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Help with this dining corner

Gardengnome
8 days ago

I have an open floor plan, and need help with making this corner of my house less sad yet retaining functionality. The table stays, and for now the lamp stays with it. The wire shelf needs to stay too because I grow garden starts on it most months of the year. But in between those times (like now) it sits partially empty and accumulates kid clutter and artwork. The wall color continues through different “rooms” so it it not easy to change and there’s no possibility of an accent wall. I have valences on the windows even though I’d prefer longer curtains, because when there’s soil and plant trays everywhere I don’t want water and soil muddying up the window treatments. Help! I feel like this space lacks identity and color and interest. I recently added some of the items to the upper shelves but I’m conscious about just displaying more clutter. Do you have suggestions for the walls or shelf or even the table (has to be practical and kid friendly)?

Comments (49)

  • PRO
    Sabrina Alfin Interiors
    8 days ago

    So you're not willing to change anything but you want a new look?

  • Gardengnome
    Original Author
    8 days ago

    Ha! Touché. I need this to be a space where I can eat meals with my family and grow plants on that shelf. Lipstick on a pig situation?

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  • Gardengnome
    Original Author
    8 days ago

    Looking for better looking solutions to the same functions I guess.

  • PRO
    Sabrina Alfin Interiors
    8 days ago

    That metro shelving has to go, IMO. If your window casing is deep enough, you could add glass shelves there to house some of your plants, but likely not all of them. Put a chandelier over the dining table and get an electrician in to do it if you need to.

  • kandrewspa
    8 days ago

    You have kind of boxed yourself into a corner. :-) I like the zebra picture, but maybe you could move him somewhere else and put something up with some color. Also, it would be better to have a chandelier over the table instead of a lamp in the corner, but the lamp is pretty nice. It's a creative workaround. I don't know what your budget is - obviously it would cost a couple hundred dollars to have an electrician come out to add a box for a chandelier. Patterned roman shades would also perk up the area. The valances aren't terrible, they just don't add much character.

  • Sammie J
    8 days ago

    Take down the valences - add a colorful roman blind (inside mount) on the window without the rack. Leave the "rack" window without a treatment. Move the light to the corner, between the windows, and take down the clock and lantern. Move the corner plant/stand somewhere else in the house. Center the wire rack on the window. Take the clutter off of it - place some inexpensive green plants on it during the time of year you aren't growing.



    Then, add a colorful dough bowl centerpiece.



  • theotherjaye
    8 days ago

    Any chance you could put in a garden window or 2? (basically, a windowed shelf that projects from the house) They’re not the most attractive things, but they’d get rid of that rack and get you back some floor space, too.

  • Fori
    8 days ago

    Yep, the lamp has to go. You don't need to wire in a fixture--you can swag a lamp.


    Do you run lights on the plant shelves? If not (maybe even if you do--I don't know), look for a wire/wrought iron baker's rack with mesh shelves. Slightly dressier.


    The table and chairs look good. You aren't really showing much of the room, of course. :)



  • Fran Gil
    8 days ago

    You could hang some nicer shelves from the ceiling like this pic on HOUZZ

  • ShadyWillowFarm
    8 days ago

    Hard to mesh greenhouse and dining room in such a small space. Can you step back and get a few wider pictures? Maybe a floor plan? Possibly some rearranging can be done to give you a bit more space.

  • Rebekah Gibbs
    8 days ago

    If you need the light you could always mount some wall sconces flanking the windows and use battery operated bulbs in them? I also think some nice curtains over the valences. If they get dirty then wash them. If you won’t get rid of the wire shelving maybe wrap the shelving in some wood to be more aesthetically pleasing. Otherwise go for a new shelving unit that looks more like furniture. The wire unit looks out of place like it should be in the garage.

  • jwatters99
    8 days ago

    You have those nice deep windows. I’d do inside mount acrylic shelves on one or both windows for the plants, ditch the shelving unit, turn the table 90 degrees and have a pendant hung over the table. So much floor space rescued, better traffic flow, and much lighter on the eyes. Not a pro - just my 2 cents.

  • Gardengnome
    Original Author
    8 days ago

    All great suggestions, thank you. I may look for a more aesthetically pleasing shelf, though it still needs to function at times with 20+ trays (10x20 inches each) of garden starts under lights. Not ideal for a dining room, I know, but someday we’ll have an addition that can house these plants 🤞. I love the idea of using the deep windows, but unfortunately the volume of plants is too great. Again, maybe some day. I will try replacing the shelf “clutter” with other plants, experiment with colorful curtains/artwork, and a simple but tasteful centerpiece on the table. The lamp can be replaced with a pendant light, it was my budget fix for table lighting. I’m intrigued by battery operated bulbs…

  • PRO
    BeverlyFLADeziner
    8 days ago

    I don't think you should give up so much valuable real estate to the metro shelves.

    There are other options.



  • Fori
    8 days ago

    If you're on a tight budget, eBay, Craigslist, thrift stores, etc. are good places for light fixtures if you like vintage, classic, or just unusual. Add a few bucks to rewire if needed (easy DIY).

  • Gargamel
    8 days ago
    last modified: 8 days ago

    Does the shelf HAVE to be there or can it go to the basement (if you have one) since you have lights . If not, would it fit along the wall with the zebra print if you turn your table the other direction…? I have the same problem when it comes to seed starting time - shelving in the dining room, with the grow lights . There are some nice, but pricey, shelving units at Gardeners Supply Co.

  • kazzh
    8 days ago

    Hopefully some of the suggested variations on the shelving will help create some thought on how to minimise the impact of the shelves in the room. If you would prefer to not build onto the wall, then maybe there is a free standing glass shelved unit around, or something that could be modified to glass shelves. 

    Have you tried your table turned 90 degrees? Then,  Instead of the clock you could place the lamp in that space. This would free up the wall space and give a little more openess to the room.

  • lat62
    8 days ago

    Your shelving unit has lights for the seedlings, so the seedlings won't need the light from the window, is that right?. Are you sure you can't find a more out of the way place for the seedling rack and get your window back for yourselves to enjoy?


    I love to grow seedlings too:))

  • er612
    8 days ago

    Removing the floor lamp will have the biggest impact. Can you remove the valances and leave the windows uncovered?

  • er612
    8 days ago
    last modified: 7 days ago

    Also, I would move as much as you can to the shelves not covering the windows during off season. If you need an overhead light, consider a wall mount, swing arm: Pluck LED Wall Lamp

    Otherwise, I would install wall sconces.

  • Gardengnome
    Original Author
    7 days ago

    I’m going to work on the lighting and play around with window treatments/removing them. Here are a few other photos for different perspectives (don’t mind the messes). Our home is small and lived in. We already have sconces around the wood stove, which is just out of the right side of the frame in the original photo. Our door to the house is just outside the frame on the left. Our basement is unfinished and too cold for the plant shelf during its most critical season. I could see if the shelf would fit where the zebra is. But as you can see, there’s not a lot of space anywhere 😂. We have a small organic farm and having ample room for plant starts is just part of the deal 🙂

  • Gardengnome
    Original Author
    7 days ago

    I will also add that the reason we haven’t hired an electrician to put in a pendant/chandelier is that the table has changed orientations and made small shifts in placement over time so I’m afraid to pick a spot for a light then be stuck with it. Something moveable would be ideal.

  • PRO
    RL Relocation LLC
    7 days ago

    Get a swag lamp, with a cord and plug, then you are not fixed to it.

    Ikea and several others wayfair etc have those options, take a look there.

    I get the need for the but look at this: https://a.co/d/5zRqIVN https://a.co/d/57S1kbI

  • Gardengnome
    Original Author
    7 days ago

    We just have a lot of plants in the spring and summer…

  • SeattleMCM
    7 days ago

    Move the big lamp to the corner, and I agree with Beverly that you can find something prettier to put your garden plants on. If you need a lot of shelving, then get a nice looking open style bookcase, like this.


    OR.... is there any way that whole setup can go in a different room? If it's kind of dim, add more grow lights. My friend does all of her garden starts in her basement.

  • er612
    7 days ago
    last modified: 7 days ago

    Thanks for the extra photos. Definitely helps to see the bigger picture. I live in a condo so I understand tight spaces and needing flexibility with furniture. I would hire an electrician to install a super slim flush mount light on the dining side and replace the one on the living side with the same. I'm guessing if it's dark over the table it's probably dark in the entry too so you can add one near the door as well. Center the lights with the windows or as if there's no table so you're not committed to one location. The floor lamp would be perfect on the far wall behind the sofa.



  • ratherbeatthebeach
    7 days ago

    I have grown seedlings on the same wire shelf unit with grow lights and it is immensely practical - sturdy, water-resistant, and incredibly strong. The extra light from having it in front of the window is also valuable. I totally get it. Unfortunately, I'm not sure how to make it prettier, short of very expensive shelves that would likely get water damage in short order.


    Is there a part of the year where you could disassemble the unit and store it somewhere and put up your pretty curtains?

  • SeattleMCM
    7 days ago

    Good point about the water. there are also powder coated steel bookcases that could hold up to that while looking nicer than wire.

    Also to answer your other question: when the seedlings are gone, spread the sparse decor out so the case appears less empty. Add a few extra things that are put away when the seedlings come back.

    Room & Board:


    All Modern:



  • eld6161
    7 days ago

    The idea of built in glass would look good only when you have the plantsTD.

    If that rack cant be moved, accept what is.

    You have an active and fun house.

  • PRO
    Sabrina Alfin Interiors
    7 days ago

    Using the metro shelving as a room divider is a better solution (looks far better there than in front of the window), but I still think the idea of having a plant nursery in your dining room is out of place. If that's still a no go for you, then @BeverlyFLADeziner 's suggestion above makes more sense.


    Ultimately, a better longer term investment would be to build a greenhouse somewhere on your property, if this is important to you.

