If you’ve been following along with my home renovation journey here on Emily’s blog, you know that I’ve accomplished quite a bit in my home over the last couple of years. I’ve completed a primary bedroom renovation, a somewhat unexpected bathroom overhaul, a life-changing home office makeover, and a slew of smaller projects that have made this house really feel like home. And now… to shake things up a bit… I’M MOVING TO LONDON.
A little unexpected after all the momentum I’ve gained here, huh? Well, I’ve decided to take the opportunity to travel to Europe for a period of time. Starting this summer, I’ll be moving to London (woo!) and leaving my house here in Virginia in the hands of a tenant (and a property management company) while I’m away. I’ll definitely be returning here to Virginia (I have a lot more plans for this house and my heart is still in this area), but the stars have aligned for me to take this journey across the pond, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. So, cheers to that!
I’m excited to learn how European design, old-world architecture, and the British lifestyle will influence my ever-changing design sensibilities. I’m always looking for different ways to create memorable experiences through intentionally-designed spaces, and I think this adventure will give me a new outlook on different ways that might be possible.
HOWEVER, before I ship out in a couple of months, there are a handful of things I want to do (and a few things I NEED to do) in this house before renting it out. Namely, completing my final room makeover before I leave: the dining room!
Now, planning this dining room redesign has been a little tricky, for a handful of reasons. For starters, while I’m mindful of the fact that I won’t be in this house much longer to enjoy the room in the short term, I still want the space to feel intentionally designed and consistent with the rest of my house. Additionally, while I would normally be open to buying new furniture/housewares/accessories for this space, it seems a little weird to buy brand new things that’ll just be put into storage in a couple of months. To those ends, I’m focusing on making quick changes that won’t be as labor-intensive as other makeovers I’ve completed (and that a renter will appreciate), collecting secondhand and vintage items to use in the space (that I’ll be able to enjoy when I return stateside full-time), and making changes that allow the room to flow seamlessly with the rest of my home (in an effort to create a boutique experience for my future tenants).
Typically, my renovations in this home have included a feature, large-scale DIY project. In my primary bedroom, it was a wood and marble headboard. In my office, it was custom-designed built-ins with concrete countertops and Semihandmade door fronts. While I don’t quite have the time or the resources to take on a massive project for the dining room, I’d still like the space to feel as custom and tailored as the rest of my home. Enter… a “simple” wainscoting project (those quotation marks are very intentional…).
I completed a similar project in my last home, so I was confident that I’d be able to knock it out in a weekend or two for the dining room. And that would have been the case… had I not driven my FINAL NAIL FOR THE INSTALL into a wire behind the wall and cut power to my entire house. I wrote about the full story on Instagram, so I won’t repeat it all here, but to summarize: the problem has been fixed, it forced me to learn about the faulty electrical wiring in my house (eek), and this dilemma was a reminder that everything happens for a reason.
BUT, I digress. With the wainscoting figured out, it’s time to move on to choosing paint! This has been a tremendously hard decision to make, which would be the case under normal circumstances, but intensified this time because of my forthcoming move. Do I choose a bold color, or might that turn away renters? Do I go with a safe and neutral option, or will that be boring and unsatisfying? Ultimately, I do need to be mindful about making my house as rentable as possible, but I do think there’s a middle ground to be found (sick rhyme, bro).
And, my friends, I think that middle ground is wallpaper.
Stick with me. Pun largely intended. On the surface, wallpaper seems like a moderately permanent and style-specific treatment that might go against some of my previous points. But… What if… I can install it in a VERY impermanent way? I’m thinking of some version of large-scale artwork that gives the impression of wallpaper without any of the permanence of the actual thing. Even less permanence than sticky, removable wallpaper. I’m still working through the mechanics of it all, but it’ll likely include this William Morris print from Rejuvenation and a large piece of Sheetrock. Stay tuned.
Another quick change to the dining room will be switching out the old ceiling light for a new one. I’ve been itching to change up the lighting in here for quite some time, but couldn’t quite settle on the type of fixture that felt right for the space. Then, one day, I stumbled across this Kichler chandelier and pretty immediately felt inspired by it. The lines of the piece feel energetic, but not too out of pocket. The scale of it feels just right, and you know I love me a brassy moment. And the best part is: I scored it secondhand! Which brings me to my next point…
UTILIZING SECONDHAND AND VINTAGE PIECES
I was lucky enough to find the Kichler light fixture at Community Forklift: a salvage warehouse here in the DC area. I’ve always loved supporting Community Forklift—they uplift the local community by making home repairs affordable, reducing waste, promoting reuse, and creating green jobs. On top of all that, they just always have the coolest stuff. I love perusing the warehouse on a Sunday and just seeing what they have in stock.
