It’s been a long time coming, but our dining room FINALLY looks like a dining room! If you read my gallery wall post a few months back, you’ll recall that the pictures on the wall were really the only thing in the room.  As shown below, besides a broken, unusable table, and a lumpy old chair used solely as a cat nap spot, the space was pretty sorry looking.

Modern Dining Room Gallery Wall

When we moved into our new home in December 2014, we didn’t have nice furniture to fill the room nor did we think that was a high priority to spend money on at that time. (We utilized the island in our kitchen or a small breakfast nook for meals).  But it was a pain when trying to entertain more than four people and kind of an eyesore when entering our home.  We finally started thinking about changes late last year knowing we wanted the room to look presentable for the holidays.  We used images like this for inspiration.

Modern Dining Room Inspiration Emily Henderson

I just love the marble-topped table and light fixture in the photo on the left.  This is Emily Henderson’s dining room from a Good Housekeeping photo shoot (I reference Emily’s work and ideas A LOT – I just love her design and writing style!)  I would have instantly bought that light but it’s been sold out for months. (Probably because it looks amazing in this magazine spread!)  I’m glad I didn’t though, as we had some serious high ceiling light issues to contend with (more on that in a bit).

We weren’t/still aren’t sure if we want to spend money on new table, or just use our current table. I can’t decide what shape would look best in the space.  The room is a fairly small square/rectangle (the width is less than the length by under two feet) with a high skylight and our current oval table is a little awkward in the room. I think a large round table would ground the space more, giving equal room on all sides. My dream table is this gorgeous glass and gold Platner table, which is SOOOOOOOOOOOOO realistic with toddlers and pets, right!  Since this beauty will probably have to wait until the kids are off at college, we’re using our old table for the time being or until we find something else that seems like a good fit.

The picture on the right shows a funky, vintage looking bar cabinet and cool abstract art.  We were tired of storing liquors on the floor of our pantry and wanted something a little more grown up for our cocktails and cordials.  Bar carts like this have been extremely popular lately, but this would be a disaster waiting to happen with the aforementioned kids and pets (I can totally see one of the cats jumping on the cart and bottles flying everywhere!)  We decided to look for a closed cabinet and also replicate the cool blue artwork.

Now, on to the lighting.  If you’ve been in my home, you know I’m kind of a light snob and have been on a mission to replace all of the construction-grade light fixtures that were installed before we bought the house (Our home was a spec house). It’s not that the first dining room light was horrible, it was just a standard, big box chandelier that wasn’t my style. The problem with replacing it though was the ceiling.  I mean, look at that thing – 20 feet from the floor to the top of the skylight!

Modern Dining Room High Ceiling Light Installation

To replace the light, we had a few options:

1. Replace the entire fixture and associated wiring from the top of the ceiling.  This would require renting scaffolding or paying someone to risk their life to climb up to the top….

2. Remove just the fixture and use the existing wiring with a new fixture. This option avoids the need to climb all the way to the ceiling.

Since I’m not ready to cash in on Nate’s life insurance policy (because there was NO WAY this klutz was climbing 20 feet up a ladder!), we decided option #2 was the way to go.

Thankfully, we thought this through before purchasing a light, because we needed to find a fixture that could “clip” onto the existing wiring. During my light search I found a few beautiful contenders including this capiz scalloped shell chandelier and this super cool exposed bulb tangled chandelier, however neither would work with the existing wiring.  I thought it was going to be impossible to find something that would work, until I found this striking three tiered wrapped jute chandelier from Lulu and Georgia.  I loved that the wrapped jute mimicked the light wood of my gallery wall frames and had the clip we needed to carry out option #2.  The current dark brown chain and wire coordinated well enough with the light and clip to not look too out of place either.

Even though we didn’t have to go 20 feet to the top of the ceiling, Nate would still have to climb about 12 feet to make the swap, with the ladder uneasily leaning against the narrow wall leading to the skylight. Here he is contemplating his fate, then balancing on the ladder as he made the changes.

Modern Dining Room High Ceiling Light Installation

The only preparation for the swap was to cut the power at the breaker, dissemble the original fixture, and remove it from the wire.  Thankfully, light fixtures are really simple inside – two wires to supply the electricity (black and white), and one ground wire (bare copper).  After loosening a nut at the top of the chandelier and removing a decorative cover, the three wires were disconnected from the fixture (usually the connections are made with plastic wire nuts) and the whole assembly was freed.

