The Portland Dining Room Reveal + How to Create A Room That Is Interesting Yet Sophisticated
Welcome to the Portland formal dining room reveal. It’s big, bright and can be seen from most of the rooms on the main floor. Although I say this for just about every room reveal that we’ve done (if you’re just joining us after being a little MIA, you might have missed the big living room, entryway, office, kitchen and master bedroom and bathroom reveals so far), I really love this room. It is so bright, happy and is somewhere that I would love having family dinners (or generally just hanging out in).
When we were shooting all of the content up at the house, I found myself here a lot, whether writing, planning or just chatting. It’s an inviting room with amazing light, and one that makes me happy. There are so many elements that I love and although the room feels sophisticated and formal (like a true formal dining room), it is still casual enough that it doesn’t feel stuffy.
So how did we do it? Today, we’re breaking down all the key elements that we brought into this room to help it feel upscale and sophisticated while still keeping it interesting and casual…and how you can do the same in your own home.
Let’s start with that insanely beautiful wallpaper from Rebecca Atwood. It is the Mixed Stripe in Blue-Slate. When we were designing this room, we toyed around with quite a few different patterns for the wall but landed on this one and I am so glad that we did. Because this room is directly off the living room and can be seen from the front door as well as the family room and kitchen, it needed to have something that was interesting on the walls but did not scream “look at me.” An Oscar-winning supporting role but not a leading lady with an overly dramatic death scene. Impactful but not over the top. You get it.
So to give the walls some interest, we brought in a bold paper done in a quiet color. If we had done the same wallpaper in a more dramatic colorway, it would have read busy, which wasn’t what we were going for here. The pattern helps to move the eye around the room, while the tonal blueish-gray color doesn’t compete with all that beautiful woodwork from Metrie on the bottom half of the walls.
Mixing Wood Tones:
Take a look at the picture below and you’ll see that there are a lot of different wood tones in this room and yet it all seems to work well together. The table is a dark raw edge wood, the chairs are a stained ebony wood, the Thos. Moser credenza is a walnut color and the side chairs in the corner of the room are a blonde wood, oh and don’t forget the flooring below. People often get scared when mixing wood tones but our rule is as long as they fit within the same tonal family, and have a similar finish (aka none that are crazy shiny next to one that is super rustic) they can work together in the room. For example, if you were to mix cherry wood with a honey oak with a warm walnut, then things might start looking chaotic and random but when you mix woods of varying color within the same tonal family, they all complement each other rather than work against each other. Here, all our woods are on the warmer side of the spectrum and the black wood on the chairs still works because of the black in the window frames. The different wood tones help to bring interest and energy to the room and also give it the warmth that we wanted with the walls and ceiling being mostly white and gray.
Organic vs Refined:
While we are on the subject of wood, let’s take a moment to talk about the two big wood pieces in the room. This credenza (from Thos. Moser) on the back wall is a piece that we all loved so much that we wanted it to really have an important spot in the home. We originally had it planned to go in the entry on the hallway wall that leads to the family room, but, as we love to do, we played around with it in a few different areas and ended up loving how perfectly it worked in the dining room. The craftsmanship, detail and design of this piece is pretty incredible (as is the same for all Thos. Moser pieces—we used more in the living room and master bedroom). The height of it worked perfectly in the room (one of our dining room design rules is that your credenza/buffet should be the same height as your table, but ideally higher, so…check), and set against the wall paneling flanked by two Rejuvenation sconces gave us a perfect focal point between the windows from Milgard. I seriously think that of all the pieces in the house that I would want to steal it would be that credenza. It’s stunning.
For the staging, we styled the credenza with a few more wood pieces (again to play with the mixing of woods in the rest of the room) as well as the beautiful black vase made by Bobbie Specker (of which I bought :)). More of her work is available through Mantel which is a local PDX store that Brady and the crew sourced so many beautiful pieces from for the shoot (we also wrote about it in our Portland design-lovers guide post here). I was unfortunately out of town when they visited the store but I ended up buying so much of it to take home with me to LA (including this vase) that I still consider it a major win. Above the credenza, we knew we wanted a piece of art but it needed to be something that was tonal as to not compete with the wallpaper and also not too formal or serious. These two pieces from MaryAnn Puls were the perfect pair—they are still available for purchase through her website if you are interested in them. I bought a lot of her work, but not these because I had to stop somewhere, so go for it.
This is a picture that I will never get sick of looking at. We had to have four people help us move out the dining table in order to get this straight on shot but it was worth it.
