for every day, and then breakout the table cloth for formaler events. I always feel that unless fully set for dinner, tablecloths can look a little bit sloppy....
posted by larthegreat at 4:25 AM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

The room looks empty. I think that putting up larger curtain rods and fuller, full length curtains would help. The rug is FAR too small and makes the table look like an island adrift in a barren sea. The table is a bit small for the room too. The lighting fixture is really high which also contributes to that 'table adrift' feeling. I also think painting the lower half of the room a darker color might help too.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 4:26 AM on September 5, 2014

It seems formal and sparse to me. I would be apprehensive about touching anything. Thinking about it, it reminds me of an art gallery - everything is clearly constrained and here are the lines that you mustn't cross. It says "thin" to me - thin curtains, thin bars on the chairs, thin metal unit in the corner, black lines on the rug, black metal chandelier offering undiffused light, black photo frames of small pictures and a dado rail that bisects the room.

If you need the table there, then turn it on its head and make it into a place to gather. Have something like a bowl of fruit in the middle, so that someone might linger. Have chairs that are more rounded and comfortable looking, so someone might be inclined to sit and read. I like the wooden floor and the green walls - maybe have a subtle stencil on the top half of the wall? And a sunnier tablecloth. Some art on the walls that's larger and more colourful, and perhaps some natural light lightbulbs.
posted by Solomon at 4:31 AM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

--The rooster stays but lower him about 6" so he's more visible when you're sitting at the table.

--A large round table would instantly make the room feel more inviting and eliminate the chair problem where you face chair backs when you come into the room. If you get a round table, you don't need a rug.

--Lower the chandelier to at least 30" from the table.

--Agree that roman shades would look much better than the thin curtains.

--The side bench is using up space where you could put some kind of sideboard/buffet piece with a big mirror over it that would reflect the chandelier and pull in light from the windows. Put two tall "buffet" lamps on the sideboard. (Do a Craigslist search for the round dining table and sideboard/buffet--there are tons on CL.)

--Take down the tiny pieces of art or group them tightly on the opposite wall. Better would be a more sizeable piece of art that you really like on that other wall--something that complements your crazy rooster.
posted by Elsie at 4:32 AM on September 5, 2014 [6 favorites]

What I see is a very formal room, one that in some houses would be reserved for use only for ceremonious occasions, for adults. It's not a family room. It's a room where you would drink expensive, very dry wine.

I don't see anything soft in that room. Everything is square and sharp and thin and strong contrast. Your picture frames are more visible than the pictures. The colours are mostly very darks with very lights which makes the sharp edges stand out more. My impression is that there are only two colours white and very dark brown or black.

This would be a very good room for someone who was visually impaired.

An earlier poster mentioned that the chairs have their backs to the doors which can make people very uncomfortable.

More colour might make a big difference. There appears to be a red picture on the wall in one image, however I would recommend any colour but red which is too vivid and for some people angry. Red is not a comfortable colour.

I would change things around in a major way, probably temporarily. I'd put the table right under one of the windows and have the chairs only on the sides. I'd try to convert the rooms primary purpose from dining, to gaming or a school room or an art project room, put some playful things up, like maps of imaginary places, informal, possibly clumsy things. like children's artwork, use toys for decoration, find some things that are very old and not in perfect condition, showing their wear, like antique kitchen utensils.

Then when you were used to being more cozy in the room I'd slowly start moving things back towards dining.

But changing it to an informal or country style decoration would be in direct opposition to the square austere formality.

Is it possible that the chairs are uncomfortable to sit in, or that your family doesn't have a dining together lifestyle? If the kids need to eat at different times and the adults don't have the same schedule and people don't like the same kind of food and it means waiting and being hungry while you wait to have a sit down dinner, then maybe the biggest problem is not that the room isn't cozy, it's that dining rooms come from an era when somebody was home to cook and everybody was home for 6 P.M. every single night.

In that case I would go to the opposite extreme and make a couple of deeply formal dinners down to providing wineglasses for the children (although for the four year old theirs would be unbreakable plastic) and ceremoniously decanting and allowing a bottle of sparkling grape juice to breath and setting fire to the dessert pudding. You should dress for dinner and make the formal nature of the meal a high treat. And this would condition you to thinking of using the room as something to look forward to.
posted by Jane the Brown at 4:32 AM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Here's what I think are issues: The small multiple pictures on long wall, skimpy drapes, chandelier too high, walls below the chair rail should be darker to ground the room. I actually think the off-kilter entrance could work to your advantage--maybe put a screen or full-height bookshelf perpendicular to the right side wall to make it like a restaurant entrance. And maybe put the cat food area behind the screen thing.

Here's what I would do: large single picture or triptych on wall where small pictures are, lush floor-length drapes, lower chandelier, and dark beadboard, wallpaper (could coordinate with drapes) or even paint below the chair rail. A sideboard on the short wall is a good idea too. Accessorize to taste.

I use the Apartment Therapy trick for determining how high to hang pictures: Arrange pictures at height you think it's appropriate, then put them 3" lower.
posted by auntie maim at 4:39 AM on September 5, 2014 [5 favorites]

You're not going to get shit from me for your taste. However, I am going to actually answer your question with my opinion, so that defacto requires some criticism.

Your art is all hung too high, your drapes are not full enough and look impoverished (fabric-wise), and the problem is not that the rug is too small but that the table is too small. The overall result is a bit mean and ungracious.

My suggestions: lower the art, get full-length drapes you draw to the sides with no tie backs, and get a piece of MDF cut to form a bigger table.

Also I know you said ignore the lighting but do you have a floor lamp or something in that room? Something besides overheads and I dunno, sconces?
posted by DarlingBri at 4:43 AM on September 5, 2014 [5 favorites]

Adding on to the above: get rid of all the ancillary furniture along the walls, add a sideboard, put in a slightly larger, rectangular table, and get bigger art and fuller drapes.
posted by The Michael The at 4:49 AM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Add a comfy chair in the corner by the window with a small table for the coffee mug.
posted by sammyo at 5:01 AM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

So many dark lines! It's like there are bars all over the room.

Paint the chairs white or cream.
Soft roman blinds, or thicker curtains that come up over the curtain rail
Replace the rug with a nice soft one with no border and no dark colours
Lower the chandeliers
Paint so that the lower half of the room + dado rail are one soft colour, above the dado is another soft colour (by soft I mean warm grey, beige, cream, soft white, warm blue, creamy yellow etc)
Paint over whatever that grille-like radiator thing against the wall is
Lower the paintings, bigger paintings on the radiator wall, and frame them in soft coloured frames.

You may be spotting a trend here.
posted by Acheman at 5:07 AM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

In terms of decoration, I'm with the consensus that everything is too hard, sharp and contrasty, and art is too small, too high and too far apart.

Just looking at the little row of pictures on the wall, it seems like I'd have to get close to them to see them, but to do that I'd have to walk the length of the wall, squeezing between table and bench, tripping over things the whole way. I'm not going to do that, so it's just a row of dark squares punctuating the room.

That aside, it is an awkward space do deal with. There are too many openings for it to feel cozy and enclosed, and too many obstructions for it to feel open to adjacent areas. I can't help wanting to find some way to eliminate the seemingly pointless L-shaped bit of wall between the hall and open doorway, centered in this pic.
posted by jon1270 at 5:21 AM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm also thinking it needs to be softer, so maybe chairs with cushions, maybe a softer, more inviting rug. Maybe more plants. A different chandelier. But when I imagine those things, I think I'm still bothered by the centrality of the table, which -- what do you do? It's a square room.

Bingo! I have this problem with one of the rooms in my house. If you look at the shapes rather than the objects themselves, you can see that the room is overwhelmed with rectangles and squares. The windows, the rug, the table, the chairs, etc... even the the picture frames and the wainscoting on the walls emphasize the squareness of the room. All of those sharp angles and hard edges don't give the eye anything to rest upon; and all of the larger surfaces (floor, table, walls) are smooth and hard. You need more flow and some textures in the room that are softer and more inviting.

If it were my room, the first thing I'd do is buy a round dining room table and upholstered chairs to break up the monotony of all of those hard angles. Next thing I'd do is put a round rug under the table, preferably something soft and plush that you can sink your toes into. Both the chairs and the rug should have a nice pop of color that you can play off of throughout the rest of the room.

That view from your window is lovely! Why not make that the focal point of the room? You could go with some minimalistic roman shades or long, decadent-looking velvet drapes tied back to show off the view. Those three simple changes will completely change the vibe of the room, but if you wanted to take it even further, paint the walls a warmer color (or at least paint above the wallpaper and wainscoting) and hang some fun artwork on the walls with different-sized circular frames; and stagger the frames in a pattern like this. Also, a large round mirror like this or this will catch the light and add visual interest.

A nice variety of plants throughout the room, a few colorful floor pillows, some fresh flowers as your centerpiece, a different, more playful type of light and you'll be good to go!
posted by LuckySeven~ at 5:26 AM on September 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

but the proportions are wrong. You basically need several large elements,

yea, Jubey has it - the room is so sparse that everything in it looks small and rickety. Choose some interesting colours for the curtains and carpet. Add a couple more substantial chairs, you can use the 4 you have on the sides of the table, and get 2 more weightier ones for the ends. Move the 4 small framed pictures to a smaller wall, and put something big and exciting up instead. I loooove the rooster - it's the best part of the room! What about finding the colour you like best in that picture and painting the walls below the chair rail that colour?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:29 AM on September 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

It's much, much too thin and insubstantial (it looks like a temporarily-furnished college student's apartment dining room, regardless of the quality of the table & chairs). Your drapes need to be WAY bigger and more substantial. Then I think you need some substantial piece of furniture against one wall (like a buffet table or a china hutch, but maybe something more idiosyncratic -- and of course you can display not-china in the hutch, like children's artwork or oddities from around the world or whatever). I also think you should consider a pair of comfy chairs and a little cafe table in front of the windows where people could read and have a cup of tea, if the room still needs more. The table is a bit small for the room, so I think you could do a pair-of-chairs to read in without it being too crowded, but it's a bit hard to tell from the pictures. I'm guessing your table has a leaf that makes it seat six, and then you add the bench? You may like the proportions of the room more with the leaf permanently in the table.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:32 AM on September 5, 2014

Skip this if you're already headed towards suggestions!

