Archive for the ‘Dining Room’ Category

Blue Walls Smiling At Me

With the office painted, the next room to tackle was the dining room. We opted out of washing the walls because they were already primed back in the fall, when we first moved in and had the painters remove that high-gloss textured paint in other parts of the first floor. The trick with the dining room was careful taping because it has practically more woodwork than actual wall space.

The tight spaces around the windows and above the wooden archway also meant we were doing more brushwork than painting with rollers, and we had to be quite meticulous about everything. But we passed the time by streaming Keeping up with the Kardashians, which was surprisingly enjoyable, even for Alec. I don’t know what it is exactly, but there’s something kind of endearing about the early seasons. And I’ve finally learned which non-Kim sister is which, so my pop culture literacy has really skyrocketed.

We did two coats of Benjamin Moore’s Summer Shower on the walls. In some lights, it can look almost white or and other times it is unmistakably blue. The color is a nice complement to the sand and khaki accents in the room such as the drapes and the chairs, and it also picks up the hints of blue in the rug. You’ll just have to take my word for it because this are the only semi-decent photos I have of the room right now.

I was going to take another photo today, but we’re getting the kitchen ready for painting and now the dining room table is cluttered with everything that was sitting on the kitchen counters. Oops!

Special thanks to Netflix Watch Instantly for getting us through the afternoon of painting. And if you have thoughts about why Kourtney Kardashian (who seems relatively smart and thoughtful after you discount the whole reality show fameball thing) continues to be in a relationship with Scott Disick when he is clearly a vile layabout with a drinking problem who is trying to non-ironically impersonate Patrick Bateman for some unfathomable reason, please leave them in the comments. Thanks.


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Alec and I returned this weekend from our last trip of the holiday season (can I still call it the holiday season?), which kicked off with our Hong Kong/China vacation and ended with a week in Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show. We were away from home so much that we had to suspend our Fresh Picks produce deliveries for more than a month. We went shopping today for a full week of groceries – I’d practically forgotten what that feels like!

Now that we’re staying put for a few months, I’m excited to tackle a long-delayed list of projects. First up is painting Alec’s office, the dining room, the kitchen and the powder room. I had been researching colors for months and could have happily kept procrastinating, especially because paint names are so fun.

But Alec’s office was pretty urgent. All of his books are still on the floor and we can’t get shelves up until the walls get painted. I was also under deadline to spend a Benjamin Moore Groupon I had bought ages ago. So without further ado, here is the color for Alec’s office:

Benjamin Moore’s Manchester Tan, not to be confused with Gladstone Tan, Bennington Gray, Northampton Putty,  or any number of other tweedy-sounding paints.

The kitchen and powder room will be painted in Harp Strings, a neutral that has a little yellow and a little brown to coordinate with the kitchen’s wood trim and earthy tile backsplash and floors.

And lastly, the dining room will be painted in Summer Shower. This was the color that took the longest to decide on, as I wanted something that would coordinate with the green of the adjoining dining room. I was originally leaning toward hues with more green and gray in them, but then returned to a color that was more distinctly blue.

As paint novices, we were a little baffled by all the options you have for paint.

But the guy at the J.C. Licht store was very helpful, and we ultimately settled on the Natura line because it is no-VOC and I have enough dermatological issues without worrying about exposure to even more chemicals.

Alec is headed to Home Depot this week for primer and other supplies, and then we’ll be ready to go! It’s good to be home.

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Yesterday I talked about our Thanksgiving menu. I made pie dough for the first time tonight and am worried that the whole thing is going to fall apart when I roll it out on Thursday. We’ll see! No photos because I’m too embarrassed to show you my pie dough. I might be sending Alec out to Trader Joe’s for emergency dessert on Thanksgiving.

