tour the dining room, or, a redo for the cost of a can of paint, so stay with me here

I haven't forgotten the dining room. I really haven't! Do you remember how it looked before? Let's have a quick refresher…



dark, black, hard to photograph, not awful, but hardly used, too formal.

And then I shared some tear sheets I'd been collecting.

And here's what happened with all that, once it got into my brain and stewed a while.





I have once again proven to myself that the Swedish really get it right in my book (all that white and bright on Camilla and Elizabeth's homepage there really illustrate it well).

Like Sweden, the pacific northwest is notoriously dark throughout the winter months, and it can really save the psyche to keep that in mind when decorating. As much as Peter and I are fans of color, lightness makes all the difference in this room. Its gets weird Eastern light blasting through those french doors until about noon, then it just goes dark. But now it feels much airier, truly like a deep breath.

The biggest change in creating that feeling in here is the paint color. About a year ago, my friend Neicy called my attention to what has since become my favorite wall color, Ben Moore's Vanilla Milkshake (not to be confused with Vanilla Ice Cream, also a color they carry) . It is a white with a lot of interest, depth, and a cast that really changes with the light, and it contrasts nicely with the chestnut colored box beams on the ceiling of this room (which you can't see well in these photos). It transformed the walls of our family room, and now in here. (Perhaps in the new year it will transform our hallway, I'm really done with the beige.)

Once again, before,



The chairs and table are IKEA. Going into this project, I didn't want heirloom anything for this room. I really hoped that this room would be used, it has always felt quite forgotten. I wanted it to feel happy. So I went for furniture that felt light, useable, and let's face it, IKEA fit within our budget. The table is long and extendable (I went for a long size, but in fact, I should have gone for an even longer one, I keep it fully extended). The chairs have an interesting shape, and a white seat. I love them. They feel modern and simple, and I realize this is where our tastes are heading. They also go nicely with the end chairs, which are upholstered ones Peter bought in St. Louis (and why I married him). In the top photo, we had already changed our overhead light fixture to a softer light, more interesting shape. The one before cast really unflattering, clinical light that would not dim (another reason we never ate in here).


The tiny original painting of Montemartre was one I bought from a street artist in Paris. The bottom piece is of the Wet Mountains in Colorado. The beautiful glowbowls were made by Diana Fayt. The soft twig was made by Stephanie.

The Liberty of London curtains I'd made years ago (which were extremely faded) were switched out for a simple white coarse weave cotton with a textured black stripe going through it (again, thank you IKEA), also helping to lighten the space visually. The artwork in the room all has significant meaning to us. And those porcelain glowbowls look amazing and etherial at night.


We dug through the stacks and stacks of artwork we had in the basement and pulled out all new pieces for the walls. These two watercolors were done by Peter's grandmother Marjorie. I had them rematted in acid free materials (sadly, the edges of them of are crumbling) and we're both so happy we can now look at them every day.


My embroidery hoop "installation" remained, we all like it. The lampshades were switched from red ones to white ones, huge difference in the amount of light we get from them now.


I made new cushions for the bench (the before here) from those amazing old curtains I found secondhand a few months ago.


I had plans to repaint the sideboard a bright color, but to be honest we all liked it much better as it is after we lightened the room up, so I've decided to live with it for now (with new knobs from Anthropologie). That stool, above on the left, is the same one from the holiday photo shoot and a large plant will live on it soon, once I decide on one.

Now. The big clincher, that I hadn't realized until the redo was complete? All of this costs me the price of-

1 can of paint- $50

1 roll of painter's tape- $5.00

Thrifted fabric for cushions- $5.00

That's it.

I'm not kidding.

You see, we sold the original table on craiglist for a decent price, which in turn created my IKEA budget. Granted, we didn't change many things that are in here, but I accomplished my goal of a family-friendly, airy space. We now eat dinner in here every night. Emma and I craft in here, it doesn't feel like wasted space any more.

Little changes that made a big impact. I keep saying it, but it doesn't have to cost a fortune to design and create your home with intention.

A few of the many books that inspired me:

Simply Scandanavian

Contemporary Country

Lotta Jansdotter Handmade Living

Crafting a Meaningful Home

Now there's some goodness to add to your holiday wishlist.

Oh, and the tablerunner, more on that soon.

Thanks for reading this far!




  • andrea

    November 26, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    Looks awesome! So friendly and fresh.

  • Kristen

    November 26, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    What a change! I love the pop of color that the table runner adds to the center of the room.

  • Canela

    November 26, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Beautiful and fresh!

  • Kirsty

    November 26, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    It looks fabulous.
    I LOVE the carver chairs at either end of the table.

  • blair/wisecraft

    November 26, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Thanks Andrea!

  • blair/wisecraft

    November 26, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    That table runner was just begging to be made. I had to do it : D

  • blair/wisecraft

    November 26, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Thank you!

  • blair/wisecraft

    November 26, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Thanks Kirsty, aren’t those chairs great? We’ve gotten rid of most of what we had as a young married couple, but never those.

  • geek+nerd

    November 26, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    Wow – just beautiful Blair! The shift in the amount of light is truly stunning!

  • Sarah

    November 26, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    Fantastic job! So inspiring! And you’ve really nailed the Scandinavian look. Love the way the dark rug (and sideboard) ground the space.

  • emily

    November 26, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    blair, it looks amazing! so so bright and like a wonderful place to sit and eat or play or make. fantastic.

  • melissa

    November 26, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    Looks fantastic! Love all the different fabrics in your embroidery hoops.

  • blair/wisecraft

    November 26, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Thanks dear! I guess all that light was there, I just gave it a place to stay for a while.

  • blair/wisecraft

    November 26, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    Funny how that dark rug suddenly looks so right after looking so wrong for so long.

  • blair/wisecraft

    November 26, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    Thanks Lim! Come see it in person sometime!

  • blair/wisecraft

    November 26, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    Thanks Emily. I wish I would have done it a long time ago.

  • Sally

    November 27, 2010 at 12:45 am

    What a great transformation. It’s so light and bright but not bland. Your hoops and colors add interest. you must really enjoy being in this room. I had to look twice to see that it is in fact the same rug!

  • Erin | house on hill road

    November 27, 2010 at 4:56 am

    it’s beautiful, blair. i really love how light and bright it is. and those upholstered chairs?!?! swoon.

  • margie

    November 27, 2010 at 6:44 am

    It looks amazing. So bright and airy, but still cozy. I love how the dark rug anchors the room. Well done.

  • kat

    November 27, 2010 at 11:25 am

    i love it blair! i’m so happy you did this post, we moved to oregon from the coast of virginia a few years ago and i have been trying to lighten our home as well, on a budget! it looks great, thanks for sharing and i will now add the books to my birthday and christmas wish list. 😉

  • Molly

    November 27, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    It is magical! Your taste is spot-on (especially in end chairs and, if they are any indication, the men that accompany them!). I so agree that the Northwest needs that clear, light, Scandinavian touch.
    Odd, pressing question: have you any memory of where you got the pear tablecloth on your old table (flickr photo)?! I saw EXACTLY this piece, framed, in an Ohio magazine, about 6 months back, and have been searching high and low for it, ever since. I’ve no idea who made it, though, or where to look. I did a double-take when I saw it on your table! I’m looking for exactly that to frame and put over our mantle. If you’ve a maker or source you’d be willing to share, I’d be so grateful…
    Enjoy your new space. Hopefully you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving there!

  • angie in asheville

    November 28, 2010 at 6:30 am

    Very nice changes. Thought is what makes the difference and it is obvious that a lot went into this space. Great job!

  • Jessica

    November 28, 2010 at 7:12 am

    Love love love! The table really makes it, light but still warm! We have an Ikea table, too, because we didn’t want one that was too ‘precious’ and not usable. It’s so much more functional this way! Love the makeover, what a refreshing spot.

  • CathyT

    November 28, 2010 at 7:55 am

    Love it. Just this morning my dh and I we discussing our dining room and how it could be rearranged to be better used. Gives us some ideas about color aaa that room is the darkest in the house and we live in the dark Northeast of USA.

  • blair/wisecraft

    November 28, 2010 at 10:10 am

    Thanks Molly. That tablecloth was from Orla Kiely’s line made for Target a while ago, but I think you might be able to find frameable Orla Wallpaper scraps on etsy or ebay if you do a search. I think it would be such a cool idea to do that. I will be on the lookout and will be sure to let you know if I find something.

  • blair/wisecraft

    November 28, 2010 at 10:11 am

    Thanks so much Angie. Luckily, thought is the cheapest solution to redecorating, and it usually works out well.

  • blair/wisecraft

    November 28, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Thanks Jessica, and don’t you think those IKEA tables are pretty sturdy??? The 2 year old at our table was jabbing his fork tines into it and I swear I couldn’t find any marks when I was cleaning up.

  • blair/wisecraft

    November 28, 2010 at 10:13 am

    Thanks Cathy! I grew up thinking dining rooms had to be formal, but we are not formal people, so we never used it in its formal state. The changeover has really made us open our eyes to that room. Go for it, you won’t regret lightening it up.

  • Seanna Lea

    November 28, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    Beautiful! I really need to remind myself of this, because I keep picking darker paints (like the ones already chosen for the dining room) for our rooms.

  • mo

    November 28, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    It looks fantastic! I especially love the two kinds of chairs around the nice long table. The bright pillows on the dark bench are another favorite. I enlarged your hoop wall to get a good look thinking I should do that in our family room and was so excited to see something familiar in there!

  • blair

    November 28, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    Mo, you must have read my mind because I’m actually crafting with some Party Dress as you were typing that! : D

  • mo

    November 28, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    I can’t wait to see what you do with it! I have a pile down in my sewing room to sew but I have to finish my next collection first! It’s for boys…:)

  • Anne Marie

    November 30, 2010 at 5:18 am

    I love the end result. Living in Norway we too consider light an important factor to get through the winter more or less sane. Your dining room does definately give an airy sensation. And what a perfect place to do crafting. Space envy!

  • lisa

    November 30, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    Lovely room! Don’t you feel like you live in a whole new house? (that’s always how I feel when I paint a room). I just went and checked the paint cans in our garage, we painted a wall “mayonnaise” by Ben Moore. I knew it was a food name but didn’t think it was as lovely as vanilla milkshake!

  • Caroline

    December 2, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    This is great, needs a dining room anyways! Im so glad you guys have something nowyou will want to use more. The table is really perfect though!

  • Jillian

    December 2, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    I absolutely love the transformation! We just bought a new house, and I’m planning to make Scandinavia my primary source of inspiration. I just gravitate towards the clean, bright design with pops of color – modern and friendly, design you can live with. I can’t wait to check out the books you recommended.

  • Rebecca

    December 5, 2010 at 6:55 am

    Beautiful. So well done. Now I love Vanilla Milkshake too! And the table runner? Forget about it! Do share details.

  • Sam

    December 5, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    I love your buffet piece. Would you mind sharing where you got it? Thanks!

  • blair

    December 6, 2010 at 6:26 am

    Thank you Sam! That buffet piece is from Crate and Barrel, purchased about 8 years ago, although they continue to carry similar pieces.

  • Jen

    December 15, 2010 at 5:10 am

    I love this! I am working on our dining room as well right now. And I just needed this inspiration to get it together.

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