Make us your home page

It's Christmas, time to make your dining room dazzle

The countdown is on for the holiday season. It's time to take a good, hard look at your dining room and assess its readiness for entertaining from now until New Year's Day. • It might be time for a minor facelift before the relatives arrive. Because dining rooms are often multitasking spaces, and because many families eat most of their meals in the kitchen, the room is often neglected. Perhaps it could use a style boost. • We asked designers for tips to revive a dining room without spending a lot of time or money. Use these ideas to make several changes, or choose just one. • Either way, your home will feel refreshed and you will feel prepared when the first of many guests walks through your door.

Jura Knocius and Teri Sapienz, Washington Post

Dining chairs

Before the holidays, the workroom of Upholstery Restoration & Select Fabrics in Kensington, Md., a favorite of D.C. designer Stan Kelly, becomes jammed with dining chairs in for a tuneup: fresh fabric on the seats and regluing.

Owner O'B O'Brien has a simple test to see if your dining chair needs its joints adjusted: Facing the chair, put your knee on the seat and put your left arm on the back of the chair, then pull back and forth. If the chair wiggles or wobbles, it needs attention.

O'Brien takes the loose joints, cleans off the old glue, applies new glue and puts clamps on the chair for 24 hours. He also re-covers a standard dining chair slip seat. The general price range for tightening the chair can run $50 to $75 per chair. For re-covering, look at about $45 to $50. You'll need to provide the fabric, too; 1 yard of fabric will generally upholster two seats. If your chair padding could use a boost, high-density foam can be added for around $10 or so.

For the DIY crowd, it's possible to change the fabric on your chair seats yourself using a staple gun.

If you end up with additional guests and no more matching chairs, no worries. Nestor Santa-Cruz, a design director at Gensler in Washington, has a go-to favorite from Ikea ( with a lot of style for a low price: the $12.99 Nisse chair in citrus yellow. (For the color-shy, it also comes in black.)


Ondine Karady, a designer in Washington and New York, says her first holiday impulse is to create a fabulous centerpiece. But the truth is, many flower and fruit arrangements are removed from the table to make room for the meal. Instead, she says, "move the centerpiece above the table and decorate the chandelier."

If your builder's-grade brass chandelier could use an upgrade, consider something more modern, such as an oversize lantern, says designer Dee Thornton of Houseworks Interiors in Alexandria, Va. Hang a chandelier between 30 and 38 inches above the table, depending on the table's size, the diameter of the chandelier and the ceiling height. If the chandelier is large, says Thornton, test it before permanently installing it to make sure it doesn't hit anyone on the head.


Now is the time to check your tablecloth and napkin supply. Are they free of cranberry stains and rips? Are they starched, ironed and ready for the table? If you have a favorite vintage textile or piece of fabric you've inherited or unearthed at a flea market, hem it and have it cleaned. You can layer it on top of a simple white tablecloth, says D.C. designer Nestor Santa-Cruz, to create a rich texture on your dining table. Use simple white china and add goblets in a color picked from the fabric.


If your floor is bare or your area rug is worn, an inexpensive sisal rug will add an instant pick-me-up to almost any dining room.

To determine the appropriate rug size for your room, Meredith Ericksen of Tuscan Blue Design in Frederick, Md., offers the following formula: "Measure the top of the dining table and add 27 to 30 inches to all four sides. It can be as little as 24 inches, but I like more room if possible." This measurement will allow a person to get in and out of their chair with the chair legs remaining on the rug.

Keep the table and chairs on the area rug, Ericksen says. Other furniture, such as a china cabinet or sideboard, should sit on the bare floor.

Window Treatments

Hanging curtains on bare windows is a quick way to dress up a space and add softness. For an easy, affordable solution, D.C. designer Michael Hampton suggests buying simple linen curtain panels from stores such as Pier 1 Imports and Pottery Barn. Customize the panels by attaching a tape trim or fringe on the inside edge of each panel. Try one of Hampton's favorite Web sites, M&J Trimming ( A trim can be sewn on or applied using a hot-glue gun.

If you don't have the budget or energy for curtains, drape garland around your windows to frame them, suggests Rockville, Md., designer Sandra Meyers. Hang ornaments from the center of the window at varying heights.


Instead of flowers, D.C. floral designer Sue Bluford recommends arranging persimmons, oranges, tangerines and pomegranates (cut a few open to display the insides, but be careful not to stain your tablecloth). Other options: Go for a natural look by using pine cones, evergreens and magnolia leaves, or be decorative and use lots of monochromatic ornaments.

No fancy footwork is necessary to achieve these looks, says Bluford, "just lay them down on the table."

Another idea: Los Angeles designer Michael S. Smith suggests using amber votive candles on the table to cast a warm glow.

It's Christmas, time to make your dining room dazzle 12/04/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 16, 2009 6:29pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Washington Post.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours