A Return To Neutrals

By Kate Riley March 18, 2010

My dining space has always been tricky to decorate because it stands in the middle of a major freeway between the garage, family room, and kitchen.  We don’t have a formal dining room – there is simply no need for our laid back family of five to have anything other than a casual dining space for evening meals.  We nibble in the kitchen most of the time, don’t you?

However, I do like the idea of our dining space being dolled up for holidays or special guests.  After all, it has a beautiful set of French doors and a view that leads to the rear yard.  So a few weeks ago I decided to upgrade by adding some new window panels and a bench for additional seating.  I’m returning to the peaceful calm of white because I find it so fresh and uplifting.  Also, cream and white are such a nice contrast to rich dark wood, so I kept a purposeful neutral palette in our dining space.  I added some taller silk curtains and a transformed Craigslist bench. 

To some it’s plain, to me it’s perfect.

neutral dining room

This walnut pedestal table used to be part of a formal set we found at an antique shop when we were first married.  After the kids came along I had a glass top made for it to keep the top from getting damaged.  The traditional seats that came with it were too matchy matchy for my taste, so I like to pair the table with some ‘Couture’ chairs from Ballard Designs. 

light and dark

I cannot sing the praises enough of these ‘Couture’ chairs !  If I could marry them, I would.  I bought them about seven or eight years ago and I simply change the slipcovers with the seasons.  Latte velvet in the fall, and Ecru velvet in the spring.  I love the flirty but sophisticated pleat detail.  You can usually find them around $39 each at Ballard.  They’re worth it for the perfect fit, style, and durability – I’ve laundered these at least ten times and they always hold up in the wash. 

Kids + sauce = slipcovers.

ballard slipcover and shag pillow

The area rug is from Overstock and can be found right here.  The wall color ties in with the greens in the carpet – it is Benjamin Moore’s ‘Camouflage’ just like in my kitchen

I confess, I’ve gone around and around with the window treatments in this space.  First it was chocolate floral fabric, then a sage linen fabric.  Then I finally realized my previous solutions were too short !  These panels are a foot longer, and I raised the rod above the transom window instead of just the doors in order to elongate the space and make the ceiling feel much taller. 

dining room window panels


They were store bought 95” cream lined silk panels from Bed, Bath and Beyond on clearance, plus with a 20% off coupon, so I paid $20 for each panel.  There are four of them, doubled up for fullness.  I repeat.  Cream. Silk. Lined.   True love!  It sounds strange, but to me it’s like I have an elegant wedding gown hanging on my windows.  Call me crazy, but that totally speaks to me. 

I also created a border for the edges.  Do you know how much fancy shmancy decorative trim costs retail ?  Exorbitant !  This liner is simply some chocolate satin ribbon and a discount trim with some robin’s egg blue (shown below) attached via my sewing machine to the edge of the panels.   

trim pieces

I thought it a nice designer touch, plus a good idea for those potentially grubby hands that will no doubt finger the edges of my gown-like silk panels.  Momma’s got to outsmart her munchkins. 

trim detail

I pinched the tops and sewed the simple pleats with my sewing machine to give them more formal touch.  Then I hand stitched the wood rings to the pleats.  Please ignore the holes in my wall that I have yet to patch.  :-)

pleats and rings on rod

dining room window panels

Now you know I’m a sucker for white accessories – hence the spring lineup.  The flowers are from Trader Joes – $11 bucks for the whole arrangement !!   Gor.Gee.Us. 


A little wedding-ish, but still beautiful.  If only you could smell the roses and the stock – they’ve got that thick summery sweet scent that is absolutely intoxicating ! 

fresh flowers soft focus

I just have to show you the white soup tureen that I picked up at the Goodwill for $5 bucks.  Seriously.  Who drops off a perfectly beautiful white soup tureen complete with lid, platter and spoon, and inside the original box at the Goodwill ?  $5 bucks.  Score !  It makes a such a great container for blooms ! 

white soup tureen

Oh, and notice the tired and hungry child in the corner ?   Somehow the words “Hold on honey while Mommy adjusts her aperture” did not seem to comfort.  

tired child

OK, enough flowers.  And I fed the child a few morsels.  She’s fine now. 

