Two words describe the Fixer Upper dining room in contrast to our previous home. Tall and Small. A beautiful (steep!) curved staircase showcases the 11’3″ ceiling height. Perfect for a statement chandelier. A fireplace, doorways to the living room, outside gallery and kitchen, and the “stairway to heaven” limit the available floor space for a dining table and chairs. Perfect for a small round table with leaves. But I’m getting ahead of myself with decor elements. Let’s look at the transformation process from the property’s auction purchase to today.

Dining room on auction day

This photo from auction day illustrates what was going to be my dining room… after some significant future changes!

  • Although the vintage exterior door to the gallery had a charming cottage vibe, it was to be replaced with a tight-fitting and secure period style door (four panel – two glass, two solid panels.)
  • A 1920s thin oak strip floor would be removed to expose the original wide plank pine floors, which would be refinished.
  • The wallpaper would be stripped and the walls prepped and painted.
  • The existing chandelier (removed, restored and relocated to the master bath) would be replaced with the entryway light fixture from our previous home.

Here are the initial views of the room (east and west) after taking possession of the home. (More “before” photos of the house can be seen here.)

The dining room renovation seemed to move forward in slow motion. One day all the crews were on site, the next day no one. One day we had a most cheerful crew of grandchildren and daughter-in-law to assist with the wallpaper removal. It takes a village!

Dining Room – No Wallpaper, 1920s floor removed, plumbing chase opened
Floors sanded, sampling stain colors

Outside of project vision and design choices, most of my hands-on reno efforts were confined to the detail projects, aka the jobs no one else wanted. Like climbing the ladder to touch up stairway trim paint after floor stain splashes, and chiseling away the “bathroom tile” fireplace hearths.

I really enjoyed deciding on a window treatment design and selecting fabric for the two north windows facing Hentz Alley. After spending hours down Pinterest and Houzz rabbit holes, I decided on swag and jabot treatments that would draw the eye to our antique chest and mirror.

I made a small sketch of my concept and discussed the design and required fabric amount with Carol Robinson of Carol’s Custom Curtains here in Madison. I found a beautiful embroidered faux silk (Boone Fabrics in Louisville) that I felt would echo the colors and patterns used in the adjacent living room, but not overpower the small space. I wanted the room to feel light and airy. Since we needed privacy from the alley passersby, I also ordered cellular shades from Carol.

When all the construction mess was finished, and our furniture was moved into the house in early December of last year, we were beyond pleased with the dining room renovation.

Dining room looking east
Dining room looking west

Here are details about a few of the decor items.

I’m very happy how the details have come together. The sideboard, mirror, Queen Anne chairs, china cabinet and chandelier from our previous home blend well with the new draperies, rug, dining table and paint colors. We still have a bit of patching to do to the door jam, then the new door & restored transom can have their coat of finish paint.

We’re all settled in, and the dining room has become a lovely place to enjoy a meal and a special place to see and enjoy many of my treasures. Be on the lookout for the next post about the transformation of the “heart of the home” – the kitchen!

Written by


One thing that makes my journey unique is that all of my interests are driven by a joyful and genuine curiosity. I delight in finding less expensive ways to make something or creative ways to enjoy something longer. Finding and creating joy - and sharing it - is core to who I am.