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Formal Dining Rooms

Earlier this week Cristin posted about decorating dining rooms over at Simplified Bee and it's gotten me itching to start decorating my own dining room (to get a feel for what I'm going for, see HERE). When we first moved in, we managed to paint out the trim on the lower third of the room to resemble wainscoting and paint the balance of the walls a deep blue (Farrow & Ball's Drawing Room Blue), but that's all the progress that's been made so far -- and unfortunately, until my budget recovers, that's all the progress that's going to be made for quite some time.

But that doesn't mean a girl can't day dream, right? In fact, I'd say a temporary cash crunch can be a good thing for designing a room as you're forced to window shop in favor of actually, well, shopping. This forced abstinence allows you the time to really get a feel for what you love most (rather than what you love today or what your budget allows you to buy today). And, when you finally do have the luxury of going out and buying new pieces, having curtains made, etc., you know the market, the trends and what it is you're really after.

So here are a few of my absolute favorite dining rooms, collected over the past few months as I continue to contemplate the transformation of my small dining room into something truly spectacular.

For me, a formal dining space should be exactly that: formal. It should also be luxurious, dramatic and special. After all, these rooms are for special occasions, most of them occurring at night. So I say work with that and go for lots of drama: crystal, gilt, mirrors, silks, velvets, dramatic colors, hand painted get the idea. If you're looking for a good guide on how to incorporate all that and more without making the room feel overdone or too stuffy, you need look no further than Kara Mann's gorgeous gray dining room (above) that was featured in last month's Traditional Home. I particularly love the silver-leaf finish on the mantle against the Carrera marble surround.

There are those that argue that formal dining rooms are dinosaurs; that the modern family does not need to distinguish between public and private rooms, formal and informal settings. And that's certainly true to an extent, but at the same time I love the idea of the luxury of having a formal dining room. The luxury of having a place at home to celebrate truly special occasions. The type of room that is filled with memories yearound, even if it is only "used" a few times a year (though certainly there is nothing stopping you from using your formal dining room -- and your formal china -- on a regular basis, and I completely encourage this!).

In this dining room designed by Hillary Thomas, I love how the trim and wainscoting is painted out in a high gloss sage green. It's such a great way to modernize very traditional architecture (and the very traditional wallpaper). The glossy green also works well with the dining chairs, which are done in a high glass black with a sage green seat.

Ruthie Sommers

Wainscoting and wallpaper (especially handpainted wallpaper) are two of my favorite design elements for a formal dining room. The sea grass rug and lack of window treatments make this room feel much lighter than many of the others -- and also more approachable. For me, this room is the perfect balance between formality and luxury, on the one hand, and practicality and comfort, on the other.

Christina Murphy

A simple formula for high drama in a dining room is dark bare wood floors, metallic wallpaper and a crystal chandelier. The mirrored insets into the paneled doors is a simple and inexpensive way to add a little extra sparkle and to dress up an otherwise standard feature. I also love the Kartell Mademoiselle Chairs, with their lucite legs and low backs.

Here, I love how the dark slate walls contrast with the high impact turquoise chandelier and hot pink upholstered dining chairs. I think my first inclination would be to pair colors like this with a predominately white backdrop, but Katie demonstrates here how success dark walls with bright furnishings can be. I also like how she kept it from feeling too cave-like by having a lighter colored rug on the floor. This lightness is similarly reflected on the ceiling, which appears to be papered in a subtle tonal damask.

Pastoral murals in dining rooms are very, very traditional. In fact, you can see many fine examples of them in homes in Pompeii. Here though, the brighter colors in the mural and in the fabrics lend a rather whimsical quality to Thad Hayes' space. So much so that it feels almost cartoon-like.

Anyone else remember Ondine from the second season of Design Star? [By the way, is that show ever coming back? I loved it!] In any case, Ondine is back and in the running for Traditional Home's Young Traditional Designer of the Year. Flipping through her portfolio, I fell in love with this dining room. I love the juxtaposition of the almost Medieval architecture with the vibrant pinks. In fact, I'd happily steal that set of Ikat chairs and the hot pink buffet for myself. How fabulous would that look against navy walls?

Nathan Egan is one of my favorite designers for subtle drama. Rooms like the dining room above show that you don't need bold colors or expensive, embroidered wallpaper to make a big impact. I also love how the oversized photograph is hung between the wall and wainscoting. The gesture feels almost haphazard, but the effect is incredibly striking. I also love the large wine barrel chandelier -- sure, it's been trendy, but there's also a nice rusticity about it that works so well with more traditional interiors.

One of my all-time favorite dining rooms, by the near-faultless Suzanne Kasler. While I usually prefer trim painted-out white, the blue lacquer that Suzanne applied to both the walls and trim here is incredibly striking. I also tend to prefer matching chairs (or at least matching side chairs with a pair of larger chairs for the ends), but yet again Suzanne proves here there's no "rule" that I can come up with that can't be successfully broken.

This dining room was featured in a spread House Beautiful did last year on a beach house Annie Selke decorated and I absolutely fell in love with all of it. I love the mix of patterns here as well as the mix of blues. A deft hand is needed for this type of mixing, but Selke is skilled at mixing both patterns and colors in a way that feels very modern, without any of the eclectic-bohemian element that I'm admittedly not a huge fan of.

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