More than 11 years ago, I fell in love with the ugly house on the block. At the time, I hadn’t considered a career in design, and I had little experience renovating. But the moment I laid eyes on it, I saw a vision for the home.
As I spent the next several years bringing that vision to life, my home (and passion for design) opened up a path that would take me through design school, through the infant stages of running a business, and into the thriving, 9-person design firm Blakely is today. Of course, add my husband and 3 kids into the equation, and it’s easy to see why my no-longer-ugly-house-on-the-block means the world to me!
One of my favorite things about homes, in general, is that they are adaptable. As our family’s needs change, I love being able to redesign, repurpose, or renovate our spaces to match. The latest example of this is in our dining room and lounge.
Today, I’m taking you on a tour of these spaces and sharing some insights into designing a home for entertaining. Bonus? Scroll to the end for my best tips on holiday decorating and tablescapes!
The Dining Room & Holiday Tablescape
When I originally bought the house, what is now the dining room was a dreary space, lacking windows and natural light. When my kids were little, we used this space as a playroom. 8 years later and with the kids a bit older, we decided to put the room to better use as a formal dining room.
Our goals? We wanted enough space to entertain guests, a table that would comfortably seat 10 (we almost always host Thanksgiving dinner), and some storage for things like dishware and linens. And of course, I wanted to create a design that would excite and entertain guests.
The dining room is now vibrant, open, and beautiful! Adding two walls’ worth of windows really opens up the space and brings in some much-needed natural light. We also added a door (off to the right) that connects to the kitchen, which introduces additional light and simplifies entertaining. Transitional chandeliers in warm brass further open up the space, drawing the eye upward and adding some shine. (You know I love to mix metals.)
Design Tip: Having 2 different light sources (recessed can lights paired with either pendants or chandeliers) evenly distributes light over the whole table. I also highly suggest choosing light sources with dimmers. It helps with ambiance!
The most noticeable design element in the dining room? The red draperies. I immediately fell in love with this large scale, red-and-white pattern by Quadrille, and I knew the room could handle such a bold pattern. These draperies now turn heads, add energy to the room, and set the overall tone. We then used this fabric as a jumping off point for the rest of the design decisions.
For the dining chairs, we tied the bold red color into the table by upholstering a racing stripe with Schumacher fabric trim down the center of the host chairs. We also brought in blue with the other dining chairs to balance warm and cool tones and help the room feel cohesive with the adjacent lounge.
Design Tip: Comfortable chairs are key. They invite guests to linger at the table and keep the merriment going. Don’t skimp here.
My husband and I purchased a curio cabinet when we first got married, and although I have access to so many beautiful pieces as a designer, it holds a special place in my heart, so I decided it should stay. It now houses our good china, linens, and flatware.
Design Tip: Have a console or buffet in your dining room for keeping food out and accessible. This allows guests to help themselves and also clears up room on the table.
For this holiday season we created a stunning tablescape that brings our color palette together at a glance. Blues, greens and pops of red, and of course, brass napkin rings that mirror the brass light fixtures above. Perfection.
Design Tip: Setting the table and creating a dreamy tablescape is something anyone can do to quickly transform the space and wow guests. It’s a great way to mix colors and textures and add visual interest through different heights and accent pieces (florals, candle holders, different size glasses, table runners and/or placemats).
The Lounge & Bar Cart
Our lounge space was formerly the dining room for the home’s previous owners, but when we decided to make the playroom into the dining room, this space became a home office and homework room. We had desks and a whiteboard, but over time, it just didn’t function the way we had originally intended. What to do with it?
Then one year we were hosting Thanksgiving for 22 people, and we wanted an additional space for guests to congregate. We modified the home office to become a lounge… and our guests flocked to it! They brought in extra chairs, wine was flowing, candles were burning, and it gave off a great vibe. I realized that the space provided an opportunity to separate yourself and sneak away, even if you’re not using it for a bar area.
So, it officially became a lounge…
The stand-out design element in this space is the wallpaper. Obviously, I love patterned wallpaper, and I wanted to create more interest when paired with the white wainscoting. I found Schumacher’s Tumbling Blocks in Cobalt and knew it would be the perfect jumping off point for this room.
We added 4 velvet blue chairs, along with yellow draperies for a vibrant pop. We also included this bar cart, layering it with blue glassware and yellow accents to bring the room together. Sometimes, my hubby and I will have a “blue room” date, where we have some cocktails and hang out. Kid-free, of course. 😉
Design Tip: Add decor to spaces that you might not typically decorate, like a bar cart, greenery on mirrors, change out glassware in a china hutch, layer in coffee table books for each season, etc.
Tips for Holiday Decorating
- Keep your decor “evergreen.”
Choose decor that can essentially stay up for a month or so after the holidays. This could include more winter-themed (versus holiday-themed) touches, like greenery, trees, shimmery objects, candles and votives, and winter-inspired jars and vases.
- Buy early.
Buy early so that you get exactly what you want, especially now, with many products being backordered. I suggest putting a reminder on your calendar as early as October 1st to create your holiday decor plan and start shopping.
- Set the mood.
Don’t forget that holiday decorating isn’t just about the visuals… it’s also about the mood! Light scented candles and play music for a sensory experience that is sure to entertain both you and your guests.
- Make it easy to repeat.
When it’s time to pack up the winter decor, strategically store it, so that it’s easy to place the following year. For example, if you loved your faux greenery around the bannister, box it up with bows and zip ties for easy installation next year. You could also take a photo and keep it with the box so you can reference it later and remember what you created.
That’s it for now, but whatever your home looks like this year, I hope it is filled with what matters most: the people you love. We wish you happy times, good memories, and vibrant living the whole season through.