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The Dining Room

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A richly illustrated collection of design ideas and decorating tips for dining in style.

In this lusciously illustrated volume, author Diane Berger treats us to a feast of dining room styles and trends, from stately formal rooms to cozy country kitchens. Whether your taste runs to the traditional or the outre, the book whets your appetite for creating the dining space of your dreams and gives you plenty of practical, inventive, budget-conscious tips on how to go about it, ...

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Overview

A richly illustrated collection of design ideas and decorating tips for dining in style.

In this lusciously illustrated volume, author Diane Berger treats us to a feast of dining room styles and trends, from stately formal rooms to cozy country kitchens. Whether your taste runs to the traditional or the outre, the book whets your appetite for creating the dining space of your dreams and gives you plenty of practical, inventive, budget-conscious tips on how to go about it, including wall and window treatments, furnishings, and table settings. It also contains an invaluable list of sources in the United States, Great Britain, Europe, and Australia.

Much of the pleasure of dining is in the ambience, and with the wealth of ideas in this book you can transform the daily act of meal-taking into an aesthetic delight. Featuring Fritz von der Schulenburg's masterful photographs of delectable dining rooms throughout Europe and the Americas-including those of Valentino, David Hicks, Fendi, and Bill Blass-The Dining Room is a book that will appeal as much to the host or hostess as it will to the interior designer.

Other Details: 150 full-color illustrations 144 pages 9 7/8 x 9 7/8" Published 1993

first time. The ceramics manufacturer Josiah Wedgwood was a pivotal figure in this process, revolutionizing the marketing of dinnerware. When launching a new design, Wedgwood first sought a royal or aristocratic endorsement, which he knew would filter down the social scale and create a surefire demand for his wares among a middle-class clientele eager to be au courant with the latest fashion. A prolific designer, he also broke down the distinction between what he called "useful" and "ornamental" wares. The concept that functional objects can also be decorative is still a basic tenet of table settings today. He often produced highly fanciful shapes, such as cauliflower teapots, and unusual patterns, such as tortoiseshell. As soon as one design became de rigueur, he quickly introduced another. It was also during the eighteenth century that a taste for matched sets of dinnerware took hold.

By the late eighteenth century, a formula for dining room decoration had become nearly set. Furniture designers such as Hepplewhite and Sheraton popularized it through the publication of pattern books. By the time Robert Adam wrote his Works in Architecture in 1773, the basic room scheme included sets of tables--making it possible to seat various numbers of guests--chairs, and a sideboard or side table for serving. Adam also offered some helpful hints for decorating the dining room, such as not covering walls with expensive textiles that would retain the smell of food. But he looked beyond the utilitarian demands of dining to what he felt was the underlying essence of the dining experience, "The eating rooms are considered as the apartments of conversation in which we are to pass a great part of our time." To many people today this is still at dining's very core.

The decoration of the dining room is no longer so formulaic. In order to navigate through the maze of possibilities, we may follow Adam's lead and look to the heart of the dining experience itself for a design source. After identifying the venue in which you wish to dine, ask yourself some basic questions about the mood and ambience you want to create and go from there. For instance, do you want it to be exotic, magical, dramatic, rustic, cool and sleek, warm and cozy, formal, or informal? There are countless places to look for inspiration, including unforgettable dining experiences while traveling, a literary description of a dinner that enticed you, a favorite film set, period rooms in historic houses and museums, and antique pattern books, to name only a few.

Pattern books, paintings, prints, and old photographs can be "decoded" to reveal a wealth of how-to information, from ways of treating walls, floors, and windows, to usage of furniture and tableware in styles as varied as the Renaissance and Art Deco, to hanging pictures in an authentic manner. For example, Henry Sargent's famous painting The Dinner Party (c. 1821) reveals such details as wine carafes placed directly on the polished surface of a mahogany pedestal table, the location of the sideboard, the use of a wall-to-wall patterned carpet, and so on. The work of nineteenth-century watercolorist Mary Ellen Best shows us tables set with Staffordshire ware and rustic dressers in country kitchens filled with all sorts of cooking equipment. When asked what his ultimate dining fantasy is, New York interior designer David Easton immediately conjured up the image of a favorite photograph, Horst's portrait of Edith Sitwell reclining in bed, attended by Indian servants-a rich visual evocation of Raj style. Henri Matisse's bold use of pattern and color in Harmony in Red (1908) provides ideas for splashing walls, floors, and tables with dramatic designs. Or you might be inspired by the profusion of variously shaped glassware, bottles, and simple wooden chairs in Pierre Auguste Renoir's The Boating Party (1881).

Period styles are very evocative of mood because once you are familiar with them they transport you back to another era. Ideas for period styles can be garnered from books or by visiting design and decorative arts collections in museums. A faithful reconstruction of a period room conveys a sense of tradition and ceremony, but it need not be copied slavishly. Use a period style as a springboard for your own ideas and interpretations. Or focus on a single element that suggests the atmosphere of the period without costing a fortune. For instance, you can approximate the look of an English Chippendale interior simply by making paneling out of an inexpensive synthetic material, such as medium-density fiberboard (MDF) or chipboard, and painting it in any number of ways, including wood-graining and marbleizing, to give it the feeling of a centuries-old patina. Architectural detail can be added by painting false picture-frame molding. You can also create the illusion of panels by pasting wallpaper borders on the walls. Or you can find old paneling by searching through architectural salvage depots (page 110).

You can also achieve a period feel at a reasonable cost by investing in one important piece of antique furniture, such as a table, that will act as the focal point of the room, and pair it with a far less expensive set of comfortable contemporary upholstered chairs. Or do the opposite, and combine a set of period chairs with an ordinary plywood table covered with a cloth.

Mixing and matching antique furniture is a fun and affordable way of creating period style. For example, single chairs, or groups of three or four, are always less expensive than sets of eight or more, which command premium prices. You can experiment with mixing different chairs that share a general theme. For instance, you might consider starting a collection of Sheraton chairs, all of which have painted shield backs but with various decorative motifs. Some may sport Prince of Wales feathers, others may feature flowers. The impact will be similar to that of a collection of paintings. Anna Fendi has successfully combined two completely different sets of period chairs in her Roman dining room, each set lined up on one side of her long rectangular table (page 38). Remember, too, that any chair can be copied. When the owner of the kitchen on page 96 could not resist a provincial Georgian chair, she had the others reproduced.