I don't want to derail or stop these suggestions or change the direction, because they are absolutely awesome and I very much would love them to keep coming-so please skip this if you've got some other idea going--but does anyone have any suggestions about integrating the view from the room, which people have pointed out as an asset, more effectively given the general color palette:

The bottom floor central living area of our house the rooms are bound together by varying weight combinations of a soft smokey blue, blackberry, black and white. So in the darker television room the dominant color is blackberry (big couch plus pattern in the rug), with a smokey blue bookcase and minor white and black elements. The brighter living room adjacent has smokey blue as the dominant color (a chair and couch) with lesser black and white elements. The kitchen, which you can see a sliver of, is primarily black and white and blackberry, in roughly equal measures. When I want an accent color, like I'm buying flowers or picking flowers, I like a really deep crazy-ass orange. There's only the smallest element of that in the dining room -- those pictures, which you can't see, are of a tiny bright orange finger puppet monster doing things like leaning into a champagne glass or sniffing a flower.

Assuming these are the colors I'm playing with, that's how we got so many black touches in the dining room, and blackberry seems the best accent to that outside greenery--which I think is subconsciously what those curtains were doing for me (they're pulled way off to the side to let the sun in but they are a velvety blackberry material and actually a little overwhelming when fully deployed.

The windows face east, fwiw. Also, that's lush greenery out there now, but in the winter, it will be white and bony.

(The rooster is a bit of a color clash but you can't fight the rooster.)
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:37 AM on September 5, 2014

In the corner where you have the stepstool? High chair? Instead of a pair of chairs, what about:

A red club chair like this or this or maybe fabric upholstered and cozy rather than leather and sleek, to pick up the colors in the rooster, add a pop of color, and make the room more cozy and inviting. Put a small accent table next to it large enough for a drink and maybe a book. It would add weight, warmth, and color to the room, as well as creating a little hang-out spot that invites people to linger, makes good use of your lovely view, and gives a little public space slightly separated from the living room where someone can go to read or think.

(Or an orange club chair!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:41 AM on September 5, 2014

I have no tweaks to offer, but I'll share how we addressed what might be a similar problem. We have a small dining room area next to a kitchen, with a larger nearby living room space. We never used the dining room area, even though it had much nicer window views and a cozy feeling to it.

The solution for us was to switch the functions of these two rooms. Now, there are comfy chairs in the former dining room, directed toward the windows, with a small table so we can grab an informal meal there if we feel like it. It also makes it a nice space to hang out and talk to someone who's working in the kitchen. The regular dining room table was transposed into the old living room, so when we have a big meal (or have people over) we have more space there.

One thing that made this more practical is that both rooms have wooden floors. If you have the classic carpeted living room, that probably wouldn't work for you.
posted by itstheclamsname at 5:43 AM on September 5, 2014

there are a lot of black borders in the room and that reminds me of funeral stationery.

the table and chairs seem to be crowded on the rug together and standing on tiptoe so as not to fall off.

you might try painting the borders a different color, moving the table under the windows and turning it so it's lengthwise against the wall, moving the rug and flanking it with soft chairs elsewhere in the room, and switching to fuller curtains.
posted by tel3path at 6:05 AM on September 5, 2014

I like the suggestions of the round table and (if there is space without it getting too crowded, which the room might be too small for) a couple of comfy chairs against the wall, angled for conversation. Right now the proportions are all wrong, as well as the problem of always having a door at your back.

If your budget/ambition allows, the best solution may be to look at the interior layout of the house and possibly removing or moving walls. There's not enough information here (much less a way to know which walls are load bearing and which aren't), but you've correctly identified that the underlying issue is the layout and traffic flow; getting the furniture and decor better won't solve that.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:10 AM on September 5, 2014

I don't think those totally isolated dinning rooms are ever very comfortable or usable. It sory of looks like I'm peeking into someone's bedroom. Also, I feel like I'm going to stub my toe when I look at those pictures.

My suggestion would be a major project that would require skilled labor, but I would want to widen the entrance way. Doesn't look like you can do anything with the entrance way from the kitchen, but if you knocked down some of the wall here and made that much wider, it wouldn't feel like such a segregated, stifling space.

Also, I agree have a chairs backed to an opening makes those seats uncomfortable. I think a round table is better, I think a larger table would make everything worse.
posted by spaltavian at 6:15 AM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm going to take a completely different approach and ask a pseudo-psychological question - what was your general experience of "dining rooms" as a child? Did you and your family always eat in the dining room, or was that just for special occasions?

What I'm getting at is: maybe subconsciously you've sort of gotten a mindset that the "dining room" is for more formal meals - dinner parties, special events, etc. - and for ordinary life, the kitchen table is just fine. We mostly ate at the kitchen table when I was a kid, and even at my relatives' houses the dining room was for special and the kitchen table was for routine everyday meals. So I've sort of been trained to regard a dining room as a sort of "for special/formal/company" kind of place and don't spend a lot of time in dining rooms as a result, no matter how casual or cozy or cute or whatever a dining room may be. And I even do that if it means that I end up eating while sitting on a sofa over a coffee table or something.

