Home & Garden

A lively dining room for a modern home

Q. We are moving into a newly built house, but we are traditionalists at heart. The new house is smaller but has high ceilings and lots of light, which we love. Have you any ideas for warming up a modern space to suit empty-nesters?

Even though many homes today are built without a formal dining area due to space restrictions, I believe that if you can have one, you should. We create our best memories around the table when we celebrate with family and friends.

The dining area shown here radiates with a welcome, lively spirit that will enhance any meal or special event. There is a timeless quality to the high ceilings and tall window. Traditional maple hardwood floors are a little lighter, and baseboards are higher than the standard builder size.

The color palette and furniture design are decidedly modern, but the punchy wallpaper's peach tones and floral pattern have a hint of nostalgia. A sleek gray dining set does not overcrowd the small space.

Imaginative lighting options such as a linear crystal chandelier are classic updates that will steal the show.

Merging styles

Q. I am trying to update my boyfriend's formal living room to be more inviting. (Our wedding is in two months.) Right now, it's white walls, oatmeal carpet, couch and loveseat patterned navy blue, maroon wing chair and ornately trimmed wood coffee and end tables.

You have two challenges. The first is how to make changes that will suit both you and your fiance. That calls for more than a dollop of diplomacy and compromise.

The second is the decorating challenge of updating a traditional style.

The least-expensive option is to apply a new paint color to the walls. Try a sand-beige base coat, and roll on a coat of pearlescent glaze over the top for a luster that shimmers beautifully in evening lighting.

Choose a new table or floor lamp together, and you'll have a winning combination of timely and nostalgic. I do think you should have some natural splashes of green with plants.

To keep this modern, add three or four similar-size plants in modern pots (steel or painted terra cotta) in a symmetrical pattern on a shelf, fireplace or even the floor.

Focal wall

Q. We have a small, one-bedroom apartment. For the living/dining area, I have picked out a khaki green, and one shade darker for a focal wall. I'm not sure what wall to make the focal wall: the back wall of the dining room or the wall behind the sofa in the living room.

I suggest you paint the main living area the lighter shade, and add the more dramatic, darker green to your dining-room wall.