Changing an unused dining room

June 27, 2014

I ALWAYS struggled with our dining room. Part of it was that shortly after we moved in I marched myself to the furniture store and bought a complete set of dining furniture. I liked it OK – but I wasn’t madly in love with it. I just wanted to fill the space. Now I know better and would wait it out, but you know how that goes.

Long ago I added molding to the walls (with Liquid Nails! No.) and jazzed up the ceiling:

I also recovered the seats of the chairs almost immediately to add some color to the room. It was very beige/brown.

You’ll see here that this was my gold and red phase as well. Ah yes…

I still wanted some more contrast so I changed up the drapes and added a solid red to the bottom:

two tone drapes

Then things just got crazy and I painted the whole room (the entire. room.) brown:

brown dining room

You know, looking back, I don’t hate it. It was dramatic and pretty – I say you can go dramatic in two rooms safely – the powder room and the dining room. Or all the rooms, it’s your house.

I always struggled with the fact that this room opened up to our two story living room so I just added a piece of trim down the wall to separate them. Probably a major design crime but you know, I like to live on the edge.

But the thing is…it was DARK. Shocking, I know!:

brown dining room

I didn’t mind it much till we had new floors put down after a water issue. Then it was positively cave-like. Dark on every surface in the room and I couldn’t take it anymore.

A new idea formed in my head over time that I talked about here. I was tired of not using this space. I wanted to make it more functional and change up how we used it.

So the DIY built ins began:

how to build built ins

You can see the synopsis of how my Dad and I built them here. It wasn’t hard, just time consuming. It took me forever to get them finished – eight months total I believe.

I had a design in my head all those months of thinking about it and a big part of that design was lights at the top of the bookcases. It took months to find something that was affordable but I finally found what I wanted in the outdoor section:

inexpensive library lights

And now…I love it. This room is one of my favorites in our home.

I could not be more pleased with how it turned out:

DIY built ins

It’s been about a year and a half since they were finished and they are holding up great. I’m really proud of Dad and I for tackling it. :)

Funny thing is, the plan all along was to put a coffee table and four chairs in here, but we moved our old kitchen table in here a year or so ago and it’s become my husband’s office in the summer months:

dining room built ins

He has a basement office but can’t stand to be down there without natural light in the summer. So although his stuff laying around kind of drives me batty, I love that we’re actually using it. Many of you have suggested adding a more casual table back in here and the idea is growing on me. Plus, finding four matching (comfy) upholstered chairs is so dang expensive!

I can’t forget the other view of the dining area – it’s really more of a landing/hallway of sorts. I found this before shot of our stairs that I didn’t know I had:

And I showed you this more recent after here:

wood staircase

Such a difference! (Here’s the how to on pulling the carpet off of stairs.)

Many of you have asked how much I spent on the built ins and I’m not positive of the cost because we did them over such a long time. The kitchen cabinet bases were $320 total and the butcher block from IKEA was $130. I’m guessing we put in another $150-200 in trim and wood (I used basic pine wood for the actual bookcases). And the lights came to $140. So a rough estimate is about $750-800 for 12 feet of built ins.

I would have paid three times that to have them done. Easily.

So there’s a look back at what is now one of my favorite spaces in our home! It was one of my problem children before though. :)

Do you have a dining room? Do you use it? Have you considered changing up how it’s used?

P.S. Check out my tips on decorating bookcases in this post.

Have a great weekend!

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  1. I've always loved your built ins. They are styled so beautifully.

  2. I absolutely love these built-ins, still! I often look back and smile/shake my head over some of my own decorating choices. It's always a work in progress!

  3. I love the idea of built ins like those, but haven't found a good spot in our house for them. Maybe eventually!

    We don't have a formal dining room, and it was specifically something I didn't need in a house since we only ever used our dining room once or twice a year growing up. I still like my decision for the most part, but I do with our eat in kitchen had just a tad more room for the table area.

  4. Beautiful! I love how light and bright it is! It also gives you wonderful storage for books, which is always nice!

  5. What a transformation! Thanks for sharing!

  6. My husband and I really hate hosting things like dinner parties and never eat formal dinners with our family outside the kitchen, so our dining room has never been used for dining. In our first house my husband used it for a foosball room (no lie, we must have been the envy of the neighbors!) In our current house, we have an alcove where a hutch would normally go. We put in 5 IKEA bookcases of varying widths, with bottom doors and it fits the space so nicely they almost look built in. Some day I'll add crown molding to finish it off more. We use all those bookcases for homeschool books, and our old kitchen table (sound familiar?) is used in there for school work. Very functional and sounds like a similar situation to yours. Great to have a dining room that is used for something on a daily basis. I always thought formal dining rooms were a complete waste of space, at least for people like us!

  7. Six years & your accomplishments in the blogging world are amazing!! Congrats! You give new { My first year is in August} the inspiration & drive to keep pushing forward!! Congrats again, & FYI your blog was the first I viewed,before jumping into this lovely journey :) !

  8. I love your dining room now! Those bookshelves really make the room, and give it a collected look! Now I'm trying to figure out where I could use them! :) xo Kathy @The Daily Nest

  9. Love the built ins and the entry- what a HUGE difference the hardwood floors & paint made- nice job! Looks fresh, bright & new!

  10. Hi! I love your blog and all your cute ideas :) Do you remember where you got that rug bc im in love with it :)
    Thank you!

  11. Winner winner chicken dinner. Still my favorite makeover, hands down. The shelf styling is perfection.

  12. Amazing transformation!! So fresh and lively!

  13. We have a tri-level house, and actually use what is the front room as our dining room. We bought an 8-seater dining room table from Pier 1, and it won't fit in the little 10'x11' dining room, so we use the main portion of that level to eat. It actually worked out really well, since we have a "den" downstairs that has our couch and media stuff. We use our original "dining room" to house my husband's piano for the moment. Which is also kind of neat. We're rebels, too. :)

  14. Always a good idea to used our spaces how our family needs them..your former dining room looks great. We made our dining room into a second office and took a long wall in the kitchen and had a built in banquette with cabinet made, perfect fit for our family!

  15. It's so cool to see how your dining room has evolved. I remember Googling "chocolate brown dining room" back in, like, 2010, and your room popped up. It was my first introduction to the blogging world. So, in a way, your chocolate brown dining room has changed my life! :) I ripped off your paint color when I redid my own dining room (although I added white chair rail and picture frame molding on the bottom third of the wall to break up the dark ... and I left my ceiling white). I still have that color in there and I've gotten so many compliments on it. But I can feel the winds of change (aka lighter paint colors) blowing through soon, lol. Thanks for your contributions all these years. Congrats on 6 years and cheers to many more! Hope to catch up with you at Haven. :)

  16. I absolutely love them - they are gorgeous. Y'all did such an amazing job building them and you styled them beautifully too. When I originally saw your built-ins, I was so excited because we do not use our formal dining room and I'm sure we never will. I asked you about your lights and you were so sweet to answer me. I want so much to do this in ours and have a desk (I hate sharing an office with my precious husband) but now we have our exercise equipment in there and we really have nowhere else to place it except in the garage and it's too cold in the winter and too darn hot in the summer. If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them. When we did our cross-country move, I thought I had to fill every room too and now I so wish I had not done that. But we live and learn and I know we all make mistakes. I feel sure my husband and I could build them - it's just getting him started on it. I tell him all the bloggers I read do everything and there husbands help them. The end. Thank you for always sharing so truthfully with us.

  17. Sorry.....their husbands help them!!!!

  18. I love your dining room now, the way it's shaping up with the shelving; we've always had a dining room and always used it - mostly instead of the kitchen, which was always small - and I've always wanted a dining room/library. A place to eat, surrounded by books and photos and paintings, and a place to work or read. We're now in an open plan condo so a dining room with bookshelves wouldn't work but we do have low book shelves around, and books stacked on chairs and tables - artistically, of course.:)

  19. I love those built-ins ... perhaps more functional than a buffet. Very stylish and a good use of sapace.

  20. I also went through the red, gold and brown phase and I loved it :) Now I'm happy not having those colors around my home. I love all the changes you've done to this room, of course the bookcases are now my favorite ;)

  21. I can't believe that's the same room!!! Would love to do these somewhere someday, the lights are my favorite part :)

  22. All I have to say is WOW. The stairs look amazing and so updated! I always tell people that sometimes the simple things to do are take up carpet and see whats under. Of course you have to be ready for what may be underneath, good or bad.

  23. Those built ins are phenomenal! The room has transformed a lot and it looks gorgeous now!

  24. I have that exact same Dining Room set (I live near you)! I have struggled ever since we purchased it with the color & fabric on the chairs! Also, if I were to do it over again I would NEVER get such wide chairs. As you know, the table is huge with both leaves, but we can still hardly fit 12 people if we use the 8 chairs that came with this set.

    I have ALWAYS wanted to change the out the fabric, but was afraid the chair backs were not doable (I have done simple seats before). Would you do the backs again? How did you get the fabric out of the frame without ruining the frame? Did they hold up? Many questions :)

  25. All I can say is WOW, FANTASTIC Very sophisticated dining room, love the rug, all of it. You are one heck of a decorator. I am in awe. I loved the dark brown but I can see it would get to be a bit much after a time. At least you have a beautiful dining room, I remember the post when you and your Dad started installing the built ins, quite a job but so well done. It's so amazing what a coat of paint can do and adding something like the built ins. Bravo for such a well done job. Then taking the carpet off the stairs, you seem to know what needs to be done to improve a room.
    We don't have a dining area at all in our single wide mfg home, sometimes I really miss having a separate area and dining set. When we bought this place I sold buffet/hutch and dining set. So enjoy yours to it's utmost, live in it for some purpose. Happy summer days

  26. Just wanted to tell you that I loved your built in bookcases so much I had my hubby build me some almost like them. Your tutorials were so helpful...thank you so much! Here's a link to mine if you would like to see.....

    Blessings, Vicky

  27. You inspired our office built-in project I recently shared on my blog, thank you!

  28. Love this!! Came upon your blog and this is exactly what I hope to do in our family room. :) Gorgeous job!


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