With two young children and demanding jobs, Leah Bossio, an art director with Woman's Day Special Interest Publications, and her husband, Bob Hugel, a magazine editor, had little time to devote to their 40-year-old house in Maplewood, New Jersey, since they purchased it seven years ago. "We moved in, painted everything white and that was it," says Leah. "We had planned to redo the dining room, but scrapped the project when it seemed too big to take on."
Over the years, the space became a catchall for everything from toys to an aquarium. The couple loves entertaining, hosting holiday gatherings and throwing kids' parties, but in this room, doing so wasn't easy. The handme- down octagonal table was inadequate, storage was nonexistent, and even the old glass chandelier caused problems. "People kept banging into it and pieces would break off," Leah says. Determined to give their dining room a polished demeanor and make it user-friendly without incurring a ton of expenses, Leah and Bob turned to Jean Nayar, editor of this magazine, for help.
On the side, the room was in good condition. So as a first step, Jean and Leah simply painted the walls a more playful shade of blue, which revived the white trim and kick-started a fresher ambience. New window treatments were next, but, with her relaxed family lifestyle, Leah wanted to avoid anything fancy or formal. Accordingly, Jean designed soft Roman shades using fabric she and Leah found online and then enlisted a friend to sew them. The red paisley pattern complements the bright chairs Leah and Bob already had (they purchased four more of the same to have on hand for family gatherings). The fabric also ties in with the newly framed artwork— low-cost vintage Japanese postcards the couple purchased long ago in their travels. "My husband lived in Japan as a teenager. This was a way of incorporating a little Asian influence into the space," Leah says.
As for furnishings, out went the old table, and in came an affordable new model that can be expanded when company comes. Overhead, a costeffective chandelier takes the place of yesterday's ornate fixture. And with Jean's help, Leah also decided on an unfinished sideboard for extra storage. They painted the piece a pale olive hue inside and a handsome khaki on the outside—both variations of a hue pulled from the shade fabric. New hardware gives it a custom look. "I envisioned a mirror above, but wanted something a touch funkier," says Leah. A little hunting, and presto! An eye-catching sunburst that's anything but staid.
A host of bonus details also adds to the room's charm and usefulness. A stylish folding screen made from hollow-core doors and painted with the same colors as the sideboard lets Leah stylishly block off the living room on special occasions. To integrate the desk into the room, Jean devised a sophisticated fabric topper, enabling the piece to double as a serving station. She also designed a tailored curtain for the doorless passage to the kitchen to hide messy dishes from sight during dinner.
In the end, for dining, bill paying, or homework, this personality-infused room has become the family's favorite gathering place. "I'm so happy we were able to take a blank canvas and create something great," says Leah.
What Leah Loved
- Abundant natural light pouring in from the two windows.
- The beautiful wood floor that was in great condition.
- The arched passageway between living room and dining room, which allows traffic to flow when there's a big crowd.
What Leah Hated
- The fact that so much stuff had piled up in the room, leaving no surface empty.
- The hand-me-down table and rickety old glass chandelier.
- The way in which the room was underused—especially for its intended purpose.
|Painting the walls||4 hours|
|Shopping for fabrics||2 hours|
|Designing the shades, door curtain
and fabric topper
|Sewing the shades, curtain and topper||20 hours|
|Shopping for furniture, hardware and
|Priming and painting the sideboard||8 hours|
|Installing new chandelier and mirror||2 hours|
|Building and decorating the folding screen||6 hours|
|Primer, paint and finish||$400|
|12 yards of canvas fabric||$276|
|Two Parsons chairs and
|Four yards of shade fabric||$160|
|Four chairs and pads||$108|
|Labor for chandelier and
|18 yards of ribbon trim||$50|
|Two picture frames||$40|
|Hinges and hardware||$12|