Tag Archives: Dining room

Salvage Server (in with the old)


By now, anyone who knows me at all knows that my tiger oak “problem” is legendary. It’s one of my favorite things on earth. Painting it should be illegal and punishable by water torture. I’m not all that sure that I’m kidding when I say that…




I noticed that someone on my “upcycle/DIY” FB group listed a tiger oak dining table (round) that opens for a leaf. It was huge, something like ’56 round! Furthermore, it damn near weighed a ton (seriously). It was way too large to be used in its current state, and I would never part with my Carrara marble kitchen table. It was too beautiful to pass up for $20. I knew I had to find a way to re-purpose it before Jeff got home from work and threatened serving me with divorce papers (again)!

After walking my house and brainstorming with my best friend, I remembered that I’ve always wanted a server/buffet in the dining room, but I don’t have one. A server too big and chunky would take up too much room, as I already have a mahogany Queen Anne set that includes a table with 2 leaves, 6 chairs, a curio, a hutch, and an antique side table.

How to turn this massive table into a server? Cut it in half at the bias, where it breaks apart for the leaf! The edge would sit along the wall under the partition, coming out in a demilune/half-moon shape.

Then came the issue of what the heck could serve as the base. Hubby and I then recalled that in the very back of our storage room was the mahogany, Queen-Anne end table that we used as a coffee table and ate off at for 4.5 years at the apartment. Not only would it match the dining room set, but it also has sentimental value. The fact that the top was all sorts of beat up didn’t matter, since we’d be securing the top to it anyway.

The issue was that the server would sit too low. A trip out to the shed turned up old pieces of pressure-treated 2 x 4. When we stacked them (piecemeal style), the height became perfect. After that came a lot of pre-drilling, broken drillbits, loud noises, very long screws, and the task of securing them to the base. The remaining movement and slight rattling was fixed with shims.

I refused to risk long screws going up into the tiger oak top, because I was unwilling to risk a screw coming through the table top. When something is 100 years old with a perfect patina, it’s never as easy as wood putty, filler, and new stain. Instead, we used liberal amounts of contact adhesive. We put the top into place on the base and weighed it down heavily overnight. It’s now nice and secure!

I love the character of old pieces and wanted to make the server look its best without messing with that. I applied a small bit of stain to chips along the edges, and then made a homemade polish with white vinegar and olive oil, massaging it into the wood. This is literally all that was needed. Here is the end-result. If you like it, we have an extra base and the other half of the table if you’d like to make one. I’ll unload the supplies cheap, just let me know!Image






Here are some photos of the dining room, so you can see the lay of the land:





I LOVE this project. It was fast and easy with two people and it was a fun way to re-purpose an antique. I love it, and it will get plenty of us during dinners and parties. Not bad for $20!


Dining Room Decor


Today I want to switch gears a little, from renovations to decor. I want to focus in on the dining room! Maybe you’ve got a formal dining room, perhaps you’ve got just an eat-in-kitchen. Either way, I hope you glean some ideas from this entry that will help you set it up with style.

Let me first say that I didn’t really want the “typical” dining room that is used once or twice a year. I wanted the room to be a showpiece, but one that could be used at any time, one that felt inviting and did not put out the “Do not touch anything in this fancy room” vibe. I certainly enjoy using my china for tea services and even for just my morning coffee. I’m continually saying “Life is short, use the china!” to the amusement of family and friends.

It would be easier to begin by showing you the dining room as it was when we toured our house so you know what we were working with:



A 90’s-fab chandelier, decor not to our taste, carpet. AGAIN, though, great “bones”!

If you look back a few entries, you will see that we refinished our home’s original hardwood floors, so I had that to work with when decorating.

The most important thing when setting up a formal dining room is absolutely selecting the furniture, which comes in just about every color, every wood type, every style, every budget. If you do not have a family set, your options are to buy new or buy used. You can go for any kind of look you want…modern, traditional, antique, whimsical. I’m a girl who knows what she wants, so I have always wanted a mahogany set in the formal Queen Anne style. My parents have a stunning cherry Thomasville dining room suite that is Queen Anne style, and I have admired it since the day they got it.

As you can guess, my choice does not come cheap…in fact, it’s one of the most expensive types on the market. I don’t do particleboard and every wood surface in my home is solid. I did not want to plunk $5,000-$10,000 down for a brand new set. My favorite solution? Buy used!

I scoured Craigslist (more on that at a later date), and a family in a wealthy neighborhood was moving. I found my dream set there, for the bargain price of $1,000, which included the table with 2 leaves, 6 chairs (2 captain’s chairs, 4 armchairs), a hutch, and a curio. The maker is Bassett, which is quality. Definitely see if you can find a maker’s mark if you are buying used.

Next step? Getting rid of that awful chandelier! We found exactly what we were looking for at Lowe’s. For fixtures, we gravitate to oil-rubbed bronze, but the bottom line is to buy what you love. $100 bought us our nice, new one.

If you’ve got a hardwood floor, you should absolutely buy an area rug for under your table. It adds style and protects the flooring. I do not like room-size rugs, but that is a personal preference. I like to see my hardwood. I chose just a 5 x 7 area rug to go under the table. My dining room is open to my formal living room, so I used the same rug in that room to, to create the flow and feel of a unified space. The rugs were a reasonable $75 each.

Once you have a light fixture, rug (if needed) and furniture picked out, it’s time to accessorize (the most fun part).

I like formal, but I do not like stuffy!!! I wanted to add some whimsical elements to the room. I am a big fan of the tablescape. Settting up a great table gives your room polish and personality. You can change them with the seasons, which I often enjoy doing. I prefer a runner to a tablecloth, and found exactly what I was looking for in Lenox’s “chirp” pattern:


It had the perfect amount of whimsy, the russet colors to tie in my seat cushions with the rug, birds (which I wanted), and the fun element of nature. I planned the rest of the table decor around it. I got it on sale for $25.

I knew I wanted to set 4 plates out, so I found great bronze wicker chargers and blue plates with a leaf design at Macy’s. They look great together, the blue “pops” and ties into the blue accents on the rug and in the runner. I paid $40 for all 4 chargers and all 4 plates, which was a great deal.

As for accents, I found a GREAT collection that Rachel Bilson (an adorable actress that I love) designed for Macy’s that is peacock-themed. The name of her awesome line is Edie Rose. I bought her peacock box, napkin holder, potholders, and kitchen towels. She also has a salt-and-pepper shaker set that looks like 2 robin’s eggs in a white nest. Each piece was on sale at Macy’s when I bought them. Here are some photos of this collection:ImageImageImage


I already owned a bronze set of bird tealight holders from a store called Ten Thousand Villages, which went perfectly with everything else.

Now, it was time to select a centerpiece. Giving your dining table a great centerpiece is going to top off the room. It serves as an accent and pulls everything together. I found a fabulous bright silver candelabra at my local thrift store for $4. It was love at first sight! I knew I wanted to put in taper candles that were a unique color. I lucked out at Homegoods when I found a pack of 6 blue tapers that perfectly matched my plates! The candles cost me just $5.99. The combination of the silver with the blue is stunning, interesting, and different. I get so many compliments on my table setup.

No Italian girl’s dining room is complete without a wine-rack! I like my wine, and I wanted something really special. My favorite thrift store had a tall solid wood wine rack carved like a piano down the sides. It holds 16 bottles and has a top rack for goblets. It was so special that I had to have it! It was priced at $65, but I used up $25 of credit that I had there and used a $20 discount card. So I paid just $32 for it. It’s a fun touch of whimsy in the room!


That corner of the room needed a tie-in with my table, so I found a mercury glass lidded tumbler from Pottery Barn that looks great on top (which you will see in the full photos of the room). The mercury glass matched up with my silver candelabra perfectly.

I kept wall decor kind of simple, with a beautiful, colorful Leonid Afremov painting on the big wall with a set of mosaic leaf sconces framing the hutch. The sconces are from Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and I love them so much that I bought 3 sets for my house. $8 per set after a coupon!

For china, I have a set of gorgeous Limoges china from France. The pattern is lovely, with a blue and gold design. My aunt gave it to my mother, who gave it to me. I still need to have it insured. My mother has our family china made in the 1890’s in Czechoslovakia. I put my many little mementos in my curio cabinet, and I love how complete having china and treasures makes a dining room feel. Shoutout to my sister’s china too…she’s got 2 Lenox collections. She has the holly motif holiday set that I adore, and a classy, modern white set for everyday.

One exceptionally fun element I found are the trellis brackets I got from Anthropologie to frame where the dining room is open to the formal living room. They are normally $50 a pair, but I got these on clearance for $15. I love the bronze color and the twig motif. They’re perfect!


Oh, and that quote decal was $1 at my local Dollar Tree!

Now for some photos of my finished dining room:


It all came together nicely, and all on a budget!

The art of compromise (NOT to be confused with “settling”)


First, let me explain something about the home buying and house hunting process…

Unless you are one of the very lucky buyers with the budget to build a dream home or buy a 3-4,000 square foot McMansion, you will have to prioritize and compromise. Even buying a huge home, you will still find small things to compromise on. When you are working within a modest budget, there WILL be things that you do without or have to give up. It’s the law of life when it comes to real estate.

Jeff and I rented for 4.5 years. We did not want a starter home. I am not the person to buy a home and go through that process to sell it again in a few years. It’s not our thing. We waited to buy a home we could stay in.

