Design Dilemma - Dining Room Divinity

Hold onto your seats, kiddos...this DD is coming in for a landing! If you're reading this in the a.m., make sure your coffee is nice and hot, if its Happy Hour, well, then I hope you've got your favorite relaxing beverage (after all, it IS Friday!)

Picture this: Husband and Wife with full-time careers, two kiddos: one toddler, one newborn, one dog, two cats, and one great, old house! Sound busy? I'll say!

Design Dilemma: How does a couple with such a bustling life turn their dining room into the cozy, inviting space they envision - picture-perfect for entertaining? (Hint: It helps to have MLHP in the family! ;)
My sister-in-law, Erica, emailed hoping for some ideas on how to give their dining room a little polishing, some finishing touches.. that certain...je-ne-sais-quois
She and my brother-in-law, Monroe (my hubby's identical twin), live in a charming historic house with my precious little nieces. Despite claiming to have "two left feet" in the decorating department, they have styled the home wonderfully - perfectly fusing new remodeling with timeless pieces.
They painted their dining room a rich tomato red because they like the bold yet traditional feel of the color. The focal point of the room is a large, gothic window from a church in the small town where Monroe and Ben grew up. The dining room table (a freebie from Grandparents!) and sideboard (an antique-shop steal) are traditional, but clean-lined - I'd probably describe them as in the Sheraton style.
One of Erica's concerns is the lack of "mood lighting" in the room. She'd like to dress up the sideboard with some lamps and accessories, but can't decide which way she'd like to go: stick with traditional, try a bit of contemporary, or something a little in-between...We'll call this DD - Part One
That's where MLHP and Polyvore come to the rescue! I've put together three sets - style variations that center around a general theme: duo of lamps, some sort of serving tray, stack of interesting books, a collection of wares (pottery, silver, etc.), and something alive (as in, greenery!) *Be sure to click on the Polyvore set to enlarge it, then get the deets on vendors, etc by hovering your cursor over the items. **Don't lose your mind when you see some item prices - several things were used for illustration purposes only, and could easily be duplicated within a normal price range!
M&E dining buffet idea 2
M&E dining buffet idea 2 - by atexski on Polyvore.com
Set 1 - Here goes Traditional - complete with brass lamps (Monroe likes brass, Erica doesn't ) But these aren't your Grandma's brassy-oldies - with their contemporary shape, and sleek black shades - these lamps rock! Add in some Chinese blue&white porcelain (easily, and inexpensively had at Marshall's, Home Goods, etc... if you don't already collect some), a mirrored tray, and a pop of color with an orchid and you're good as gold! I love this look, and think it would be killer against those red walls!
M&E buffet idea 1
M&E buffet idea 1 - by atexski on Polyvore.com
Look Number 2 - Here, we're headin' towards (but not quite at) Contemporary. The bold shape of the lamps (again, I'm crazy about these!) put together with a funky turquoise tray says nothing less than "my style kicks, and I know it!" Put some shiny silver on top to reflect light and call yourself the Kelly Wearstler of Del Rio ;)
M&E dining room buffet idea
M&E dining room buffet idea - by atexski on Polyvore.com
Idea 3 - Classic with a Zen twist - You can't go wrong with classic, crystal lamps - add in a buddha and lucky bamboo for good karma, and top it off with a killer collection of white pottery. To me, this look says refined and elegant, and possibly well-traveled.

So...I don't know about you, but I'm kinda glad I don't have to make this decision - I could grab any of these looks in a heartbeat and Run, Forrest run!

Ohhh-Kaaay! Ready for Part Two? Need a potty break? Take one, then let's go!

You'll notice the slipcovers over the dining room chairs...Well, Mr. lovely, large, and mahogany table came sans matching chairs. Those serving seating purposes now are not the right lines to go with the table, so slips were called in to do their duty of hiding the mismatched chairs.
I was not asked per se to work some DD magic on the chair predicament, but, what can I say, I got on a roll...
If I had to bet, I'd say the original chairs that matched E&M's dining room table looked something like this
Now, they could go out and drop some serious coin on good, reproduction shield-back chairs, but if it were me, I'd probably do something like:
1) Sell the too-modern chairs (currently with the table) on Craigslist
2) Use the money to buy six (budget-friendly) side chairs - something like these - not a perfect match, but not too, too bad...
JCPenney. Concord dining chair. Set of two. $129. Yeah, you heard me.

3) I would then tear off that hideous, fake leather seat upholstery, and cover them instead with something like this
Calico Corners - Bottna Ink - app. $21 yard (oops! make that $18.89/yd on sale)! Would take about three yards to cover six chair seats, if my sewing gurus tell me correctly. I'm really diggin' this batik-y print, and think the indigo color would work nicely with the not-too-shabby Persian rug.
I hope I'm not wearing ya out...this is just gettin' good!!! Stay with me...

4) Where I saved money on side chairs, I'd splurge (if necessary) on host chairs.

You see, I'm loving, looooving the whole different, larger-than-the-others, statement host chairs look. Have you seen it?

Wouldn't something like this
Look completely fab covered in either the above shown print, or a deep inky-blue velvet
With nailhead trim? Again, chairs by dear 'ol JCP - "Monarch" - 2 for $229 (see, no major splurge, there!) Fabric: Ralph Lauren, Carson Alpaca Ink wool velvet - $19.95/yd from House of Fabric
**You could also go the skirted route to avoid varying chair leg issues - something like this from Ballard - just more of an investment...

If all that doesn't jazz you up too much - the other option I'd take would be to go totally irreverant - find some inexpensive, reproduction shield-back chairs (check antique co-ops, estate sales, even festivals like Warrenton) grab some paint and cool fabric, and just HAVE FUN with it à la Erin at EoS
Whew! What a fun ride, no? I hope these ideas are at least somewhat helpful to Erica and Monroe in their quest for dining room divinity, and I can't wait to see any updates they make. Don't worry, any pics or news I get regarding any DDs will certainly get posted here in a special Update section!

Wish my husband Godspeed as he returns home to us on Saturday, and have a great weekend, ya'll!