The Most Versatile Dining Table

paloma contreras saarinen tulip table

{My Breakfast Room | Photography by Brittany Ambridge for my feature in the Winter 2014 Issue of Domino}

As a designer, I have found so much fulfillment in how different various client projects are from one another. Executing a variety of styles allows me to spread my creative wings. While my clients’ homes vary in aesthetic from one to the next, they are all infused with my own style and feature some of the same elements that I find to be fundamental. I try not to use the same pieces all of the time, but there are a handful of things that I have used multiple times. One of these key pieces is one of my favorite dining table styles in existence. Eero Saarinen’s iconic Tulip Dining Table is an absolute classic in my eyes. It’s clean lines work in just about any environment and it pairs perfectly with a variety of chairs. The original, available through Design Within Reach is available in round or oval options, in a variety of finishes, the most popular being a white base with the option of a marble top, white laminate top, or Rosewood veneer top. There are also plenty of Saarinen-inspired tulip tables out there for a less cost-prohibitive approach.

I have a tulip table in my breakfast room (pictured above) and I love it so much. It is so sculptural and adds a perfect touch of modern style to the space. I paired mine with Ballard Design’s Dayna Side Chairs and a Choros Chandelier from Visual Comfort. I recently removed the layered geometric rug and have plans to reupholster the chairs to change up the look a bit! For a different look, I recently used a laminate top tulip table in my clients’ breakfast room pictured directly below. They have young children, so it was important to use low maintenance materials. We paired the table with white Bertoia side chairs with white vinyl cushions, a striped indoor/outdoor rug, and a custom-designed, upholstered banquette in Perennials fabric.  We added a roman shade in John Robshaw fabric, an Extra Large Hicks Pendant by Thomas O’Brien, and hung my clients’ collection of plates on the wall. I have rounded up some examples of stylish breakfast rooms that illustrate that the tulip table really is the most versatile dining table there is, along with a few of my favorite combinations.

Paloma Contreras Design | Tulip Table | Hicks Pendant | Bertoia Chairs | Custom Banquette

{A Sneak Peek of a Breakfast Room I Recently Designed for a Client | Photography by Max Burkhalter}

tulip table cococozy

{A Classic White Tulip Table Paired with Bistro Chairs | via Cococozy}

tulip table jenni kayne thonet chairs

{A White Saarinen Table with Thonet Armchairs | via Rip + Tan}

tulip table mark sikes

{My friend, Mark Sikes has a tulip table in his kitchen, too. He originally paired it with white director’s chairs which have now been changed out for wicker armchairs.}

tulip table platner chairs lourdes gutierrez

{This chic breakfast room by Lourdes Gutierrez is fabulous! She paired a white tulip table with white Platner chairs and a roman shade with built-in window seat in green Arbre de Matisse, one of my very favorite fabrics. | via Quadrille}


The Most Versatile Dining Table | La Dolce Vita

{Classically Pretty: A Marble-Topped Tulip Table, Jonathan Adler Chippendale Side Chairs, and Visual Comfort’s Choros Chandelier}

The Most Versatile Dining Table | La Dolce Vita

{Young and Modern: A Tulip Table paired with Bertoia Side Chairs, Ikat Pillows for Comfort and a Dose of Color, and Everyone’s Favorite Extra Large Hicks Pendant}


The Most Versatile Dining Table | La Dolce Vita

{Elegant + Traditional: If the tulip table is the most versatile dining table, the Louis XVI style dining chair wins the prize for most versatile chair, but that is for another post! I love the high contrast of the white table, dark upholstery of the classic Louis XVI side chairs, and antiqued brass Mykonos Chandelier. The look is effortless and timeless.}

The Most Versatile Dining Table | La Dolce Vita

{Finally, if you’re aiming for a Parisian bistro-inspired look or want something that works in a coastal-style environment, you can’t go wrong with a tulip table, Serena & Lily bistro side chairs, and the classic, yet relaxed Square Tube Hanging Shade by Visual Comfort.}


Project Reveal: A Glamorous Before and After Part 2


 {After: The Dining Room}

Thank you for all of your sweet comments on Part 1 of this project reveal last week! Today, I’ll be sharing more of the first floor of the house, including the dining room, entry, living room, and two powder bathrooms. You’ll see in the before photos that we were dealing with a lot of the same issues that we had in the kitchen, breakfast room, and family room that I showed you last time– dated colors and finishes, too many gimmicks, an inappropriate use of scale, and an overall lack of warmth and cohesion. Let’s begin the tour, shall we?