No matter what happens with the food, it will be served and eaten in a pretty room! You already heard about our new dining room table. Here it is again to refresh your memory:

The chairs are from World Market and I was able to snag them during their 25% off furniture sale. I wasn’t planning on getting upholstered chairs, but when I saw these on the website (and then in the store), I loved how elegant they looked. And I’m pleased to report that I indeed feel about 10% fancier sitting on these chairs than on my old Ikea chairs. Success! Of course, I will probably regret it when I spill beet juice or red wine on these chairs, but for now they are fabulous. We bought six of them, but we’ll probably just keep four around the table for everyday use, as it will look a bit crowded otherwise.

Oh, I will add that the chairs were pretty obnoxious to put together and I thought Alec was going to throw them in the garbage out of frustration. We did, however, discover a secret compartment of sorts on the bottoms of the chairs. It’s where the legs were stored when the chairs were flat-packed. I made some inappropriate joke to Alec about storing bricks of cocaine in the secret compartments. (And if you’re keeping track, that’s the second reference to illegal drugs on this blog in two days. I watch too many movies.)

The dining room rug is from Home Decorators Collection, a catalog/website I learned about from the interior decorator who helped us, and I was able to get it on a super sale, which was great because come to find out, 8′ x 10′ rugs are expensive! Stupidly, I bought the rug, which is actually 8’9″ x 11’9″, without measuring the room. And it just fit. I mean, one more inch and it would not have fit in the room. Whew! The rug has all the colors I was looking for: a light sage green, which matches the green on the walls of the adjoining living room; a light blue, which is the color we’re planning to paint the dining room; and a pale gold/yellow, which matches the sand-colored fabric of the chairs.

The final piece of furniture fell into our laps (figuratively) yesterday, when we were browsing at the Brown Elephant thrift store in our neighborhood. I had been looking for a sideboard/buffet with enough storage space for our table linens and a nice set of china that my mom recently gave us. And there it was at the Brown Elephant! The sideboard had just been donated a day earlier, so it didn’t have a price tag yet. The manager came over, gave it a once over, and said: “Fifty-five dollars for this bad boy.” Sold! And here it is, with a vase of flowers that a neighbor brought over yesterday to welcome us to the block. (I should also mention we hired her seventh-grade son to mow our lawn, and he was a total pro.)

I heart this sideboard. Originally, I was going to paint it, but I would have chosen an antique yellow/gold color and this is close enough. Plus it matches the lighter, golden blonde wood of the window trim and kitchen cabinets (the kitchen flows into the dining room). Sarah Richardson, my home design goddess, says that if you’re going to have disparate wood tones in a single room, you should have at least two pieces in each tone so that your room doesn’t look like a yard sale. I think our new dining room is up to snuff…now let’s see how it holds up for Thanksgiving dinner!


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We are hosting Thanksgiving this year for Alec’s parents, who are flying in from California for the holiday. It’s a big deal for us because it’s our first Thanksgiving in the new house, my in-laws’ first visit to the new house, Alec’s first Thanksgiving with his parents since he was 18, and the first time either of us have hosted Turkey Day.

I’m feeling the pressure, which is almost entirely self-imposed because my in-laws are actually some of the most relaxed people I know. I’m used to Thanksgivings being epic culinary extravaganzas because my parents will literally make five different kinds of meat and a bunch of both Chinese and American side dishes (steamed bok choy alongside sweet potato casserole with marshmallows, etc). And they also manage to restore the kitchen to its spotless glory within minutes of dessert being served.

At last week’s Unity Temple event, Christopher Kimball of Cook’s Illustrated said his advice for Thanksgiving was to keep it simple, just a few sides and a dessert – no need to make five different pies. I’ve decided to take his advice to heart. So here is the menu that I came up with today:

