From Dining Room To Living Room…Again

I’ve kept this under wraps for a while now, but when I was coming up with my new decorating plan for the main areas of the house, one of the first decisions I made was to turn the front room, which I’ve been trying and failing to turn into a formal dining room, back into a living room.

While I realized that my first attempt at a living room wasn’t “me” at all…

…and ended up way too dark and not nearly colorful enough for me (plus, that was before the new windows, before the polystyrene ceiling tiles were removed, before the new drywall, before the new recessed lighting, and before I made the cased opening from the front room to the kitchen, all of which lent to the drab feeling in this pre-remodel room), I also realized that my attempt to totally change the function of the room altogether was completely misguided.

dining table remake - from trestle table to farmhouse table - 18

And it doesn’t matter how many times or how many colors I paint that table (or any other table), or if I change the style of the chairs twelve different times. I just don’t think I’d ever truly be pleased with any result if I’m using this front room as a dining room.

My decision to use that room as a dining room in the first place was because I wanted room to have big family dinners, and this would give us plenty of room for a table that could extend well beyond 12 people if needed since we could easily overflow into the “entryway” area (which is part of the front room since it’s all one big, open room).

But I’ve just decided that I’d rather not design my house around the possibility of occasional gatherings. I’d rather design my house for everyday use, and then make do when need be for the occasional gathering, even if that means shifting around living room furniture to make room for a temporary dining table setup in the front room.

To be honest, I really don’t see that ever being necessary anyway now that my breakfast room is actually in progress and I can see the layout in person.


While it’s not a huge room, I’ll bet it’s every bit as big as “formal” dining rooms in some older houses. It’s 12 feet wide, and from the front windows to the pantry door, it’s just over 14 feet. With the right table that extends up to 10 feet, that’s room enough to seat 12 people quite comfortably, and since I’ll be using a round table that extends into a large oval, we could probably even squeeze in a couple more seats if necessary.

So it was with this new function in mind — this room being something in between a daily use breakfast room and an occasional dining room — that I chose the grasscloth wallpaper to kind of take things up a notch in there. But I still plan on having a t.v. on the wall in this room, because I’m just going to design and decorate around how we live (and want to live) in this house, rather than be beholden to any preconceived “rules” for designing and decorating a dining room.

And that brings me back to the front room — now the living room again. 🙂 I have a blank canvas to work with.

dining room picture frame moulding and trim progress - 20

dining room picture frame moulding and trim progress - 15

I’ll be moving the chandelier and replacing with with something else a little softer and more appropriate for a seating area, so it literally is a blank canvas. And when deciding how to decorate this space, rather than search Houzz and Pinterest for new ideas, I actually went right here, to my own blog, and searched through the archives.

I’ve had so many ideas over the last two years that I’ve scrapped for various reasons (or for no reason at all except that I thought there was possibly something better around the corner). It was very eye opening re-discovering some of those things that I really loved, and then tossed aside and forgot about.

I won’t divulge my entire plan just yet. And since I haven’t actually sourced and priced anything yet, the plan may actually change, but the overall look and color palette of what I’m planning won’t change. But I’ll just say this. First of all, I love woven shades on windows. Always have, and always will. They’re my absolute favorite because they lend so much warmth to a room. Why I ever convinced myself that I needed to use something other than what I absolutely love is beyond me.


Obviously, the whole original window treatment combo didn’t work out, and the wall color definitely added to the overall dark and dreary feel of the room, but I threw the baby out with the bathwater when I decided to go a different direction altogether from woven shades.

And second, remember my love of velvet sofas?

green-velvet-sofa-from-anthropologievia Anthropologie

Yeah. I still really love them. 🙂

The funny (and slightly frustrating) thing about this decision is that when I told Matt about my plans, his response was, “OH MY GOSH, I’M SOOO glad you’re doing that! I’ve NEVER liked the idea of that room being a dining room! I like the idea of it being a living room SO much better!”

Ugh. Why didn’t he tell me that a year ago? He could have saved me from myself, and spared me an entire year of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. That’s the downside of having a husband who only ever wants me to be happy, and whose response to my decorating and design questions when I ask, “What do you think about this?” is always, “Well, if that’s what you want, then go for it!”

