Cookbook author Katherine Cobbs and her family recently upsized to a 1928 cottage in Birmingham, Alabama, which left them with a sparsely decorated space. After Cottage Living Assistant Decorating Editor Anne Turner Carroll updated her living room, Katherine set her sights on bringing her dining room up to par.
"We started with a hodgepodge of traditional furnishings passed down to us from grandmothers. Each piece was nice -- some fine antiques, in fact -- but I gravitate toward clean lines and mid-century modern pieces," Katherine says. "Though I was thankful to be the beneficiary of such great furniture, I felt that it was keeping me from expressing my true style."
"I realized that in this region of manners and customs, the prospect of entertaining was downright intimidating until I created a proper dining room," says Katherine.
She and Anne Turner gave new life to her traditional furnishings by painting the walls a warm, rich blue, and filling the room with meaningful accessories. The new space is as much a place to entertain as it is a place to do homework, peruse books, or simply admire en route to the kitchen.
Anne Turner used a portiere, a curtain that hangs in a doorway, instead of a swinging door to conceal the view to the kitchen. "The curtain is easier to walk through with heavy platters," she notes.
Katherine chose the canvas, painted by a friend, above the glass console table. "Its abstract style adds a modern touch," says Anne Turner.
Anne Turner recovered a pair of old stools in lush brown mohair and used them to flank the entry to the room, along with two identical mirrors cut from a wall-sized piece that came with the house.
"The matching pairs bring symmetry to the room and make use of narrow slices of wall," she says. "And the stools act as extra seating."
To create a focal point, a contractor built shelves along one wall and made an arched alcove that follows the lines of the doorways of the house.
"The shelves were crafted from Sheetrock, instead of wood, for a more modern profile," says Anne Turner. "The back wall of the niche was painted a warm, sandy tone to make that area a focal point."
The room's square shape called for a round table, which is better for conversation and entertaining. An oversized lantern is a fresh alternative to a traditional chandelier.
On the antique mahogany server, a pair of lamps add mid-century feel to the room, while complementing Katherine's heirloom guilded mirror.
Katherine offers these tried-and-true tips for setting a beautiful table: