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Dining Room Design Agony: How Lea Plans To Design Her Walk Through Dining Room To Feel Cohesive

Hiya! It’s been a while since I’ve been on here and the truth is, I’ve been enjoying some much-needed downtime and since there’s all of these project and product delays well…it seemed like a good time. Earlier this year, I revealed my living room that Em and I worked on–sort of. I mean it’s a third of the way there – it is an open concept after all! 

The holidays are approaching and in the Midwest, that means it’s time to hunker down and get ready for the long and cold winter. To me, it made sense to finally tackle the dining room – the two-thirds of the open concept part. Holidays usually mean more gatherings indoors with family and friends and a slower living lifestyle where my own family sits down and shares more meals together – even if they are delivery or take-out. Side note: Since the pandemic last year I have really enjoyed NOT cooking! Ok, I digress.

Anyway, since the living room got a glow up, the dining room was looking a little lackluster and not as functional and flowy (yes, that’s my professional term) so it was time. 

To start, measuring the space I had to work with made the most sense.

Our dining room is tricky because it’s a walk-through to both the living room and kitchen. I’m sure like many open-concept homes this is the challenge many of us face. With my floorplan, I wanted to try to maximize the space but also really complement the living room that Em and I worked so hard on.

Here’s a look back at the living room to reference for how I want to bring some of ‘this’ into the dining room:

design by lea Johnson | photo by sage e imagery | from: lea’s living room reveal

Sofa | Rug | Coffee Table | Drink Table (similar) | Curtains (custom) | Table Lamp | Swing Arm Lamp (similar)

What I love most here is the coziness of the warm wood tones.

design by lea Johnson | photo by sage e imagery | from: lea’s living room reveal

Table Lamp | Sideboard  | Arm Chair | Throw Blanket    

To start, I looked through my Pins and this one became the sole inspiration for my dining room.

design by amber interiors | photo by tessa neustadt

It’s by none other than Amber Interiors. While this looks nothing like my floor plan nor living room, what it did do is give me the cozy vibes I was looking for. It looks comfortable and enjoyable to sit in and collected over time. I was really into the color pallet as well, very earthy. I’m a Virgo and I think that explains a lot, especially my love for earthy hues.

This is another Pin that completely inspired me, even though it’s food. When thinking of cozy and home, doesn’t food always come to mind? Ok, maybe I was hungry that day of Pinning but it’s the rustic and earthy colors that spoke to me.

I was recently out in California a couple of weeks ago and one of my most favorite things to do is thrift. I found a beautiful vintage textile out there (I wish I had snagged more of them) but it was completely also inspired by this image I found.

Again, nothing says cozy more than like a cozy blanket or an heirloom quilt am I right? Even in the dining room. For me, it’s about layering and surrounding ourselves with pieces we love and found together. 

design by jake arnold | photo by michael clifford photography

This image and design by Jake Arnold also really spoke to me, this one was all about aesthetics. The whole space just feels good, right? Pass me that burrata salad, please. Light some candles and play a record and it’s a whole mood.

Pictured below is my dining room as it currently sits.

design by lea Johnson | photo by sage e imagery

Chandelier | Dining Chairs | Bench | Sheepskin | Bookcases (3 shown) | Dining Table Pear Basket

*since writing this, I sold that corner hutch and removed the bookshelves.

design by lea Johnson |photo by sage e imagery

Yes, I’ll admit, it’s not bad. Like the previous version of my living room, there are many parts of it that I like. But as a whole, when I stand back, I just don’t LOVE it like I should. Or like I want to. And now with the living room finally in a place that we all do LOVE, I really want it to flow into the dining room. I want that cozy, cohesiveness that Em often talks about. Even in the dining room. I mean…who says dining rooms can’t be cozy? And shouldn’t they? It’s a place in our homes where meals are shared with family and friends, where tough conversations are had and celebrations take place. A place for morning coffee and reading the paper, at times – a classroom or an office even, and a place of gathering and sharing gratitude.

Ok, so I suppose you’re asking yourselves, so how is it that I plan to tie the two spaces together in a cohesive way that doesn’t look like I matched tone for tone from the living room to the dining room??

Here’s a little mood board to show what I am envisioning:

It is not an exact list that I would shop from but I love working from a mood board because this helps me visualize the tones and colors and how they will look together instead of seeing them individually.

I would say after looking at this mood board things have changed (A LOT).

Here’s a peek – excuse the crappy iPhone pic:

Dining Cabinets

How does this tie in from the living room? TBH if I look at this board, it doesn’t do much tying…(insert nervous lunatic laugh). But what I will say (while keeping this a semi-surprise) is that I love how black instantly grounds a space. With all of our walls and ceilings and trim in white (Snowbound by Sherwin-Williams), it feels good to see statement pieces like these two cabinets cozy up this side of the room.

Also, I’m a big believer in wood tones not needing to match but they do need to at least complement one another and since we have warm wood tones in the living room and the floors, I felt the wood tone inside this cabinet gave another variation without matching tone for tone. I like how the black framed art, wood sculpture on the wall, and black leather on the chair play nicely with the black wood on the cabinet while on opposite walls of the room. Balance. 

design by lea Johnson | photo by sage e imagery | from: lea’s living room reveal

Speaking of art – additionally, the wall in the living room here visually holds weight so to complement this, the cabinets on the adjacent wall in the dining room do the same. Same but different. The goal is to keep colors in the same tones or family to help keep both spaces feeling connected but not identical.

You already know I sold the corner cabinet in the dining room so what else will change? Well…I’m debating putting a rug down in the dining room and I have this super amazing antique rug that would look gorgeous but sigh…cats. So, it will probably remain in storage as I’m typing this out. I may leave the floor bare – like it currently sits (it sure makes it easier to clean).

But with fall and winter in the Midwest it always feels good to have something cozy underfoot.

Stay tuned…

We currently go back and forth on the dining table too. I had recently sold my table in the basement that I use for work and now I need one again (sometimes I move too fast) so our current dining table may be relocated down there. If you’ve forgotten what that space looks like you can check it out in this reveal post. I love this dining table but I’m ready for something warmer. Something cozier. For now, we’ll table the table. Ha! Cheesy, I know, I couldn’t help myself.

While I begin to work on this space of ours and as we move into the cooler months, I’ll be keeping this post tethered to me so as not to distract myself from wandering off into something completely different. Who else can relate? With product delays and timelines pushed, I am leaning more and more into slow living. Who’s with me?


Opening Photo Credits: Design by Lea Johnson of Creekwoodhill | Photo by Sage E Imagery

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2 years ago

Lea, I love the direction you’re headed and can’t wait to see where you land with your reinvented dining room. You may be well aware of this, but I’d offer one observation: the walls of the inspiration rooms you share are neutrals – gentle beige and grey, if my eyes are reading the light correctly. In each room, the wall color goes a long way to define the earthy, cozy vibe that you admire. But – again, from what my eyes see – your walls seem to be a sparkling pure white which certainly can be a wonderful design choice for establishing bright, airy spaces. But I wonder if the white is detracting from the earthy, cozy vibe you crave.

2 years ago
Reply to  Diane

I was thinking the same. It’s the white that makes it hard to get the cozy feeling. I live in the Midwest too and ended up having to switch from airy white walls to a color. In the winter it ended up feeling cold. I also vote for a dining room rug to add the cozy factor. A rug also acts as a sound dampener which helps my dining room not sound so loud when everyone is gathered. I would get a less expensive rug that you love that is cat friendly.

Suzanne Baumann
2 years ago

Love the sneak peek, Lea! You are so good at what you do. So much inspiration. And I’m always excited to I see your name pop up on the EHD blog!

2 years ago

Product delayssssssss!!! Oh yeah!!! I can relate! Two key pieces of furniture to go, for my mentee’s Safd House Room Makeover… but they’re tge most important ones!!! Gah!

Lea, rooms tga5t are walkt-throughs are SO hard! I feel ya.
I like your ideas and agree that a warmer paint colour (even a warmer white) would nudge more towards coziness.
I’m watching this space.👀👀👀

2 years ago
Reply to  Rusty

Sorry for all the typos… numb fingerz!🙄

Cyndi J
2 years ago

I don’t know if this will work for your family or room but because of the traffic flow have you considered a banquett? That would get the table out of the center of the room with the cabinets on the other wall. An indoor/outdoor rug might work for easy cleanability and would add coziness. That’s what my sister the interior designer buys for herself and clients. There are great ones out there.

