If you read this blog, you know the story well. A few years ago, after replacing my kitchen’s tile countertop with white marble, my yellow walls looked horrible. Since all the rooms downstairs open up to each other, I was forced to paint them all a new color - Feathered Gray by Pratt and Lambert – which is a warm gray shade that looks taupe in certain light. But after the walls were repainted, nothing went together anymore. My yellow silk curtains looked terrible against the new paint color, as did all my other fabrics.
For the past two years, I’ve been slowly changing out the curtains and the fabrics so it looks more like a decorator with some sense of color lives here. The last room that finally got its new fabrics was the dining room. Thinking back on all the dining rooms I’ve ever had – starting with my first single girl apartment - I realized that I’ve always had a skirted dining table. This actually surprised me, I hadn’t been aware that I’ve been using the same design element over and over and over again. Was there a lesson in this? I suppose if you really love something, you should go for it, regardless of what the current trend is. If I listened to trends, I would have replaced my skirted table with a Rough Luxe unstained wood table that so many of the young are buying these days.
So, today, I thought I would bore you to death by looking at the evolution of my dining rooms through the years. Actually, I probably should say the non-evolution of my dining room skirted table. Enjoy!!
The Rough Luxe table by Restoration Hardware that everyone under 40 wants to buy.
Twenty two years ago, right after we were married, Ben and I rented this cute, tiny cottage. For the dining room, I brought my skirted table that had been in my pre marriage apartment. I updated it with a new, cream faux silk poly-something fabric with a huge puddle that I spent hours arranging “just right.” I added the set of French chairs that my aunt gave me and a painted secretary from my parents house. We happily lived here for two years - Elisabeth was born while we rented this house. We loved the two bedroom, one bathroom house, but mostly we were thrilled to be living in West University – our dream location. I had gone to look at this house after seeing an ad in the paper and when the landlord answered the door, I said “I’ll take it” without even stepping inside. Not that there was much to tour, you could see everything from the front door. The rent was $600. We were so excited to live in our doll house. My father though, was less so. He took one look at it and said “I worked my whole life to get you out of a house on concrete blocks.” He didn’t see the charm of living in a house without a solid foundation like we did. We left this house to move to Ft. Worth – which was supposed to be for a lifetime. Instead, we only lasted 1 1/2 years away from friends and family before we moved back to Houston.
In Ft. Worth, we bought our first house – a brand new patio style home. While I copied Dan Carithers taupe and white linen living room, I used my old dining room set up. I did add an antique chandelier from my parents house and two woodcuts also borrowed from them. I don’t think we ate one meal in this room, instead we always used the breakfast room where we had a French wood farm table.
And finally, we ended up in our present house in West University. I don’t have a picture of the round skirted table with the draping cream cloth, but I know I used that same set up when we first moved into this house. I do have an early picture of a party tablescape. I had Shabby Slips make up a table skirt out of taupe and white plaid linen to fit over a conference table for when we entertained. I topped that with a white tablecloth. Those French chairs were actually from my breakfast room. Overhead we used the same chandelier. And here, you can see there used to be a window in this room instead of the French door that we installed a few months after we moved in. It looks so strange to see the old window there!
A few years later and I’m still using the conference table for entertaining. The French door is now in place instead of the window and by then, I had bought that antique hutch to hold my newly acquired collection of blue and white transferware. Of course I stole that idea from design great Carol Glasser. I bought those vintage cane chairs from Lewis and Maese. Still no curtains and no rugs. Elisabeth is modeling her outfit of the hour – my bathing suit sarong which she turned into a long skirt. NOTE: After this party, everyone went home with red knees from the cotton table cloths! Be sure to wash those cottons that come from India first.
Sorry all these pictures are no bad! I had no idea I would have a design blog when I took these photographs all those years ago. Here, I had finally started to get somewhat serious about my dining room. I had an oval table custom made to fit the room and seat 8 – so, now I could finally quit dragging out the conference table whenever I entertained. For the skirt I splurged on a Bennison fabric which cost more than a dining room table would have. But, as you can see, I’ve always just preferred a skirted table in the dining room over a wood one. There something so romantic and soft about a beautiful skirted table – and I’ll probably never have a proper wood table. Over the years, the puddling hem was drastically shortened, and the glass top was eliminated. When this picture was taken, I was still using those old German woodcuts which I later replaced with more plates. And, I had put up sconces – that today are in my office.
About six or seven years ago, I decided to change the Bennison cloth out for this silk plaid in yellow. At this time, I also painted all the walls a soft golden yellow with gray trim. Along with the paint, we finally got silk ticking curtains in the living room and dining room and custom cut seagrass throughout. The curtains and the seagrass made a huge difference (as did a new camera.) My parent’s antique chandelier went to the breakfast room and I bought this fixture from a friend who was redecorating her house from English country manor to Swedish. New sconces from Tara Shaw were added.
Finally, I changed out my blue and white transferware for some creamware – trying for a quieter look. I honestly thought I would keep this dining room setup forever. I still love the way it looks, but the yellow just didn’t go with the gray walls or the new ivory linen slipcovers in the living room or the white marble in the kitchen. So, new curtain and tableskirt fabrics were ordered to tie it all together. Here’s how the dining room looks today:
The biggest change to the room were the new fabrics – gray taffeta for the curtains and a white matte taffeta for the table. The only expensive fabric was for the table – from Rogers and Goffigon - but the draping and the matte look were important to me and I couldn’t get that look with a cheaper fabric. The silk taffeta at the windows is Schumacher and that fabric was very reasonable.
The chair slips are actually two pieces, one piece covers the back and one covers the seat. There is a down cushion inserted into the bottom slip to make the chairs look and feel softer. Ties run down the back of the slips. The skirts are double pleated for extra frill. The checked linen is Chelsea Editions and is very, very reasonable.
The view of the hutch with the creamware collection. I wonder if I should trade this out for a gray painted Swedish hutch. Maybe in a few years!
A closeup of the back of the slip with the ties.
Here you can see how pretty the seat crowns with the attached down cushion.
We left the wood arms exposed on the host chairs. I like that small touch of wood showing through.
On the table, I added some creamware plates to make it look casually styled. Where is Eddie Ross when you need him????
Two of my favorite things in the room – the sconces from Tara Shaw and the antique barometer I got for a steal on 1st Dibs.
While all the changes made a big difference, the slipcovers made a huge, huge difference. I am really happy with the way they turned out. They make the room look dreamy and feminine and so soft. Right now, I am in love with them!!!
So, that’s it. It took a while to update all the fabrics downstairs. They always say, when you change one thing in your house, it all dominoes and that was true with me. The white marble countertops dictated the way my entire downstairs looked – something I hadn’t really thought about when we made that initial change, but truthfully, I probably was just in denial. Changing out the fabrics room by room made is easier on the pocketbook. Plus, Ben wasn’t really aware of what it all cost in the end since it was such a drawn out process. He loves the way it all looks now, but if I would have come to him and said – I’m redoing every room next month, he would have had a heart attack and had me committed. It was more subtle this way. He likes my decorating style, he just doesn’t like what it costs. AND, he is under the misguided impression for some unknown reason that slipcovers are cheap! SSSSHHH – let’s keep it a secret, ok? Thanks!
I’m wondering if I’m alone out here, using the same design element over and over and over again – like the skirted table? That’s really the only thing I can think that I’ve used since I had my first apartment up until my current house – over 30 years of using skirted dining room tables. Do you have an element or style you use over and over again? Something you have loved since you left college, married and had children? Let me know what it is – I would love to hear what you are addicted to!!!
If you are a Rachel Ashwell fan, you will love her new book. It’s really beautiful – filled with flowers everywhere and gorgeous shabby chic styling. It features the home of many European friends this time – a switch for the Californian Rachel. It also shows her new Texas property, The Prairie. It’s totally heavenly. So, if you are a Shabby Chic lover, I highly recommend it HERE.