The next step was to connect the new light fixture to the existing wire hanging from the ceiling.  The new fixture came with wires already attached so we had to remove those first. Then we hung the new shade from the chain to figure out exactly how high we wanted the light to be.  Luckily, the wire was the right length for the new light and we only had to remove a few chain links to get the shade into the correct position.  After threading the ceiling wires through the top of the new fixture they were attached to the proper terminals (don’t forget the ground wire!) and a new light bulb was screwed in.  The final step was to turn the power back on at the breaker box and flip the light switch!

Modern Dining Room Lulu and Georgia Chandelier Light

Another addition to the room lighting was a new dimmer switch.  There were many times when we wanted just a little less light in the room and this seemed like the perfect time to install a dimmer.  Installation was even easier than the light – no ladders!

With the power turned off at the breaker, simply remove the cover plate and two screws that hold the plate to the wall. Then, just transfer the hot (black), neutral (white), and ground wires from the old switch to the new one.  Follow the instructions provided with the new switch, as the details may vary depending on whether you have a 3-way circuit.  We chose this digital dimmer made by Lutron, which is compatible with LED bulbs.  The dimmer uses buttons to control the output, remembers your favorite setting, and fades the light off for added effect!

*If all this electrical/lighting talk reads like a foreign language to you (it kind of does to me!), don’t risk your safety or sanity and hire a professional electrician for your lighting projects. That’s what I’d have to do if I wasn’t married to such a jack-of-all-trades!

Modern Dining Room Gallery Wall
Modern Dining Room Gallery Wall

I’m really pleased with the monotone look of the wall color and curtains. The wall color is Sherwin Williams’ Cityscape.  Nate and I painted this room ourselves shortly after we moved in because we couldn’t take the flat, boring, beigy paint that showed EVERY SINGLE SCUFF MARK (another plight of buying a spec house).  Cityscape is a darker gray with blue undertones, but it looks more blue than gray on our walls (For an insightful and entertaining read on the fickleness of gray paint colors, check out this post.)  All of the new paint in our home is from the Sherwin Williams’ Cashmere line.  This paint is smooth, silky, and leaves a beautiful finish on the walls.  For our living areas, including the dining room, we went with the low lustre finish (In the bathrooms, we chose the medium lustre to stand up to more humid conditions). The Cashmere line is a little more expensive that other lines but is well worth it for professional and beautiful looking results.

Modern Dining Room Gallery Wall

For the curtains, I knew I wanted a sheer fabric with texture and really liked these ivory sheers from West Elm.  I thought the ivory color would be a nice contrast to the walls and coordinate with the wainscotting. Then I found these blue sheers with a herringbone pattern on clearance at Urban Outfitters and snatched them up.  I bought them online and took a risk hoping they’d match the paint color – they look great! (Unfortunately, they’re no longer available.)

Modern Dining Room Sherwin Williams Gray Paint
Modern Dining Room Sherwin Williams Gray Paint

Here’s a shot of our grown up bar cabinet and my DIY abstract art.  I love abstract art but find it rather silly to plunk down a few hundred bucks for what looks like a few brush strokes and splatter marks on canvas. (In reality, I know it takes a lot more skill and effort thnt that and I would spend money on a piece that I absolutely love and knew I couldn’t replicate.) I also wanted the artwork to be blue, so I just made my own with acrylic paint.  It’s not perfect, but that’s what I like about it. I may go back an add some lighter blue brush strokes to give it more texture, but not to be bad for the first attempt, if I do say so myself!

Crate and Barrel Bar Cabinet DIY Abstract Art
Crate and Barrel Bar Cabinet DIY Abstract Art
DIY Abstract Art

To round out the space, I accessorized with a few of my favorite vases, brass hardware, linen table linens, and some cheerful jade plants.  I’m still on the search for the perfect rug too (so many textures and colors to think about!).  For some more “green” action, I’d also like to add a large plant/small tree in the corner by the mirror.  Another project idea is building a sliding barn door similar to this, to close off the room from our entry a bit, but every time I mention the idea to Nate, he gives me his “Girl, you’re crazy” look (Maybe even more so than when I told him about switching out the light!)  To get a similar look or ideas for your dining space, check out the sources below.