2 years ago
Reply to  Cyndi J

I was going to suggest a banquette as well! I feel like it could create that cozy vibe you’re after and like Cyndi said, create more room to walk through the space. I have a similar layout on my main floor and am also considering a bench along the wall… currently have my eye on the Chip bench from Blu Dot!

Roberta Davis
2 years ago

I love your basement and living room, and I’m sure the dining room will be just as inspired! And yes, a dining room definitely needs to be cozy! I like the black cabinets, too. Looks like they hold a ton and look great doing it. Also agree that it’s easier to clean the dining room floor with no rug! Probably easier to move the chairs in and out, too. This whole storage of goods and delays is pretty maddening, but what are we gonna do? Seems like verything is way more expensive, too. Same goes for vacations. Haven’t been anywhere for 2 years, and if we do try to go on a short weekend, we find the restaurant isn’t open on the days/times we wanted to go, or the hotel rooms cost twice as much as they did. Can’t wait to see your final result.

Vicki williams
2 years ago

What a lovely way Diana has with words. I also think the design and the rooms are beautiful at the same time I began to be aware that the starkness of the white was really bothering me. She was able to say what I wanted in such a positive helpful way .
I read this post around 3AM last night and her’s at the time was the only comment.
Now I see there are other similar thoughts. Lea you truly have a gift. Your elements of design, your choices of furniture and objects all sing. I’m wondering if you have seen the new 2022 color from just about every major brand? A soft neutral or even a bolder color ( but I’m thinking that’s not you so much) would warm up this room and be so cozy and IMHO actually warm up your beautiful Living Room. Looking forward to seeing much more of you in the future. Looking for your IG account but there are lots of Lea Johnsons out there. Can’t wait to see the result!

Johnson Lea
2 years ago
Reply to  Vicki williams

Thank you so much! I can’t wait to share how this space is evolving. I do love inspo pics but I’m also not looking to recreate what those amazing designers did. I hope I can make this fresh in a Lea way. Who knows…third times a charm, right,

2 years ago

Thank you for sharing and always being so inspiring 😘😘😘!!

Johnson Lea
2 years ago
Reply to  Gladys

Thank you!

2 years ago

Here is a question for the group- I have a similar pass-through dining room, that is not very wide. Do I set the dining room space off a bit to the side, centering the table and ceiling light to the side so that there is an invisible walkway accounted for? Or do I center the ceiling light and table in the middle of the room and then people have to accommodate it to walk through (currently remodeling)

2 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

I wrestled with the same issue. After decades of trying to make my peace with a room-centered arrangement, I shifted the ceiling light as well as the table and chairs about eighteen inches off center. Oh my gosh. What a glorious difference that makes! I highly recommend you hang your ceiling light to the side – so you don’t have to pay an electrician to move it twenty years later!

Johnson Lea
2 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

Our light is off center but we had it centered snd are now moving it back to be off center, stay tuned…

2 years ago

I am curious about why your cats cant be with antique rugs? For me a room isnt done unless it has both an antique rug and a cat in it! My guys have claws but they re well behaved I provide scratching posts in addition to the the great outdoors. Yes they vomit once in a while l but I catch it fast. If your cats are peeing thats a different and larger behavioral and perhaps medical issue. But I don’t understand any conflict between antique rugs and cats?

Johnson Lea
2 years ago
Reply to  mouseface

We have one cat (our older one) she’s mostly an outdoor cat (she’s 16 years old) she will notoriously pee on antique rugs. The smaller ones in our home I can soak and wash easy enough but the large one is very hard to clean. So while she’s in our lives we just know better now and don’t put them down or just use the small ones for now. Thanks for asking!

emily jane
2 years ago

So good to ‘see’ you Lea : ) I know you didn’t ask buuuuut -I want to build in a banquette (though in this case more like a bench except I would absolutely ‘turn the corner’ with the back cushion so you could comfortably lean against the fridge wall : ) under that window soooo bad! (Heidi Caillier has a space in her Ravenna Project with a DIVINE example of what I am seeing in your space.) I loved your living room -and basement!- reveal and am looking forward to seeing your walk-thru dining room transformation as well.