Multiuse Dining Room Makeover

Stephen Saint-Onge
When an Idaho family entered the Save My Room contest, they hoped Better Homes and Gardens contributing editor Stephen Saint-Onge would transform their plain dining room into a multifunctional space. But they never imagined they would get so much more.

Before: Formal but Empty

The Porters' formal dining room has a prime location in their Idaho home -- it's the first room guests see. But the mostly empty room left a lackluster impression. "We love the idea of combining a formal sitting area snuggled up to the dining table for nice family dinners," Jacqui Porter suggested when she entered the Save My Room contest. Better Homes and Gardens contributing editor Stephen Saint-Onge created the cozy, multifunctional space the Porters envisioned.

After: Versatile Decor

Stephen Saint-Onge put the hardworking elements of a beautiful dining room in place: a large table, upholstered chairs, and a sideboard. Saint-Onge decided to stick with light walls, similar to the previous wall color, but he pumped it up with a pretty wallpaper. The curvy vine pattern softens the hard lines of the furniture.

Editor's Tip: Versatile furniture and room planning are the keys to an effective multiuse room. For example, Saint-Onge didn't hang a chandelier so the table isn't glued in one spot.

Before: Misused Wall Space

The Porters tried to give the room personality by hanging family photos on the wall behind the table. The mirror on the side wall hinted at the classic yet modern look the Porters wanted. Still, the walls didn't reach their potential.

After: Storage Central

A sleek sideboard behind the table adds much-needed storage. The sideboard holds reference books and magazines on one side, fine china on the other, and barware on top. Iron lamps with a branch design echo the wallpaper's botanical motif. A large mirror completes the scene. The mirror also performs another function: By reflecting family portraits on the opposite wall, it adds a personal touch to the dining area.

Declutter in Style

The sideboard holds many essentials. Because the dining room is the first room off the front door, mail can pile up here, but tucked-away bins for magazines and baskets for mail catch the clutter. Matching tins with labels help the space look tidy even when the doors are open.

Before: Architectural Details

Before, the room's only focal point was the marble fireplace. The overstuffed leather chair and floor lamp next to the fireplace were Saint-Onge's inspiration for this half of the room.

After: Cozy Reading Nook

Saint-Onge turned this area of the room into a library. A pair of bookcases flanks the fireplace, plush wing chairs provide cozy seating, and ample lighting makes this the perfect reading nook. The chairs are another double-duty design decision: The wing chairs can be pulled to the head and foot of the table for large get-togethers.

Pretty Display Space

Open-back bookcases frame the wallpaper and create an attractive display space for books and family photos. Stephen Saint-Onge chose the dark-stained wooden bookcase to ground all the elements in the room.

Bookcase Arranging Basics

The bookcases are decorative and functional. Stacking books both horizontally and vertically, as well as filling bins with books, creates an interesting display. There is also space for a small radio and MP3 player, which provide background music for dinner parties or reading time.

Get the Look: Personalize your bookshelves by using framed photographs as bookends. Don't worry about matching frames because the photos will grab guests' attention.

Clever Basket Usage

Woven storage baskets conceal worn paperback books. Store baskets on a bottom shelf for quick retrieval.

Space to Relax

To create the reading nook, Stephen Saint-Onge paired plush wing chairs with portable accents. The space is ideal for reading or for intimate conversation. Fold-up tray tables hold lamps and other reading essentials. The small ottoman gives the family a spot to put their feet up or set drinks. During a meal, the ottoman and fold-up tray table can be pushed against the wall and the chairs added to the table seating.

DIY Wallpaper Project

To dress up the plain fold-up tables, Stephen Saint-Onge used decoupage glue to line the tables with wallpaper scraps. This is an easy and inexpensive way to add personality to the area.

Budget Tip: Use scraps of wallpaper to embellish items in any room. Here, Saint-Onge adds personality to a tray table, but wallpaper can be used in a variety of ways. Frame it for easy wall art, use it to cover storage bins, or add it to the backs of shelves for a pop of pattern.

Before: Plain Window Treatments

The dining room features a wall of windows, which lets in lots of natural light. The windows had potential, but the plain white window treatments didn't give them the attention they deserved.

After: Standout Window Treatments

Color does wonders for this wall of windows. The rusty red fabric pops against the teal walls, and woven roller shades give the Porters options for privacy and blocking sunlight. The small spaces of wall between the windows create a gallery setting for showcasing family photos. Jacqui Porter is amazed by the transformation. "For six years the room sat nearly vacant, and now the final piece of our home has been placed," she says.

Meet Stephen Saint-Onge

Stephen Saint-Onge's keen understanding of the homeowner has moved him into the spotlight in recent years through his work on television and in magazines. This understanding, accompanied by his friendly, approachable, and creative style, is making design accessible to everyone -- no matter who they are, where they are, or what their budget may be.

As a husband, father, and homeowner, Saint-Onge understands the needs of the family-focused lifestyle. "I have the same to-do list on my refrigerator that everyone has," he says. "There is always something to be done with our homes, and hopefully what I bring to the table will help everyone see the best in their homes." He draws on his background in film and design to help owners create a home that truly captures who they are, but at the same time captures a mood they are looking to bring to life that represents their home in the right light. Good home design has the power to change lives.

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