I'm wondering if maybe you also have a little of that going on.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:44 AM on September 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

You say you don't want to linger in the room - but the room doesn't give you any reason to linger.
- no comfy soft place to sit and hang about.
- no books/mags
- pictures too small - you need to stand infront of them like in a gallery, rather than admire them seated.

The bench seems to invite, but in reality noone's going to sit there just to look at the back of someone's chair.

I guess it depends what you'd like to do there, apart from eating. Linger and chat while someone clears away the dishes? Read or do crafty stuff while talking to the cook?

Do you have a picture of a room that appeals to you?
posted by Omnomnom at 6:58 AM on September 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

My impressions - I strongly agree that a round table would help with the scale. Also the drapes just seem to light -- maybe something more substantial. Also, I know many people don't like to paint out woodwork, but it does make the room feel choppy.
posted by Lescha at 7:20 AM on September 5, 2014

From your picture, my main impression was not that the room was unpleasant but that there's no reason to want to be there. Yes, you can sit at the table and eat, but the dining rooms I tend to linger in have more "stuff" - a sideboard, a bar(+bottles+glassware), a bookcase, a raft of plants... not all these things, but at least one of them. As other people have mentioned, the table feels too small for the space, which means the room tends to feel empty; if you don't have people over often enough to have any need for a larger table, consider adding a piece of furniture to make it less echoey.
posted by aimedwander at 7:27 AM on September 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Is it possible/practical to block off one of the entrances to the room? That might make it feel less exposed & more cozy.

Also think about how comfortable your dining chairs are - is it actually pleasant to sit at the table? My vague impression is that they might be a bit low for the table, but it's hard to tell.

I agree with the idea of trying the table longways up against the windows, so that as you are sitting there you can be looking out the windows.

In terms of use (and this may or may not apply to your family & its rhythms) - I think doing a sit down family dinner at the table is a habit that just has to be cultivated, the way you would cultivate any habitual practice that you want to do but for whatever reason need some activation energy for. But the attraction of the room as a space to hang out is borne out more by whether you are inclined to sit there with a cup of coffee in the morning, or with the crossword puzzle & some tea in the afternoon, or with drinks after dinner. Maybe think about where in your house you do choose to do activities like those, and what you like about those spots.
posted by yarrow at 7:28 AM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

I will be honest with you: I wouldn't linger in your dining room either because of the color scheme. The high contrast between your trim, curtains, and art frames and the rest of the room, combined with the unusually thin/sparse proportions of everything are very hostile to me. I'd get rid of the chair line on the wall completely as it makes the room look like it's being fenced in and divided. Ditto for the curtains. Those really throw everything off.

I also agree with others who say the art you've chosen is too tiny and hung too high on the walls. If it were me, I'd identify a white, beige, and maybe even a blue or a red that goes with the rest of the house and redo all the colors. No more black or dark tones. Keep it neutral so that the artwork can warm things up as much as possible.
posted by Hermione Granger at 7:43 AM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would ditch the table cloth. I think that feels too fancy, and they always just annoy me. Like, they're shifting around, too much fabric in your lap, etc. Bare table is the way to go as far as I'm concerned.

I would also add a bit more color and/or lightness to the room. Like, switch to a slightly larger carpet with more color to it, and maybe a slightly higher pile so that it's a bit "plushier." Also untie the curtains so that they're hanging loose, and maybe switch to a lighter color. Cream might work, or you could coordinate based on the new carpet that you get.

Those chairs don't look very comfortable, so maybe switch out to less formal chairs. You could always keep those around for entertaining purposes. For example, these more rounded chairs read as less formal to me, just as one example.

The light fixture over the table also comes off as too formal. Maybe switch it out for something that isn't a candelabra type thing.

You might play around with a different table as well. I actually think the rectangular table can work, but maybe a slightly larger one?

Lastly, the furniture along the edge of the room telegraphs to me as "for show not for comfort," so that could be adding to this as well. You could switch that out to increase the functionality and comfort of the room, by maybe adding in a low cabinet or a bookshelf, where you could include both books and to showcase stuff.

Okay, and looking over my answer, I realize I've suggested changing pretty much everything in the room, so I just want to mention that I think the room as is looks very nice, but it comes off very much as a formal dining room and not an everyday room.
posted by litera scripta manet at 7:48 AM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I haven't read all of the comments. Apologies if I am repeating advice already given:

Lower your curtain rods to just above the frame. I know raising the curtain rods way above the frame was the thing to do "to make windows appear larger" but it just looks odd. A well known professional decorator (Lauri Ward) personally told to lower mine and they look much better. Your drapes should go to the floor and have more volume.

The rug seems too small for the table. The rug should extend when your chairs are pulled out. From Better Homes and Gardens:

What size your rug should be? Here’s a handy formula: measure the width and length of your table and add 18-24” to each of the four sides to allow extra room for the chairs. (Be sure to include your table leaf in your calculation.) For most spaces, that means a 5 × 8’ rug is too small and you should invest in a rug that measures somewhere between 6 x9’ and 9 x 12’.
Those necessary extra inches are important because they allow guests to slide chairs out from under the table without falling off the edge of the rug. If the rug is too small, chairs can still scratch the floor or get tripped up on the edge of a rug when trying to slide them back in.
It’s also important to purchase a rug that is not too big – it’s best that your area rug does not trespass into the space where a sideboard or buffet sits, and so there is a visible border of flooring as well.

Lose the clutter in the corners and only keep the table and chairs and maybe a sideboard down the road if you were to purchase one. I like the bench but I think it can go, too.

From the photos it appears that your artwork is placed too high. The center of the artwork should be at eye level and relate more to the chair rail. Arrange the little square artworks into a collage or square instead of having them march out across the wall -- to my eye they look too puny this way.

Shades for your chandelier might be a good idea, the light will appear less harsh.

Get rid of the tablecloth -- and use a table runner and a simple but substantial centerpiece.
posted by Fairchild at 8:49 AM on September 5, 2014

A larger rug in warm colors (maybe a deep red?) would help a lot. (Dark red rugs almost work as a neutral on wood flooring.) Move the table up against the wall near the windows. Get rid of the other furniture and put in a sideboard on the wall with the rail and the line of small artwork. Get rid of the small artwork in favor of one or two much bigger pieces, maybe something that brings in your favorite splashy accent color of orange and includes that deep blackberry color. When you hang your art, remember "Center at 60 inches." Put the chandelier on a dimmer switch if it isn't already.

I agree that the curtain rods are too thin/spindly for the windows, but I like the drapes. Drapes are really personal. If you can, get a medium sized plant for one of the corners to play off the lovely greenery outside.
posted by purple_bird at 10:27 AM on September 5, 2014

I would orient the table the other way if I were you. It looks weird sitting in between the two windows. Have go length-wise across the two windows instead, and get a larger rug.
posted by driedmango at 12:58 PM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

The decoration seems to have a lot of contrasts. For cosiness, you need unification with a little contrast. Instead of the strong black and white contrast I see now, on the pictures (maybe it is completely different in real life), I'd go for one of your signature colors overall, but in different grades, and then with a little more power to the orange contrast (great idea, I love that). So: walls and panels and other fittings in the same color but different shades and brightnesses, but a little more power to the orange details.
Lighting is a big deal. I love chandeliers, but I restrict them to the hallways, because in living rooms they are overwhelming. I do have a natural candle chandelier in one room which is super romantic, but to be honest, it is a big job to keep it clean and so on. You should look for a lamp over the table which you can regulate for different situations and where the light goes on the table, not over all the room. If you need a room light (for cleaning etc.), maybe you can hang a good up-light on the walls, reflecting on the ceiling. For an even more romantic ambience, you can have candle lights on your table and on side tables for parties.

Right now, your furniture goes with the panels and emphasizes the strong contrast. I think you could either bring it together with your basic color scheme and harmonize or paint it orange and use the furniture as a contrast element. Personally, I do the latter, my contrast color is a more traditional red than your orange, and I use Persian carpets as a harmonizer. As said, I love your orange, and maybe you could use tablecloths and artworks as elements that bind everything together.

For curtains, I think it almost always works better to think of the window-wall as a whole. In old times, there would have been a mirror on the wall-pillar between the windows to reflect the light. Maybe that would be a good thing for you as well. And then a continuous curtain to cover the whole wall at night, ideally with a hidden LED light behind it so the curtain functions as a soft lamp during evenings.
posted by mumimor at 1:18 PM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'd paint the room to bring in more color. Get some pint-sized testers and paint some big squares to see how the light throughout the day and evening change the paint's tones.

I'd also consider covering the window wall with one long curtain rail that spans the whole wall and cover the whole wall with curtains. It won't take away the positions of the windows, but it'll be a soft element in the room and it'll create some uniformity for the eye.

And, I'd also flip the table from portrait to landscape so that the long side faces the windows.
posted by quince at 1:19 PM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

After reading your update, I think I can see what you're trying to achieve as far as your color palette. Your instincts, especially w/r/t the blacks, blackberry, whites, and smokey blues playing off of bold oranges and reds are excellent, but the execution could use a bit of tweaking.

In order to tie the rooms together, you'll need to unify them with your fun accent color(s). For example, you could punch up the dining room with orange chairs like these leather ones or playful patterned chairs like these or even soft green microfiber chairs like these. Greens, both as live plants and an accent color would work really well with your existing color scheme and add warmth and vitality to your rooms.

The view from your first picture shows a large expanse of floor and neutral, kinda blah walls when the eye really wants to be drawn to the windows and the view outside. Even if it isn't green year-round, you can work that "white and bony" view to your advantage by contrasting it with the lush greenery inside the room and drapes and that make a statement. Also the soft rug, round table, and pillows would really cozy up the room. If you don't want to buy everything at once, work up to it a bit at a time staying mindful of your general color scheme. Good luck and have fun!
posted by LuckySeven~ at 1:55 PM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

