Rainka’s Design Dilemma

Rainka’s living & dining room runneth over with posh potential. Here’s her letter:

I’m sooooo excited to get some advice from you – I LOVE your design sense and creativity, and I love how you always seem to capture the taste of each individual client. I’m in Canada and we don’t have a lot of the big chains, but we do have Pottery Barn, West Elm, Ikea, and now even a Crate & Barrel. Luckily, I live in Toronto, so there are lots of independent stores that I can search for items similar to those you may recommend from an American store. As with many small condos, my living/dining/kitchen area are all one big room. My kitchen is awesome, but it faces a big empty space, which looks really sad with 10ft high white walls. I’d like some advice that will take my living/dining room and define them as separate areas with some life! I’d like a new wall colour and I have a lot of photos and art from trips that I’d like to hang. I also need a coffee table and some accessories. I have a dark maple dining table, dark brown chairs, brown sofa… a whole lotta brown, so something to lighten things up would be nice.  And lighting suggestions (I’ve got nothing but overhead track lighting and a sad floor lamp! I like a contemporary look, but nothing too cold. Clean lines, minimalist, but still comfy and casual is my style. The cardboard box tv stand can go :)  I like neutral colours (brown, taupe, white, grey) and I’m not a fan of bright colours or busy patterns. Thanks so much! -Rainka

This space is primed for a major makeover. Here’s the plan:

And now for the mood board breakdown.

*Note: Remember that Rainka lives in Canada, so many of the items that we’ve linked to below are from that part of the globe (and the prices and measurements have not been converted).

1. Our color palette will be full of rich chocolates and soft tans along with brilliant metallic accents in bronze, gold and silver. The effect will be sleek and contemporary but still warm and inviting with glammy high-end finishing touches that add some major wow factor. For the walls, we’d love to see a soft pewter tone to create a light-reflecting gray backdrop that still feels warm and airy (try Benjamin Moore’s Light Pewter).

2. The key to spaces with such high ceilings are to select mirrors, wall art and other accessories that help to fill up the space and create a warm and welcoming atmosphere that no longer feels boxy and bare. We’d love to see this mahogany and silver mirror on the wall above the recycling bag in the third photo above, just to bounce around some light and fill up that smaller expanse of wall without feeling cluttered. We also love how the warm almost bronzy wood tone ties into many other metallic elements that we’ll be bringing into the room, and the reflective silver trim and mirror will look so pretty on the soft pewter walls.

3. This breathtaking light fixture will instantly take the entire space from bare to brilliant when hung around 34″ above the dining table. Along with the rug that we’ll be adding to the living area, this amazing chandelier will further define the dining and living areas as two separate spaces. And the ambiance and chic polished effect that it’ll add will create a simply stunning effect.

4. This rich chocolate media stand will replace the cardboard boxes that currently support the TV for a living room that feels functional and balanced (especially once we add our dark wood coffee table to further complete that space).

5. Since we definitely believe in a less matchy-matchy approach, we adore the clean lines of these contemporary side tables, and would love to see one of them on either side of Rainka’s existing sofa to create a place for ambient matching table lamps for even more balance and function. Plus the metallic legs will tie into many of our other gleaming accessories for a chic collected-over-time look that’s anything but predictable.

6. To further tie the sleek side tables into the living area, we’d love to see this gorgeous glittering oversized clock hung centered over the TV once it’s placed on the new TV stand. The rounded shape of the clock over the rectangular TV and stand will really add interest and texture to that wall, and we love that Rainka can check the time in style.

7. Rainka also mentioned that she had a lot of art and photography that she’d like to hang in the space. We loved this photo collage as an example of how she can display her mixed and matched art & pictures (hanging everything in a cluster around 4″ apart on the large left wall of the dining area). Rainka can opt for a variety of silver frames, or a mixture of bronze, silver, gold and even chocolate ones- which will perfectly reflect the rest of the accessories that we’ll be bringing in for a polished and cool effect.

8. We mentioned that we’d love to see matching table lamps on those sleek little side tables that we found to flank the sofa and these amber beauties will complement all of the warm bronze and gold for an inviting and cozy effect.

