Decorating 101 – Breaking Down This Formal Dining Room

The secret to being an interior designer isn’t a secret at all: it requires technical knowledge, project management skills, an artistic and creative eye, superb people skills, hard work, and the magic ingredient: an innate intuition of how it’s all going to fit together.

When you look at a room designed by a professional designer or decorator, you just know that it was done the right way. Everything seems to work in harmony: the scale of the furniture and accessories, the layered color tones, and just the way it all “feels.”

We took this beautiful dining room we designed and decided to go “Behind the Room” and break it down for you to show you how all the magic works.

We started with the gorgeous leopard print fabric and designed the room around it. To keep costs down, we only used this pricey fabric on the head chairs and did complementary fabrics on the side chairs. Those gates were to keep the owner’s Yorkies out of the dining room!


We went with neutrals in this pretty dining room. The floor was a polished blond wood tone, and we wanted to reflect that in the rest of our color choices. We selected a cognac faux finish for the walls and a silver leaf for the crown moulding. The dark rug adds drama, while the lighter border give a nice transition from the wood to the rug. All of the fabric choices were complementary shades of champagne.


In my opinion, scale is one of those things that is just instinctual. It can’t be taught – you just need to feel it and know it. There are certain “rules” for decorating that have to do with furniture placement: there should be at least 3′ to walk through between furniture pieces; there should be a certain amount of inches of area rug behind a chair so you don’t fall off the rug when getting up; etc. However when it comes to choosing chandelier size and things of that nature, I just know when it’s right.


This was a very glamorous room, so I wanted to do glamorous window treatments. They’re not too fussy or over-the-top, but are formal enough to fit the room. We did champagne-colored satin panels topped with decorative swags and a little bit of trim. They’re dressy, but not gaudy.


Some people think that all furniture has to match – not only is this untrue, it’s bad decorating! I never match the dining table, sideboard, and chairs to each other. I prefer an eclectic mix of pieces that work well together but don’t look like they came off a factory line together.

I like a skirted chair in a formal dining room. It just feels a little bit warmer, and you don’t see ten million chair legs. The skirted silhouette was formal enough, and I didn’t feel the need to add too many embellishments or trims onto it.

It’s always nice to switch up the head chairs, so I did an armchair in a traditional silhouette, upholstered in a fun leopard print. This is a transitional space, so I didn’t want to do a very heavy carved wooden chair. I like that this chair is light not too overbearing.

Since this room wasn’t enormous, I decided on a glass table top. The glass is  more contemporary, and prevents the room from being too heavy.

For the buffet, I picked an interesting piece in a silver glaze that complemented, but didn’t MATCH, the rest of the furniture and finishes.


This room has a very unique ceiling detail. The recessed ceiling allowed us to do a larger chandelier. We used a high-gloss ceiling finish to reflect the light in the room and make it really glow.


To make the space appear larger, we did a full-length mirror on one side of the room. This makes the room appear larger and more expansive, and also adds to the Hollywood Regency vibe.


Each room should have a finishing touch. For this room, it’s the unique decorative gates going into the dining room. They set the room apart – and keep the client’s Yorkies off the beautiful furniture!


If you’d like us to create a room like this for you, give us a call or email today for a complimentary consultation!

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