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  • Writer's pictureMarni Jameson

Kitchen Area Makeover: Seven Steps to Transform Any Room

Parties, like the one DC and I hosted last week, have many upsides: You meet interesting people. You help a cause. And you get a kick in the derriere to do those home improvements you’ve put off until the return of Halley’s Comet.

All to say, for my newly redecorated kitchen eating area, I have the Orlando Philharmonic to thank.

Let me back up. Last December I ended a column with this line: My new philosophy: Care less. Entertain more. You only get now once.

So, when a friend asked me if I would host a party to support our city’s philharmonic, a shindig for what turned out to be a mere 70 people in the home my husband and I moved into just three months ago, I could not refuse. I was a victim of the press. My own press.

After my heart stopped defibrillating, I quickly converted panic into productivity, and capitalized on the opportunity to make a dent in our home-improvement list.

The thought of all those cultured people in our home motivated DC, too, to join me in wrangling a dozen or so suddenly urgent tasks to the ground in just a few short weeks.

Fortunately, just for emergencies like this, I have my home-improvement-to-do list.

Actually, my list has lists, one for each room, which I keep in a little book, which is never far from hand. So – ladies, are you listening -- when the time is right, and Mars is out of retrograde, and the stock market is up, and the Visa bill hasn’t yet come in, and your husband’s team is winning, or you’re hosting a party, you can spring into action.

As DC will confirm, I am always just one green light away from becoming a decorating dervish.

I pulled out my book of lists and consulted with DC. After some minor negotiations (“Honey, the people coming read my column. We can’t leave our puny 42-inch kitchen table where a 60-inch round one is clearly called for.”), we agreed on which projects to go for.

Finishing the kitchen eating area was clearly a priority because that’s where every party ends up. Plus, this was low-hanging fruit; we were halfway there.

When DC and I first toured the Happier Yellow House that became ours last fall, among the many features I loved was the sunny dining area. Though obviously under decorated, the room had loads of promise. (As I often remind DC, a room can be furnished but not decorated.)

However, as you and I both know, seeing a room’s potential and getting there is like wanting to run a marathon and crossing the finish line. To do either requires energy, determination, motivation and sweat. With a goal in mind, a list in hand, and the party as my finish line, the race was on.

When facing a room, you want to redecorate, follow these seven steps, as we did with our kitchen eating area, and watch your dream room come true:

1. Start with the end in mind. Have a vision so you know where you’re going before you start. Don’t wing it. Then make your to-do list.

2. Focus on the assets. Look at what the room has going for it and doesn’t. Our 10 x 13 eating area had good proportions, great natural light and solid hardwood floors. All important because these are tough to change. It also had handsome plantation shutters and a decent light fixture that needed new shades. We’d need to add color, furniture that fit, softness and texture, art and accessories.

3. Fix surfaces first. Start from the floor and walls and move in. Before we moved in last November, we refinished the wood floors, taking them from aged yellow oak, to matte, mid-tone brown. We painted the walls a creamy yellow (SW Belvedere Cream) and hung colorful artwork. We stopped there, stalled on second base, and might have stayed stuck, but for the party.

4. Figure out furnishings. Before you buy furniture, create a floor plan, use painters tape to outline where pieces will go and select pieces that are the right scale. Because everything in the room was square, I wanted a round dining table to soften the edges. Given the volume and shape of this room, a 60-inch round table was the ideal fit.

5. Find your color palette. Following the common design maxim that every room needs a touch of black, I repainted my well-used brown wooden kitchen chairs black, which anchored the pale yellow walls and light wood furniture. I added black, chunky drapery hardware, and pulled in drapery fabric to add pattern and color.

6. Finish your windows. Not every window needs a treatment, and for many, handsome blinds or shutters are enough. However, because this room had only hard finishes, adding a pair of stationary drapery panels gave the room much-needed color, softness and texture.

7. Follow with accessories. Artwork, greenery, and other accent pieces are a room’s finishing touch.

Now to make sure you get it done, host a party.

Join me next week to find out how to make your home office reflect your life – in the best sense.


Before: The kitchen eating area as shown before we bought the house did not show the room off to its full advantage. Furniture was not to scale. The wall art and area rug were too small, and the space lacked color.

After: More color, to-scale furniture, bold art, and drapery panels that add softness, texture and pattern, helped this room realize its potential. Photos courtesy of Marni Jameson.

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