What did “A home we can stay in” mean, exactly? It meant a desirable town and school system, a great layout, and enough space for each child to have their own room, as well as “hangout” space. It had to be able to sustain up to 2 kids comfortably. It had to be close to our family, and I sure as hell wasn’t moving out of Jersey.

2 items on our original “must haves” list were an attached garage and 2 full baths.

And guess what? We are 0 for 2 with this house. And it’s just fine.

We have a large, newer, and fabulous shed, an attic that is easy to access, and an indoor storage room the size of a sizable bedroom. So the original 1960’s sized 1-car garage was closed up and finished to extend the den to 25 feet. Due to that, the den now includes a fabulous fireplace. Guess which room we hang out in the most? That one! We like having the living space.

So how to tweak the house in the future? We’d like to add cement and extend the driveway on a curve up the side of the house for more parking/car workspace, and possibly add a carport. We are a corner lot and have lots of space in the front to work with.

By the time you get your car in these older 1-car garages, you don’t really have room to get around anyway.

The bathroom situation is different. We’ve got 1.5, and they are small. My sister’s 1963 split has a large main bathroom, which is nice. But we do not have large bathrooms.

And hey…it’s fine. We’ve got 2 toilets in the house at least. And when we have kids who start growing up, we can find space in the house to create another. We could do something with giving up 1 of 2 master closets and convert by borrowing some space into the room, which is a good size. OR, we (like many families throughout history) make do. Kids shower at night and the parents in the morning, or vice versa. Whatever.

This is not about “settling” for less. It’s about prioritizing.

Also, when both my husband and I are both salaried teachers, this home will account for a measly 20% of our income! This means we can renovate as we’d like, buy a new car, save for retirement, take vacations, and enjoy the good life. We will never be slaves to our home.

We live in an amazing small NJ town with extremely desirable schools. Before the bubble burst, our home would have cost 250k. We got it for 195k, but 5k of that was closing fees that were rolled in. So the home itself cost 190k. Reminder that this is NJ! Also, I’ll note that when we bought a few months ago, we locked in a 3.25 interest rate!!!

So the cons:

*No attached garage.

*1.5 rather 2 full baths, and no bath in the master (which, though desirable, is not a neccessity. This was not done in the 60’s).

Now for the pros:

*Nice-sized kitchen that has an eat-in area.

*Neighborhood playground around the corner.

*Beautiful formal dining room that is open to the formal living room.

*Half bath downstairs where the entertainment space is located (nobody needs to go upstairs to use one).

*Large den.

*Beautiful fireplace of white brick and silestone. It’s gas but can be converted back to wood-burning if we ever wanted that.

*Plenty of possible play space for kids

*2,000 square feet, a rarity in this area on our budget

*A large indoor storage room.

*An amount of closet space that is almost shocking for this time period. The closets are big and they are deep!

*3 larger bedrooms. This home model came in a 4 bedroom model, which our good friends across the street have. Which means that our 18 foot master would be sliced in half! We love that we have 3 big bedrooms and that our children will never be cramped (they will appreciate their closets, too)

*An attic that is actually accessible!

*Hardwood floors throughout (nice, original oak).

*Heat and AC that are 2 years old.

*Newer hot water heater.

*Newer siding and roof, about 5 or so years old.

All life is a compromise. The important thing was that we missed only 2 items on our dream list!

Don’t be a financial moron….BUY WHAT YOU CAN AFFORD! Do not overextend. We bought based on what we bring in now knowing that our income will shoot up within a couple years. You do not buy based on the future, because the future can not pay the bills now! Live below your means, and trust me…when you can afford your home, you love it more.

So don’t be afraid to make concessions 😉

*Quality, expensive shed in the back.

*New white PVC privacy fence

*Great laundry room/mud room.

The dreaded “BEFORE” photos!


I thought I would show you the “lovely” photos of the house from the original listing and from when inspection was done. A lot of it is…let’s just say, NOT ideal. The house was immaculate and clean enough to eat off the floors, but the decor was completely not our taste. The house had great “bones” and a world of potential. You must be able to look past paint color, carpet, and decor!

This was the bathroom…the very beachy, very busy, very dated main bathroom:


The half-bath downstairs:


The den:


The entryway-foyer:


The formal living room:


The dining room:


The kitchen. Hang on to your hat, because it’s about to get YELLOW:



Upstairs hallway:


The staircase:


The master bedroom:


The current guest room:


The current office:


The laundry/utility room:


And these beautiful machines!!! I hugged them when we moved in. The very kind sellers threw them into the deal when we accepted their counteroffer.


The storage room, or what we call the “indoor garage” You will notice wood paneling and green astroturf carpet! We actually don’t care, because all this room is for is storage. Maybe I’ll freshen it up eventually, time will tell:



The backyard:


Side yard:


So, that is what we had to work with. It’s come so far in just a short time and is a continual work-in-progress. I can’t wait to show you the many changes we have made, will make, and the new projects we undertake in time.