The dining area was the last part of the kitchen renovation to be completed. It’s an awkward space as the only real place we could squeeze it in was in the widened area between the kitchen and lounge. In most houses of this configuration, the obvious place to put the dining room is in the room adjoining the kitchen. However, in our case this wasn’t going to work as we like to have a small lounge area plus a playroom of sorts; it means everything is a bit squeezed in but it’s how we’ve ended up living.
The two dominating elements in the new dining area are the lighting and the framed fabric on the wall. I don’t remember much now about how I got the ideas for them originally (we can possibly blame Pinterest) but somehow, when I was 8 month’s pregnant I insisted we go on a Big Driftwood Hunt for something which could be turned into a chandelier. As well as being almost at the end of my pregnancy, I was still recovering from a bout of swine flu and had only been out of hospital for a week. This had left me absolutely exhausted, on top of all the usual late pregnancy-related complaints: breathlessness, pain, heartburn and general hugeness. So no better time to go looking for lumps of wood on a desolate beach, huh?
So off we set to Severn Beach, a coastal village on the edge of the Severn Estuary. There isn’t a great deal there, and the abandoned bits have a Dismaland air to them.
Once down on the seafront, off I set (or rather waddled) in search of a piece of wood which was the right thickness and length to suspend from the ceiling. There were plenty of bits about two feet long which might do the job, but I wanted to find something bigger. And then after a bit of scrambling about on the rocks (with the occasional bemused dog walker passing) I struck driftwood gold – lying there was a two metre length of wood! I still don’t know how I managed to drag it back to the seafront path where my partner was sat with our three year old but needs must when you want a rustic light fitting.
Luckily the wood just fitted in our not-too-big car and once home it sat in the garden until the electrician was ready to make the light fitting later in the summer.
Meanwhile, back to the fabric: there was going to be a large area of white painted wall space next to the dining area and I thought that some framed fabric would provide a great backdrop. During one of my many night time googling sessions I found the perfect fabric, a Marimekko one called Kuuskajaskari: a rather dramatic repeat print depicting stormy clouds and a grassy seascape. Incredibly, the only UK stockist was a Scandinavian shop just 10 minutes’ walk from my house so off I dashed to buy a 1.5m length plus some stretcher bars. The wall space is slightly restricted by an overhead beam and the table height but I managed to frame a decent proportion of it.
And what of the offcuts from the fabric? Well, being the thrifty sort that I am, they were made into zip bags for friends and family at Christmas
Not long after the fabric was fixed to the wall, the electrican came back to do the light fitting. The piece of driftwood had a couple of feet trimmed off the end, three cables were run from the ceiling socket then dimmable LED bulbs were attached. Each cable was wrapped around the driftwood so that the lights are spread along the length and the cables also support the weight of the wood.
And I love it – we have atomospheric lighting for dining (because we have so, so many romantic meals and sophisticated dinner parties now we have two small children) and the brightness can be turned up when I’m sewing at the table when the kids have finally gone to bed (this happens about 100 times as much as any sophisticated dining)
One of the problems we had with the old kitchen was that the dining table (a 1940s pitch pine table) was too small for our needs. I really wanted to replace it with something which could be extended but we had a couple of restrictions: the new dining area is fairly narrow as it’s wedged between the end of the kitchen units and the chimney breast in the lounge area. In addition, there’s a rather awkward 2cm step down between the kitchen tiles and painted wood floor in the lounge. After a lot of consideration we decided to live with the step and just be a bit crafty with the dining furniture positioning in order to ensure that dining chairs didn’t straddle the two levels.
I had a new table made by Design Shack Interiors which at 80 x 140cm, is a little bit narrower than a standard table. It comes with a 40cm extension piece which means we can seat extra guests easily. The legs taper inwards which allows the dining chairs on the kitchen side of the table to perch on the tiles well clear of the edge, without any risk of falling down the small step.
So that’s the dining area – a place for the kids to chuck food around, for long chats with friends over wine or coffee, for me to work late into the night at my sewing machine and for entertaining extended family or friends, all set against the dramatic Finnish coastal landscape.
And talking of dramatic coastal landscapes, the good folk of Severn Beach are probaby still wondering what that ginormous crazy pregnant woman was doing, staggering over boulders clutching a 7ft piece of driftwood with a triumphant look on her face…