Oh well. It’s been a learning experience. 🙂



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  1. So glad you have decided to decorate for yourself and how you live.
    I often thought that perhaps there were too many influences and thats why nothing worked.
    You have aweome taste and style. Stick with it.
    Looking forward to the journey.

    1. I think you were trying to make due with what you had. The breakfast room wasn’t ready to use so you were redoing the front room. Yes . You live there so do it for living there. If you don’t have enough seating for a dinner, go Buffett style. Have foldable chairs for guest. You can do fancy covers on them so you don’t have a bunch of chairs eating up your storage. You can put a DVD on your TV of a fire during dinners. People can move to the LR after dinner for conversations and not be stuck at the table. Maybe. Rethink of doing the sun room as a sunroom instead of a family room. May save you some money. With your Texas weather you can use it nearly year round. Now you have obticals gone you can do it your way. Did you ever sell any of the stuff you knew you weren’t going to use? I think your list just grew. Waiting to see where you go.

  2. It really feels like you are rolling into forward motion. Who knows, maybe the delays and off track direction was really important for some reason. You are certainly clarifying in your own mind what you and Matt want. That’s a good thing!

  3. Oh Kristi, I love everything you do. For years, we had a formal dining room that we used twice a year – Thanksgiving and Christmas. We hardly ever used the formal living room. Now we have a 3 bedroom house with one bedroom opening off the kitchen. We have two of the bedrooms set up as bedrooms and the third (and largest) is an empty room that we use for whatever we need. If we have a bunco party, a table goes in there, if all my kids come to visit, we put blow up beds in there. If we have overflow, we rent a hotel room. Oh – for Thanksgiving, we are setting tables on the porch – love the Texas Weather. (if it gets cold, we’ll put a table in the “empty” room.

  4. I love the changes! I was always kind of curious as to why you would plan an entire room around the occasional large dinner. But, family and friends are important, so I kept my mouth shut, because I didn’t want to detract from that. Keep up the good work!

    1. Me too…didn’t want to cause a ruckus and get kicked off the ride. When I watch house hunting shows and these kids want “room to entertain” I think they are nuts for
      buying a home for friends

  5. I can’t help but ask–have you already disposed of your window treatments you made for your front room (or will they return?)? I’d still love to take those off your hands for you if not! And btw, love those velvet sofas!

  6. I think there are way too many options these days and all it does is confuse people. Also, because this is your forever home you wanted it perfect so kept looking for the next best thing, I think. Glad you are going back to what you love and how you use it.

  7. Well Kristi, you certainly have us on tender hooks, waiting to see your decisions and reveals…….it’s very exciting! Can’t wait to see what you come up with and I know it’s going to look absolutely fabulous! Also excited to see your hallway reveal with new drywall etc……..I can imagine you’re doing a happy dance, with all this vision and work coming together now!

  8. I, too, love velvet sofas! While I see alot if navy in stores, I love that picture of the green sofa. For myself, it would be teal! Now if my old sofa would just fall apart…lol
    Oh, by the way, in this year’s Southern Living Christmas issue, they feature designer Dana Wolter who has a huge banquette in her dining area that is 16 feet long, right next to her living room so it’s optimal seating for visitors. Might be an option instead of a formal table and chairs and still accessible for Matt.

  9. Boy, you sure know how to keep me coming back to read about your latest revelation. I’m a lot like you…I constantly change things. My husband & daughter think I’m nuts. But I have to live with something for awhile before I realize if it works or not. That could be anything to a fabric choice to a paint color to a new piece of furniture or accessory.

  10. Kristi,
    You’re a breath of fresh air! You are not afraid to try something new/different and then discard and start over when you realize it’s not “you”! If we could all be so brave!

    Deep down I believe each of us knows how/what we want our homes to look and feel like. Though too many times we are pushed into a decorating look because it’s the hot in thing to do.

    It took a long time for me to realize that I can mix and match family pieces of furniture with new modern pieces. And I don’t need something on every single wall, tabletop, or counter. Empty spaces are a good thing :). Oh, and, I won’t have a formal dining room in my next house.

    Keep inspiring us!

