A Return To Neutrals

March 18, 2010

My dining space has always been tricky to decorate because it stands in the middle of a major freeway between the garage, family room, and kitchen.  We don’t have a formal dining room – there is simply no need for our laid back family of five to have anything other than a casual dining space for evening meals.  We nibble in the kitchen most of the time, don’t you?

However, I do like the idea of our dining space being dolled up for holidays or special guests.  After all, it has a beautiful set of French doors and a view that leads to the rear yard.  So a few weeks ago I decided to upgrade by adding some new window panels and a bench for additional seating.  I’m returning to the peaceful calm of white because I find it so fresh and uplifting.  Also, cream and white are such a nice contrast to rich dark wood, so I kept a purposeful neutral palette in our dining space.  I added some taller silk curtains and a transformed Craigslist bench. 

To some it’s plain, to me it’s perfect.

neutral dining room

This walnut pedestal table used to be part of a formal set we found at an antique shop when we were first married.  After the kids came along I had a glass top made for it to keep the top from getting damaged.  The traditional seats that came with it were too matchy matchy for my taste, so I like to pair the table with some ‘Couture’ chairs from Ballard Designs. 

light and dark

I cannot sing the praises enough of these ‘Couture’ chairs !  If I could marry them, I would.  I bought them about seven or eight years ago and I simply change the slipcovers with the seasons.  Latte velvet in the fall, and Ecru velvet in the spring.  I love the flirty but sophisticated pleat detail.  You can usually find them around $39 each at Ballard.  They’re worth it for the perfect fit, style, and durability – I’ve laundered these at least ten times and they always hold up in the wash. 

Kids + sauce = slipcovers.

ballard slipcover and shag pillow

The area rug is from Overstock and can be found right here.  The wall color ties in with the greens in the carpet – it is Benjamin Moore’s ‘Camouflage’ just like in my kitchen

I confess, I’ve gone around and around with the window treatments in this space.  First it was chocolate floral fabric, then a sage linen fabric.  Then I finally realized my previous solutions were too short !  These panels are a foot longer, and I raised the rod above the transom window instead of just the doors in order to elongate the space and make the ceiling feel much taller. 

dining room window panels


They were store bought 95” cream lined silk panels from Bed, Bath and Beyond on clearance, plus with a 20% off coupon, so I paid $20 for each panel.  There are four of them, doubled up for fullness.  I repeat.  Cream. Silk. Lined.   True love!  It sounds strange, but to me it’s like I have an elegant wedding gown hanging on my windows.  Call me crazy, but that totally speaks to me. 

I also created a border for the edges.  Do you know how much fancy shmancy decorative trim costs retail ?  Exorbitant !  This liner is simply some chocolate satin ribbon and a discount trim with some robin’s egg blue (shown below) attached via my sewing machine to the edge of the panels.   

trim pieces

I thought it a nice designer touch, plus a good idea for those potentially grubby hands that will no doubt finger the edges of my gown-like silk panels.  Momma’s got to outsmart her munchkins. 

trim detail

I pinched the tops and sewed the simple pleats with my sewing machine to give them more formal touch.  Then I hand stitched the wood rings to the pleats.  Please ignore the holes in my wall that I have yet to patch.  :-)

pleats and rings on rod

dining room window panels

Now you know I’m a sucker for white accessories – hence the spring lineup.  The flowers are from Trader Joes – $11 bucks for the whole arrangement !!   Gor.Gee.Us. 


A little wedding-ish, but still beautiful.  If only you could smell the roses and the stock – they’ve got that thick summery sweet scent that is absolutely intoxicating ! 

fresh flowers soft focus

I just have to show you the white soup tureen that I picked up at the Goodwill for $5 bucks.  Seriously.  Who drops off a perfectly beautiful white soup tureen complete with lid, platter and spoon, and inside the original box at the Goodwill ?  $5 bucks.  Score !  It makes a such a great container for blooms ! 

white soup tureen

Oh, and notice the tired and hungry child in the corner ?   Somehow the words “Hold on honey while Mommy adjusts her aperture” did not seem to comfort.  

tired child

OK, enough flowers.  And I fed the child a few morsels.  She’s fine now. 

Please note, this space is no longer used for my decorative whims. Rather, it has become a construction zone for tall skyscrapers.   

lego tower

But see how I did happen to find a bench on Craigslist and give it a little makeover.

b and a

I’ll tell you the full story of the bench very soon!  Meanwhile, I’m just happy in this very simple, very white, very neutral dining space.  It’s a great canvas for any colorful tabletop settings in any season.

And that’s probably the last time it will look this clean.  :-)

neutral dining room


What’s your theory on white spaces ?  Are they boring or beautiful ? 



133 Responses to “A Return To Neutrals”

  1. Leeann says:

    Gorgeous, love the painted bench and the chairs are tres belle.

    Leeann x

  2. Joy says:

    It looks like a room in the ballard’s catalogue!! Light, Airy & Refined. I love white/cream with dark woods & have been searching for the perfect paint. Thanks for the tip on the BM Camouflage. Going to get a sample today!

  3. Carmen says:

    I love white! I just recently added white curtains to my living room (previously dark brown linen) and I am in love with the look! I keep looking in my living room admiring the brightness. :)

    Your dining room is gorgeous! I love it all.

  4. pamela says:

    Kate, I don’t know if you remember me or not, but about a month ago I told you that your sense of humor reminded me of the Pioneer Woman! I see you took the challenge–I can feel the “spicyness” of your writings, now! Thank you! Your personality clearly shines through…and by the way, the dining room is absolutely beautiful.

  5. Amanda says:

    I love it and I especially like your decision to hang the curtain rod ABOVE the transom window. Really does elongate the space and make it seem like one tall wall of windows!

  6. What an amazing space! It seems so serene and peaceful. And those drapes are swoon worthy. There is just something about silk. I found clearance silk panels at Bed Bath and Beyond also a couple of years ago and I still love touching them.

  7. This room looks so inviting! I am glad to see I am not the only one whose dining area is a major thruway. We have glass doors in the exact same spot and we use them all the time. To me it’s a dining room/hallway!

    Can’t wait to see the bench makeover!

  8. Lisa says:

    Kate, of all the blogs I read I always find myself commenting on yours! Love your style and love the neutral and kid-friendly dining room. What’s the point of having a room too precious for your family? The bench is great – I wouldn’t have thought of that with a formal dining room table and I love the look. You have a great eye for design.

  9. suzanne says:

    no doubt about it……GORGEOUS!!!! lOVE IT ALL.


  10. Cathy M~ says:

    This is gorgeous! You are so talented & I you did a fantastic job:)

  11. Kristin says:

    I adore the bench. Soooooooo lovely!

  12. Brenda Moore says:

    Your room is lovely Kate! BUT…gotta tell you, I’m not a white’s only fan; its’ just not for me.
    I still prefer to have colour on the walls, and in the furnishings.
    I’m also not a fan of “baby colours” in rooms other than for a baby. A friend did her living area in a baby green and NOTHING seemed to work with it properly.
    All white loaded rooms are still a great look for the folks who like it…and it’s wonderful we can all agree to disagree.
    That’s the beauty of being adults.
    Enjoy everyday of your writing.

  13. Amber says:

    This room is so bright and cozy, I would want to eat breakfast & lunch in here just to spend time bathed in the light and fresh white. I can’t believe those flowers were only $11 at Trader Joes! Too bad we don’t have TJ where we live. Costco flowers are a great deal in our area and the fresh addition that I adore adding to our rooms.

  14. patty says:

    I love your drapes so much and they are just what I’ve been searching for. I did look at my local Bed/Bath…, however they did not have ‘cream’. May I ask the name of the drapes and color on the package(if you don’t mind)? Thank you.

  15. Liza says:

    I’m inlove with those chair covers and unfortunately they don’t fit my current chairs.. aaargh!! I need to finda seamstress to do the same for me… I love your dining room, it’s exactly how I want my very dark one to look like…!!

  16. Alicia says:

    I love the look of this! I have some plain solid taupe/gold drapes that need a little trim detail, can you tell me where you found the trim for your drapes? Love your blog!

  17. PATTY M. says:

    Beautiful! Understated elegance! I wish I had the cajones to do all white, but alas, I’m a dirty girl (wink wink) plus my kids and dogs would totally mess it up!! Maybe I’ll do a little white here and there.

  18. Michelle Marsh says:

    Hi Kate,
    I’m in love with your new laundry room update, but still loving the look of your dining room!! Actually, all of your rooms. I hate to ask kind of a silly question, but regarding these gorgeous silk drapes, where you pinched them at the top to give them a more formal look, would you have a tutorial on that? If not, perhaps you would know how many inches apart each pinch pleat is? You inspired me to hang drapes, and I love them, and would really prefer to pinch pleat mine too. I’m an extremely beginner seamstress, so even the basics are a challenge. So, thanks in advance for any assistance. I’m so in awe of all you do!

  19. Stacy says:


    I’m in love with your dining room. I too have recently come to love neutrals. I used to be all about the dark warm and rich colors, but now have a new love for cooler, lighter wall colors with contrasting floors and furniture. I have recently gone from a drab and boring green in my dining space to a cooler gray (Behr Light French Gray). I am loving the elegance of the color. I need to update my chandelier and don’t want to replace it, and was wondering about yours in your dining room. Did you purchase it with the crystals or were they something that you added? If so, could you please tell me how you did it. It is really beautiful and I would love to do the same to mine if possible.

    Thanks so much.

  20. allison williams says:

    Gorgeous…cottage elegance!!!!!!!

  21. christy says:

    as well as you, i love white!!! i love the tureen. good job! i cant ever find anything @ my goodwill. loving all your diy touches. awesome.

  22. scot says:

    Love it!!! After 10yrs. I’m finally getting a dinning room again !! Waiting for settlement on a Divine Shack. Lots of work to come. But I think I may steal your din. rm. ideas. Love you, girl!!! Thanks xo

  23. Jen says:

    Yeah, you’re good, what can I say? :) You should stop by on Monday for my “Restyle Your World” linky party!


  24. Jolie says:

    It looks like it belongs in a magazine. Very beautiful! White is not boring at all. Well, it can be, but if you know how to put whites together it is anything but boring. You did a perfect job, I can’t stop looking at the pictures.
    I’ve done a lot of white in my home, too, and wouldn’t change a thing. White gives a peaceful calming feel.

  25. julie says:

    Can I ask if the Ballard Couture chairs tilt back easily? I am looking to purchase some and had ordered the Louis Side chair and found it was rather lightweight and tilted back easily. Afraid someone might fall back.

    Also, what color are the slipcovers? Off-white or pure white?

  26. brandi says:

    ahhh…you had me at hello! : )

  27. […] of the Dutch boy paint from these chairs, and the leftover ‘Camouflage’ from the dining room and family room.   The closest color match is ’Soft Fern’  by Benjamin […]

  28. Julie says:

    white . . . . . . in my dreams.

  29. Sheela Wieland says:

    Love the bright whites. I Live in a rainy part of the country and have white, yellow, cream, and black. Always looking for more exciting decorating ideas. Thanks. love your site! Shee

  30. Martha says:

    Your dining space is BEAUTIFUL! Looks like a magazine photo! LOVE IT!

  31. […] a great deal flowers are at Trader Joe’s until my friend Kate mentioned it. (You must see her dining room. […]

  32. This is absolutely gorgeous! A perfect mixture of cozy, crisp, and charming :) Loooove the white! You can never have too much :)

    Laura and Blakeley

  33. Your dining room looks peaceful, inviting and elegant. I love the antique table the most, too bad I couldn’t find a table that is similar to yours. It’s hard for me to find a gorgeous walnut table in some antique shops.

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