Before and After Part 1: The Dining Room / by Ginevra Held

I am going to start a series of before and afters looking at how my family's house looked before I redesigned it and how it looked after.  I'll explain the elements of the design as well as attempt to describe how the design came into being.  A lot of times things will pop into my head and I am not really sure where they came from, but I just know I have to get them out and make them a reality.  So I don't always know where these interior "visions", if you will, come from. 

Essentially I am always looking; at books, online, magazines, when I am traveling, when I am walking around and all of that goes into storage in my head and sort of gets all mixed up in there, and sits there for a while, maturing, like a good yeast starter, and then poof! I get an idea and its a mash up of all these things in my head.  (If you make it to the end of this post, you'll find out why I've got yeast on my mind.)

So lets start with the dining room. Here is the before:


So what we see here is a great table, an awesome table, th Saarinen Tulip table in Calacutta marble, with four gorgeous italian red leather chairs.  These are great pieces.  What they needed, in my opinion, was a great backdrop.  Something to highlight their awesomeness.  Also, the dining space itself needed to be special so as to differentiate from the living, give it a sense of space in this open space plan, but still allow it to be part of the grand overall space.

Here is the after:


I'm not exactly sure how this design concept came into being.  Basically its the marriage of two ideas/images that had been bouncing around in my head.  The first was that I had been looking at a lot of Phillippe Starck interiors that he had designed for Yoo, a development project that creates flats in cool cities and has awesome designers, well, design them.  Phillippe or Monsieur Starck to you, had these grand open plan spaces and the window treatment was always this just long expanse of white curtains.  I liked the look, and I liked the idea of ignoring the window frame in the dining space and treating it like the other wall.  Also, I had been looking at spaces by more traditional designers where they had "tented" the space.  Tenting is when there is fabric hung on the walls and sometimes the ceiling and creates a cocoon like feel.  So I took the idea of Phillippe's curtains and married them with tenting.  So the dining room is its own tented space.  The fabric, as it turns out is Ikea bed sheets.  I double pinch pleated them. When you pinch pleat, it gives the fabric movement, so it hangs and creates a column like effect.

Here is a detail of the curtains so you can see the pinch pleating: 


The next thing to make this space what it is, and the real piece de la resistance is the troupe l'oeil Maison Martin Margiela wallpaper decal.  I loooooooove this!  The moment I saw it, I knew it was love at first sight and I had to have it.  Sick but true.  We saw it in a shop window in Paris, and then in the dressing room at Bon Marche in Paris.  I didn't know where to get it, so I did some online sleuthing and found that they had it at Merci, a great concept store in Paris.  I told my Mom that she couldn't come home without it!  

I think it really makes the space.  Maison Martin Margiela is a fashion house, started by the Belgian Designer Martin Margiela.  The clothes are all clever and intrigueing, very design, very cool.  So its not surprising that his foray into interiors is much the same.  The wallpaper is a shades of grey life size image of Haussmann doors which are typical of Parisian apartments.  Its a way to get a piece of Paris in the outer Richmond district of San Francisco.

Everything else is to make these "doors" at home.  I didn't know how to "finish" the doors at the top.  Should I get an actual pediment?  Paint a pediment?  I came up with the idea of chalkboard paint in grey, but it was my Mom who came up with what to do.  Instead of drawing a pediment, why not write out the correct term for what should be above them: entablature. So I gave her some chalk and I think she very elegantly wrote in the missing architecture.  It gives a sense of fun and levity to the space.

Le door of faux doors du jour!:


The final pieces were  the deer heads.  I knew something was missing from either side of the doors.  I thought about sconces or frames or columns.  And then I saw these guys.  I thought they were fantastic and hilarious.  I wasn't sure, though, if the client, in this case, my Mom would go for it.  Turns out, she thought they were awesome too.  So I promptly ordered a couple of white faux deer heads from the company White Faux Taxidermy.  As soon as I put them up I knew it was right.  They add a symmetry which was lacking and lead the eye to the middle of the space to land on the doors.  I love them!!  Real taxidermy creeps me out, plus the killing of animals pisses me off, so thats a no go.  The look of these guys brings in a traditional hunting aspect of design, minus the shitty hunting part.  So how can you not love them?  Its hard to explain, but they add a majesty to the space.  Its a modern nod to the old hunting lodge or hunting hall that you see in grand homes.  And here they are in my little dining room.

So that is how the dining room came together.  You'll also notice that the trim was painted grey. I was not a fan of the wood trim, so the trim has been painted in the entire house.  In the dining room I painted it grey as a way to separate the space and also, to make it look like the curtains are coming down from somewhere and not just floating.

Stay tuned for more before and afters!!!! I have to go check on my croissant dough! Special thanks to Martha Stewart Bakes on PBS for making me think I can make croissants... If they turn out not to be a disaster, I may tell you about my foray into pattisserie.  Okay fine, I'll tell you if about it even if they are completely f*cked up.  GTG!!! xoxo, Ginevra (are you supposed to sign a blog? Its like a diary, right?)