  11. I guess there’s something to be said for a husband who has to put in his two cents! Mine, while annoying at times, always has an opinion, and it’s usually different than mine. Sometimes I listen, and take a step back to really think it through. And sometimes I compromise to make it what we both want.
    As for dining rooms, I’ve never had a formal one, and never understood why anyone would want one, really. Seldom used, usually too small for anything but a small dinner party, and often not located close enough to the kitchen to make sense. I always imagine carrying a large platter full of hot food thru a 2-1/2 or 3 ft. doorway without dumping it or burning myself!
    While we have an open floor plan house, which sometimes is not great, I love the fact that we can have a lot of space for large gatherings. It’s very flexible, and no one is confined away from the action. I can enlarge the living space or shrink it to accommodate a bigger dining area, and as the cook, I’m never cut off from the conversations. I’m a clean as you go kind of cook,and a prep ahead cook, so the kitchen isn’t a total disaster during dinners. Works for us!
    Love that you are looking back at what you are drawn to, instead of being influenced by “trends”. And velvet sofas – I swoon!
    Looking forward to what you do next!

    1. Because dining rooms can be beautiful. And they say, “come in, sit at this bountiful table- you’re special and you deserve the special forks and the special plates and the special chairs”. And because I very much dislike seeing the dirty dishes when I have people over for dinner. And on the rare occasions when just the hubby and I eat by candlelight, it’s in the dining room.
      Having said all that, I think Kristi going back to the original plan of the house is completely right for her house and her life. And velvet sofas may be the most comfy thing ever. ;0)

  12. THIS is the post I have been waiting for! Since the first unsuccessful table attempt, I really felt you’d come back around to having the living room in that space. It just didn’t work. But that’s okay! Designated formal rooms are really wasted space in my opinion, and most of us need workable rooms that suit our every day needs. I decided a long time ago that I would not design my home around the idea that people might come over twice a year.
    A TV in the breakfast room? Do it! You will love it! Do what suits the needs of your family and don’t worry so much about what’s in, what’s out, and what’s unique in blogland.

    1. I know you don’t really care if the TV is hidden since it’d only probably get hidden when you’re entertaining, but when you mentioned it, it occurred to me that the TV might be a fun opportunity for a DIY challenge. Like maybe you could build it into some casing or cabinet that closes and displays a piece of artwork when closed.

      Totally unnecessary, but might be a fun project.

  13. Kristi,
    I know people tell you this all the time, but I am so glad you are making decisions for you and how you and Matt live, not because it will please others.
    We have hosted Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve for several years. And we’d live with a huge table taking up a small dining room because we’d use to twice a year. It just isn’t the way we live everyday and we decided to live in our homed work around the occasional events. I always think the same things when watching HGTV and the buyer wants a huge formal dining room or something vey specific for al the “entertaining” thy plan to do, yet have never had so much as a dinner party. We are definitely more of pot-luck barbecues in the summer folks!
    Go Kristi!

  14. That green tufted sofa is so YOU. Like splurge item, you. 🙂

    FWIW, I like the idea of the front being a flexible room and I can tell you from experience that it works pretty well. We host a lot of family holiday dinners (Thanksgiving being the biggest) and our dining room/kitchen set-up is kind of small and would never fit a large table for 12-16 people. So we have always just moved the couches aside to the walls in the large living room and placed two 6-foot folding tables down the center.

    It has the added advantage of keeping people out of my kitchen (mostly) while I’m trying to finish-up dinner. It’s also nice that once dinner is done, if people want to plop-down on a couch and rest, they can do that, also. And I can use the regular dining table as a dessert/coffee/drinks buffet and a landing place for potluck dishes as they arrive (again, to keep them off the kitchen counters while I’m trying to finish dinner).

  15. I think you and Matt will be happy with this room as a living room. The windows are so beautiful and your view of your yard is very nice so it’ll be a great room to relax in. As for family dinners, you will have a nice big sunroom someday that would serve as a nice place to have the whole family gathered around a large table.

    We have an eating area at one end of our kitchen but no formal dining room. I have NOT missed it one bit as I felt in our old home that it was a wasted space 363 out of 365 days of the year. When we host a family gathering, we move furniture out of our family room and set up tables. Dining and fellowship together are the main points, not the space.

    So excited to see what you decide to do.

  16. Wonderful!! I am a true believer in if it is done for you than you will truly love it more! I love the re-come into you moment and the ideas that you put away may have been you all along. I cannot wait to see what comes of it all!!

