Episode 314

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As we near the end of January, I’m watching the snow and hoping I will be able to travel again sometime soon.  In the meantime, I’ve decided to plan a staycation where I can check into a hotel for two days, order room service, and never leave my space.  I’m going to envision the new year, have a virtual dinner with some of my business friends, and take some time to unplug in the safest way possible right now.  I hope you’re staying safe, and I hope you have things to look forward to as well.  I’m so excited that you’ve continued to write in with lots of delicious questions, so I’m jumping back into the mailbag!

This episode, I answer questions about…

[6:43] Placing a dining room table in the middle of a kitchen (Amelia)


Is it okay to have a dining table in the centre of a kitchen instead of an island? Is there a way to make it look intentional and stylish?

We have an older home and are saving up to update it. You can see in the photo that we have very little counter and cabinet space. The kitchen is square and a good size but the house doesn’t have a dining room. The adjacent living room is too small to take space for a dining table and the only other option would be to remove a wall and make one of our spare bedrooms into the dining room. We are concerned about this because it feels like taking value away from the home.

We think the kitchen is big enough to have cabinets around three of the walls and a dining table in the middle but is this a terrible choice that won’t age well? Ideally we would like the table to be taller so it could be comfortable to do food prep on.  Are there certain styles that work better for something like this? We like a bit more rustic/farmhouse looks and we think it would go well with the rest of the house being older.


As I was reading this question and looking at the pictures, I was reminded of the TV show Roseanne. She had a dining room sort of in the middle of the kitchen, so the photos bring back that feeling for me. It was the hub of not only the TV show, but the family’s home as well. So much action happened in that kitchen while somebody was preparing a snack or a meal while other people were at the table.

At the same time, however, if I had a dining table in the middle of my kitchen I worry that it might become somewhat of a crap collector. If I had limited counter space, it might become that prep station so I might have to clear it off regularly. I’m just thinking that one of the traps of having a table in the middle of the kitchen could tempt people to leave stuff there. So, whether or not you should have it there for me is a lifestyle question.

The height of the table is also a lifestyle question. Hightop, like countertop or bar height, dining tables are really fun and they tend to have a more casual vibe. If you don’t have dinner parties, you don’t eat formally, and you don’t have small children, I think the hightop could make a lot of sense. You could use it as a prep area without having to bend down, and you could have stools that tuck right underneath it so you don’t even have to push chairs out of the way to sidle right up and chop your onions or whatever you’re doing. It could be a really streamlined piece that could flow beautifully and function impeccably in a space that has to do double duty as an island and a dining table.

If you do have young children, or if you do like to entertain and have dinner parties, I would think a hightop would be less comfortable and not conducive to having guests. There are very few hightop dining tables that have extension leaves. So in those cases, I would suggest getting a standard height dining table that can extend. Day to day, it can be just the right size for an island or nightly dining while also allowing the option to have people over without feeling limited.

Normally you need 30-36 inches around a dining table to pull out your chair without hitting anything like a wall, a buffet, a hutch, or a console. I would recommend having even more space than that in the middle of a kitchen, because you will want to open the dishwasher, open the stove, do the dishes, and maybe have more than one person in the space at a time. So I would recommend 48 inches on either side, and as I’m eyeballing the pictures I think that’s possible here. As you choose the width of the table, however, I would be quite mindful of having that extra room to move around.

I would also be mindful of the table’s material, as it should work seamlessly with the kitchen’s materials. Right now you have a mid-tone to light wood table with mid-tone to light wood chairs. Meanwhile, the cabinets have white doors and the actual frame of the cabinets is a dark wood. For me, this not only feels incongruous spatially, but it also feels incongruous stylistically. If the table has any wood elements, I would want to make sure that the wood coordinates with the wood from the cabinets. I want to make sure the space feels really cohesive.

You also want to consider the materials you’re using.  If I was going to have a dining table and chairs in the middle of my kitchen, I would avoid fabric or upholstered chairs because they will absorb the grease and smells from the kitchen.  Instead, I would lean more toward leather or pleather chairs. If I have a marble countertop, I would avoid having a marble dining tabletop. You don’t want them to look like they’re supposed to be the same, but they’re not.

I do think there is a lot of value to having extra rooms in your home. I understand your hesitancy to knock down the wall, but if you’re not planning on moving and reselling for 5-10 years, I say do whatever makes sense for your family and your lifestyle. I think living somewhere for 5-10 years and having it really flow and work for you is so much more important than resale value. After that time, you will have gotten years and years of value out of whatever arrangement you chose and you can easily put the wall back up. You may want to ask a real estate agent about how this structural change would impact your resale value. If you are trying to decide on a renovation and want to recoup that value in the future, a real estate agent is key because they are in the market of reselling.  I’m in the market of making your interior design dreams come true and making your home more functional for you – not for somebody else that we don’t even know in the future.

[15:35] Choosing the size of artwork to hang near a dining room table (Julieane)


You say that wall art should be 50-75% of the width of your furniture, but how does this apply to a dining table? Should art be 50-75% the width of the table only, or should the chairs be counted toward that width? Photo attached of the table I bought. I also bought 6 black leather chairs. The art is custom framed colourful fabric, which is meaningful to my husband and me, so we can pick the size.


The table in the picture looks like it is a round marble top with a dark sort of graphite metal base with a very cool, contemporary X. It’s a really interesting, compelling table. I just love it. I love a circular table with a pedestal base because you can fit more people around it. If you’re a family of four, just eating dinner, you can easily chat and it’s optimal. If somebody comes over, you can squeeze in another chair and you don’t have those legs right on the ends.

I typically make it so that the artwork is 50-75% the size of the table, not of the table and chairs. The other thing you want to consider in a dining space is the size of the wall behind the dining table. Sometimes the dining table is not going to be pushed up against the wall, and that rule is really for objects that will be against a wall.

Certainly in some apartments I might push a dining table against the wall, but it’s quite rare and you wouldn’t do it with a circular table. So if this table is floating in the middle of the space, you don’t have to follow that rule. It’s more about the size of the wall, because the artwork won’t be directly above a piece of furniture.

Let’s say I had a 10 foot wall behind this 60 inch dining table. I would be more concerned with making that wall feel full, so maybe I would do three pieces that were all 30” x 30” with a few inches between. That would fill the wall better, even though if you add up those three pieces with the space in between it would be bigger than 60 inches.

To reiterate, it’s not about being 50-75% of the length of the piece if the piece is not directly below the artwork. If the furniture is in the middle of the room and the artwork is three feet away on the wall, then they don’t have to have that same relationship.

[19:05] Covering wood paneling (Eric)


I was hoping you could give me advice about what I can do with the dated fake wood wall paneling currently found in my living room.

I am planning on removing the carpeting in this room and showcasing the hardwood floor underneath but cannot stand to look at that fake wood paneling on the wall. Can this paneling be painted or wallpapered over? How would you recommend doing that?

Also, as this room has a fireplace and television hookups on opposite walls, how would you tackle room arrangement to ensure optimal viewing of both?


Yes, there is a lot you can do to cover wood paneling.  There are four ideas that come to my mind for wood paneling.  The first is that you can paint it.  You do need to prep the wall and follow some specific steps to make sure that it’s ready to hold paint, but that is the easiest way to go about re-imagining wood paneling.

There is another fun and relatively inexpensive thing you could do. It is more labor intensive, and it involves adhering a liner to the wall. It’s essentially a very thick wallpaper that you would then put on the paneling that would take away the look of the wood. You would lose all the grooves and the texture, and it would look very much like drywall. This is a process, and personally I would hire a professional for this because not only do you have to clean the wall with a specific cleaner (which you will probably have to do if you paint as well), prep the wall with a specific sealer, and then put on the liner. This is much like adhering wallpaper, except that this liner has no intrinsic texture or pattern.

A cool and imaginative way to embrace the wood paneling while also using the liner is to create a type of wainscoting. If you’re familiar with that wainscoting look, with those planks at the bottom and a chair rail around the middle, that could be pretty cool. So you’re only doing the liner from the ceiling to between three and four feet before the floor. Then you install a piece of molding and paint the molding and the paneling below the molding white, like the trim. Then you have smooth liner above the chair molding, and you paint that the same color as the walls. That is a very creative way to reimagine the wood paneling in a contemporary way, because right now with the farmhouse style being so hot, everybody is loving wainscoting and beadboard. That paneled look at the bottom is going to be very compelling and may even enhance resale. In this case, I’m not too excited about this option because the wood paneling only appears to be on one wall in the room. Because it’s only on one wall, I think you need to make this wall look like the others.

Finally, you can wallpaper over this but you will still have to do that wall liner application underneath. With normal wallpaper, you should still see the grooves and that is going to be unsightly and the paper isn’t going to stick well. In my estimation, unless you are very, very handy, I would hire someone for any of my four ideas – whether you choose to wallpaper, wainscot, paint, or use a wall liner all over.

Now, you did also ask where to put this TV and the problem is that the area by the fireplace is pretty shallow. Putting any sort of sofa or seating directly opposite the fireplace is really going to gum up the works because there are so many walkways adjacent to the fireplace. It’s really in a high traffic zone. That being said, opposite the fireplace is a beautiful, long, unbroken wall. I’m always trying to put seating on beautiful, long, unbroken walls because that is where a sofa might fit best. You’re quite limited here, however, because you don’t have very many usable walls.

The idea of accommodating a television is quite tricky because there is very little wall on either side of the fireplace – maybe three feet on the left hand side and two feet on the right hand side, neither of which is wide enough for a TV. The fireplace is all brick, with an unusual mantle that is about three quarters of the way up from the floor. There is not enough room for a TV above it, and there’s certainly not enough room for a TV below it. So unless you remove the mantle and have a nice, clean, straight face, putting it above the mantle is not a solution either.

You may have heard me say on the podcast that I don’t give floor plan advice because I like to do my due diligence and try every possible option. So I would ask that you did the same, weighing every possible option of what is actually available in the space. Based on the limited pictures I have here (and I don’t have a picture of every angle), I know you’re going to have to be very strategic in this space with so many openings and so few long, unbroken walls. There are so many indentations, nooks, and crannies; this room is not straightforward and it will be a challenge for you to find that ultimate floor plan.






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