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Here’s a good example of how to use white paint in a classic dining room without it looking too stark or modern!

The classic look of this dining room comes from the design of the dining room furniture (especially that Greek klismos-inspired chair) and some pretty strict symmetry (the Greeks and Romans loved their symmetry…  everything on one side of the room mirrored on the other side). Notice the very definite center reinforced with the artwork and wall sonces centered on either side of the chandelier.

But the room gets a few updates that make it feel fresh and contemporary.

First, all that white paint is pure modern! But notice how carefully it’s used. The symmetry is reinforced with the center panel painted white to highlight the centered artwork. But the cafe au lait color (Benjamin Moore #1077) above the white dado warms up the room (the colors were picked up from the rug).

The furniture finish is also darker than most classic furniture (nearly black), giving it a more contemporary feel.

The only thing I’d have changed are the light fixtures. I like the centered chandelier with the wall sconces on either side, but I’d have looked for something simpler – an alabaster glass lamp (with coordinating wall sconces) would have been more classic and more contemporary (like the room), rather than the shaded lamps.  Here are two possible alternates that I like for this room.

On the left, this classic chandelier coordinates with the furniture, but adds a more classic feeling with the alabaster glass lamps. Source: LampsPlus, Valmont Collection. $299.99.  #67177.
On the right, definitely more modern! But the black furniture, contemporary artwork and white walls could handle it. Source: Lamps Plus, Possini Euro. $399.99.
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Dining Room with white wainscotHere’s a simple way to expand the look of your dining room without losing the cozy ambiance that deeper colors offer.

By surrounding this dining room with a band of white (or off-white) on the lower wall, the room looks bigger than it would have if whole wall would have been painted dark. White paint colors look expansive because they reflect light; the same reason we look a little expansive when wearing white clothes!

If dividing a wall into two portions, experts usually recommend putting the light area on top – partly because dirt and scuffs occur on the lower portion and are easier to hide with dark colors, partly because  it mimics the natural world (the ground is darker and the air above it lighter).

BUT in the case of a small room, the reverse can be effective. Notice how the 2 areas that add light to the room (the ceiling because it reflects light down and the upper wall because it’s most visible) are kept dark and enclosing. But the 2 areas that create the room’s perceived size (the lower wall because it connects to the floor space, the window because it opens views to the outdoors), are kept light and spacious.  

The wainscotting and the ceiling molding also create horizontal lines that add to the spacious look. By moving the eye right and left, rather than up and down, the room looks wider and longer.

Another side benefit of a light-colored low wall area? The details of the chairs are easier to appreciate against a light rather than dark wall.

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205_sunroom_4_24It could be raining outside and inside this dining room you wouldn’t know! The yellow walls guarantee full-time sunshine. (The other nice thing about a butter-colored room is that it looks warm and kind of golden at night too). 

The upholstered armchairs are warmer than all matching wood chairs, and the woven blinds behind the drapery add a nice touch. I also like that the mirror is so tall – keeps the warm light reflecting in all directions.

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