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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Black Dining Rooms and Why I Took the Plunge

 Back when we moved to Oakland 12 years ago this month, I was 7 months pregnant with a 2 year old underfoot.  After getting outbid on house after house, we purchased our adorable cottage style home here in Montclair Village.

 Montclair Village during weekly farmer's market

I'm convinced that the only reason we got this home during the bidding wars, towards the end of the tech boom, was the fact that it was not staged (very unusual for this area) and did not present well. It was filled with pinch pleat curtains, very dark rooms and the older, outdated furniture of the elderly couple that once lived there. 

The dining room and entry was adorned with busy wallpaper that, in my late pregnancy state, made me cranky.  Vines and flowers snaked along the whole area. Hand painted brown waterfalls on wallpaper, that probably cost a mint back in the day, looked depressing. Along with lime green shag carpeting over the gorgeous hardwood floors, the master bedroom had flocked wallpaper which required expensive removal.  I was faced with the task of quickly deciding paint colors for the entire interior.  The previous owners were deceased and had built the home for their family with much love and it showed in it's beautiful bones. I wanted to do right by this home.

 I had not only given up my profession in respiratory therapy the previous year, I had left my much loved interior design and architecture program at West Valley College in Saratoga.  One of my favorite classes had been a semester of color theory. 

Armed with my basic knowledge and trusty eye for color, I picked a whole house full of colors in 3 days.  Back then, I knew nothing of testing colors, contrast, light reflective values, etc.  I just had a decent eye for color and some basic color theory knowledge.  My painter was furious that I chose different colors for each and every room.  I guess he thought I'd pick a nice beige and white and be done with it! At the end of painting he told me he was quite impressed with the colors and asked if I would be his color consultant.  I had never heard of a color consultant! What do they do?

 He explained his clients really needed help choosing colors and he thought I had a talent for it.  I was quite flattered, but the new baby and toddler were going to be filling up the days. No more design school and certainly no new career.

The dining room was a special challenge.  I did pick up from my class the difference in yellow based red and blue based red.  I spent most of my time on this room looking for a slightly bluer based lacquer looking red and eventually chose Benjamin Moore Heritage red in high gloss.  Because our painting budget had run out, my poor father-in-law took over the challenge of painting this room.  High gloss can be very tricky because it does not self level well and shows brush strokes.

Fast forward many years and an article I read in Real Simple led me to the IACC (International Association for Color Consultants) color education program for color professionals.  Working in color consulting over the last 5 years, my dining room color started to get on my nerves. It was just wrong for the space. The red, while truly gorgeous, was in sharp contrast with the white ceiling.  What really looked off was the wood paneling with it's heavy orange undertone, most likely due to the aging clear coating from decades ago.  I had taken off one of the storage doors for display space but it was still all wrong.  Add to that the passing phase of red dining rooms that had once been so popular. I've found that the biggest protesters of color changes are often children.  My kids, now 14 and 11, were not happy about getting rid of the red.  It was all they ever knew!

I finally decided on painting it black.  Kinda like the Rolling Stones song.

  I had seen a few black dining rooms in shelter magazines over the years that stuck in my mind. But not just any black. Not all blacks are the same, believe it or not.  There are ink blacks, chalky blacks, charcoal blacks and so on. 

I ended up deciding on Black Iron by Benjamin Moore.  I got a few giggles from my friends who told me it sound like another Marie choice I would somehow make work!

 My wonderful painter, Carlos, raised his eyebrows like he often does at my own home color choices and said, "Ok, lady!"  It was done very quickly and even he was surprised at how nice it came out.  He remarked that he had never painted a black dining room and just loved it.

 What keeps it from getting overwhelming and cave-like is  1. the abundance of natural light. This room gets south light most of the day and western light in the evening 2. large amounts of wood break up the wall space 3. mirrors and other decorative accents.

 The black is kept in check by these details and stays in harmony with the other room elements instead of taking over the whole room.  A co-star instead of the star.

Here's the room about two months after painting and dressed up for the holidays.

Here are some of the dining rooms that helped influence my decision:

 Domino Magazine

 Elle Decor

  Cindy Gallop's Apartment in Manhattan

 Elle Decor

Metropolitan Home

Now onto our home's exterior this summer. Decisions, decisions!  More on that to come!