A dinner invites to refresh the dining room

The prospect of a dinner party prompted a makeover of this mini dining room. (Courtesy of Marni Jameson)

The prospect of hosting a dinner party at my house filled my heart with panic. I wanted to modernize my dining room. Suddenly, I had an incentive – and a deadline.

Dinner wasn’t my idea. A few months ago, a friend hatched a plan to auction off a dinner for eight people at my house for an Orlando Philharmonic fundraiser.

“Do you know how your At Home With Marni column is? That’s how she phrased it. “Well, that would make people really comfortable with Marni. Get it?”

Oh I have it. If I had known, when I started writing an interior design column, what I would be getting into, I would have become a pet therapist. People think I live up to my words! Before agreeing – and because no one should pay to eat my cooking – I called a chef I knew to see if he could help me. Chef Angelo Bersani generously agreed to donate his time to prepare and serve dinner, if I paid for the groceries. Do! Chef and I became an auction package.

I live in the real world, so redecorating doesn’t mean throwing out all my furniture and starting again. This means working with what I have and making small adjustments to achieve, ideally, big results. The trick, though, is knowing what those little movements are. So I called Los Angeles interior designer and longtime friend Christopher Grubb for help, asking if he would take charge while I did the legwork, which included purchasing materials , sample collection and worker coordination.

With a chef and designer on board, I could feel my lungs fully expand and my blood pressure drop. Over the next eight weeks, we exchanged dozens of texts, photos, and a few sobbing emojis, and made the following small improvements, which yielded big results, and might just do the same for a room or two in your House :

Added lampshades: Although I had replaced the outdated dining room light fixture a few years ago, I had not “finished” the light fixture with chandelier shades, as Grubb advised. I tested three shade styles, ordering one of each and returning the rejects, before settling on a black tapered shade. Since black shades direct light downward and not outward, they can make lighting more dramatic.

Fills the art niche: Art niches in walls can be difficult to use because they limit the size of the artwork you can hang there. The niche in my dining room accent wall was 5 feet square and 3 inches deep. Until recently, a large tapestry hung over the niche and covered it. But, as part of my attempt to make the space more contemporary, I sold the tapestry and now had this, uh, hole in the wall. “Art niches just make you wonder why? said Grubb, who recommended having it filled by a drywaller.

Wall niches limit artistic options.  When they do, fill them, advises designer Christopher Grubb.  (Courtesy of Marni Jameson)
BEFORE: A chandelier without a shade, old-fashioned chairs and a wall niche that limited artistic possibilities. (Courtesy of Marni Jameson)

Hang wallpaper: To make the open room feel more comfortable and intimate and to distinguish the alcove from the entryway, Grubb suggested covering the now-smooth back wall and ceiling with navy blue grasscloth, which added character and texture to the piece.

Mirrors replaced: Although Grubb liked the idea of ​​two mirrors flanking the artwork on the main wall, he suggested replacing the existing round mirrors with larger vertical mirrors to make the room feel taller. Since we were moving toward a more transitional and less traditional look, we kept the frames simple.

Updated End Chairs: Although our goal is to replace all of the upholstered dining chairs with more contemporary seating while retaining the existing table, we find ourselves at a dead end here. I couldn’t find any chairs that I liked that would also be available in time for my dinner. Rather than compromise, I bought the chairs I wanted and accepted the fact that they wouldn’t arrive until September. Screw this supply chain. Meanwhile, I reclaimed the table’s two armchairs in a bold zebra print fabric and painted the wood black lacquer. These chairs, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, are now a permanent fixture in my living room, but for dinner parties they double as accent chairs.

Added atmosphere: With the new furniture in place, all I had to do was add the finishing touches – a fresh centerpiece of pale pinks, patterned table linens, crystal and silver, candles and, of course, illustrious guests – so that the piece comes together like a symphony.

Marni Jameson is the author of seven books, including the recent “Rightize Today to Create Your Best Life Tomorrow.” Contact her at [email protected]. Join her on May 23 for a free virtual event, “Resize Your Life and Live Well Now.” Register at