Before & After: Our Dining Room

Today is an exciting day… because today, I finally get to reveal our updated dining room! We had been wanting to make some changes to this room since we moved in last year. Around mid-April, I found myself with a lot more free time on my hands so it seemed like the opportune moment to go buy some paint and get the process started. And I’m so glad I did because, as you’ll see from the before and after photos in this post… it’s a drastically better space! I’ll be tagging anything I can, but just like our living room, most of these items were sourced secondhand from antique stores and thrift shops, or handed down by family members.

So let’s start by showing you how the room looked before…

This is how the dining room looked the day we moved in. To be honest, it was an excellent blank canvas to work with. One of the many selling points for this house was the set of french doors that open to our back deck. I love being able to have them open on nice days, or to just catch a glimpse of our back yard when I pass through.

As you can see, the room was painted a dark gray, so step one was to brighten things up… a lot. I opted for a basic white – Ultra Pure White by Behr. I got a matte finish, and a semi-gloss in the same color to touch up the baseboards, door frames and crown molding. I’ll be honest – the painting part was awful and seemed to take forever. Covering up a dark color can take some effort and a whole lot of patience, so I was grateful when I could finally hammer that paint can shut for good.

The house came with two awesome built-ins – one just outside the kitchen that serves as a china cabinet/linen storage, and a large bookcase in the dining room. Since I was painting the walls a stark white, I wanted the bookcase to have some drama and really stand out. For the longest time, I was torn between black, a deep navy or charcoal gray. Given these gorgeous hardwood floors we were blessed with, I kept gravitating toward a more neutral palette – black, white, browns. I ended up painting the bookcase black and installing some vintage brass lion’s head hardware that I found at an antique store years ago. I absolutely LOVE how it turned out.

So let’s see how that built-in looked before…

And how it looks today:

When styling a bookcase (or any shelves in your home), my biggest tip is to have fun with it and choose/curate items that really tell your story. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to run out and buy a ton of new tchotchkes either… always “shop” around your home first! In our case, the shelves are full of more antique and thrift finds, family and wedding photos, mementos from our travels and of course, books! One design hack that I love is having the majority (if not all) of your books flipped around so that the binding faces in. It helps cut down on color and noise from the book bindings while also filling out the space. The vintage tiger bookends are a personal favorite item and were a gift from my sweet sister.

Aside from painting, the other big thing that needed to happen was selecting a new light fixture. I pored through my favorite sites – Anthropologie, World Market, WayFair – but it ended up being a $25 secondhand fixture that came home with us. I shared on Instagram that I was looking for a basket/woven style to add some texture to the room, and my friend Emily just happened to find the listing for this fixture on Facebook marketplace a few days later. It’s honestly everything I wanted and more. This just goes to show – you don’t have to spend a ton of money to update your home… and don’t sleep on the secondhand options. You can truly find some gems!

In terms of furniture and decor, we didn’t really buy anything new. The table and chairs were given to us by Dan’s parents, the mirror (which you can buy here) has been with us since we lived in Chicago, and the cowhide rug was a purchase we made while living in Houston. Even though painting the walls white did wonders for brightening everything up, it also never hurts to add a mirror or two if you can. Having a large mirror helps amplify the light we get through our French doors and creates such a happy, welcoming space.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve likely heard me talk about Manny, the handsome matador who came to live with us during quarantine. He came from one of my all-time favorite stores in Nashville, Old Made Good (aka O.M.G.). The owner, Ashley, repurposes paintings that she sources secondhand and I love her work so much. When she shared Manny, I knew he needed to come watch over our new dining room. The candle sconces on either side of the painting are from Goodwill. The set was less than $5 and I just painted them black to better fit the space.

Even if you aren’t totally revamping a space, there are SO many small and inexpensive things you can do that will make a huge difference. For example, we switched out the old, discolored wall plates and light switch covers. Boom, immediate upgrade for less than $20.

Another idea would be to add fun plants wherever you can. My fiddle fig, majesty palm, snake plant and ZZ plant were already in the room since we get such great light in there. I would just recommend adding a few different stands and vessels for variations in height and texture. They truly liven up the space and are so good for morale, especially since the dining room table has become my makeshift office during quarantine.

That just about does it, folks! If I had to guess, the entire revamp of this space cost well under $300 (including paint/supplies, the light fixture, wall plates, etc.). A lot of thought, time and energy was put into this room and I’m so proud of how it turned out – I hope it brings you some inspiration as well! As always, please feel free to send me any questions in the comments section below. Thanks so much for following along and I wish you a safe and happy weekend.



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