  17. Kristi, reading your blog always puts a smile on my face!!! It’s what I do with morning coffee on my patio w/ my 4 cat. AND it gives me inspiration to get off my butt and finish my condo. Guess we are never really finished….. Thanks for sharing with us .

  18. I am just enjoying the ride! I like the living room, dining room equally. I loved the kitchen and I am excited to see it in blue and white. I am drooling over your Pantry and I am glad Matt has given you input. I hope he enjoys just sitting In the breakfast room smelling the cooking or relaxing in the living room in the evenings…. WAIT WILL YOU ACTUALLY RELAX???? LOL

  19. Sometimes the “great idea” just doesn’t work out. Glad you’ve moved on from trying to make the LR into a DR. Some of my long-dead relatives had formal dining rooms, and, now that I really think about it, none of them had another eat-in space. Their dining room was where they ate every meal. So-called “formal spaces” just aren’t the way most of us live now.
    One of my favorite aprons was emblazoned “It’s kind of a dump but, everyone is welcome here”.

  20. Just a thought. I cant recall, and not certain if you mentioned exactly how the Breakfast room side of the peninsula would be finished out, but pending your size of TV you could “build it in” to the peninsula. It would be hidden so to speak, unless you sit down to actually view it. If you prefer TV’s at a higher height then that obviously wouldnt work. Im one of those “Id rather not hold my head way up to see the TV” kinda gals, so thought it would be worth mentioning in case it could work in your situation. Yet again, that doesnt allow for viewing from the kitchen, so that could pose a issue as well if that were a goal. Im sure what you decide will be fabulous!

  21. I’ve been batting around getting rid of our never-used formal living room, making that the dining room, and then combining the existing small kitchen and small dining room into 1 large kitchen space that opens into a family room at the back of my house. Searching for ideas like that is what brought me to your inspiring blog, as a matter of fact! I’m still on the fence about doing this in my home and your post doesn’t help (LOL!). I agree with what others have said, though… do what works for you!

  22. I love everything you are doing but must admit I kept thinking where will you sit when people come over and why two big eating areas. But I knew you would pull it off in style. Are you going to keep your beautiful entry wall? You must be blessed with endless energy! On a very much smaller scale, I am reupholstering cushions on a chair in our living room for the third time in 18 months…sure hope this is the last for a while. Keep working and we will keep enjoying. By the way, did you show pictures of your niece’s room, I missed it.

  23. Like Matt, I am also happy that you’re turning that room back into a living room. You’re breakfast/dining room is perfect for just the two of you or for your family. So glad you’re going back to the basics. And now, that beautiful fireplace will show up and not be hidden by a table. And since that sunroom is off in the future, you can still have a fully functioning house. I had worried about where all those people who came to eat would be sitting without a living room. LOL. I’m loving your journey. And when I was growing up, we all called the living room the front room. So did all our neighbors. In France, they still call it the front room.

  24. Kristi,
    I have been reading your blog since your painting of the dining table. Yours is of the only blogs I still follow. You make it your own (no cookie cutter country farm/all white /everything perfect) house. I always thought that room would a perfect living room…I am sure you will make it bright yet warm and cosy at the same time. 🙂 I feel sad though for all the sewing and upholstery time you put into that dining room. I personally love the British magazines: IDEAL Home . House Beautiful U.K. Not that they have helped sort out my house. I think I will start a “mood board” scrap book. I prefer to turn pages ,so I will be hunting up all my folders and bits from all over the house. Hmmm Michael’s for an album I think. Anyway I love everything you have done and admire you for it. All of your work wows me. I look forward to all your posts. If possible could you recommend a few home/diy blogs. trying to wait patiently for your kitchen cupboard work and reveal…okay all of it!

    Kind Regards

    Kind Regards

  25. Kristi – So glad to see you following your soul. You will never go wrong that way and will now be able to create and enjoy the environment you and Matt will be comfortable in every day. So much of the decorating is form over function, which mostly never seems to work or make sense. Follow your soul and the colors and functionality of your home will work perfectly for you. Glad to see you going in this direction and not following trends, etc. It’s your home. Make it YOUR own! Can’t wait to see it all done in the colors you love. You continue to be an inspiration and wealth of information for those of us who follow on a daily basis. Thank you!