  1. Turkey, obviously. We ordered a free-range bird (free of antibiotics and hormones blah blah blah) from our regular produce service, Irv and Shelly’s Fresh Picks. I asked for the smallest available turkey and we got a 14 pounder, so we are going to be in for some serious leftovers. I have delegated turkey duties to Alec and assigned him reading from The Best New Recipe, which has detailed instructions about brining and so forth.
  2. Walnut and herb stuffing, from the Thanksgiving of Everyday Food. My family never made stuffing and I’m excited about trying it. Yeah, I know it’s just cubed bread with herbs. I like carbohydrates, okay?
  3. Shredded brussels sprouts with bacon, also from the Thanksgiving issue of Everyday Food. This recipe is a cinch with the food processor and is made on the stovetop, so it won’t have to compete with the turkey for oven space and cooking time.
  4. Alton Brown’s green bean casserole. Who doesn’t like green bean casserole? I liked this variation because it uses the cast iron skillet and doesn’t need too much oven time, plus it uses fresh mushrooms instead of canned condensed cream of mushroom soup.
  5. Banana cream pie, which is my father-in-law’s favorite kind of pie. I’m using the version from The Best New Recipe.

Preparing for Thanksgiving has made me realize I don’t know anything about roasting a turkey. We had to go to Bed Bath & Beyond for a roasting pan, baster, meat thermometer, carving knife set, carving board and a receptacle large enough for brining a 14-pound turkey. The buckets in the cleaning section were too small, so we opted for a plastic storage bin. I felt a little bit like Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad, on an errand from Walter White (Season One spoiler alert!) to find a vat big enough to dissolve a dead body. I mean, I’m not trying to equate brining a Thanksgiving turkey with disposing of the corpse of a meth dealer…OK, I’ll just stop here before I dig myself any deeper.

In happier news, the dining room has really come together and I’m really glad we got our new table in time for Thanksgiving. We also scored a great sideboard at a thrift store this weekend. Pics to come!

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Like I mentioned in a previous post, I had my heart set on a rustic dining room table from a local carpenter. I loved the style of the tables – the simple slab tops and solid legs – and the idea of supporting a craftsman from the area.

Then I bought a table online.

From Walmart.

Yup, you read that right. And here’s the table:

This is what happened. Alec and I visited the carpenter’s showroom, where he explained his basic options for tables. He offered a 60″ size that could seat six; the next size up was a 72″ table that could seat eight.

We don’t have an eat-in kitchen, so the dining room table is where both formal and everyday meals will take place. I wanted the bigger table because when you add us + our future children + my parents + my brother and sister-in-law and their daughter and any other future kid(s), that’s a pretty big group. And we do see my family pretty often because everyone is local. However, on most days, it’s just Alec and me (and sometimes a laptop, but only at breakfast because dinner is a no-gadget zone). And Alec did not want us sitting at a huge table like the couple in Citizen Kane.

The obvious compromise was to get a table in the 60″ range that could expand to 72″ for larger gatherings. I’m sure the carpenter could have built us an extendable table and leaf, but the special request would have busted our budget on the table (and we still have other rooms in the house to furnish).

When we got home, I looked everywhere online for a dining room table in the same style with a leaf: Craigslist, Amazon, Ikea, Overstock, Pottery Barn, West Elm, Room & Board, Crate & Barrel, World Market, Pier One, Target, Macy’s, JCPenney. Some tables came close, but were too expensive or expanded to a maximum size that would be too big for our dining room, etc.

And that’s when I found just what we were looking for at Walmart.com. I felt a little weird about this – have you ever been shopping at, say, Macy’s, and you see a bag or a pair of shoes that are super cute, and then you realize they are from the Jessica Simpson Collection? Don’t lie, ladies, I know this has happened to you!

The funny thing is that through all the online furniture browsing and shopping I’ve been doing, I’ve realized that pretty much everything within a certain price range (i.e. my budget) is basically manufactured from wood composites by a non-U.S. factory. A Google Shopping search revealed that my Walmart dining room table was selling for twice the price at Buy.com. This week I saw a coffee table on Joss & Main that, when I Googled the model, was also available on Amazon and Target. (Joss & Main is a division of Wayfair, a huge home furnishings e-commerce company.)

Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is that we bought a dining room table at Walmart and I’ve made my peace with it. I think.

P.S. You might notice a new rug and chairs in the photo above; I’ll write about those in a future post.

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