what about red? red and blue, especially smoky blue, are great together. Painting the lower half of the walls the same red that is in the wattles of the rooster would be great. Also, how about some red cushions for the chairs? you'll want to spend more time there if the seats are comfy.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:53 PM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I also find your dining room very uninviting. I could immediately see what you meant. I think that a large part of it is that you have the table in the middle of the room with four cold, mostly unadorned walls. The décor and items around the walls seem too sad and small and insignificant to support the largeness of the table in the middle. It seems very imbalanced. Moving one edge of the table against a wall might help (or getting a new table). I think some warm wooden bookshelves on the walls would help. Also, some nice side tables able to grad as much "attention" as the table with nice, cozy decorative items on top (rather than sad mass produced looking items -- maybe some handmade crafts?). I agree also with the person who commented that the border on the rug is harsh, as well as the stark contrast of the two colors. Something a bit more ornate will give more warmth. Maybe a "Persian style" rug. The dining table chairs also look harsh again with the dark color and straight lines. Maybe get some new chairs, and nice ones with a lot of seat cushioning. Your curtains look too thin and hang straight down in a sad way. You should get thick plush ones and tie them back in a way that creates whose pretty curved lines framing your window because as they are now they are again creating a harsh straight line. All that greenery in your windows is very beautiful too. Find a way to draw that greenery closer. Maybe by framing that area with some plants, and maybe a couple of hanging plants from the ceiling. Place the curtain rods lower down actually closer to the windows and maybe hang a stained glass ornament to break the monotony of the four squares (though I guess the hanging plants holders would do that too). I think you must be right that the transitory nature of the room is making it uninviting, like a non room. So I'd try to counteract that by making it heavier and more intimate. Things that invite you to stay and forget the rest of the house. Heavier furniture that those items you have surrounding the perimeter of the room, and drawing everything closer. Even if that's not your automatic decorating tendency. The small picture frames, the rooster frame thing, the spindly chandelier all look too light and spindly. Maybe hang a heavy cloth tapestry. Also change your light to lots of indirect soft sources of light. One overhead light is always horrible. Maybe put some large candles on those bookshelves or console tables.
posted by Blitz at 3:26 PM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

maybe subconsciously you've sort of gotten a mindset that the "dining room" is for more formal meals

I don't *think* so but it's a good question. We did reserve my childhood dining room for excruciating holiday occasions where people liked to gather to get their faux-fancy on and ineffectively suppress their rage, but my family (my husband, daughter, and I) aren't like that and there's an element of playfulness and informality that we like very much and in particular I find delightful when placed against formal elements, like the Very Serious gallery style line of pictures of a crazed looking finger puppet monster in a series of weird settings, and that bonkers rooster and other bits of weirdness - poorly executed in this instance, but still, I like that kind of thing thematically. We don't use fancy china, and I do think that has to do with finding childhood dining room oppressive and joyless because my mother would haul that stuff out and there was just so much stress surrounding it. If you broke a wine glass you'd feel horrible.

These answers are absolutely awesome, really, every single one. Thanks ever so much for your thoughts and insights - this is incredibly helpful and gives me so much to go on and experiment with.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:42 PM on September 5, 2014

I agree with your feeling that the room as it stands seems to ask you to move on rather than stay; for me, the main structural issues are that there is one too many entryways and that the windows are a slightly awkward shape and position: too narrow, reaching fairly low down, with a biggish gap between them, and not enough space between them and the wall (especially on the right hand side). In an ideal world, I’d replace them with either a whole window wall, or with a bigger window that is more centered between the side walls. The L-wall between the two entryways also heightens this feeling of restlessness, so I’d close up one of the entrances, probably the one that is not facing the kitchen, since I assume that the entry via the kitchen is the more useful one (if that is not the case, it is the kitchen entry I’d wall up, since that would gain you one extra wall, plus the kitchen entry creates a sharp line through the room to the windows that seems to slice up the room, whilst the other entry is more suave, as it were, and allows the eye to wonder around the room in a more pleasing way).

Anyhow, since these kind of great changes are probably not on the cards, I actually think that what you currently have in the room, with maybe a couple of additions and some re-arranging, would make for a great dining room with a cozy feel. Here is what I would try:

1. The table and chairs: I can’t quite tell, but the bench that is against the side wall is at table-height? If so, I’d add a big cushion covered with upholstery in your colour-scheme, and move the table to stand in front of it (remove the intervening chair). Use the same upholstery to make comfy cushions for the chairs. Position two chairs vis-à-vis the new table-bench, like so. I’d move this arrangement as close to the wall with the kitchen entrance as possible (not clear from your pictures if there is space to position it quite far towards the wall facing the windows.

I googled for upholstery in your colours; didn’t find all that much, but here are some of the ones I found.

I like this one to go with your rooster:

This is probably out, but every house needs a map somewhere!

Also, I’d leave the table uncovered, unless it is really ugly, and use table mats instead of a table cloth. They are way easier to clean or launder, plus a tablecloth can end up looking really frumpy unless it is just so.

2. The rug: you now have more floor space towards the window wall and the right hand side wall. I’d remove the current rug and replace it with an off-white shaggy rug or something like that. No a big one (and not right under or near the table – I’m much in favour of not having carpeting right under the table, unless truly necessary, for ease of cleaning). The floor seems really nice, and a light-coloured carpet could make it a feature of the room; shag rugs and their ilk seem very welcoming. Slip-proof the rug.

3. The curtains: replace the current curtains with floor-length white or off-white see-through or semi-opaque curtains. Give them lots of volume (I assume that means make them quite a bit wider than the size of the windows seems to demand). Bring the curtain rods down by quite a bit, and make them so that the curtains can be drawn to properly frame the windows; this is to create the impression that your windows are a bit wider.

4. For the space between the windows, I’d do something else than the rooster picture. One option that I think could work well is to have a funky mirror where the rooster hangs now, like the ones linked above, and maybe a floor candle holder like this, or this, or this or a plant stand underneath, something like this, which doubles as a stool, or this fern stand, or a standing vase, or a tall stand.

If you go for a mirror in this spot, I think a second mirror on the wall opposite to your window wall could work well, catching the light and the greenery and reflecting it back into the mirror between your windows. I can imagine this mirror someone linked to upthread reflects leaves wonderfully.

An alternative on the wall would be a wall-mounted candle holder like one of these, or these? Or something wacky for this spot like this folding mirror/ drawers stand.

Something like this painting/ shelving thing might also work between your windows (I’d make it more stylized and sinuous).

Also an option for this space would be to arrange the two chair which are spare after the alternative table-bench arrangement (and which are meanwhile upholstered), a bit like the armchairs here. This also shows an arrangement that has a window set-up similar to yours. The floor-length light-coloured curtains work really well here. Note also that the window frames and wainscoting are painted whitish, which I do believe makes the whole room more upbeat and warm (if you end up painting a light colour under the railing thing in your room, I think the upper part should be painted another colour, like maybe smokey blue - mulberry feel a bit dark). The armchairs kind of fill that space in front of the windows, which otherwise might feel a bit denuded. Don’t know if your room is big enough to put two chairs here, plus a small stand between them. But arranging those extra chairs somewhere in the room with a slender stand between them could work well maybe where the cat’s diner is currently?

5. The pictures: I’d go for something like a salon wall; here some examples, and here a short video on how to do it. A more scrapbook-like wall – I really like this especially if you have kids or like drawing/ making crafty things yourself, since you can always add new things made by yourself.

What I’d do specifically with the art you currently have there: I’d group the small pictures somehow, maybe in a checkerboard arrangement like this:


or like this:


(hope that makes sense), anyway, some sort of grouping that leads the eye, and put the rooster somewhere near them (for example, the checkerboard display can sit to the side of the rooster with some space between them, a bit like an edging. Or you can just arrange them as per the video, with space for new stuff if you wish.

If you end up with a salon wall, you can heighten the impact with mirrors on the opposite wall, as per this display wall mirrored in a wall of many-shaped mirrors.

6. Dining for the cat: for the cat I'd make an ottoman out of a crate or some such, a bit like this, but with taller legs. The under-the-legs bit is the cat dining are, the cushiony bit is for cat-lounging.


And since I ended up down a Goggle Images/ Pinterest rabbit-hole, here are some things I found which might inspire you:

Here is the arrangement along the side/ back walls, if you have space to the left of the big entry. Again, I like the mirror for bringing the outside in and amplifying the light that comes through the windows; I also like the lack of carpet (MUCH easier to clean the area under and around the table without a carpet). Setting the table to the side, off-center, increases the rest of the space, allowing you to populate it, as it were, with things such as a cozy armchair/ divan where you can lounge for your digestion, or a side-board etc.

This one looks like it has some similarities to your room – the dark floors, the table, even the chairs are vaguely similar. The white elements like the paneling and the shelves lighten what might otherwise be a relatively murky room, and the stuff on display give points of visual interest and a cozy feel (on the other hand, those shelves could easily become cluttered and would have to be dusted quite regularly).

This to give you an idea of what it would look like if you were to arrange your seating against the window (though this place has more light, which might make a big difference).

This gives you an idea of the effect of a round table on shaggy, rectangular carpet looks like, positioned in relation to the window rather than the rest of the room, and another one here – note also the narrow-looking and slender shelving thing going on on the left-hand side next to the window – possibly also an option for between your windows?

I quite like strange, yet functional objects and things made from recycled wood – if you are at all handy something like this could be an inspiration for adding visual interest to the walls, depending on the kind of style the room ends up with (there are no photos of the L-wall taken from the windows towards the kitchen, but I could see a higgledy-piggledy shelve-arrangement working well on that wall, or even on the inside of the kitchen entrance wall ). Another, more slender shelve or something like it could work between your windows or elsewhere (on the wall between your windows); these mini-trunks might fit on the floor between your windows. I like the trunks for storing dining room-specific things like table cloths or table mats.

Anyway, I for one had pots of fun with your dining room!
posted by miorita at 4:47 PM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I just noticed that I failed to add two of the links: here is the second round table arrangement, and here the random-sized shelves.
posted by miorita at 5:07 PM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I know you said to ignore the lighting, but I honestly think the problem with that room is about 80% lighting, 20% scale. People really do not appreciate how much good lighting design will alter the mood of a space (I do have 2 degrees in design, including one in interiors, and also currently work in real estate marketing, but take my advice as you will ;).

I had a similar issue with the living room in my current house - cramped space with too many doorways and weird egress issues that felt quite unpleasant to be in. Here is what I did to fix it, and most of it is lighting as I can't yet afford to replace as much of the furniture as I would like.