Please note, this space is no longer used for my decorative whims. Rather, it has become a construction zone for tall skyscrapers.   

lego tower

But see how I did happen to find a bench on Craigslist and give it a little makeover.

b and a

I’ll tell you the full story of the bench very soon!  Meanwhile, I’m just happy in this very simple, very white, very neutral dining space.  It’s a great canvas for any colorful tabletop settings in any season.

And that’s probably the last time it will look this clean.  :-)

neutral dining room


What’s your theory on white spaces ?  Are they boring or beautiful ? 



  1. Your dining room is so beautiful. We have a similar layout with the dining being a freeway between busy rooms and I have also struggled with what to do with the space. You have inspired me. Love it!!

  2. I love your dining space! The whites, the silk curtains, the pleats on the chairs and bench – it is all beautiful.

  3. Beautiful space, beautiful bench, beautiful curtains!!! You’ll be happy to know that our dining table doubles as a Duplo construction site as well. Parents of Lego kiddos unite!!!

  4. I just tried to leave a comment though I don’t think it worked so I hope this doesn’t show up twice though I wanted to say that your space is delighful!

  5. hi
    i am in process of going from a red dining room to a beige. what colour is on your walls? looks great! thanks

  6. Just yesterday I heard someone say that “white on white can wash things out and be boring.” I want to drag her to this post and show her how beautiful cream on white can be! I LOVE it!

  7. Wow, I can’t believe thats the same bench, I love it! I really love the detail you added to the curtain. You did a fabulous job!

  8. Your dining room IS perfect! I love white spaces as long as they aren’t sterile looking. For instance, some white kitchens look like laboratories. But I could move right into your house (well, assuming I wanted to leave Virginia, and you weren’t already occupying the house!) I look forward to hearing more about the transformed bench!

  9. LOVE it!! Great job on the panels, sew creative!! I love the dark contrast of the Dining table next to all the whites and creams. I love all of the whites and creams. So soothing/calming. I love the pinch pleats on the chairs and bench. Very nice!

  10. I love white spaces, and I think yours is divine! The only thing that would keep from white would be worrying about getting stuff dirty from little bitty shoes, but I suppose that’s what slipcovers are for, right? I’m surprised at how affordable the Ballard chairs are…those are great! :) LOVE your bench!

  11. I love all your projects. This one in particular spoke to me as I am doing the same thing through my living areas going from darke hues to lighter ones and I have a similar layout dilema. Thank you for being my voice of reason when all think I am crazy to go to all neutrals and white fabrics with two girls 5 and 7.
    You are doing a wonderful job with your projects and you should know it is inspiring!

  12. Wow, it looks so fresh and airy! I like that it’s neutral so you can switch out accessories easily for each coming season or holiday! Beautiful!

  13. I really love this look, I’m usually not a fan of whites, & ivory but they’re really starting to grow on me :-)

  14. Just thank you for this:

    “Somehow the words “Hold on honey while Mommy adjusts her aperture” did not seem to comfort.”

    I almost spit out my MUCH needed coffee while giggling. I can relate and LOVE it. What a great post and what a gorgeous room.

  15. i am basking in the glow of your dinner room. It is beautiful. I love the combo of the chairs and bench and the drapes are so fab. When a room starts with white walls and floors it is too much, but when the walls are floors are warmer, white makes everything so pretty.

  16. Love your bench and the chairs and the new white drapes are stunning. Yes, I am more and more into white spaces. I think they are very calming and really want more. Your dining area is just gorgeous. Hugs, Marty

  17. Kate,
    This post really hit home in so many ways! Our layout looks so similar, and we use that space for all of our dining, too, while the “formal” dining room is used as a playroom, (though I am trying to find ways to make it more of a “library/playroom-that-doesn’t-look-like-a-playroom”). Even the french doors to the other room in the background shows a similar layout. What is that room, by the way? But the thing that just made me say, “YES!, she is so real and makes me feel like I am not alone in my ‘I really do have my priorities straight, though it may not seem like it at every given second of the day,'” is that photo of your daughter, head down, at the end of the table. God bless them! Cheers!

  18. I love the bench and chairs especially the pleats, I agree that the curtains are darling. The table setting is very nice, I wasn’t thinking wedding until you said it and now that’s all I can think of.

  19. I suppose white can be boring. . . your room is anything but! More heavenly than boring, I’d say. Charming and serene–an excellent backdrop for a wonderful dinner party. Or a bit of skyscraper building.

  20. Kate, love your dining room choices! White is my love also. Would you mind walking us through how you covered that darling bench? Thanks! Love your blog!

  21. I gotta have colors, even tho they may be understated, but I would LOVE to add a touch of cream to the room to lighten it up for Spring – thanks for the great inspiration!

  22. I love it! I think the whites and creams against the dark wood are perfect. And the fact that you can instantly transform it with just a few accessories for the holidays and changing seasons is one of the best things about a cream room. Great job!

  23. Love Love Love what you have done to this space. It does look clean and fresh. Gosh. If I could place ruffles/pleats on everything in my sight I would.

  24. Ok I am so doing a bench like that. Did you make that slip cover or do they sell bench ones too?
    Love all the white with the dark table.

  25. Kate, that looks heavenly. I’m falling more and more in love with white spaces – they’re just so serene. And it’s easy to add little surprises of color around the space with accessories if you want to. Unfortunately my boyfriend does NOT love all-white spaces. Let the compromises begin. . .

    I am LOVING the little ruffles on the slipcovers. Great touch, really helps make the space.

  26. Everything you touch turns to gold (or white!), Kate!! Gorgeous,my friend. I love it all & the silk curtains are a wonderful touch. Love the slipcovers too. I love the all white look, but it’s just not going to happen much at my house.

  27. So, so pretty! I am going to scour the panels offered at BB&B now to try to find something similar. I loved the glass on top of the table and now plan to do the same. Table pads are so hideous, glass is perfect! I hardly think this room is boring!!! It is just perfect in my eyes!! Thanks for sharing. Now off to see if you’ve posted instructions on how to sew the bench cover! I would love to do that with one I have currently. Thanks as always for sharing all that you do. You are so inspiring and make things so easy! You need your own show!! xo~M.

  28. this room is so fresh it screams Spring! and the little touches of brown and the color in the rug add a little interest to the otherwise mostly white/cream decor. It is beautiful… to bad people can’t loan out their creative minds like a library book! :)

  29. Ooo la la! It is SO gorgeous! Yes, I really love white spaces and don’t think they are boring at all. You did a great job in this room! I think the bench turned out great! Don’t ya just love CL? =-D

  30. Beautiful!!!! And I can’t wait to read about your bench transformation – the before made me do a double take! As for white spaces, I love them – in other people’s homes. They look so gorgeous and elegant, but I know it wouldn’t be too long before I started adding color – I just can’t help myself! Again, what a beautiful job you did. :)

  31. WOW!!! LOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE your blog!!! And such a beautiful dining area, I’m so impressed! I think white spaces are awesome if you don’t have kids, or maybe if they are robots or something because my kids would drop their dinner all over those beautiful white chairs making them icky very quickly! But I still looooooooove the look!!!

  32. Kate, You speak to my heart. Lovely, elegant and just perfect for spring. My heart goes pitter-patter just looking at your beautiful pics.

  33. They are stunning. I have to admit that I wish I could have all my spaces look so elegant, fresh, clean, creamy and white. But, as you know, kids mean disaster. And my twin boys are more of a disaster than I could ever have imagined. I guess for now I will keep dreaming in cream and white! LOVE it by the way. another Censational redo!

  34. Oh beautiful for sure! I just wouldn’t be brave enough to try white in my home with my grubby kids.

  35. Washable white covers are the easiest to keep clean, but those Ballard covers are GOOD to look so crisp after several washes! The pleats are so elegant, and only a true perfectionist takes the trouble to duplicate them on the bench, it makes it.

  36. I love this room! The white is so classic and beautiful. I found your blog about a month ago and I wanted to say thank you! I am an interior designer and an avid DIYer but had been feeling a little creatively zapped. Your blog has inspired me and has gotten the creative juices flowing. Keep it up, you are very talented!

  37. I think your dining room is lovely – I recently re-did our dining room and we went with dark wood floors and dark wood table and white parson’s chairs – we have a small eat in kitchen style dining room, so I did my best to make the space feel comtempoary with a bit of whism but still relaxed

  38. What a beautiful dining room, Kate!

    I’m a big fan of white. I’m using white in my nursery and our master bedroom has white linens. There’s just something so soothing about white when you crawl into bed at night. Plus, when the dogs track mud on it…there’s always bleach!

  39. You didn’t mention the rug but I do think that is what makes the space! It really helps define the all over creams and whites. I love it. I love the room!! Those curtains are sooo swoon-worthy!

  40. Absolutely love your white dining room…esp your curtains. I have a black dining room set and you’ve given me the idea to sew white slipcovers for my chairs for spring/summer.

  41. I love the white. But I think I like your super pale iridescent blue and creams more. I can’t remember which space you did that in, but that’s what I’m holding on to in my mind for when I tackle my formal living and dining space. Shudder.

  42. Oh, it’s beautiful! I love the cream silk curtains and those flowers! Wish I had a Trader Joe’s nearby, I’d go get some. That bench is so pretty, too.

  43. Def. BEAUTIFUL! I love whites… And I’m totally addicted… it’s what we’ve been doing in our home, all over! And it’s been so fun, to see our whole space almost double in size, and become a bright, airy, crisp space… just from lightening it all up!
    Great post!
    Shelley Smith

  44. I have said over and over that all white interiors are beautiful in other people’s houses, boring in mine! I NEED color! Yours is beautiful but I wouldn’t do it here. Maybe it’s because 9 months of the year everything outside is white, too!! Give me color!! :)

  45. I think it’s lovely and reminds me very much of a Ballard’s room! I love Ballards so I’m a big fan of what you did in here. The chairs look great; love those slipcovers with the pleats. I like the idea of the bench and how you replicated the chair slipcovers into a bench slipcover. Makes me want to lighten up my dining room window treatments!

  46. Oh, I love to look at these white rooms, and the thought of them fills me with joy. BUT, I just can’t live in a room that’s all white. When we moved into our house, the breakfast nook was pretty much all white, and I hated it. I felt as if my eye had no place to rest. I know first hand how imporatant it is to have lots of textures and variation of shade if you’re gonna do a white room. All that said, I do love what you’ve done in this room, and may borrow a few ideas for my formal dining room. I love the idea of the dark wood with the light walls…you’ve got my wheels turning…maybe…

  47. I’m such a fan of pinch pleats – they look great and seeing your kiddos use it in real life makes this mamma smile!

  48. Just gorgeous Kate! I have the neutral look in my dining room and although we hardly ever use that room, it’s the first room you see when you come in my house and I love it! Can you tell me the color of your walls? I’m having a hard time deciding on a color for my sunroom. It is getting a complete transformation as soon as I can decide on the paint color.


  49. Oh it’s beautiful, stunning, exquisite and I am jealous. You cease to amaze me! I would however, have to wash the linens (all of them) about 3 times a day to keep them clean. Oh and can I come down and bring your Goodwill back up to Washington state; we don’t have those special treasures lying around our thrift shops.

  50. What a beautiful dining room! I love the curtains and the bench seat with the pleated bottom edging. Not to mention the trim you made! SO pretty!!