To contrast with the refined nature of the credenza, we brought in this massive live edge table from City Home which gave us our “raw” element. When I say massive, I mean it. The table is almost 4-feet wide and over 8-feet long but we still could have gone bigger in the space if we wanted to. I love the way that it brings the outdoors in with its live edge—it is Portland after all, just look out the windows, while still feeling refined enough to work in a formal dining room. The base of the table is black iron which helped everything in the room feel a bit more graphic and edgy. If it had been a brass or wood base then the room could have read too formal but the modern base helps to modernize the rest of the room. I also love how much it speaks to the beautiful windows and doors from Milgard in this picture. The black in the room really helps give the room that graphic and modern punch it needs to feel “cool” but still sophisticated.
To edge it up a bit more, we brought in the black chairs rather than use a brown wood tone. With the wood floors, the wood table and the wood credenza, we wanted a chair that would pop and also felt modern in the room. These chairs from Room and Board were the perfect option. They have a slight mid-century bent to them but work perfectly with some of the traditional elements that are happening elsewhere in the room.
Let’s talk for a moment about cushion vs. no cushion in a dining room. I will always be a fan of having a cushion on a dining room chair because well, cushions are comfy and comfy chairs make for good, long dinner parties (which is only a good thing if you actually like the people you’re dining with). But on the other hand, they also may not be the most practical with kids that could smear peanut butter and jam all over. The textured gray fabric on these is the perfect solution to get the cushion while having a fabric that can help to hide stains and use. The gray also ties in the slate blue from the wallpaper to bring in that middle tone between black and white. Oh, and if you are wondering about the comfort of these chairs, I give them 15 very comfortable stars. I was (and am) very tempted to get a set of these for our home in LA as they come in a handful of color and fabric options and are extremely comfortable and practical. They are shaped perfectly for your back and ergonomic.
We love to mix and match styles and the same goes for types of wood over here. Having a combo of both refined and organic woods in the space allows the room to feel more collected and also not too rustic (raw) or polished (refined).
Simple Yet Impactful Styling Moments:
Now let’s take a moment to talk about what is happening on top of the table. We get this question all the time: “How do you style your formal dining table when it is not set for a dinner?” While there are a lot of different ways to do this that could work for this space, we wanted the room to feel both high end but special so we chose to go the route of an object—a vase—and then repeated it over and over in various shapes and sizes down the center of the table.
Hot tip: I use this rule in design, decorating and styling all the time. “Repeat multiples of something to create a large impact,” in this case, the sculptural vases and vessels.
Had we used different colors or styles, it could have looked thrifted or too collected, but because we stuck to one material and similar shapes, it feels instead like an intentional collection and gives you a big impact with a small amount of work/fuss. Would I recommend this setup if you had kids in the house? Probably not due to the fact that their little hands could knock one of those down like pins in a bowling alley, but since we were styling the home to stage and sell, we wanted to give the table a special moment. It also gave us a chance to highlight the gorgeous work of Bobbie Specker (who also made the vase on the credenza that I took back to LA with me).
The black vessel ties in with the vases on the table, and the candlesticks (by Bosque Design via Mantel) and bowl (by Elise McLauchlan via Mantel) introduce new shapes but in wood tones already present in the room.
In the corners of the room, we had extra space so we styled them out with side chairs from Structube that are insanely affordable (under $250 each I believe) and bring in a new silhouette. Plus, the wood arms bring in another wood tone and the neutral gray fabric speaks to the dining chairs and wallpaper. Do you see a theme going on here of introducing new elements but keeping things tonally within the same family to create interest while still helping it feel upscale?
We have a big post we are working on about how to pull together a lighting plan for the entire home and trust me it is a lot to think about so we really want to dissect it for you in a post but let’s for a moment talk about how we did it in the dining room and why it works. In this room, we went with all brass hardware for the lighting. We could have mixed brass with another metal and it could have worked (like we did in the kitchen with the hardware and fixtures) but this was a formal dining room and therefore we wanted to keep it feeling high-end and refined. Let’s start with the large chandelier over the table.
The chandelier (as well as all the lighting) is from Rejuvenation and this piece is what we call a total statement piece. It really commands the room but in a soft and subtle way. Because we have the wallpaper, the woodwork and all the lines happening on the windows and doors, we wanted a chandelier that read more like one large visual mass than a piece with a lot of different arms or details. The warmer tones in the glass help to balance out the warmth that is happening on the floor and the brass reads refined and elegant. The glass shade gives off a nice diffused light and really lights up the room in a special way. Behind the chandelier, we added two sconces to frame out that wall and create a focal wall for the dining room. If you stand at the end of this room and look straight down, you see the chandelier framed by these two brass sconces and it really invites you into the room. It says “Please, come to my dinner party—it will be lovely, comfortable, well lit and very enjoyable…and there will be soup.”
The sconces have a slight “classic schoolhouse” lean to them which ties into the PDX vibe and lighting in the rest of the home but the clear glass and the polished brass finish elevate it and help it from feeling too utilitarian.
On the opposite side of the room in our dry bar niches, we hung the Small Ignis pendant (from Rejuvenation) above each. The glass shade ties in with the glass shade on the sconces and the polished brass again ties in with the finishes on the sconces. Now that is an area that I want to shake up a cocktail in.
Creating Special Custom Moments:
Speaking of cocktails, let’s talk about these dry bars. When we designed the room, we had two little niches in the dining room which became the perfect area to add some built-in cabinetry and create a spot that would work as a bar and to hold platters and other “entertaining” tabletop items. We used the same cabinetry profile from the kitchen (by Crestwood Inc.) on the doors here as well as the same hardware finish. This was done so that when you look into the kitchen from the dining room, you don’t see two different styles of cabinetry. They speak to each other while still feeling unique. The Elroy brass hardware (from Rejuvenation) visually reads as similar to the kitchen but is slightly different, while the brass finish ties into the chandelier.
We styled it out as a help yourself cocktail bar and boy do I want to help myself to some almonds and a cold G&T at that little niche.
To bounce the light from the opposite side of the room, we also added these mirrors to the back of the dry bar. It gives such a beautiful reflection when you are standing in that corner of the room and also helps to expand the corner and make it feel larger.
On the countertops, we used the Ella Matte from Cambria which is a material that is not only extremely stain resistant and user-/family-friendly but in this little niche looks like a natural stone. We used the same material in the mudroom (reveal is coming soon) but it works perfectly in these little niches and also will prevent your guests from staining your countertops when they come back for their 3rd/4th glass of red wine. (I also used their product on my counters in the kitchen of the mountain house).
Incorporate Elements From Other Rooms to Tie It All Together:
Although this room is located in the back of the house, it can be seen as soon as you walk through the front door as it opens up into the living room, kitchen and family room. Basically, just about every room on the main floor. So although we wanted it to feel special and unique, we needed to bring in elements from the other rooms to help tie it all together and not feel like you were in a totally different house as soon as you walked into this room.
We spoke about bringing in the same cabinet profile from the kitchen which ties it together with that room but we also wanted to pull elements out from the dining room into the other rooms. This was done in the family room which you see in the distance here where we pulled a tone from the wallpaper into this sofa (from Lulu and Georgia). The tones, although slightly different, speak to each other and help the rooms feel unified. You’ll also notice the hits of black in the dining chairs that are echoed in the barstools in the kitchen as well as the art on the family room wall. When you have rooms like this that open into each other, you really want to make sure that you work unifying elements into each room so that it speaks together even though they aren’t the same room. That might be a good topic for a blog post (unifying adjacent rooms with design and how to do it?) Is that something that you guys would be interested in?
From this angle, you can also see how we used the black accents in both the living and dining room and the brushed brass (in the living room lamp) is the same brushed brass that is in the dining room chandelier. They speak with one another and help both of the rooms to compliment each other in a subtle yet impactful way.
So there you have it. The dining room reveal. We wanted to create something that was special, unique and interesting while still feeling sophisticated and high end, and I think we did it with this room. As always, we put together a get the look with all the items in the room, and let us know if you have any questions on any specifics.
1. French Doors by Milgard | 2. Door Handles by Milgard | 3. Black Vessels by Bobbie Specker via Mantel | 4. Dining Table by City Home | 5. Chandelier by Rejuvenation | 6. Dining Chair by Room & Board | 7. Wallpaper by Rebecca Atwood | 8. Abstract Art by MaryAnn Puls | 9. Smoke Glass Vase | 10. Sideboard by Thos. Moser | 11. Wooden Bowl by Elise McLauchlan via Mantel | 12. Black Vessel by Bobbie Specker via Mantel | 13. Candlesticks by Bosque Design | 14. Wall Sconce by Rejuvenation | 15. Windows by Milgard | 16. Striped Pillow by Jillian Rene Decor | 17. Armchair by Structube | 18. Blue and White Pillow | 19. Pendant Light by Rejuvenation | 20. Brass Ice Bucket | 21. Wooden Tray by Schoolhouse | 22. Textured Pitcher | 23. Decanter | 24. Glass Pitcher | 25. White Vase | 26. Champagne Coup | 27. Green Bottle by Gary Bodker via Mantel | 28. Green and White Dish Towel | 29. Brass Shaker | 30. Gray Glass | 31. White Ceramic Bowl by Rejuvenation | 32. Champagne Flute | 33. Round Wood and Wire Tray | 34. Brass Jigger | 35. Ella Marble from Cambria | 36. Wood Flooring by Hallmark Floors | 37. Pure White by Sherwin-Williams | 38. Crown Moulding by Metrie | 39. Door and Window Casing by Metrie | 40. Architrave by Metrie | 41. Baseboard by Metrie | 42. Shelf Brackets by Rejuvenation | 43. Cabinet Knob by Rejuvenation | 44. 6″ Drawer Pull by Rejuvenation
***Photography by Sara Tramp for EHD