- Primary lighting. I replaced the ugly faux wrought iron chandelier with an oversized shaded pendant (and changed it to a dimmer switch, also important if you can do it). The primary light source is now much more diffuse and balanced, which is wildly more flattering than a single overhead lamp. The scale was also important as counter-intuitively having one large statement item in a small room makes the room look larger than having several small items. If you can I would really encourage you to replace the light over the dining table with a single statement drum or bubble pendant.

- Secondary lighting. I can't tell from those photos but it does not look like you have any secondary light sources in that room apart from the windows. Adding a floor lamp or a couple of secondary table lights (which would mean adding a side table) will really help. I have a string light draped up one wall which is probably not to your taste, but it gives a very soft light that bounces off that wall into the room. Again a floor or table light in a corner would work just as well. Overhead lighting alone is really, really unflattering. I can't stress that enough.

- Ambient lighting. I have a ton of candles on the mantlepiece, which do nothing in terms of useful lighting for the room, but do a ton for the ambience of the space. Smaller nightlight style lamps would work.

- Windows. The previous occupants had left curtains very similar to yours over the single, large south facing window (note that in Aus south facing = no light). First thing I did was throw them away, did wonders. If you are adverse to this approach I would consider either getting roman blinds, or much larger drapes more in scale with the windows as has been suggested further up the thread. It is really hard to tell from the photos how much natural light you are getting through the greenery outside, but either way those windows are a gorgeous feature and need to be framed properly.

Apartment therapy does have some useful articles on lighting.

If I was given the task of styling your dining room, this is what I would do (and my apologies if any of this sounds harsh)

- Chicken and dining table/chairs stay as they are. Love the chicken. The table cloth does get replaced with a runner however. Nice, large, low bowl or other focal piece in the centre of the table.
- Replace chandelier with pendant light.
- Ditch the bench seat along the wall, to be replaced by a sideboard, and ditch the spare chair and birdcage thing that are cluttering up the corners.
- Ditch the rug and replaced with one in a solid colour or shade and about 50% larger. I quite like your rug, I just don't think it necessarily works in this room.
- Ditch the curtains and replace with either larger drapes or roman blinds
- Rehang the smaller artwork so they were clustered closer together over the sideboard that would be replacing the bench seat. Candles or small ambient lamps on the sideboard together with either a large statement vase or a cluster of 3 smaller vases, photos, objet d'art or whatever. I actually think you could stand a bit more clutter in this case.
- Wing or armchair in the corner that is currently being taken up with the birdcage(?), together with either a floor lamp or a side table with a lamp. I think it is important to do something with this corner in order to balance the fact that the windows are not spaced evenly along the wall.
- If I really got a free reign I would re-paint. All woodwork white gloss, top half of the walls probably much the same but a darker neutral, possibly a warm grey, to the bottom below the chair rail. It is very hard to tell from your photos but I don't think the shade of green in the bottom half of the room is doing you any favours.
- You seem to have a very good eye for balancing/contrasting colour in the way the colours in the room pick up the colours in the chicken painting, so you have a lot to work with!

Forgot to add ... what helped with the too many doorways thing in my living room was making sure there was something to see through the doorways that gave a sense of the space leading on to other spaces. Artwork hung in the hall so it could be seen from the living space, wall shelves with colourful cookbooks hung on the kitchen wall etc. Having things that defined the other spaces being visible through the doorways weirdly helped to define the living space itself as a room.
posted by arha at 6:45 PM on September 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

It seems to me that your art is too small and it's too high up.

You need more stately window treatments.

Your wall color isn't inviting.

The lighting is too harsh and severe for a dining room, and you need it from different angles.

Replace your hard chars with nice, comfy cushiony ones.

Other's have ideas, I can just tell you what's not working
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:47 PM on September 5, 2014

I'm not a decorator, but these are my thoughts:

Too many straight lines, squares, sharp edges and corners. I'd get a round rug, a bright and bold one, maybe using colors from the WONDERFUL ROOSTER. A round table would be nice, too and a tablecloth that brings out the same or complimentary colors.

At least four times the amount of window dressing you have right now. The windows are great, but they need to be made a big, significant part ot the room. Maybe valence boxes, or at least a big swooping fabric over the top - it would soften up those sharp lines again.

The wall with the little pictures - I'd change the pictures to either larger pictures or a nice big framed mirror flanked by a large picture on either side.

And I'd put a few good-sized houseplants in there.

The room is a nice color, the windows are very nice, I love your rooster, and the kitty cat cheers up the room just as it is - it just needs some softening and some boundary breaking, that's all.

Nice home!
posted by aryma at 3:17 AM on September 6, 2014

So I've made some steps toward improving it, incorporating as many suggestions as I could. I expanded the table and turned it lengthwise, setting it against the windows. I added art to the blank white wall, and dropped the rooster four inches. I added some orange flowers, and I found some orange cushions for the chairs that I think I'm going to order. And I fluffed out the curtains some. I may swap those out later, but we'll see once I see the orange cushions in there.

The chandelier and the rug will have to be addressed separately, and there's still the matter of the configuration of the other art and elevation of the crazy bird sculpture thing in the corner, but I feel like this was a good first step and I like it much better.

Thanks very much everyone--incredibly helpful.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:39 AM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Wow, with just the changes you've made the room looks so much better. Nice work!
posted by quince at 11:22 AM on September 18, 2014

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