Located on Williams Island, a private island near Aventura, Florida, most rooms in this townhouse take advantage of the wide water views on both sides; however, the dining room is an anomaly: it has no windows.
“When I first saw the space, I was afraid this room would end up being a dark cave,” says Barbara Murtagh Nash, owner of Blue Sky Environments Interior Decor in Coral Springs, Florida. When Nash first encountered the home, it was new construction and the homeowners were first-time clients. On meeting the Feinbergs, Nash soon learned of their affinity for Asian style. One of the few requirements placed on the dining room design was the use of two large Chinese ginger jars that the couple acquired during their travels. Inside the jars was a pleasant surprise. “When you stand above them and look down, you see koi painted inside,” says Nash. The jars became the base of the dining table and as an allusion to the painted fish hidden inside the jars, Nash had the ceiling painted with a mural that gives the impression of peering into a koi pond.
The brilliant color of koi and the desire to lighten up what could have been a dark room, inspired Nash’s design choices. “We wanted it to feel sunshiny,” says Nash. “The wall color is mango, and [it] feels refreshing, like a sorbet.” The wallpaper combines the formal feel of damask, but lightens the mood with an avant-garde tone.
The Chinese ginger jars sit on a mahogany base, and the same rich wood tone is used in the wall mirror, dining chairs, and buffet. The lattice-backed guest chairs are covered in tangerine silk, and the same silk provides a matching welt in the upholstered host chairs covered in the slightest shade of orange.
A good lighting plan was another essential element to cheer up the windowless room. The chandelier structure is open and light. Its carved wood center supports iron arms that display droplets made of wood and crystal. Wall sconces depict an Asian man and woman, each holding a penshell parasol. When lit, the aubergine and beige tones of the shell shades become apparent. Recessed fixtures provide light around the room’s edges, serving to complement rather than compete with the sconces and chandelier.
Nash took several steps to make the room feel open and inviting. One essential part was adding the homeowners’ artwork. “They had numerous art pieces that they wanted to display, but not in a stodgy way,” says Nash. “They wanted the artwork randomly placed throughout their house so it felt relaxed and natural, and not forced or overly formal.”
Nash mixed styles and textures to keep the design from feeling stiff, which often happens in formal dining rooms. “You need a juxtaposition of a lot of different finishes,” she explains. “If you have a formal piece, offset it with something more accessible and less traditional.” The chairs and wallpaper feel quite formal, yet the simple lines of the Ebanista buffet and the glass dining tabletop, tone down the formality. The Crema Marfil floors and off-white trim also warm up the room, making it feel approachable.
In fact, approachability was a key concern of the homeowners. They enjoy the outdoors frequently and wanted a room that felt like you could transition from the boat deck to the dining room table and still feel comfortable. “People design dining rooms so formally that no one wants to use them or feels comfortable in them,” says Nash, who goes on to explain how to raise the comfort level. “Chair comfort is important but [so is] the comfort of their placement. I think people like a gracious amount of seating. They tend to linger more after dinner and talk when they feel relaxed in their space.”
Fortunately, Nash doesn’t have to worry about the room feeling like a stuffy, dark cave. “It was so rewarding to see how warm the space felt after it was completed,” says Nash. “Even with the lights off the room is so inviting. It’s become a very cheerful corner of their house.”
Discover more decor ideas for your dining area in the latest issue of Kim Marie's Home By Design!