How I Revamped My Dining Room On A Budget
Dinner parties are my favourite way to spend an evening with friends. I've always loved cooking. After my shocking U classification O'Level result in Home Economics (refer to my Christmas Canape blog for details), it took a while to get my cooking mojo back. In the 90's I lived in Harrow and used to regularly hold big dinner parties, occasions that were more party than dinner. I had a set menu every time which was unfortunate for people who came more than once - a prawn cocktail platter, Italian chicken and salad followed by pavlova. These dinner parties usually involved my sister, Annabel. Annabel is five years younger than me and in those days, we liked a party. The two of us were responsible for the introduction of a dinner party tradition called 'Drinking The Cow'. I can assure you this had nothing to do with udders. I had a cow shaped milk jug which we used to fill with Bailey's. One person would hold the cow from a height and pour it into the challengers mouth whereby their goal was to drink the lot. This never really turned out well and the evening usually ended with dancing precariously on the table to Born Slippy.
Nowadays, I like to think that my dinner parties are slightly more civilised. I still think of them as more party than dinner and I never think your time is well spent unless you have a table of at least eight people. In my opinion, if you're cooking for four, you might as well cook for eight - it's far more fun and cost wise it makes barely any difference. Since we've moved to Gate Helmsley, I've discovered this new way of having dinner parties where people offer to bring things like canapés, pudding or cheese and you say yes, rather than being a martyr and saying no and doing everything yourself and spending eight hours in the kitchen beforehand. It's brilliant. I wish I had taken up people's offers of help years ago. Am a big fan of the slow roast and my menu's are usually Middle Eastern or Spanish based, mainly because most of this style of food is served at room temperature so you can prepare it all well in advance, leaving your time free for Aperol Spritz drinking with your friends. Last minute frying in the kitchen is my absolute worst nightmare and therefore I generally avoid fish unless it's in a stew.
My go to book is always Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and I have literally cooked every single item from it. NB: Looking for a dinner party menu that involves full pre preparation and no work on the night? Lamb Shawarma, Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Fresh Figs, Baby Spinach Salad With Dates & Almonds followed by Walnut & Fruit Crumble Cream. Always a winner and looks the dogs bollocks.
Anyway, last month I moved my dining room back into the centre room of my house and decided it needed a revamp. I wanted it to feel light and airy but still cosy when it was dark. It's a light and bright room facing out on to the front lawn and I couldn't wait to get going. This is what I did.
Went Bananas On The Wall
So to start with, I whitewashed the walls in my favourite Blanc De Blanc from Valspar. It's an off white with grey tones and it's perfect as a backdrop to art and other random stuff I like to fill my walls with. I decided a feature wall was required. I love a feature wall, it's always a fab contrast to everything else and is a piece of art in it's own right. This certainly was the case with the wallpaper that is now gracing my walls. Rebecca Loftus from The Loft & Us is super talented and designed the Feuilles De Luxe wallpaper that I chose. It's a striking banana leaf pattern and it's perfect for the look I wanted. I put it up myself and it was easy peasy. It also comes in a blue colour way which is equally as beaut. I took it over the picture rail as I wanted it to add height to the room.
Repurposed What I Already Had
I recruited Max, my 13 year old, to help me drag in the Jentique sideboard from the sitting room and repurposed it against the banana leaf wallpaper where it fitted perfectly and was immediately regrammed by Apartment Therapy. Result. I took my old Vittsjo IKEA shelving unit outside and spray painted it gold using Rustoleum Bright Gold spray. Unfortunately, my skills in this area are not good and if you are ever in my dining room please stay at least two metres away from it else you will see that it's the patchiest job ever done. However, from a distance it looks great and I was really pleased with it. I repurposed a vintage cruise chair that I'd picked up on eBay - three for £15, a bargain (one of which is now residing looking glorious in Lou Watkins guest room) - and added it next to the sideboard. I moved in the vintage glass cabinet that I'd upcycled and put it next to the window. My IKEA Norden dining table remained, together with my assortment of chairs.
Let There Be Light
There are already two wall lights above the fireplace but I'm not that keen on them and they are rarely switched on. I already had a spider light fixture that I bought when we moved into this house. I'd lusted after it forever on the Rockett St George website and knew it would be perfect for this space. Am slightly obsessed with subtle lighting so I added a further four lamps to the room. A vintage black standard lamp was updated with a Habitat Grande shade. I moved two bamboo lamps that I had picked up in Homesense clearance section a while ago to the sideboard where they looked like they were made to be there. I moved in my beloved Abigail Ahern poodle lamp next to the fireplace and the job was done.
Got Out The Glass
The updated Vittsjo unit was ideal for displaying my current obsession, coloured glass. I've picked every bit of this up from charity shops and it's so much fun to collect. I got my inspiration from Elsie Larson from A Beautiful Mess blog who has displayed her glassware in colour order. Totally inspirational, I love it when something is affordable yet unique. My vintage sherry glass collection moved into the display cabinet where it looks perfect and handy for immediate need when having a dinner party and moving on to the cheese course.
Put Art On The Walls
I love an oriental theme so I added a Chinese tapestry that my parents had bought when we lived in Hong Kong. It looked perfect alongside The Curious Department Swoonworthy butterfly which is gold and black. To the right of the sideboard, I put the iconic City Of Champions print from Violet & Percy. A new IKEA limited edition monochrome print went perfectly with the black display cabinet and the DISCOTHEQUE print (again, Violet & Percy) looked perfect above the door that goes into the party room. I left the banana wallpaper wall mostly empty but added a neon print, again from Rebecca at The Loft & Us, which depicts a Tom Hardy (any excuse to get him into a blog post) quote - You Mustn't Be Afraid To Dream A Little Bigger, Darling. He's SO wise.
I was pretty damned excited about what I put above the fireplace. There's a new art gallery in York opened called Art Of Protest (see here for blog link on the opening) and Joe gave me a print from there as an unexpected present. Be assured, this doesn't happen often. The last time Joe gave me a present that he had chosen himself was 2003. It's a limited edition print from an amazing artist called Benjamin Murphy who creates artwork out of tape and I totally love it. Next to this, I put a print I've had for a while by an artist called Jody Barton that I picked up from the Soma Gallery in Bristol years ago.
Brought In Soft Furnishings
My old cow rug went back under the table - I picked it up on eBay years ago (I think the shipping cost was more than the actual rug) but it's huge and it's grey which was the colour that I wanted and couldn't find anywhere else. To the cruise chair, I added some Chinese cushions that I'd picked up for £1 each in Singapore when visiting my sister to add to the Oriental theme.
Showed Off My Ability To Keep My Plants Alive
My green fingers continue to work which astonishes me daily. I'm just waiting for all my plants to die off from some obscure plant illness although tbh, both the kittens and Buddy are obsessed with leaf eating (before anyone messages me, I know that's probably not a good dietary supplement) so they look slightly more bedraggled every day. I brought in my large fern, my large fig and a plant that I have no idea what it's called but I get asked all the time for it's name. If anyone knows what it is, do let me know. Finally, a Gumtree purchase of a Jade plant and a 25 year old cactus completed the 'great with plants' look. Chances of the 25 year old cactus surviving another 25 years. Nil. Chances of the 25 year old cactus seeing out the year. Nil.
And that was it. I now have an updated dining room that is bright, airy and colour filled and I really love it. The children do their homework on the table (although they are regularly moved off when I want to take a photo) and it's getting much more use than before. And I'm looking forward to lots more dinner parties in this room in the future. Preferably without a cow jug.
This post was in collaboration with The Loft & Us.