Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Home improvements: Bad news and good news in the dining room

Bad news: projectile feline scarf-n-barf.

Good news: all over the worn-out sisal rug I'd been gunning to get rid of for a while.

You might remember our dining room rug. It was a big day when I turned it upside down.

Way before.

The truth is, though, no matter how I flipped it, the thing was looking pretty tired -- worn, stained, cat-scratched, and completely unraveling in one corner.

When the aforementioned bad news happened I started to clean it up, and then I had this moment where I just felt DONE. Over it. I rolled up the rug and threw it outside.

That rug had been through 11 years, two houses, a wedding, four cats, and a baby. It had done its job, you know?

And secretly I'm grateful to our gluttonous cat. I'd been wanting to try removing the rug from the dining room for a while.

Thank you, Daisy, for solving my home decorating dilemmas.
Daisy shows us what she thinks of all this mockery.

My husband was skeptical. He thought (1) the lines around the previous position of the rug where the sun has faded the finish on our wood floors would look funny and (2) a dining room without a rug would look unfinished, as if it belonged in a house of college dudes.

It's true that there are sun-fade lines on the floor, but I don't think they are particularly noticeable.

His second objection I guess is a matter of taste. I'm definitely in agreement that we want to aim for a grownup-looking space. But I don't think a dining room necessarily needs a rug to look finished. When I look at my Pinterest board of dining spaces I see plenty of bare-floored examples, like so:

Original source.

And like so:

Original source.

Especially in an eensy space like ours, I think a rug can just create visual clutter. So. Here's where we are today. (The round table arrived here. Funny enough, in that post I was worried about how stressful it was going to be to find a rug my husband and I could agree on. Like how I sidestepped that issue?)


Anyway, I like it. My husband has not mutinied. Nice and simple looking, and it's definitely easier to keep clean.

Hey, and how about that flower arrangement on the table? Just a few stems gathered from our front yard earlier today.

The funny, spiky things with balls on the ends are anemone flowers that have lost their petals. (From these anemones here.) I think they're kind of funky and modern, and I really like the way they look with the subtly shaded, late-season hydrangeas.

I realize it's a bit cheeky to get rid of a worn-out old rug and label it a "home improvement." And I'm certainly not claiming that just getting rid of things will solve all interior decorating quandaries. But I do think that when we're thinking about replacing or upgrading an item, it's worth including "actually, do we need that at all?" as a step on the flow chart.

As a matter of fact, I recently did something similar in the kitchen. We had a mat in front of the sink that had always been kind of ugly, never stayed in place, had become horribly cruddy and stained, and couldn't be washed. I did ponder getting a nice rug of some sort to replace it, but in the end I just chucked it, and I haven't missed having something there at all. (Hm. Who knew I had such a vendetta against floor coverings?)

In the dining room, I've got my sights set next on reupholstering those chairs. I mean, this is pretty bad, right?

And this is not a case where I can just get rid of something and not replace it. But it should be -- knock on wood -- a pretty easy project: just stretch the new fabric over the seat and staple to the bottom. I'm thinking of a metallic gold linen -- it would echo the texture of some other linen we've got going on elsewhere in the common areas of the house, and I think the gold might fancify everyday meals a little bit without being fussy.

I need my dining room upholstery to be wipe-able, though. So I'm thinking about laminating the fabric. (Yes, I realize this is probably not the most environmentally friendly project ever, but I'm willing to compromise a bit for something durable.) Has anyone tried something like this?


  1. I recovered some similar chairs with faux leather in dark red. They were mahogany stain and it looked great. The faux leather comes in green, blue, beige, etc as well so maybe one of those would work for you?

    1. Oh, that's a good idea. Maybe I'll look into some faux leather as well. I'm glad to know it worked well for you. Thank you for commenting!

  2. I think your dining room looks really lovely without a rug! It's just as you said - it looks simple and uncluttered. I think you can "get away" with having no rug here because of your wood floors, which have such a warm look all on their own. I've heard (from flooring experts) that fade lines caused by rugs on hardwood will eventually (over the course of a couple of years) blend away. And the minimalist in me just has to say that I do love a story about how decorating problems are solved by subtracting :)

    The flower arrangement is beautiful! Love the anemone stems!

    I've never laminated fabric, so can't offer any advice on that front, although I did once re-cover a set of chairs for a friend. I don't remember it being really difficult; mind you, he was a bachelor and a university student, so may not have been the most discerning recipient ;) . I get that you're worried about spills, but have you considered simply going with a highly patterned fabric, instead of going the wipe-able route? I've noticed that our 10 year-old hardly ever spills anymore; your daughter might be coming up to this age quite soon as well. (But I probably shouldn't really offer advice on this front either...we have wood chairs, so banking on no mishaps is rather easier for me). I am wondering now though, on the comfort of a laminated fabric ... will it be nice to sit on? Will it feel "sticky" in the heat of the summer if you're wearing shorts? Just something to consider, before you take the plunge...

    1. That's good to know that the lines are likely to fade! Good point re: potential stickiness of laminated fabric...although really, there are only about 10 days a year here in Seattle when that would be a major concern. :-) As for growing out of spill age, that is probably true, but man, my daughter has always been a remarkably messy eater. I'm less worried about big spills than just the constant, bit-by-bit grinding of crumbs and grime into the upholstery. I'm pretty sure I do want the fabric to be neutral, but I can imagine that a very busy paisley in various shades of gray might work, so I'll look out for something like that, thank you for the suggestion!

  3. We still don't have a rug under our dining room table and while I have to admit, I really want one - it's more because that room is still very unfinished and bare since our move and still feels very unloved. If it were more "cozy", I would certainly be able to get away without one. I think there are a lot of times where home decorating could use a little less add and whole lot more subtract (Sink rugs are one of those instances - they always gets messy and tripped on in my experience.) so I was glad to hear someone else has come to the same conclusion.

    1. Down with sink rugs! :-)

      I like your idea that your dining room would work without a rug if it were more cozy -- makes me think that what makes a room feel finished is more about coziness than a particular set of objects. This should have been obvious to me from the title of my blog, but somehow your formulation just made the penny drop in a new way, so thank you so much!

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  5. I love your pinned images, and your own (after) too. (And now I want a round table. Thankyouverymuch.) I think rugs make little sense in a dining room; it's where food gets spilled. And you have beautiful wood floors.

    As for the fabric--if the seats are the kind that you can simple wrap fabric around a cushion and staple it, I wouldn't worry too much about making the fabric super-endurable. That's such an easy and not expensive fix. Says the person who spilled bad on a kitchen chair a few days ago and hasn't made one move to change the fabric and will likely keep it there for months...

    1. Hi Rita, I just removed the duplicate comment, I wasn't trying to censor you! :-) In any case, I'm glad you found the images inspiring, and appreciate the compliments on my "after" look. That's good to know that this kind of reupholstering is as simple as it seems like it ought to be. Although, judging from how long I've been thinking about changing the fabric, and how much I have not actually done so, maybe it would be best to aim for a solution that would not require frequent re-do's...I know my weaknesses. It's a good reminder though that I don't need to get too worked up about whatever solution I do choose -- I can on some level think of it as an experiment.

  6. Clearly the rug didn't spark joy.

    Another option to self-laminating the fabric is to cover the chairs in the linen, followed by a separate piece of clear vinyl. I used the iron-on laminating stuff once before, IIRC the limiting factor is the width of the product. I also felt like it wrinkled more easily than the store-bought laminated cottons.

    1. Re: sparking joy -- Ha, maybe that's what the cat was trying to tell me!

      Shoot, now I kind of want to do an experiment and try the various solutions (incl. the clear vinyl) that have been mentioned here and see which one works best! Thanks for the tip on the width of the iron-on laminate, I will make sure to "measure twice, order once" if I do go that route.

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