9. Here’s the aforementioned round dark wood coffee table that will help to ground the living area while working with the new media cabinet and creating a nice easy flow between the gorgeous chairs that Rainka already owns and her existing sofa. Then placing a plush area rug centered under the entire living area will further define that space while adding more texture and comfort underfoot. Plus the light color in the rug will really make our coffee table and the brown sofa pop while complementing the patterned chairs to boot.

10. We knew the moment that we saw these gorgeous showstopping pillows that they were perfect for Rainka’s space. They’ll tie in with everything from our other metallic frames and accessories to the existing colors in the two chairs and the sofa to complete the living room in an instant. We’d love to see the two of the gold ones on the sofa while one of the patterned ones is tossed on each chair (while a third patterned one also lives on the couch for a casually elegant effect). Then adding a metallic table runner and a large silver vase or bowl in the dining area will finish things off and tie both rooms together for an elegant and filled out look that welcomes Rainka and her guests from the moment they enter.

So there you have it. A posh and contemporary living & dining room full of inviting style. We can’t wait to see what you guys think!

Update: We sadly can no longer find the time to take on client commissioned mood boards (we now whip up general inspiration boards instead) but if we ever reinstate them we’ll make a big announcement!


  1. says

    It can be tough to have no bright colors and busy patterns and still have all the brown, grey and black look warm and inviting but the mood board totally captures those colors in a warm and interesting way! As always, I hope to see the after!

  2. Amanda says

    I can’t decide if I like the two different chairs or not. I like both of them individually, and I don’t like when things get too matchy-matchy, but having them so close to each other is slightly dizzying. Maybe one of the side tables could go between them to break up the pattern a little. Also there doesn’t appear to be much storage,so perhaps a sofa table or a storage ottoman might be a good add in too.

  3. says

    Great choices! I love the glass lamps, but I would pick the blue version for my own house instead of the amber. That amber color is divine though.

    And, I have been drooling over Picture 7 ever since it came out in the PB Fall Catalog. Oh, Pottery Barn, you are a cruel mistress!

  4. says

    The kitchen is definately killer! I’m a big fan of nuetrals as well, specifically grey. I must say that I use a little more color though. The idea of a gallery wall is fabulous! It will add the perfect amount of interest, and give the space a personal touch. Well done!

  5. julia says

    i love the light fixture and the clock. The ideas for the photo collage is great too. It will really warm up the space! I can’t wait to see the afters!

  6. Donita says

    I LOVE the mood board. The media stand is great. I hope that Rainka shares her new rooms with us, when she is finished. ;-)

    P.S. John and Sherry, your style and ideas are amazing. ;-)

  7. Mandi says

    I can’t really tell from the pictures but is the space at the end of the kitchen bigger then where she currently has her couch? It just seemed a little crowded down at that end. Maybe she could put her couch down there (by where you suggested the mirror go) and put the dining table where the couch currently is or just move it down a little. I think that this would help open things up a bit. If you already suggested this and I missed it while reading sorry! Great design though!

  8. Julie says

    I love that you suggested grey/silver/amber/gold all to be mixed together. I think that will provide nice neutral pops of color and sophistication. I honestly wouldn’t have thought to put silvers and golds together, but I think it’ll look great.

    And I know that we can’t necessarily see the whole layout, but it does seem crowded the way it is. I had the same thought as Mandi – I’d want to see the living and dining rooms flipped because it seems like there’s more room down on the end where the dining room currently is. Are there reasons for keeping the layout the same? (Or did you suggest this and I missed it?)

    • says

      Hey Julie and Mandi,

      Good question! We actually receive multiple photos of the room from a ton of different angles (far more than we share with each mood board) so from other angles we agreed that the current layout was the best for the space. So sorry we don’t share all the photos we get, but we do try to select a few that do the best to show everything’s orientation in the room (wide shots show how the room is laid out overall, but sometimes look more crowded than the closer shots we get but don’t share). Hope it helps! When and if we get after photos we publish waayyyyyy more photos from every possible angle, so hopefully those are just around the corner and some other viewpoints will shed some light on the layout for you guys! Thanks so much for chiming in!


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