I also found this vintage secretary’s desk—which I’ve upcycled as a little bar cart—at Community Forklift about a year and a half ago! This will make its way into the dining room as well and will store cups, napkins, and other barware essentials. I love the fluted detailing on its sliding doors, the long tapered legs, and the marble slab I’ve added to the inside shelf.
Also, let me tell you… I’ve gotten REAL lucky on Facebook Marketplace recently. The manifestation for this dining room has been real. I’ve always admired the design of these Broyhill Brasilia dining chairs, and I was recently able to score five of them for a reasonable price on Marketplace. Crafted in the 1960s, the Broyhill Brasilia line was inspired by the style of mid-century Brazilian architecture. I lived in Brazil for some time as a kid, so I have a bit of a personal connection to this line in particular. But, also, these chairs are just sexy, quintessential examples of mid-century modern design. They’ll require some reupholstering (I’m not sure that the toile fits either my style or the style of the chairs), and I’m still deciding between a light and a dark solid fabric. Thoughts?! Let me know what you think.
I was also able to snag this Paul McCobb dining table (!) on Facebook Marketplace, which was manufactured in 1950 and matches the vintage of my new Broyhill chairs. The finish/color of the table is notably different than that of the chairs, but I think they work VERY well together… The lighter striations in the wood framing of the chairs speak pretty well to the blonde coloring of the table, and the similar vintage of it all creates a very copacetic pairing.
Procuring vintage furniture and accessories for this space really feels like the right thing to do, for a number of reasons. Firstly, I’ve been increasingly aware of the importance of using secondhand items whenever possible. There’s SO MUCH COOL STUFF already out there in the world, and it behooves us to take advantage of that. I certainly have never been perfect about reducing, reusing, and/or recycling, but there’s no time like the present to start, right? Secondarily, since I’ll be putting most of my belongings into storage fairly soon, it doesn’t feel totally appropriate to buy too many new things just for them to be stored away. Additionally, I’ve curated quite a few vintage objects over the years, and these Broyhill chairs and this Paul McCobb table are great additions to that collection. And… that point naturally brings me to my next thought…
CREATING A SEAMLESS DESIGN EXPERIENCE THROUGHOUT THE HOUSE
I’ve often described my overall design style (for now, anyway) as classic, collected, and tailored. To that end, I’ve collected lots of interesting and vintage furniture over the years—from the aforementioned secretary’s desk to a family-owned sewing table in my primary bedroom, and a secondhand barrister bookcase in my office. I’d like to continue collecting meaningful objects—regardless of my upcoming move—because while I only have a couple of months left in this house, for now, these objects will probably be in my possession forever. And there’s something very heartwarming about the notion of that.
Contrarily, however, there are some elements of the dining room that I can change now—that’ll stay with the house in my absence—that a renter will be able to enjoy while I’m away. In a PERFECT world, I would list my home as a short-term rental and brand it as a boutique lodging experience, but my HOA doesn’t allow for it and won’t let me be great. BUT, I can certainly make it feel that way as much as possible, right? At some point in the future (manifesting it now, ok?!) I plan to develop a motel/boutique lodging experience, so why not let this situation be practice in some small capacity?
Two small elements that will make that possible will be wall plates and window treatments. When I redesigned my bathroom, I started to use these brass Rejuvenation wall plates for the outlets, which I then continued into the office. I’ve been slowly replacing all of the wall plates in my house over the last year to match, which I think is an easy way to create a seamless design experience throughout a home. I’ll be using the same wall plates here in the dining room, which will help the room speak the same language as other spaces in the house. Side note: I personally think high-quality wall plates are worth investing in. We see and use them every day, so why not make that experience a beautiful one? I’m also in the process of updating/streamlining all of my interior door hardware with Rejuvenation’s help, which will help to create an even more intentionally-designed home.
I’ve been thinking hard about the window treatments for the dining room, and how they’ll fit into the narrative throughout the rest of my house. Should everything match? Will a renter expect the same blinds everywhere, or is there space for creating unique treatments in each room? What would YOU expect, as a renter? Let me know.
Otherwise, I’ll be paying a lot of attention to stylistic choices in the dining room to ensure that they make sense with other decisions I’ve made throughout the house. Making sure the wainscoting aligns with the other millwork in the house, painting the walls similarly to how I’ve painted other rooms, and choosing finishes (namely, brass) that call out to other spaces will all be key to making the whole house feel like a fully-realized experience.
Now, the biggest challenge about designing the dining room to feel consistent with the rest of my home is that it sits adjacent to my kitchen, which is designed quite differently than the rest of my home. I haven’t touched it since I moved in two years ago, and there isn’t anything wrong with it, objectively. It functions well, its appliances are great, and it has more than enough storage space. The easiest way I can think of to bridge the dining room with the kitchen—for now—will be to switch out the ceiling mount fixture in the kitchen to be more consistent with the dining room. But… I have BIG PLANS for the kitchen at some point in the future, after I gain some European design sensibilities. 😉
While I’m excited about my upcoming move, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t also heartbroken to leave this home behind for some time. We exist in a world of dualities, do we not? I’ve poured my blood (literally, sadly), sweat, and tears into my efforts of making this house a home, and it feels…weird…to hand over the keys to a stranger. However, I know [or at least hope] my efforts will be enjoyed by somebody else in the meantime. And, either way, I’ll return as a much better designer to finish realizing my vision for her.
Her, being my house.
In the meantime, let’s get this dining room in proper order, shall we?! We shall. Which part are you most excited to see come to life? For me, personally, the wallpaper project I’m conceptualizing is very exciting and has the potential to be a monumental idea for renters. Make sure to follow me on Instagram for regular updates about how this room takes shape!
Opener Image Credit: Design by And Studio | Photo by Nicole Franzen | Via Domino
Best of luck, Malcolm! I can’t wait to see how your dining room shapes up and what sensibilities you bring back from the U.K. **Love** the Basilia chairs and the room color/wainscoting in the 1st photo.
Following you, Malcom! Can’t wait to see what you do with this space and looking forward to seeing London through your lens!
Your other makeovers have been so beautiful; I can’t wait to see this one!
Malcolm, your taste is just exquisite! I always get a jolt of happiness when I see your posts. I’ll be very interested to see how you integrate the existing fingerblock floors- they existed in my client’s classic mid mod home but ultimately we tore them out because they were just so busy and they were looking for an elevated, calm, modern look. It seems like all the vintage you’re using will harmonize with them. Can’t wait to see!
I love what you’re showing there. I like the dark solid chair cushions. It must be hard to leave and hope that your renters take good care of the place!
Oh, Malcolm, all the best of British luck across the pond in London!
I’m sure your dining room will be just as suave and sophisticated as the rest of your house, and you are.
Senfing good vibes ypur way,
MALCOLM!!!!! london??!?! i love this for you. i cannot wait to see how your aesthetic sensibilities are piqued, challenged, and enriched by your sojourn overseas. i’m only sad we won’t get to see your new dining room flowering into full being until you are back. but i’m so grateful you’re taking us along on the journey there!
Your plans look fab Malcolm. I love your style and how you’re using dark wood in a modern way. I think pale upholstery would add a nice contrast.
Very exciting times for you Malcolm! I love all your vintage finds! Hope you will still be blogging here on EHD as well! Maybe I missed if you mentioned that! Love your style!
All the best on your travels, Malcolm, and I hope you can be our foreign correspondent and we’ll get some regular updates on what you are seeing that you love/that challenges you!
Other thoughts – I love me some toile, but would never put it on those chairs! What a great find!
Your renters may surprise you. We’ve had two sets of renters in our old house, which is just down the street from the one we renovated a few years ago. The first set were very basic in their furniture and design, but the set we have now – while not making changes in terms of paint, etc – really ‘get’ the house in a way that I never did. They just have a great style that fits the type of house. My husband says he’d like to get pictures of the interiors before they move out because they’ve made it look so good (though I hope they don’t move out! they have been lovely). So – if you can get a peek before your renters move out, you may actually get some ideas from them!
Again – congrats on taking this risk and safe travels!
I am just awed and impressed by every single one of your posts. Thank you for being #inspiration in your design and attention to detail. Can’t wait to see the completed room, and wishing you a wonderful experience in the UK!
This is going to be a truly gorgeous dining room! I, too, love the Broyhill Brasilia line but have never had it pop up in any secondhand stores/online marketplace near me – I live in an area where people still do want their grandma’s things so there is fab furniture here but it stays in the family for the most part! What an amazing find for you to get those chairs and a table that pairs so well! The only thing I didn’t see (and I could have missed it for sure) was a way to hang pictures that will make both you and your renters happy. Maybe it’s different in DC, but I’ve always seen people use the dining room wall as a place for major pictures whether it’s art or family photos. But renting your home to someone else means you probably don’t want to move back in X years to find a bunch of holes in the wall at the wrong height, etc. for your own art. Are you going to do a picture rail? It would go with the wainscoting and the parquet flooring of the room. Or something more contemporary – putting in shallow floating… Read more »
Your plans for your dining room look wonderful and will embrace the lovely vintage furniture pieces you’ve beautifully! Gosh those Brasilia chairs are so good, what a find! I think dark fabric keeps the seats grounded and allows the blond table to shine…. but I am thinking a dark, muddy rose (not burgundy) would be a lovely surprise. Can’t wait to see how your dining room turns out!