Modern Dining Room Mood Board
Modern Dining Room Mood Board

1. Brass Curtain Rod I love the look of brass against this blue-gray paint!

2. Our blue herringbone patterned curtains were bought on a final sale from Urban Outfitters.  The navy blue sheers in the mood board above are so beautiful too – I may have gotten these if I saw them first!

3. Wall Color – Sherwin William’s Cityscape

4. Three-tiered wrapped jute chandelier

5. Wicker Rim Round Mirror

6. Our current dining table was not supposed to be in the room.  This thing was a hand-me-down from Nate’s parents, followed him to college, his bachelor apartment, and then our first house.  It’s not really vintage, is an oak color I’d never pick, and is a little country when paired with its matching 90’s-era oak chairs.  Surprisingly though, it seems to work as a temporary option in the space.  We’re still not set on the table we want in here (Wood? Marble with metal base? Round instead of rectangle?).  It’s just another reason on why NOT to be a crazy furniture shopper when moving into a new space.  It’s good to let your taste evolve around pieces as you collect them and prioritize home decor budget items. Right now, I’m loving this metal and marble table.

7. Casted Metal Steer Skull

8.& 9. Our dining chairs are actually vintage.  I inherited them along with the matching table from by grandparents.  Nate and I have put a lot of TLC into these chairs.  After 40 years of use, and half of the legs being mangled by the needle-like teeth of a chocolate lab puppy, they were in rough shape.  We painstakingly sanded, stained, and reupholstered them to look good as new.  (The before and after really warrants it’s own post.)  For a a similar mid-century style, check out these chairs from Overstock or for cool vintage pieces like this, Charish is a great resource.

10 & 11.Cute porcelain hobnail planters are perfect for these low-maintenance jade plants.

12. Brass table lamp

13. Parker Spirits Bar Cabinet

14. I used this popular West Elm canvas as my “guide” for creating our blue artwork above the bar cabinet.  If you can’t find the perfect piece for your space or want to save some money, seriously, try creating your own.  This art was super simple, cost about $30, plus it feels pretty good to think I was able to make a unique piece for our home.

15. Vase collection – I have six of these West Elm flared top glass vases in various shades of blue.  They’re from a few seasons ago and no longer in stock, but here’s another collection of beautiful vases from West Elm.

Modern Dining Room Mood Board

1. Brass Curtain Rod I love the look of brass against this blue-gray paint!

2. Our blue herringbone patterned curtains were bought on a final sale from Urban Outfitters.  The navy blue sheers in the mood board above are so beautiful too – I may have gotten these if I saw them first!

3. Wall Color – Sherwin William’s Cityscape

4. Three-tiered wrapped jute chandelier

5. Wicker Rim Round Mirror

6. Our current dining table was not supposed to be in the room.  This thing was a hand-me-down from Nate’s parents, followed him to college, his bachelor apartment, and then our first house.  It’s not really vintage, is an oak color I’d never pick, and is a little country when paired with its matching 90’s-era oak chairs.  Surprisingly though, it seems to work as a temporary option in the space.  We’re still not set on the table we want in here (Wood? Marble with metal base? Round instead of rectangle?).  It’s just another reason on why NOT to be a crazy furniture shopper when moving into a new space.  It’s good to let your taste evolve around pieces as you collect them and prioritize home decor budget items. Right now, I’m loving this metal and marble table.

7. Casted Metal Steer Skull

8.& 9. Our dining chairs are actually vintage.  I inherited them along with the matching table from by grandparents.  Nate and I have put a lot of TLC into these chairs.  After 40 years of use, and half of the legs being mangled by the needle-like teeth of a chocolate lab puppy, they were in rough shape.  We painstakingly sanded, stained, and reupholstered them to look good as new.  (The before and after really warrants it’s own post.)  For a a similar mid-century style, check out these chairs from Overstock or for cool vintage pieces like this, Charish is a great resource.

10 & 11.Cute porcelain hobnail planters are perfect for these low-maintenance jade plants.

12. Brass table lamp

13. Parker Spirits Bar Cabinet

14. I used this popular West Elm canvas as my “guide” for creating our blue artwork above the bar cabinet.  If you can’t find the perfect piece for your space or want to save some money, seriously, try creating your own.  This art was super simple, cost about $30, plus it feels pretty good to think I was able to make a unique piece for our home.

15. Vase collection – I have six of these West Elm flared top glass vases in various shades of blue.  They’re from a few seasons ago and no longer in stock, but here’s another collection of beautiful vases from West Elm.