    And seeing the Legos reminds me of my own house! :) Towers and houses everywhere! LOL!

    Thanks for sharing this, it’s just lovely!


  51. Those slipcovers are to die for!! Love them!! Such a cute bench…I have been thinking of adding a bench in my dining room…I will see. Love the neutrals! I love color but have found myself in the last year going more white, creams with pop of color. If you haven’t stopped by to see what I have done in my kitchen, would love for you to visit. :) I have used gray blue paint with lots of white and pops of red, pink and turquoise. Love how your dining room is…beautiful!!


  52. In the past I would never think of white as one of my favorite colors to decorate with, but lately I’ve been using it more and more. I just love how clean everything looks and I also love how light hits it, it almost looks like its glowing :). My husband is not all for it, he loves bold colors and thinks that white is boring. I’m still sneaking it into our home little by little ;)

  53. I think the white is so fresh and spring looking. You will have a lot of fun decorating this beautiful room with the seasons and holidays!

  54. Oh White spaces are soothing, elegant, casual (if you want it to be) – they are just awesome and I am soooo drawn to them.
    Your space is fabulous and I just LOVE it. Hope you and you family enjoy this space often.

  55. I’m really thinking of whitening things up around here, too. White is so clean and certainly spring and summer to me! I’m loving your drapes. What a steal! The room looks great and I may just be stealing a few of your ideas-as usual!

  56. Beautiful. I love white spaces. I’m wanting to repaint a few rooms back to white. ;) I love the bench – super cute!

  57. I started following you in Oct 2009 and I’m ADDICTED!
    So far, you’ve inspired me to paint and reupholster two Goodwill chairs (with nail head trim, thank you very much), converted a 60’s stereo cabinet to a blanket box (more white paint!), and after seeing your dining room, I must find a Craigslist bench!!! Keep the great ideas coming Kate.

  58. I love white, but my dh thinks it looks antiseptic. I’ve warned him that if he doesn’t outlive me things will change drastically in our home one day–including the painting of wood (gasp!).

  59. Absolutely beautiful. I can’t wait to revamp my kitchen table! You just gave me a grand idea :-) gosh, if I actually incorporated everything I love, from every blog, I would have a home fit for a clown :-)

  60. It looks like a room in the ballard’s catalogue!! Light, Airy & Refined. I love white/cream with dark woods & have been searching for the perfect paint. Thanks for the tip on the BM Camouflage. Going to get a sample today!

  61. I love white! I just recently added white curtains to my living room (previously dark brown linen) and I am in love with the look! I keep looking in my living room admiring the brightness. :)

    Your dining room is gorgeous! I love it all.

  62. Kate, I don’t know if you remember me or not, but about a month ago I told you that your sense of humor reminded me of the Pioneer Woman! I see you took the challenge–I can feel the “spicyness” of your writings, now! Thank you! Your personality clearly shines through…and by the way, the dining room is absolutely beautiful.

  63. I love it and I especially like your decision to hang the curtain rod ABOVE the transom window. Really does elongate the space and make it seem like one tall wall of windows!

  64. What an amazing space! It seems so serene and peaceful. And those drapes are swoon worthy. There is just something about silk. I found clearance silk panels at Bed Bath and Beyond also a couple of years ago and I still love touching them.

  65. This room looks so inviting! I am glad to see I am not the only one whose dining area is a major thruway. We have glass doors in the exact same spot and we use them all the time. To me it’s a dining room/hallway!

    Can’t wait to see the bench makeover!

  66. Kate, of all the blogs I read I always find myself commenting on yours! Love your style and love the neutral and kid-friendly dining room. What’s the point of having a room too precious for your family? The bench is great – I wouldn’t have thought of that with a formal dining room table and I love the look. You have a great eye for design.