What a great opportunity to live in London for a while! As Chris S commented above, I also hope you’ll be writing posts on what you are seeing and experiencing with style and design as the EHD London Design Correspondent! 🙂
Looking forward to seeing your dining room stage 1 completed!
I am so excited for your new adventure in Europe (even if it’s not permanent… yet). As far as window coverings in a rental, I would take a page out of Kim and Scott (from yellow brick home) and put blinds on all the windows. This will deter renters from putting up their own in such a way that could damage woodwork, drywall, etc.
London, FAB! And yes, do be the London correspondent! I embrace the idea of complete follow thru of style for the house. You have such out of the box thinking (something I’ve never said or written until just now) I can’t get enough of it. I have only rented apartments in my life and they came with window coverings at all, are you kidding? I’ve also rented out my house for a summer to a couple with 2 boys (one of the adults I worked with every day). I expected everything to be ruined and wasn’t disappointed. I put away anything that would break my heart if it didn’t survive, including a couple of meaningful chandeliers. Furniture I left was trashed. Dishes (not the good ones) were broken and chipped. Knives went missing. They rearranged my artwork on the walls!!! Walls were scuffed, floors scratched. What i’m saying is, hope for the best, plan for the worst. I will be interested to see what the wallpaper situation will be. To me, a renting cynic, wallpaper sounds like a big expense. even on wallboard that you might trim out and put in storage. I know, after all that saying I appreciate… Read more »
Malcolm, your posts are some of my very favorites on this site. Your work is beautiful, creative and inspiring. Your writing is clear, approachable, and authentic. Thank you for sharing your dining room plans and congrats on your London opportunity. All the best on this next adventure!
You are going to be in the UK – hurrah for us all over here! If you fancy a trip to Yorkshire let me know, as whilst London is fab (I lived there for 10 years) there is so much good stuff (design, humans and scenery) outside of it.
I have G Plan (British MCM furniture maker) Brasilia chairs, which are bizarrely similar to yours. I got a bargain £2 roll of dark blue Boucle at a car boot sale (Malcolm you are going to love those) and my mom very kindly reupholstered them. The colour works so well and you can drop stuff on them with no issues.
I hope the people they rent to thank their lucky stars every day that they get to live in your house.
Such an exciting move! Will enjoy following along as I’ve so enjoyed your beautiful work and writing. Wishing you all the best in London, Malcolm!
Does anyone know a source for the tear drop light in the first dining room photo? Love it and haven’t been able to find it anywhere! Thanks!
This one? Opaline Teardrop Oendant from Obsolete https://www.obsoleteinc.com/products/opaline-teardrop-pendant-2
Is it this one? Opaline Teardrop Pendant from Obsolete: https://www.obsoleteinc.com/products/opaline-teardrop-pendant-2
*sorry if duplicate comment, I didn’t see my first reply posted
THANK YOU SO MUCH!! 🙏🏼💜
Very curious to see how you execute the wallpaper idea and I vote dark fabric on the chairs! Let the wood chair back shapes sing.
Congratulations on your upcoming adventure! I’m looking forward to seeing the William Morris wallpaper and wall treatment with the mid century furniture and how it mixes, very exciting.
I am always SO EXCITED when I see a post by Malcolm. I can’t wait to see what you do with your Dining Room and the wall paper is definitely the element I’m most interested in seeing you pull off. If anyone else had told me they’d be doing a removable wallpaper panel on drywall I’d be pretty skeptical, but I have every confidence you can pull it off with aplomb!
Congratulations on your move to London. I’m an American living in the UK (in Cornwall though) and I’m also a Designer. It has truly widened my knowledge base and understanding of design to have the opportunity to live in and study such an architecturally rich and beautiful country. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this opportunity influences your design aesthetic. Selfishly, I’m also keeping my fingers and toes crossed that you’ll still be posting from overseas – our International Design Correspondent 🙂 Either way, the very best of luck to you in the upcoming months!
Best of luck Malcolm!! Love your work
What an opportunity! Living in London sounds wonderful. You’re sure to see and learn a lot. Meanwhile, love what you’re planning for the dining room. And thanks for all those inspiration photos—some of the best dining rooms I’ve seen pulled together in one place. Best of luck in this next chapter of your life!
Go with dark colored chair cushions. Have fun in England! I will bet you will make considerable changes to your kitchen design after your time in Europe. I can’t wait to see your dining room reveal.