If you love period styles but the authentic pieces exceed your budget, look for a style that is currently undervalued or simply less expensive, such as seventeenth-century turned furniture. You can still find some Biedermeier and Art Deco pieces at good prices, or you might consider the vintage chic of aluminum diner furniture from the 1940s and 1950s. You can create your own variation on a period theme, such as using a pair of antique stone garden ornaments as a base for a glass-topped table.

When creating a period interior, let one object or group of objects inspire you, and use it as the foundation on which to build a decorative scheme. For instance, when the owner of the dining room on page 32 fell in love with a splendid set of Hepplewhite chairs with their original blue and yellow paint, she let them dictate the wall color. A deep rich blue was taken from the decoration of the back splats and applied to the walls by dragging the paint in thin layers to enhance the period feel. The inspiration flowed from there, including the start of a collection of antique cobalt-blue glassware and lots of nineteenth-century blue-and-white Staffordshire ware plates and tureens of various sizes and shapes. Any object in the room can provide an excellent color source, such as a collection of ruby-red pressed wine glasses or a set of spongeware.

Remember that period style does not have to be formal. For example, you may want to re-create the cozy, rustic charm of a colonial tavern, as fashion designer Bill Blass has done (page 86), or by pairing Windsor chairs painted in different colors with a gateleg table. Both Biedermeier, with its curvaceous treatment of polished blond woods, and Art Deco, with its sleek ocean-liner chic, have an almost contemporary simplicity. The warmth of rural France can be captured by combining whimsically painted rush-seated farm chairs with a provincial armoire. Just by draping a table with a quilt, filling country baskets with dried flowers, and hanging folk-art paintings on the walls, you can create the feel of an early American cottage. To simulate the delicate, cool interiors of nineteenth-century Scandinavia, cover the walls with a bold striped wallpaper, paint the floor a pale gray-white, stencil it with a decorative border, and fill the room with painted neoclassical furniture.

Antique textiles can also lend enormous atmosphere and character to the dining room. They often turn up in flea markets and country auction houses at reasonable prices, especially if they are fragments. Used as table coverings, they can impart a period feeling to a nondescript table. London picture dealer Stephanie Hoppen drapes the dining table in her New York drawing room with a nineteenth-century paisley shawl. A panel of eighteenth-century French toile de Jouy will set off country faience dinnerware beautifully. Or consider an eighteenth-century crewelwork panel paired with pearl ware. Victorian embroidered white linens are readily available and make ethereal table coverings.

Tea towels are fun to collect and can be used as napkins. If you are lucky enough to find ones embroidered with unusual monograms or with laundry-identification numbers, you can be sure they will generate conversation among your guests while lending great style to your table. Roger Banks-Pye's enormous collection of blue-and-white tea towels and checked gingham napkins, almost all of which he bought one at a time, inspired the decoration of his breakfast room (pages 88-89).

In addition to period styles, national, regional, and ethnic styles offer a wealth of design ideas for color schemes and furnishings. To give the room a bright, exuberant look, try a Caribbean-style palette of shocking pink, brilliant yellow, or sea-foam green (page 30). If you prefer an earthier ambience, consider a Santa Fe-style mixture of terra-cotta and blue, and decorate the room with local baskets and ceramics. To re-create the homey rusticity of a lodge in the Adirondacks, combine bent-twig furniture with quilts (page 74) or faded chintz.

The contemporary styles you can use to create a starker, more pared-down look are too numerous to list here. There is an enormous amount of imaginative and whimsical furniture being produced today, such as Philippe Starck's witty version of a traditional cafe chair, which comes in lots of colors, or the sculptural creations of Andre Dubreuil. A simple metal chair can be dressed up by tying a rope tassel or a sleek, oversized metallic bow to the back where it meets the seat.

Throughout history, travel has been a rich source of both culinary and design ideas. In 1784 Abigail Adams was enormously impressed by a dinner she attended in London and wrote unabashedly, "I am in love with the London stile of entertaining company." I often reminisce about a wonderful country lunch in Provence, in the courtyard of a château similar to Vignelaure (page 73), where the afternoon sunlight peeking through the surrounding foliage dappled the brilliantly patterned tablecloth as it rustled in the breeze. A glazed-crockery olive pot bursting with sunflowers sat in the center of the table, its rich yellow echoing the chunky octagonal painted earthenware plates with their simple beaded borders. Luscious local wine was poured from earthenware jugs into heavy, roughly blown green glass goblets. Glistening spiced olives piled high in painted faience bowls provided the prelude to a hearty daube dished out of eighteenth-century tureens covered with naive figures. The sensual delights of such dining experiences need not remain mere memories. You can achieve similar effects at home simply by adorning your table with the same kind of fabric and crockery.

Nor will I ever forget my first meal in a turn-of-the-century French bistro, with its leather banquettes, rattan chairs, and crisp white paper tablecloths. Now the mere sight of a cafe chair or heavy green bistro ware with its gilded borders conjures up the salty taste of pommes frites and the heady smell of Dijon mustard. French restaurant tableware and accessories are widely available and can help you create your own bistro chic at home.

There are many imaginative uses of paint and fabric that allow you to transform ordinary furniture into a decorative tour de force. For example, look in secondhand and antique shops for pieces with decorative potential but in less than pristine condition. You can give new life to an Edwardian table with a frieze of bows and swags by painting it with a faux finish. A basic table can be made special by painting a trompe l'oeil mural or a favorite still life of food and flowers on it or by covering it with a decoupage of prints or floral and geometric motifs. A plywood table can be dressed up by wrapping it in fabric. For a more festive look, tie the fabric in knots, bows, or rosettes at the corners, or hang tassels on it. To change the mood, simply change the fabric.

Creative uses of fabric can also transform chairs. Consider covering ordinary folding or director's chairs in loose slipcovers, which are easily removed for cleaning or whenever you want to change the look. They can be prints or solids, monogrammed, piped, trimmed, tied with bows and gently ruffled for a period look, or boxy and unstructured for a more contemporary feeling. Fashion designer Bill Blass has revived the eighteenth-century practice of covering expensive upholstered and leather chairs with slipcovers (page 113). Tom Parr of Colefax and Fowler is especially fond of loose covers, not only because of their practicality but also because fabric lends a cozy air to a room and is an excellent way of introducing pattern.

Interesting wall decor can convert a nondescript dining room into an enchanting space. In the eighteenth century, one of the most popular wall treatments was to create a "print room" by pasting a collection of decorative prints onto stippled walls, framing them with wallpaper borders, and linking them with ornamental devices such as chains, rings, lions' heads, or ribbons. Today the print room is back in fashion. Available in do-it-yourself kits, it is a relatively inexpensive way of turning a dining room into a personal art gallery. Prints are easy to find, and there is no end of appropriate themes to choose from, including silver or porcelain designs taken from pattern books, scenes of dining and feasting, architectural renderings, vintage menus or wine lists, and portraits (page 116). Inexpensive reproductions can be tinted by dipping them in tea for an old world feeling. Wallpaper facsimiles of print rooms were fashionable in the eighteenth century and are also available today. For a Palm Beach dining room interior, designer Bunny Williams used the print-room technique in an innovative way, pasting a series of hand-colored porcelain designs on the wall and interspersing them with trompe l'oeil versions (page 53).

Another fashionable eighteenth-century wall covering that is particularly effective in the dining room is panoramic wallpaper. The visual stories these mural-like papers tell delight the eye and obviate the need for pictures on the walls. One of the original producers of panoramic wallpapers, Zuber of Paris, continues to manufacture a wide range of them.

Of course, dining room walls can be the perfect place to showcase treasured paintings, drawings, or prints. They draw guests' attention, providing a pleasant diversion during the course of a meal.

Like wallpaper, specialist paint finishes aid in the creation of mood and atmosphere. Using a simple stone-blocking technique, for instance, you can achieve looks as diverse as a Roman palazzo, a Tuscan farmhouse, or an English country manor. Dragging, ragging, sponging, and marbleizing all add depth and visual interest to otherwise plain walls. A trompe l'oeil mural of an outdoor scene will transform your dining room into a "room with a view." If the room has great architectural features, highlight them with color. If not, you can create the illusion of architectural splendor with paint, including faux columns, cornices, and boiserie.

Walls covered with fabric have a soft, inviting effect. Don't be afraid to use a large-scale overall pattern even in a small space; the look will be dramatic. Small patterns create subtle backdrops for collections of ceramics or glass. Experiment with the wide range of fabrics based on print rooms and trompe l'oeil ceramics, such as Jane Churchill's witty rendering of nineteenth-century platters and Pierre Frey's fanciful teacup design inspired by a Minton pattern book.

Although almost any floor covering is appropriate to a dining room, you may want to turn to certain historic treatments for inspiration, such as covering the floor with a cloth that has a geometric or floral motif painted on it, or painting a trompe l'oeil carpet design directly onto the floor (page 96).

When deciding on the window treatment for your dining room, ask yourself the following questions: Do you want to draw attention to the windows? How much light do you want to let in? To what extent is privacy a factor? Elaborately draped fabric will feature the windows, soften the space, and provide privacy. If privacy is not an issue, you may opt to ornament the windows with a simple gauzy swag, allowing in maximum light during the day. You might try reviving the eighteenth-century custom of using shutters carved with a ribbon-and-festoon decoration that is revealed when the shutters are closed. Inexpensive decorative plaster ornaments can be pasted on wood and painted to create the effect of the cupboard doors seen on page 110.

Table settings are the pièce de resistance of dining room decoration. A wonderful way to accumulate tableware is to comb antique shops, flea markets, and auction houses wherever you live or travel. The quest itself is fascinating and fun. One can spend endless happy hours foraging through Bermondsey Market and the stands at Portobello Road in London, the Marche aux Puces in Paris, the L'Isle sur la Sorgue Market in Provence, the souks of the Middle East and North Africa, and the farmers' markets and flea markets all over America.

When setting the table, feel free to mix and match styles, colors, and media. Not only will this approach give your table a unique personal touch, but it will never fail to stimulate conversation about the various pieces' history and provenance. Stephanie Hoppen mixes reproductions of Catherine the Great's famous ribbon-bordered dinner service with other pieces from her vast collection of period china and colored glass (page 107). Designer Rupert Cavendish combines Art Deco silver and glass with a contemporary dinner service by Susie Cooper (page 43).

Anne Hardy, an editor of British House & Garden, favors the concept of "layering" a table; as the setting for each course is removed, another layer is revealed. The foundation layer is likely to be presentation plates of silver, glass, china, pewter, wood, or painted metal. The kitchen table on page 96, set with inexpensive industrial copper presentation plates, contemporary handmade puddle-shaped dishes and matching bowls, Wedgwood plates from the 1860s with leaf motifs and basketweave borders, an assortment of antique and reproduction majolica decorated with flowers, and contemporary glasses inspired by a Byzantine design with jewel-like stems of colored beads, is the ultimate in flea-market chic. As a rule of thumb, when shopping for tableware don't be concerned about acquiring complete services for eight or twelve. Smaller sets are easier to find and less expensive.

Different styles of tableware tend to suit different moods and types of food. French country faience is ideal for a rustic outdoor lunch; nineteenth-century transfer-printed wares with their romantic scenes lend a Victorian mood to Sunday dinner; the bright colors and geometric shapes of Fiesta ware provide the perfect backdrop for simple grilled vegetables; mid-nineteenth-century emerald-green Wedgwood sets off dessert elegantly; luminous nineteenth-century lusterware is resplendent in candlelight; twentieth-century basket-shaped majolica suggests the pleasures of a turn-of-the-century picnic; creamware with its milky opacity conjures up the spirit of the eighteenth century; Chinese Export porcelain emblazoned with family crests makes us dream of its original owners; and nineteenth-century botanical plates have the freshness and charm of a period conservatory.

The dining room is a natural showcase for collections, and any objects related to food preparation or service can form the basis of a decorative collection. It is surprising to discover how ornamental many functional things are, including cobalt-blue mineral-water bottles; new or vintage biscuit tins; Italian olive-oil cans; pasta boxes; mason jars; French wire egg baskets; Shaker, Indian, or other woven baskets; twisted mahogany candlesticks; ceramic and silver teapots; cookie jars in the shape of figures and animals; gleaming silver meat covers; wine coasters and caddies; pot lids; and Bakelite toasters. Many people enjoy collecting specific types of ceramics, such as Chelsea porcelain, annular ware, spongeware, flow blue, agate ware, mocha ware, transfer prints, and so on. Even herbs look great when massed together, and you can snip off sprigs whenever needed (page 101).

I like to think of cutlery as the jewelry-whether real or costume-with which we adorn the table. If you keep an open mind and don't insist on buying large sets, you can find small quantities of all sorts of interesting flatware, such as eighteenth-century pistol-handled knives, two-pronged metal forks with dyed-green ivory handles, or George III spoons with deep bowls monogrammed on the outside. When you set the table, turn these over to reveal the monogram.

Although period or reproduction silver can be very elegant in settings as varied as a traditional dining room or a high-tech loft, there are all sorts of inexpensive alternatives that, like faux baubles, add a touch of sparkle and humor to the table. Brightly colored melamine or plastic flatware, replicas of French bistro cutlery, faux-marble finishes, and knives and forks whose handles are shaped like twigs are just a few. Contemporary designers such as Elsa Peretti have created fluid, sculptural forms resembling molten silver.

When searching for tableware, remember that things do not have to be what they appear; you can give objects found in a flea market a new life either by using them for a purpose different from the one originally intended or by renovating them with paint and other methods. Soup tureens are very versatile; use them for serving berries or bread, or for flowers. Patty pans, originally used for baking savory pastries, make wonderful butter dishes. You can reclaim an old tin milk jug by painting it and applying decoupage prints, flowers, or miniature portraits. Use the same techniques to decorate variously shaped trays, which can be used instead of silver trays for serving drinks.

You might be surprised to learn how easy it is to design your own plates. In many cities you can find ceramicists who will paint your own design onto an ordinary plate, revive a historic design, or create a transfer print for you. Consulting period manufacturers' catalogs or books on antique china will give you lots of ideas. Or you can have plates hand painted with your monogram and a border of your choosing. Kits for painting your own are also available.

If your taste tends toward the contemporary, let the dinnerware add color, shape, and a sculptural quality to your table. You may want to indulge in a wide range of fanciful designs, such as dinner plates in the shape of flower petals, service plates resembling gilded stars, or glass platters with faux-jewelled borders, to name just a few possibilities.

Now that you have accumulated all of these collections, what do you do with them? Storage is a key consideration in decorating your dining room. Undoubtedly there will be some objects you will want to display, and others you would prefer to conceal. There are all sorts of ways to create attractive storage space that will complement your decor. You can disguise cupboard doors by painting them with faux paneling or a trompe l'oeil picture, by gluing prints to them, or by hanging a series of framed pictures on them, linked perhaps with ribbons or rings. You can also hide them behind faux books (page 110). Bill Blass has converted a pair of classical columns into decorative storage spaces (page 113). In his Victorian sitting room, Christophe Gollut has hidden an entire miniature kitchen behind false doors hung floor to ceiling with pictures (page 115). Open pantry shelves filled with collections of drinking glasses, carafes, dinnerware, wine baskets, or linens can become the decorative focus of the room. Groups of objects tend to have greater impact than single pieces; clutter can be a virtue. Open shelving is available in a wide variety of styles, from rustic painted wood to high-tech steel. Country dressers look great when filled to bursting with kitchen and dining accoutrements (page 88). Period chests provide ample storage space and add character to the room. They can be painted any way you like and fitted with pull-out shirt drawers to maximize capacity. You can also conceal storage space with decorative screens, such as the one made out of a collection of English paintings that hides the wine racks in the dining room on page 41.

Nothing is more alluring on a splendid spring or summer day than dining alfresco. This is perhaps the ultimate dining fantasy. The charm of a natural setting has been enticing diners for centuries. Follies-delightful garden buildings often designed specifically for dining or tea drinking-were all the rage in the eighteenth century. Typically, they were modeled on exotic architectural forms, such as classical ruins, Egyptian temples, or Chinese pagodas. You can capture the enchanting ambience of a folly by erecting a gazebo or garden pavilion (pages 128, 129, and 131), available in a wide range of prefabricated forms at reasonable prices. Conservatories make ideal dining rooms in which to enjoy the out of doors year round. Terraces, porches, and even a shady spot on the grass are all inviting, romantic places to dine, and the decor is supplied by the best designer of them all-Mother Nature. But indoors you can re-create even the pleasures of a seaside picnic-the roar of the ocean and the feeling of sand in your toes-by decorating a table with shells and serving the food on glazed sand-colored terra-cotta plates.

To increase your flexibility so that you can turn dining into a movable feast at whim, it helps to have a set of portable round folding tables or a collection of removable trays on folding stands, such as mahogany butler's trays, rattan campaign trays, or a set of painted tole trays in different sizes. Inexpensive metal or wood folding tables are indispensable too.

All of us have our own personal fantasy about the most special place to dine. While writing this book, I spoke with many interior designers and asked them to describe their ideal dining room. Their responses varied widely, but all agreed that whatever the space in which we dine, it should be a refuge from the trials and tribulations of daily life; it should be intimate, cozy, and romantic; and above all it should possess an indefinable magic.

In this lusciously illustrated volume, author Diane Berger treats us to a feast of dining room styles and trends--from stately formal rooms to cozy country kitchens--in a book that appeals to hosts and hostesses as much as to interior designers. 150 full-color illustrations.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781558595552
  • Publisher: Abbeville Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/21/1993
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 144
  • Product dimensions: 10.19 (w) x 7.79 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Introduction

"The hour of dinner has been pronounced by Dr. Johnson to be, in civilized life, the most important hour of the twenty four," observed a nineteenth-century writer, and to this day there are few activities in daily life that are as cherished and esteemed as dining. The act of meal taking is special for many reasons. It is imbued with ritual, tradition, and celebration. It is sensual and dramatic, comforting and nurturing. It is romantic, exotic, mysterious, and magical. An activity so obviously special deserves its own space, a haven where mood reigns supreme and fantasy is allowed to take flight. For New York interior designer John Saladino, the dining room is perhaps "the only place in our lives where we still have a sense of ceremony." To London interior designer Nicholas Haslam, it is the soul of the house.

Luscious food presented with flair in delectable surroundings delights our vision as well as our senses of taste and smell. Indeed, the visual memory of an extraordinary meal remains in our minds long after the food is cleared away. In the late twentieth century, when the dining room in the strict sense--a room devoted exclusively to eating--has become somewhat of a luxury, the term is more reflective of a state of mind than of a fixed architectural space. But whatever shape it takes, the dining room should be alluring and seductive, tempting us to indulge in a simple meal or a lavish feast, to linger, to share, and to leave satiated, pampered, and fulfilled. Whether it is the cosseting intimacy of a chintz-filled country-cottage kitchen, the grand formality of an elegant and stately dining room, the sweeping majesty of a vaulted Roman palazzo, the secretpleasure of a tray straddled across a canopy bed, the cool sleekness of a New York terrace, the romance of a garden pavilion, the warmth of a paneled library with a roaring fire, or the sultry laziness of a seaside picnic in late summer, wonderful settings enhance great dining experiences.

Dining is inherently theatrical. The decor of the dining room is the mise-en-scène, the stage setting, for the presentation of the food. The creation of that mise-en-scène through wall, floor, and window treatments should dazzle the senses and whet the appetite. Table settings and the array of functional equipment used to serve the meal are the props. Just by changing setting and props, one can achieve strikingly different dramatic effects or make the mundane special. Simply by draping a casual cloth over a plywood table, dimming the lights, and lighting a candle, we can turn even a Chinese take-out meal into a sublime experience.

The pages that follow will treat you to a whole repertoire of wonderful feasting places, from traditional dining rooms to a wide range of alternative venues, indoors and out, and show you how to transform the dining space of your choice from the ordinary into pure magic. With a little imagination, you can create your dream dining room, whatever your taste, lifestyle, or budget.

The sources of inspiration for decorating the dining room are endless, and it can be daunting, when faced with four blank walls, to know where and how to begin. Although there are many ways to put the process in motion, a brief look at history is a natural starting place. As we trace the evolution of dining traditions and room decoration, we can see that history, indeed, repeats itself and that old ideas are continuously being reinterpreted, restyled, and revitalized.

The eighteenth century gave pride of place to the dining room and, as a result, to the very act of meal taking; it was during this period that the tradition of a room set aside only for eating became established. The eighteenth century also bore witness to the birth of the place setting as we know it. Prior to that time, most people, except for the aristocracy, shared one-pot meals with communal utensils. But soon commercialization took hold, and a burgeoning marketplace flooded with a great variety of irresistible tableware came within reach of the middle class for the first time. The ceramics manufacturer Josiah Wedgwood was a pivotal figure in this process, revolutionizing the marketing of dinnerware. When launching a new design, Wedgwood first sought a royal or aristocratic endorsement, which he knew would filter down the social scale and create a surefire demand for his wares among a middle-class clientele eager to be au courant with the latest fashion. A prolific designer, he also broke down the distinction between what he called "useful" and "ornamental" wares. The concept that functional objects can also be decorative is still a basic tenet of table settings today. He often produced highly fanciful shapes, such as cauliflower teapots, and unusual patterns, such as tortoiseshell. As soon as one design became de rigueur, he quickly introduced another. It was also during the eighteenth century that a taste for matched sets of dinnerware took hold.

By the late eighteenth century, a formula for dining room decoration had become nearly set. Furniture designers such as Hepplewhite and Sheraton popularized it through the publication of pattern books. By the time Robert Adam wrote his Works in Architecture in 1773, the basic room scheme included sets of tables--making it possible to seat various numbers of guests--chairs, and a sideboard or side table for serving. Adam also offered some helpful hints for decorating the dining room, such as not covering walls with expensive textiles that would retain the smell of food. But he looked beyond the utilitarian demands of dining to what he felt was the underlying essence of the dining experience, "The eating rooms are considered as the apartments of conversation in which we are to pass a great part of our time." To many people today this is still at dining's very core.

The decoration of the dining room is no longer so formulaic. In order to navigate through the maze of possibilities, we may follow Adam's lead and look to the heart of the dining experience itself for a design source. After identifying the venue in which you wish to dine, ask yourself some basic questions about the mood and ambience you want to create and go from there. For instance, do you want it to be exotic, magical, dramatic, rustic, cool and sleek, warm and cozy, formal, or informal? There are countless places to look for inspiration, including unforgettable dining experiences while traveling, a literary description of a dinner that enticed you, a favorite film set, period rooms in historic houses and museums, and antique pattern books, to name only a few.

Pattern books, paintings, prints, and old photographs can be "decoded" to reveal a wealth of how-to information, from ways of treating walls, floors, and windows, to usage of furniture and tableware in styles as varied as the Renaissance and Art Deco, to hanging pictures in an authentic manner. For example, Henry Sargent's famous painting The Dinner Party (c. 1821) reveals such details as wine carafes placed directly on the polished surface of a mahogany pedestal table, the location of the sideboard, the use of a wall-to-wall patterned carpet, and so on. The work of nineteenth-century watercolorist Mary Ellen Best shows us tables set with Staffordshire ware and rustic dressers in country kitchens filled with all sorts of cooking equipment. When asked what his ultimate dining fantasy is, New York interior designer David Easton immediately conjured up the image of a favorite photograph, Horst's portrait of Edith Sitwell reclining in bed, attended by Indian servants-a rich visual evocation of Raj style. Henri Matisse's bold use of pattern and color in Harmony in Red (1908) provides ideas for splashing walls, floors, and tables with dramatic designs. Or you might be inspired by the profusion of variously shaped glassware, bottles, and simple wooden chairs in Pierre Auguste Renoir's The Boating Party (1881).

Period styles are very evocative of mood because once you are familiar with them they transport you back to another era. Ideas for period styles can be garnered from books or by visiting design and decorative arts collections in museums. A faithful reconstruction of a period room conveys a sense of tradition and ceremony, but it need not be copied slavishly. Use a period style as a springboard for your own ideas and interpretations. Or focus on a single element that suggests the atmosphere of the period without costing a fortune. For instance, you can approximate the look of an English Chippendale interior simply by making paneling out of an inexpensive synthetic material, such as medium-density fiberboard (MDF) or chipboard, and painting it in any number of ways, including wood-graining and marbleizing, to give it the feeling of a centuries-old patina. Architectural detail can be added by painting false picture-frame molding. You can also create the illusion of panels by pasting wallpaper borders on the walls. Or you can find old paneling by searching through architectural salvage depots (page 110).

You can also achieve a period feel at a reasonable cost by investing in one important piece of antique furniture, such as a table, that will act as the focal point of the room, and pair it with a far less expensive set of comfortable contemporary upholstered chairs. Or do the opposite, and combine a set of period chairs with an ordinary plywood table covered with a cloth.

Mixing and matching antique furniture is a fun and affordable way of creating period style. For example, single chairs, or groups of three or four, are always less expensive than sets of eight or more, which command premium prices. You can experiment with mixing different chairs that share a general theme. For instance, you might consider starting a collection of Sheraton chairs, all of which have painted shield backs but with various decorative motifs. Some may sport Prince of Wales feathers, others may feature flowers. The impact will be similar to that of a collection of paintings. Anna Fendi has successfully combined two completely different sets of period chairs in her Roman dining room, each set lined up on one side of her long rectangular table (page 38). Remember, too, that any chair can be copied. When the owner of the kitchen on page 96 could not resist a provincial Georgian chair, she had the others reproduced.

If you love period styles but the authentic pieces exceed your budget, look for a style that is currently undervalued or simply less expensive, such as seventeenth-century turned furniture. You can still find some Biedermeier and Art Deco pieces at good prices, or you might consider the vintage chic of aluminum diner furniture from the 1940s and 1950s. You can create your own variation on a period theme, such as using a pair of antique stone garden ornaments as a base for a glass-topped table.

When creating a period interior, let one object or group of objects inspire you, and use it as the foundation on which to build a decorative scheme. For instance, when the owner of the dining room on page 32 fell in love with a splendid set of Hepplewhite chairs with their original blue and yellow paint, she let them dictate the wall color. A deep rich blue was taken from the decoration of the back splats and applied to the walls by dragging the paint in thin layers to enhance the period feel. The inspiration flowed from there, including the start of a collection of antique cobalt-blue glassware and lots of nineteenth-century blue-and-white Staffordshire ware plates and tureens of various sizes and shapes. Any object in the room can provide an excellent color source, such as a collection of ruby-red pressed wine glasses or a set of spongeware.

Remember that period style does not have to be formal. For example, you may want to re-create the cozy, rustic charm of a colonial tavern, as fashion designer Bill Blass has done (page 86), or by pairing Windsor chairs painted in different colors with a gateleg table. Both Biedermeier, with its curvaceous treatment of polished blond woods, and Art Deco, with its sleek ocean-liner chic, have an almost contemporary simplicity. The warmth of rural France can be captured by combining whimsically painted rush-seated farm chairs with a provincial armoire. Just by draping a table with a quilt, filling country baskets with dried flowers, and hanging folk-art paintings on the walls, you can create the feel of an early American cottage. To simulate the delicate, cool interiors of nineteenth-century Scandinavia, cover the walls with a bold striped wallpaper, paint the floor a pale gray-white, stencil it with a decorative border, and fill the room with painted neoclassical furniture.

Antique textiles can also lend enormous atmosphere and character to the dining room. They often turn up in flea markets and country auction houses at reasonable prices, especially if they are fragments. Used as table coverings, they can impart a period feeling to a nondescript table. London picture dealer Stephanie Hoppen drapes the dining table in her New York drawing room with a nineteenth-century paisley shawl. A panel of eighteenth-century French toile de Jouy will set off country faience dinnerware beautifully. Or consider an eighteenth-century crewelwork panel paired with pearl ware. Victorian embroidered white linens are readily available and make ethereal table coverings.

Tea towels are fun to collect and can be used as napkins. If you are lucky enough to find ones embroidered with unusual monograms or with laundry-identification numbers, you can be sure they will generate conversation among your guests while lending great style to your table. Roger Banks-Pye's enormous collection of blue-and-white tea towels and checked gingham napkins, almost all of which he bought one at a time, inspired the decoration of his breakfast room (pages 88-89).

In addition to period styles, national, regional, and ethnic styles offer a wealth of design ideas for color schemes and furnishings. To give the room a bright, exuberant look, try a Caribbean-style palette of shocking pink, brilliant yellow, or sea-foam green (page 30). If you prefer an earthier ambience, consider a Santa Fe-style mixture of terra-cotta and blue, and decorate the room with local baskets and ceramics. To re-create the homey rusticity of a lodge in the Adirondacks, combine bent-twig furniture with quilts (page 74) or faded chintz.

The contemporary styles you can use to create a starker, more pared-down look are too numerous to list here. There is an enormous amount of imaginative and whimsical furniture being produced today, such as Philippe Starck's witty version of a traditional cafe chair, which comes in lots of colors, or the sculptural creations of Andre Dubreuil. A simple metal chair can be dressed up by tying a rope tassel or a sleek, oversized metallic bow to the back where it meets the seat.

Throughout history, travel has been a rich source of both culinary and design ideas. In 1784 Abigail Adams was enormously impressed by a dinner she attended in London and wrote unabashedly, "I am in love with the London stile of entertaining company." I often reminisce about a wonderful country lunch in Provence, in the courtyard of a château similar to Vignelaure (page 73), where the afternoon sunlight peeking through the surrounding foliage dappled the brilliantly patterned tablecloth as it rustled in the breeze. A glazed-crockery olive pot bursting with sunflowers sat in the center of the table, its rich yellow echoing the chunky octagonal painted earthenware plates with their simple beaded borders. Luscious local wine was poured from earthenware jugs into heavy, roughly blown green glass goblets. Glistening spiced olives piled high in painted faience bowls provided the prelude to a hearty daube dished out of eighteenth-century tureens covered with naive figures. The sensual delights of such dining experiences need not remain mere memories. You can achieve similar effects at home simply by adorning your table with the same kind of fabric and crockery.

Nor will I ever forget my first meal in a turn-of-the-century French bistro, with its leather banquettes, rattan chairs, and crisp white paper tablecloths. Now the mere sight of a cafe chair or heavy green bistro ware with its gilded borders conjures up the salty taste of pommes frites and the heady smell of Dijon mustard. French restaurant tableware and accessories are widely available and can help you create your own bistro chic at home.

There are many imaginative uses of paint and fabric that allow you to transform ordinary furniture into a decorative tour de force. For example, look in secondhand and antique shops for pieces with decorative potential but in less than pristine condition. You can give new life to an Edwardian table with a frieze of bows and swags by painting it with a faux finish. A basic table can be made special by painting a trompe l'oeil mural or a favorite still life of food and flowers on it or by covering it with a decoupage of prints or floral and geometric motifs. A plywood table can be dressed up by wrapping it in fabric. For a more festive look, tie the fabric in knots, bows, or rosettes at the corners, or hang tassels on it. To change the mood, simply change the fabric.

Creative uses of fabric can also transform chairs. Consider covering ordinary folding or director's chairs in loose slipcovers, which are easily removed for cleaning or whenever you want to change the look. They can be prints or solids, monogrammed, piped, trimmed, tied with bows and gently ruffled for a period look, or boxy and unstructured for a more contemporary feeling. Fashion designer Bill Blass has revived the eighteenth-century practice of covering expensive upholstered and leather chairs with slipcovers (page 113). Tom Parr of Colefax and Fowler is especially fond of loose covers, not only because of their practicality but also because fabric lends a cozy air to a room and is an excellent way of introducing pattern.

Interesting wall decor can convert a nondescript dining room into an enchanting space. In the eighteenth century, one of the most popular wall treatments was to create a "print room" by pasting a collection of decorative prints onto stippled walls, framing them with wallpaper borders, and linking them with ornamental devices such as chains, rings, lions' heads, or ribbons. Today the print room is back in fashion. Available in do-it-yourself kits, it is a relatively inexpensive way of turning a dining room into a personal art gallery. Prints are easy to find, and there is no end of appropriate themes to choose from, including silver or porcelain designs taken from pattern books, scenes of dining and feasting, architectural renderings, vintage menus or wine lists, and portraits (page 116). Inexpensive reproductions can be tinted by dipping them in tea for an old world feeling. Wallpaper facsimiles of print rooms were fashionable in the eighteenth century and are also available today. For a Palm Beach dining room interior, designer Bunny Williams used the print-room technique in an innovative way, pasting a series of hand-colored porcelain designs on the wall and interspersing them with trompe l'oeil versions (page 53).

Another fashionable eighteenth-century wall covering that is particularly effective in the dining room is panoramic wallpaper. The visual stories these mural-like papers tell delight the eye and obviate the need for pictures on the walls. One of the original producers of panoramic wallpapers, Zuber of Paris, continues to manufacture a wide range of them.

Of course, dining room walls can be the perfect place to showcase treasured paintings, drawings, or prints. They draw guests' attention, providing a pleasant diversion during the course of a meal.

Like wallpaper, specialist paint finishes aid in the creation of mood and atmosphere. Using a simple stone-blocking technique, for instance, you can achieve looks as diverse as a Roman palazzo, a Tuscan farmhouse, or an English country manor. Dragging, ragging, sponging, and marbleizing all add depth and visual interest to otherwise plain walls. A trompe l'oeil mural of an outdoor scene will transform your dining room into a "room with a view." If the room has great architectural features, highlight them with color. If not, you can create the illusion of architectural splendor with paint, including faux columns, cornices, and boiserie.

Walls covered with fabric have a soft, inviting effect. Don't be afraid to use a large-scale overall pattern even in a small space; the look will be dramatic. Small patterns create subtle backdrops for collections of ceramics or glass. Experiment with the wide range of fabrics based on print rooms and trompe l'oeil ceramics, such as Jane Churchill's witty rendering of nineteenth-century platters and Pierre Frey's fanciful teacup design inspired by a Minton pattern book.

Although almost any floor covering is appropriate to a dining room, you may want to turn to certain historic treatments for inspiration, such as covering the floor with a cloth that has a geometric or floral motif painted on it, or painting a trompe l'oeil carpet design directly onto the floor (page 96).

When deciding on the window treatment for your dining room, ask yourself the following questions: Do you want to draw attention to the windows? How much light do you want to let in? To what extent is privacy a factor? Elaborately draped fabric will feature the windows, soften the space, and provide privacy. If privacy is not an issue, you may opt to ornament the windows with a simple gauzy swag, allowing in maximum light during the day. You might try reviving the eighteenth-century custom of using shutters carved with a ribbon-and-festoon decoration that is revealed when the shutters are closed. Inexpensive decorative plaster ornaments can be pasted on wood and painted to create the effect of the cupboard doors seen on page 110.

Table settings are the pièce de resistance of dining room decoration. A wonderful way to accumulate tableware is to comb antique shops, flea markets, and auction houses wherever you live or travel. The quest itself is fascinating and fun. One can spend endless happy hours foraging through Bermondsey Market and the stands at Portobello Road in London, the Marche aux Puces in Paris, the L'Isle sur la Sorgue Market in Provence, the souks of the Middle East and North Africa, and the farmers' markets and flea markets all over America.

When setting the table, feel free to mix and match styles, colors, and media. Not only will this approach give your table a unique personal touch, but it will never fail to stimulate conversation about the various pieces' history and provenance. Stephanie Hoppen mixes reproductions of Catherine the Great's famous ribbon-bordered dinner service with other pieces from her vast collection of period china and colored glass (page 107). Designer Rupert Cavendish combines Art Deco silver and glass with a contemporary dinner service by Susie Cooper (page 43).

Anne Hardy, an editor of British House & Garden, favors the concept of "layering" a table; as the setting for each course is removed, another layer is revealed. The foundation layer is likely to be presentation plates of silver, glass, china, pewter, wood, or painted metal. The kitchen table on page 96, set with inexpensive industrial copper presentation plates, contemporary handmade puddle-shaped dishes and matching bowls, Wedgwood plates from the 1860s with leaf motifs and basketweave borders, an assortment of antique and reproduction majolica decorated with flowers, and contemporary glasses inspired by a Byzantine design with jewel-like stems of colored beads, is the ultimate in flea-market chic. As a rule of thumb, when shopping for tableware don't be concerned about acquiring complete services for eight or twelve. Smaller sets are easier to find and less expensive.

Different styles of tableware tend to suit different moods and types of food. French country faience is ideal for a rustic outdoor lunch; nineteenth-century transfer-printed wares with their romantic scenes lend a Victorian mood to Sunday dinner; the bright colors and geometric shapes of Fiesta ware provide the perfect backdrop for simple grilled vegetables; mid-nineteenth-century emerald-green Wedgwood sets off dessert elegantly; luminous nineteenth-century lusterware is resplendent in candlelight; twentieth-century basket-shaped majolica suggests the pleasures of a turn-of-the-century picnic; creamware with its milky opacity conjures up the spirit of the eighteenth century; Chinese Export porcelain emblazoned with family crests makes us dream of its original owners; and nineteenth-century botanical plates have the freshness and charm of a period conservatory.

The dining room is a natural showcase for collections, and any objects related to food preparation or service can form the basis of a decorative collection. It is surprising to discover how ornamental many functional things are, including cobalt-blue mineral-water bottles; new or vintage biscuit tins; Italian olive-oil cans; pasta boxes; mason jars; French wire egg baskets; Shaker, Indian, or other woven baskets; twisted mahogany candlesticks; ceramic and silver teapots; cookie jars in the shape of figures and animals; gleaming silver meat covers; wine coasters and caddies; pot lids; and Bakelite toasters. Many people enjoy collecting specific types of ceramics, such as Chelsea porcelain, annular ware, spongeware, flow blue, agate ware, mocha ware, transfer prints, and so on. Even herbs look great when massed together, and you can snip off sprigs whenever needed (page 101).

I like to think of cutlery as the jewelry-whether real or costume-with which we adorn the table. If you keep an open mind and don't insist on buying large sets, you can find small quantities of all sorts of interesting flatware, such as eighteenth-century pistol-handled knives, two-pronged metal forks with dyed-green ivory handles, or George III spoons with deep bowls monogrammed on the outside. When you set the table, turn these over to reveal the monogram.

Although period or reproduction silver can be very elegant in settings as varied as a traditional dining room or a high-tech loft, there are all sorts of inexpensive alternatives that, like faux baubles, add a touch of sparkle and humor to the table. Brightly colored melamine or plastic flatware, replicas of French bistro cutlery, faux-marble finishes, and knives and forks whose handles are shaped like twigs are just a few. Contemporary designers such as Elsa Peretti have created fluid, sculptural forms resembling molten silver.

When searching for tableware, remember that things do not have to be what they appear; you can give objects found in a flea market a new life either by using them for a purpose different from the one originally intended or by renovating them with paint and other methods. Soup tureens are very versatile; use them for serving berries or bread, or for flowers. Patty pans, originally used for baking savory pastries, make wonderful butter dishes. You can reclaim an old tin milk jug by painting it and applying decoupage prints, flowers, or miniature portraits. Use the same techniques to decorate variously shaped trays, which can be used instead of silver trays for serving drinks.

You might be surprised to learn how easy it is to design your own plates. In many cities you can find ceramicists who will paint your own design onto an ordinary plate, revive a historic design, or create a transfer print for you. Consulting period manufacturers' catalogs or books on antique china will give you lots of ideas. Or you can have plates hand painted with your monogram and a border of your choosing. Kits for painting your own are also available.

If your taste tends toward the contemporary, let the dinnerware add color, shape, and a sculptural quality to your table. You may want to indulge in a wide range of fanciful designs, such as dinner plates in the shape of flower petals, service plates resembling gilded stars, or glass platters with faux-jewelled borders, to name just a few possibilities.

Now that you have accumulated all of these collections, what do you do with them? Storage is a key consideration in decorating your dining room. Undoubtedly there will be some objects you will want to display, and others you would prefer to conceal. There are all sorts of ways to create attractive storage space that will complement your decor. You can disguise cupboard doors by painting them with faux paneling or a trompe l'oeil picture, by gluing prints to them, or by hanging a series of framed pictures on them, linked perhaps with ribbons or rings. You can also hide them behind faux books (page 110). Bill Blass has converted a pair of classical columns into decorative storage spaces (page 113). In his Victorian sitting room, Christophe Gollut has hidden an entire miniature kitchen behind false doors hung floor to ceiling with pictures (page 115). Open pantry shelves filled with collections of drinking glasses, carafes, dinnerware, wine baskets, or linens can become the decorative focus of the room. Groups of objects tend to have greater impact than single pieces; clutter can be a virtue. Open shelving is available in a wide variety of styles, from rustic painted wood to high-tech steel. Country dressers look great when filled to bursting with kitchen and dining accoutrements (page 88). Period chests provide ample storage space and add character to the room. They can be painted any way you like and fitted with pull-out shirt drawers to maximize capacity. You can also conceal storage space with decorative screens, such as the one made out of a collection of English paintings that hides the wine racks in the dining room on page 41.

Nothing is more alluring on a splendid spring or summer day than dining alfresco. This is perhaps the ultimate dining fantasy. The charm of a natural setting has been enticing diners for centuries. Follies-delightful garden buildings often designed specifically for dining or tea drinking-were all the rage in the eighteenth century. Typically, they were modeled on exotic architectural forms, such as classical ruins, Egyptian temples, or Chinese pagodas. You can capture the enchanting ambience of a folly by erecting a gazebo or garden pavilion (pages 128, 129, and 131), available in a wide range of prefabricated forms at reasonable prices. Conservatories make ideal dining rooms in which to enjoy the out of doors year round. Terraces, porches, and even a shady spot on the grass are all inviting, romantic places to dine, and the decor is supplied by the best designer of them all-Mother Nature. But indoors you can re-create even the pleasures of a seaside picnic-the roar of the ocean and the feeling of sand in your toes-by decorating a table with shells and serving the food on glazed sand-colored terra-cotta plates.

To increase your flexibility so that you can turn dining into a movable feast at whim, it helps to have a set of portable round folding tables or a collection of removable trays on folding stands, such as mahogany butler's trays, rattan campaign trays, or a set of painted tole trays in different sizes. Inexpensive metal or wood folding tables are indispensable too.

All of us have our own personal fantasy about the most special place to dine. While writing this book, I spoke with many interior designers and asked them to describe their ideal dining room. Their responses varied widely, but all agreed that whatever the space in which we dine, it should be a refuge from the trials and tribulations of daily life; it should be intimate, cozy, and romantic; and above all it should possess an indefinable magic.

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Table of Contents

Introduction

Grand and Stately

Dining in Architectural Splendor

Form and Function

A Feast for the Collector

Room with a View

Tempting Wall Treatments

Romantic Fantasy

Decorative Confections

Simple Pleasures

Country Dining

Back to Basics

Kitchen Style

From Library to Salon

A Movable Feast

The Great Outdoors

Dining Alfresco

Sources

Selected Bibliography

Acknowledgments

Index

Author Biography: Diane Berger, a decorative-arts historian and exhibition curator, is author of The Bedroom and The Bathroom and a contributor to such periodicals as Period Living & Traditional Homes and Apollo. An American, she lives in London.

Fritz von der Schulenburg's photography appears regularly in The World of Interiors, House & Garden, and Schoener Wohnen. In addition to The Bedroom and The Bathroom, his books include Empire and Neoclassicism in the North. He lives in London.

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