Monday, April 11, 2016

Dining Room Makeover: The Cozy Minimalist Way

Late last winter, I started decluttering my dining room.

Here is what it looked like, on a good day.

I was a woman on a mission. I spend  80% of my waking hours in this room and it felt altogether too claustrophobic.  So, I began to go through all the binders of old homeschooling stuff and before I knew it, I wanted to get rid of even more.

About that time, the Nester offered a decorating webinar course (with facebook group support) called Cozy Minimalism. I signed up. The One Room Challenge began shortly after that, so I decided I would combine the two and put myself on the five week whirlwind that is the ORC.

I shouldn't have done that. I just frustrated myself miserably. because, I now realise, the two approaches are, essentially, incompatible.

The ORC is all about the deadline: it is a great way to apply pressure so that your project doesn't linger on forever: you have to make decisions quickly and sometimes you end up with things you don't really want because there's no time to wait.

The whole idea behind Cosy Minimalism is to have the smallest number of items you can get away with to create the biggest impact possible. That means taking your time, being reflective and uber-intentional.

Having done the ORC, now, four times, I much prefer the Cosy Minimalist approach. However, it can mean that rooms will drag on--like my dining room did.

The Cozy Minimalist Approach to Decorating a Room.

1. Quieten the Room.

Essentially, this means to empty the room. Take out everything you can (while still maintaining peace and harmony in your home. So, if hubs is in the middle of the play offs, leave the TV and a chair alone!) I wanted to paint my room (ORC Week 2) --and, for the first time, the baseboards and the pine french door, too-- so I took everything out that I could.

I briefly considered painting this room blue green. You can see the off white I chose, instead. (Glass of Milk, Martha Stewart) Amazing how golden the walls were before by comparison, isn't it? (Papaya, CC-248, Benjamin Moore)

Doing this is just amazing. You cannot help but see --really see-- what's what in the room. The feeling is indescribable. You notice all its flaws, you notice that it wasn't born with style. But that's OK: because you also feel the lightness, the space: all is possibility.

This is the time to start collecting images on pinterest, too. (if you haven't already.)  Nester advises at least thirty. The images you pin will help with every decision that needs to be made going forward. According to my Pinboard, I had 192.

2. Are the seats and surfaces in the best places?

This, is of course, the whole issue of the layout.

I played around with several options on paper first.

As you can see, I fully expected to get a round table to put in this room. But as I was playing with the furniture cut outs and moving them around I realised a few things:

  1. I don't like working at round tables. It is too hard to spread out comfortably.
  2. I could not find a happy place for my Ikea drawer units.
  3. Somehow, I wanted to include a comfortable chair in here for reading.

So, I settled on moving the Expedit to a different wall and keeping my china cabinet in the same place. That left just two options for the table--either perpendicular or parallel to the window. You know which one I chose.

3. Style: Window Treatments, Rugs, Lighting and the Walls.

Some rooms are born with style: most are not. This is so obviously true that it seems trite, but Nester's genius, I think, is her ability to show and explain how to take the usual, ordinary things we put in a room, like our drapes and rugs and lights and create something truly amazing.

Looking at our walls, drapes, rugs and lighting as opportunities to create style simplifies the whole decorating process immensely, too.

Window treatments.

"Don't start your art until your drapes are hung correctly!"

This little ditty from the Nester is humorous--but also a tremendously useful bit of advice. Drapes can--and should--do a lot of heavy lifting in your room. They can set the style and tone. Hung correctly--that is, high and wide, they will visually lift and lengthen the room. Even though our first attempt (ORC Week 3) at hanging them did not go well, I am very happy with them, now. The colour ties this room to the living room across the hall.

A Rug.

A rug, Nester says, is like that friend who connects everyone together and helps everyone get along. I'm quite sure she's right, but I never did find a satisfactory rug for this room.

I tried this one--and a cowhide from Ikea.


Oh my goodness. The overhead ceiling fixture. I mentioned I'd looked at over a thousand fixtures--and I had. I'd wanted something both super stylish--and centered over my table. I got neither. That was in part due to the pressures of doing this room on the ORC time table-- and partly a result of budget constraints--and of being afraid to invest too much into something trendy and something I might tire of quickly. I mean, if I was going to tire of it, I didn't want it to be too expensive!

I quite like the fixture we got. It is 100x better than what we had before. But it didn't give me quite the WOW I was looking for.


Nester has a great deal to say about walls, and I'm not going to repeat that here. In my case, I needed some style, big time. Since the light fixture turned out to be perfectly adequate--but not a statement, I thought long and hard about my walls. I consulted my pin boards over and over again. As you know by now, I chose to put up faux brick paneling.

I loved it right away: but it was so startling, so new, and so different, I did not quite know what to do next. It was unsettling and bothersome. I don't like change, actually, for just these reasons. It always affects me this way and it always settles down eventually--as this did. But it has probably taken me this whole year to get used to it.

4. Accessories.

The Nester talks about the importance of scale (one big is better than lots of littles), shape, (opposites attract), visual mass, and texture. I blogged about roughage in week 4 of the ORC. There's more, including how to mix your pillows, style the shelves and a section on creating vignettes. I can honestly say I've done my best to take her lessons to heart (and, to be fair, others, too).

After the ORC was over, I lived with my new table top propped up on the old one until I was able to apply the bar and table finish by Varathane as a protective top coat. I hate how shiny it turned out.

I also had problems mounting the engineer print. (Though it is up, it is bad. It bows like crazy.) I haven't fixed it, yet, and re-doing the top coat on the table may wait yet another year. But it is definitely livable.

And finally, a whole year later, here we are.

If you're interested in the history of this room and its different incarnations, see this post: A Retrospective 5.The Dining Room, 2007 to (early) 2015.

If you're interested in the One Room Challenge Posts, check them out on the One Room Challenge Page (tab above).

The Cosy Minimalist Course may be offered again this fall. I highly recommend it.

Edited to add four larger, individual pictures of the last collage, as requested. :)


Carol-Anne said...

Would it be possible to post a single photo of the room so that we can enlarge it to really see it? The group of 4 makes it hard to really see....and I LOVE that wall & table!

Alana in Canada said...

Of course, Carol-Anne! Thanks for asking.

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

What a great transformation!

Job well done!


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