  67. Your room is lovely Kate! BUT…gotta tell you, I’m not a white’s only fan; its’ just not for me.
    I still prefer to have colour on the walls, and in the furnishings.
    I’m also not a fan of “baby colours” in rooms other than for a baby. A friend did her living area in a baby green and NOTHING seemed to work with it properly.
    All white loaded rooms are still a great look for the folks who like it…and it’s wonderful we can all agree to disagree.
    That’s the beauty of being adults.
    Enjoy everyday of your writing.

  68. This room is so bright and cozy, I would want to eat breakfast & lunch in here just to spend time bathed in the light and fresh white. I can’t believe those flowers were only $11 at Trader Joes! Too bad we don’t have TJ where we live. Costco flowers are a great deal in our area and the fresh addition that I adore adding to our rooms.

  69. I love your drapes so much and they are just what I’ve been searching for. I did look at my local Bed/Bath…, however they did not have ‘cream’. May I ask the name of the drapes and color on the package(if you don’t mind)? Thank you.

  70. I’m inlove with those chair covers and unfortunately they don’t fit my current chairs.. aaargh!! I need to finda seamstress to do the same for me… I love your dining room, it’s exactly how I want my very dark one to look like…!!

  71. I love the look of this! I have some plain solid taupe/gold drapes that need a little trim detail, can you tell me where you found the trim for your drapes? Love your blog!

  72. Beautiful! Understated elegance! I wish I had the cajones to do all white, but alas, I’m a dirty girl (wink wink) plus my kids and dogs would totally mess it up!! Maybe I’ll do a little white here and there.

  73. Hi Kate,
    I’m in love with your new laundry room update, but still loving the look of your dining room!! Actually, all of your rooms. I hate to ask kind of a silly question, but regarding these gorgeous silk drapes, where you pinched them at the top to give them a more formal look, would you have a tutorial on that? If not, perhaps you would know how many inches apart each pinch pleat is? You inspired me to hang drapes, and I love them, and would really prefer to pinch pleat mine too. I’m an extremely beginner seamstress, so even the basics are a challenge. So, thanks in advance for any assistance. I’m so in awe of all you do!

  74. Hello,

    I’m in love with your dining room. I too have recently come to love neutrals. I used to be all about the dark warm and rich colors, but now have a new love for cooler, lighter wall colors with contrasting floors and furniture. I have recently gone from a drab and boring green in my dining space to a cooler gray (Behr Light French Gray). I am loving the elegance of the color. I need to update my chandelier and don’t want to replace it, and was wondering about yours in your dining room. Did you purchase it with the crystals or were they something that you added? If so, could you please tell me how you did it. It is really beautiful and I would love to do the same to mine if possible.

    Thanks so much.

  75. as well as you, i love white!!! i love the tureen. good job! i cant ever find anything @ my goodwill. loving all your diy touches. awesome.

  76. Love it!!! After 10yrs. I’m finally getting a dinning room again !! Waiting for settlement on a Divine Shack. Lots of work to come. But I think I may steal your din. rm. ideas. Love you, girl!!! Thanks xo

  77. Yeah, you’re good, what can I say? :) You should stop by on Monday for my “Restyle Your World” linky party!


  78. It looks like it belongs in a magazine. Very beautiful! White is not boring at all. Well, it can be, but if you know how to put whites together it is anything but boring. You did a perfect job, I can’t stop looking at the pictures.
    I’ve done a lot of white in my home, too, and wouldn’t change a thing. White gives a peaceful calming feel.

  79. Can I ask if the Ballard Couture chairs tilt back easily? I am looking to purchase some and had ordered the Louis Side chair and found it was rather lightweight and tilted back easily. Afraid someone might fall back.

    Also, what color are the slipcovers? Off-white or pure white?

  80. Love the bright whites. I Live in a rainy part of the country and have white, yellow, cream, and black. Always looking for more exciting decorating ideas. Thanks. love your site! Shee

  81. Your dining room looks peaceful, inviting and elegant. I love the antique table the most, too bad I couldn’t find a table that is similar to yours. It’s hard for me to find a gorgeous walnut table in some antique shops.

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