  26. Go for it, curious to see what the sunroom will be. Honestly, I’ve enjoyed buffets more as a guest, than formal meals. But…my holdays are spent in decked out garages with 40+ family. Other big meals are at a friend’s after raising/fixing some sort of barn type project for another. We’ll still have a big table, because we play games with friends.

  27. I’m curious about the music room. It is a beautiful room but what is the function? Are there going to be chairs for listening to the piano? Is it a hall of sorts?

    1. Yes, there will be a couple of chairs in there along with the piano. The deal with that room is that the builders meant for that room to be the dining room. But I couldn’t put a dining table and chairs in the middle of that room because it would make it impossible for Matt to maneuver through there in his wheelchair. And having an off-center table wasn’t an option for my symmetry-loving self. So whatever that room became, I needed to keep the middle clear since it’s basically the main path from the bedroom to any of the main parts of the house.

  28. Great decision! And now you have two kitchen entrances so you could put a table in the music room if need be without blocking Matt. I thought the living room would be an awesome dining room but somehow it never seemed to work. Think the new plan rocks! And, love going back to the woven blinds. This is all so wow! I have to tell you though, you are exhausting-I don’t know how you put up with yourself, you tire me out! I don’t care how bad I wanted to change my color scheme, I could never repaint my kitchen cabinets after 2 yrs. It’ll be great though.

  29. Love this!

    Especially since your family room is a ways down the road. I think you’ll be a lot happier having a living AND dining area in the mean time instead of having two eating spaces. You could always go back in the other direction if you decide someday it works better for your family – there’s a reason we don’t permanently adhere our furniture to the floor : )

  30. I totally agree that a home should be designed for how you live on an average day, not for events that will only happen a few times a year. In fact my formal dining room is used for sewing and homework on most days. I only empty it out for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

    Do you now regret cutting a hole in the wall between the kitchen and this room?

    1. No, I don’t regret in the least. The amount of light that pours into the the kitchen from the front windows is wonderful, and I love being able to see out the front windows while standing in the kitchen. It makes my house feel bigger and more spacious, whereas before the opening, my kitchen felt like a cramped little box.

  31. I’m for the change….dining room back to living room!
    It’s so pretty and I know you will make it comfy cozy to fit you and Matts life style.
    Can’t wait to see what colors and such you will go with,oh what am I saying,I know what colors you will lean towards,LOL!
    Anxiously awaiting another great idea!

  32. Matt sounds so much like my husband. He tells me that he’s trying to be supportive, but I just want him to be honest when I ask for his opinion. LOL

  33. I was just wondering whether you had any advice with velvet and cats? I also love velvet furniture but after discovering my cat seems to really love destroying my beloved velvet armchair I have resigned myself to not purchasing any other velvet items. We have several scratching posts but he still seems to make a beeline for the velvet…

  34. i admire you. i admire you. i admire you! you are so brave. and i love how open-minded you are, even to yourself! ha! cannot wait to see you lounging on a velvet sofa. now i want one, too!

  35. For years I have wanted to forego my formal dining room. What a waste for the way my husband and I live. Family gatherings are at my brother’s house now, and he’s the one with kids and grandkids, and the rest of my family are all around his house. I’m two hours away! I truly believe one eating area is all we need, and in my NEXT HOUSE (I hope) I want one large kitchen, eating area, like in my LAST HOUSE!

  36. I love your blog SO much, because it seems like we are on the same wave length on many things, your designs are beautiful (and I shamelessly steal many of them), etc. But easily half of my favorite part of your blog is the unexpected cats in the pictures. My husband and I have a calico and a tortie, and most of the pictures we try to take include one cat or the other just hanging out in the middle of the shot.

  37. I am so glad you are putting your living room where you had the dining room! It just feels right! And the flow will be better! Looking forward to the new space!!! Go, Kristi, go!!!

  38. Love love love your site. Trying to work on family beach house on a super tight budget. It’s 40 yrs old and not much has been done to it in that time.
    I too love woven window shades but find them kind of pricey. Any suggestions on how to get the best price for woven shades?
    Thank you in advance for your help and inspiration

    1. My absolute favorite woven shades ever were from Home Depot, and they kept them in stock. I loved them because the color was gorgeous, and because they were actually privacy shades, where most woven shades let so much light through that you can see through them at night if a light is on in a room. But I’ve learned that they no longer carry them in stock. So I’m also searching for a new source. I’ll definitely share on the blog what I find.