  • lisaam
    7 days ago

    You’ve achieved a prettier look in a way that works for you—- that’s a win!

  • Gardengnome
    Original Author
    7 days ago

    Sabrina Alfin Interiors, I appreciate your advice and agree that the plant nursery ultimately can’t live here forever. When we’re ready to make a bigger investment it will definitely be on the top of the list to create a designated space for this elsewhere. I do love the sleek window-mounted shelving with wrought-iron supports, and will think about whether there’s some version of this that could work for me.

  • Rebekah Gibbs
    7 days ago

    That completely changes the space and looks a lot better!

  • lat62
    7 days ago

    Looks great, I like the plant stand away from the window like you've done! Your post makes me feel nostalgic for my old house and little kids (mine are in mid 20s now).


    I'm very curious about your basement, I know you said it's too cold to use for seedlings, but (this might just seem nosy) - how cold is it?

  • SeattleMCM
    7 days ago

    Yes, moving the plant stand did make a positive difference!

  • Gardengnome
    Original Author
    7 days ago

    Lat62, thank you… and I do have to remember that all the “kid stuff” won’t last forever! There’s a degree of living with chaos that just has to be tolerated. When we start our first batch of plants for the year in March, it’s snowy outdoors and the basement is high 40s to low 50s. It stays in the 50s for most of our busy “baby plant” season. Not too cold for everything (though too cold for tomatoes, peppers, etc), but it would certainly slow growth down. We have heat mats that boost the soil temp about 10 degrees. Maybe this year I’ll experiment with starting more in the basement and giving plants extra time to grow due to lower temperatures. If plants are too cold they may have weak root systems or become leggy though.

  • ShadyWillowFarm
    7 days ago

    What if….you put the shelves in the living room where the easel is? The window faces the right direction? It’s easier to have the dining room do double duty as a dining/art/homework area than a dining/greenhouse area. You can get a storage unit for kid stuff to make tidying up the area quick and easy.

  • Gargamel
    6 days ago

    I think it is way nicer with the shelf being used as a room divider. You have a nice cosy house.

  • PRO
    RL Relocation LLC
    6 days ago

    what if you spray painted the shelving brass?

  • Gardengnome
    Original Author
    6 days ago

    I could get behind brass or gold spray paint. It would go better with the aesthetic of our house (if there is any). And it would retain the functionality I need. I’ve also considered making stained wood shelf covers for when I don’t need a water safe surface. Not sure if the outcome is worth the effort though.

  • PRO
    RL Relocation LLC
    6 days ago

    The rattle can of paint would be a quick fix and like you said almost appear part of the mold then.

  • SeattleMCM
    6 days ago
    last modified: 6 days ago

    I love a good DIY project! It's funny because I was going to suggest wood shelf covers, I think that would be a good improvement. Even if you relocate them one day, you'll still appreciate your handiwork wherever you put it. As for painting, I suggest matte black. I'm not a fan of all of the little details -- such as the ridges on the posts-- so a dark matte color will help that recede a little and make it look more simplified.

    As far as what you said, I think your house does have an aesthetic. I see a charming mid century home with lovely MCM furniture. I really liked the other comment that pointed out your house is active and fun. Roll with it!

    Speaking of active -- kids might be tempted to try climbing the bookcase. I suggest securing it to the wall with strong brackets, into the studs.

  • Gardengnome
    Original Author
    6 days ago

    SeattleMCM matte black could work. If I made wood covers I’d consider giving them a facing to cover the metal zig zags that are part of each shelf. The shelf in itself is very busy looking. I appreciate your assessment of the aesthetic, that’s kind of what I’m going for, on a very tight budget with kid stuff to shuffle around. We’re not fancy or trendy, but I do like to find ways to make our space pleasing to live in both visually and functionally. Anchoring the shelf is a really good idea for safety!

  • always1stepbehind
    6 days ago

    Based on your new set up, can you go without curtain panels? I understand your light issue, with not being able commit to where to install an electrical box for a light fixture over the table...but that light fixture isn't doing you any favors. A hanging fixture in the corner or swagged over the dining table would be perfect.

  • always1stepbehind
    6 days ago
    last modified: 6 days ago

    I like the new set up but seeing you have a little one, would be concerned about the metal self falling over on your child. I feel like the shelves are safer against the window wall.


  • HU-487844405
    6 days ago

    Your shifting the shelf is a win, so anchoring it to the wall / floor so it doesn't tip adds needed safety, especially while you "overwinter" your dining space. Dont' bother to paint the shelving, its fine the way it is and serves its purpose. I grow seedlings also. Once, I hung an extra pair of my window curtains on the dining side of the shelf to cut the draft from the door...

  • er612
    6 days ago

    BTW Where'd you put the zebra? If I can offer unsolicited advice, I would put the zebra above the fireplace along with the giraffe (assuming they fit)...or rotate the mirror 90 degrees and layer with the zebra.


  • Gardengnome
    Original Author
    6 days ago

    I have had the zebra on the mantle in the past like in this photo…