Photography by Zeke Ruelas
Just in time for what is bound to be a crazy holiday season, the Casa Soria dining room has undergone a massive spruce up (circle back to the intro post to see all the “before” shots and read more on the what’s and why’s). What started as a request from orMOMdo for a new dining table evolved into a re-organization of the space and a case study in how to incorporate family heirlooms, mismatched in both style and scale, into a space. I know that this is an issue a lot of people face (not everyone can just get rid of everything they own and start fresh like we do here inside the Internet!) so I relished the challenge to figure out how to make this space stylish and functional while not losing pieces my parents cared about.
My parents brought almost everything from the Yosemite house I grew up in to Casa Soria when they moved here five years ago. Most of it found a natural home, but many pieces didn’t integrate as well as they did into our old house. The Yosemite house was small (I think around 1,500 square feet), kind of a craftsman-style bungalow that looked like a cabin. I used to get super pissed when tourists would pass by and be like “HOW MUCH IS TO RENT THAT CABIN?” I’d be like “THIS IS MY HOUSE, DUDE.” I guess it’s fine to call your own house a cabin but if someone else calls it a cabin, it feels like an insult. Be forewarned if you happen upon any forest people, not all of us like you to call our houses “cabins.” Casa Soria is bigger (I think around 2,800 square feet) and the style is totally different, so its furnishing needs are also different.
I’ve always liked this curio cabinet my parents bought in the nineties. It’s kind of a nineties take on craftsmen and the A-line makes it feel a little lighter. My mom has a lot of pretty objects, mostly Japanese Kokeshi dolls and basketry/art by the Miwok and other Native American tribes local to the Sierra Nevadas.
This basket might look like it’s just a pretty accent, a way to ground that mini display shelf to the top of the cabinet, but it actually serves a TOP SECRET DUAL PURPOSE. Somehow, in our massive kitchen renovation (details coming soon GET EXCITED) we weren’t able to find a spot for a laundry hamper. So this is where orMOMdo throws dishtowels and cleaning rags after she uses them (we put a little plastic liner inside to prevent it from ruining the basket).
The new dining table from Rejuvenation has been a huge game changer. It’s the max length for the space, meaning it can seat a lot of people. Unextended, it can seat eight comfortably, but we’ve seated ten there, two on each end, for the fancy birthday dinner my sibling and I threw for orMOMdo and it was perfect. I chose this table because it has a pretty simple design that is traditional enough to satisfy my orlanDAD’s taste but also contemporary enough to feel at home in the house.
Another great update was the addition of a simple, soft Roman shade from The Shade Store. We chose a very pretty sheer wool color called “Cloud” that blends nicely with the wall color (Alaskan Husky by Benjamin Moore). As you probably remember, my parents really fought me on these. They didn’t see the point of adding window treatments in their front rooms because they’re never in there at night and weren’t worried about privacy (hello, what about keeping heat in during the winter and out during the summer?!?). But now that they have them they actually use them, like, daily. And the softness they add to the space makes everything feel cozier. So quite honestly, I’m glad I manipulated my parents into allowing me to get them glamorous window coverings THAT THEY ACTUALLY USE EVERY DAY.
I’m honestly really impressed with the huge Orb-Lando orMOMdo made when they moved in. It’s three feet wide and SO much cuter than the fixture that was there before (see how ugly it was in the intro post). The Windsor chairs from Serena & Lily were a huge upgrade from the ones my parents had before, which were mismatched, half-broken, and wouldn’t push in (their arms were too tall).
Why did my parents have chairs that were mismatched, half-broken, and wouldn’t push in? The answer is one of the reasons I love my parents the most; their huge aversion to waste. They don’t buy cheap stuff and when they buy something, they want to keep it forever. This has caused frustration for me at times. Like when they spent $5,000 on getting a sofa reupholstered instead of just letting me get them a new sofa that actually made sense in the space. But, for the most part, I think it’s a philosophy more of us could use. Buy once, buy well seems to have been replaced with buy what you can afford right now then throw it away and buy a new one when it breaks in eighteen months.
So while my parents’ inability to get rid of stuff drives me crazy sometimes, I think my generation has a lot to learn from older generations about not being wasteful and gross.
While I was at it, I figured I might as well source some new dishes and flatware for orMOMdo, so I snagged these beauties by Kate Spade (all the linens are from Parachute). The dishes are distinctive enough to use for a dinner party but designed to be sturdy enough for everyday use, which is how my parents use them.
The beautiful charcoal drawing by Jane Culp was purchased by orMOMdo years ago, I think at an auction for an arts organization she was involved with called the Yosemite Renaissance. We had a lot of the same art in the house I grew up in and I always thought it was kind of stupid because we could look out the window and see it for real. But now that my parents aren’t in Yosemite anymore, I like the Yosemite art a lot more. It’s kind of like if you lived in New York and your walls were covered in New York street art, I’d think you were super one-note. I think it’s just more refreshing to have art that takes you away, rather than showing you exactly what is outside.
I often get messages when I post pictures of table settings that I’ve done it wrong. There is a “correct” way of laying out knives, forks and spoons and I actually DO have it memorized at this point (mostly from getting called out so many times about it). But the day I shot this was pretty stressful and I forgot and did it backward (the spoons are supposed to be next to the knife). Here are my two cents on this: I DON’T CARE. Honestly, all flatware looks different, has different architecture, and the pieces interact differently with one another. I tend to set the table the way I think looks the cutest for the style of flatware. I don’t really care that someone in France 500 years ago made some stupid rule about where your stupid fork was supposed to go. If your guest can’t find their dessert spoon because it’s not in the “correct” place, promptly ask them to LEAVE.
This classic American buffet was a huge bone of contention between my parents. orlanDAD really wanted it in the house while orMOMdo didn’t like it all. Full disclosure: I have to say that as a designer, I really don’t like this piece in the space, for a few reasons. Firstly, it’s very large and imposing. Second, the style introduces an element that feels a little out of place in the house (it feels more like it belongs in a farmhouse or a more rustic space). And thirdly, there’s already too much furniture in this room. There’s a credenza and a curio cabinet as well, so basically, every wall that doesn’t have a window has furniture on it. This made the previous dining table IMPOSSIBLE because it was so cramped you couldn’t get out of your chair. It was clear from being in there that my parents just took random furniture and crammed it into a room and being in there made me feel absolutely insane.
BUT!!! There’s a huge caveat to my hatred for this piece. While I might think it’s terrible for the room and it still feels hulking and heavy, it tells a story about my family that I think is an important one.
My parents inherited this from my paternal grandfather after he passed away. A reminder now that while I am a pasty white person, half my family is brown (my father’s family hails from Mexico). My Latino grandparents had a house filled with American antiques. I never thought twice about it until I started going to the flea market with Emily years ago, seeing so many Latino faces who deal in collecting and selling American antique furniture.
I’ve thought a lot about this and wondered why my grandparents were so enamored with classic American furniture that they’d spend their free time roaming around estate sales and thrift shops looking for it. I think budget was probably part of it (my parents are both from large families that didn’t have a lot of money). But I think part of it was a pride and excitement about American culture. The Mexican side of my family always seemed more all-American to me than my Caucasian side did. While my mother’s family is a bit more offbeat and counter-culture, my dad’s side of the family was always more up-to-date on popular American culture, fascinated by it. I think that comes from my grandparents and I see their interest in American antiques to be part of an overall enthusiasm for and desire to be part of this country.
This is kind of a random tangent but I feel like it’s a story that needs to be told. I don’t fully identify as being a brown person (or a white person for that matter) but what I know from my own family’s history is that Latinos (and other immigrants) are some of the most patriotic, hardworking people around and that classifying them as anything less could not be more off base or disgusting. To me this isn’t a political thing, it’s not about left or right, it’s just about treating other human beings with respect and conducting yourself with a certain amount of dignity.
ANYWAY, REMEMBER WHEN I WAS WRITING A DINING ROOM REVEAL???
As we all know in the world of design, sometimes a piece of furniture is more than just a piece of furniture. So while this huge buffet cramps the table a little bit, it was important for orlanDAD that it be somewhere in the house so I made it work. The way I made it work was by relocating it to the space previously occupied by the curio cabinet. It’s now tucked into a little corner where it fits snugly and is also hidden from view if you’re in the sitting room. You kind of have to go into the room looking for it to see it now, which is how it should be. To make it feel a bit more on-brand with the rest of the room, I added a Tom Killion print and some accessories to make it feel a bit more considered.
It’s probably not surprising that orMOMdo shares a love of blue with Emily and me. She’s been collecting blue dishes for years, so we installed some neat white shelves to display them. This display always makes me happy to look at. Although sometimes when I visit I notice she’s put something red in there that throws off the whole Zen vibe. At which point I take it down and hide it somewhere. I have been doing terrible, controlling things like this my whole life.
So, there you have it! My entire autobiography and the biography of how I took my parents dining room from NASTY to RHINOPLASTY in a matter of minutes. It’s definitely a happier, more useable space now thanks to the furniture reconfiguration and the addition of the new table and chairs. It only took five years, but the dining room is finally usable!
1. Roman Shade | 2. Paint Color (Alaskan Husky by Benjamin Moore) | 3. Orb Lantern DIY | 4. Painting by Jane Culp | 5. Blue Drinking Glass (similar) | 6. Stoneware Pitcher (similar) 7. Dining Chair | 8. Dining Table | 9. Vintage Curio Cabinet (similar) | 10. Dinner Plate | 11. Salad Plate | 12. Flatware | 13. Striped Linen Placemats | 14. Grey Rimmed Linen Placemats | 15. Linen Tablecloth | 16. Mud Cloth Tray | 17. Vintage Brass Cranes (similar) | 18. Mexican Majolica Blue & White Serving Dish (similar) | 19. Mexican Dinner Plate (similar) | 20. Hey Sosi Print | 21. Display Ledge | 22. Contemporary Chinese Japanese Blue and White Tree Porcelain Teapot Set