dodd before dining

 {Before: The Dining Room– This space is rather large in scale and feels even larger because it is open onto the entry and formal living room, so again, we were faced with adjoining rooms that actually felt quite disjointed in their previous iteration.}


{After: The dining room features extensive and heavy millwork, including big pediment archways on two sides, dentil moulding, tall baseboards, and a tray ceiling, so I wanted something that would make the room feel lighter and more airy. My client had mentioned that she was open to doing a patterned wallpaper in this room and we found just the thing in Farrow & Ball’s Silvergate wallpaper, a classic damask pattern. My client had also come to me knowing that she wanted this specific type of dining chair. Since the rest of the room is so feminine and glamorous, I paired it with a large, trestle-style table to temper the femininity and ground the space. You’ll notice that we didn’t use a rug or curtains in this room and that was intentional in order to make it feel lighter and less imposing. The scale of the room looks so much better now. Before, everything felt a little too small. The crystal and iron Adrianna chandelier is more appropriate in size and you’ll notice we also used a rather large Venetian mirror and substantial mercury glass hurricane-style table lamps atop the buffet.}


{After: Details on the Buffet}

dodd entry before2

{Before: The Entry– You can see more of the pediments and millwork I mentioned above in regard to the dining room and this gives you a better feel for how everything is laid out. The dining room is on the left, the formal living room is straight ahead, and the study is to the right.}


{After: You can really see the detail of the ebony floors we laid throughout the house. We used various sized planks to add interest and you’ll notice that I had the quarter round trim painted white instead of matching the wood. I find this to look much cleaner and more polished. We kept it pretty simple in the entry with a pretty chandelier overhead, an antique  mirrored console table, crystal lamp, and series of framed artwork to greet guests as they make their way into the home.}


{After: A Detailed Shot of the Pieces in the Entry}

dodd before living room

{Before: As we move on to the formal living room, you’ll notice that scale continued to be an issue. Everything was too small and the furniture was pushed out to the extremities of the space.}

dodd living room2

{Before: An Additional View of the Room to Give you a feel for the Space.}


{After: We used the same wall color as we did in the areas of the house from Part 1 of the reveal, which are to the left on the other side of the wall. You’ll notice we had the black granite fireplace surround replaced with white carrara marble so that it was cohesive with the nearby kitchen. My client was really open to the idea of navy blue velvet roll arm sofas, so we did a pair of them parallel to one another on either side of the room. Notice that we didn’t put anything right up against the walls. We also brought in a new chandelier, lamps, a pretty coffee table, and a pair of antique Louis XVI-style armchairs. I wanted this room to feel a little more formal and to use fabrics that were rich and sumptuous to give my client the element of glamour that she craved while ensuring that the room was comfortable for hosting guests. Everyone has a place to set their drink!}


{After: Looking towards the Dining Room from the Living Room– the chairs and martini table usually rest atop the rug, but full disclosure– we moved them out a bit because the perspective in the photograph looked better.}


{After: Mirrored Obelisks and a Gilded Sunburst Mirror bring Glamour to the Fireplace in the Living Room}

dodd before powder bath1

{Before: I’m calling this the Navy Powder Bath and you’ll see why soon. This room is actually pretty large for a powder bathroom, but it felt so chopped up before between the long mirror hung horizontally and the huge bookshelf over the toilet. I never really understood why that was there. The slate color on the walls didn’t really do much for me or my client either and you might recognize the same black and tan granite that was also in the kitchen before.}


{After: I knew that I wanted rich, deep navy walls for this room and my client was totally up for it! Other than that, we brought in some of the glamorous elements seen in the rest of the house — beautiful lighting, a Venetian mirror, polished nickel fixtures and hardware, new honed black granite countertops, and a beautiful polished marble basketweave floor. We also added a simple roman shade with navy tape trim to tie everything together and soften the space a bit. You’ll notice we ripped out the bookshelf over the toilet! It feels like the room can breathe now. Sometimes, less really is more.}


{After: Pretty, Classic Details}

dodd before powder bath2

{Before: It’s hard for me to decide which of the powder bathrooms received the most dramatic facelift since I think they both look drastically different than they did before. I think this one, the Silver Powder Bath may be the winner. Before, there was a busy gold and brown wallpaper, another ornate, horizontal mirror, a random alcove (I wish builders would stop doing this. What’s the point?),  and a very heavy wood and dark marble sink cabinet with a bright white porcelain sink with a bronze faucet, and dated lighting overhead.}


{After: We simplified the room tremendously! I had sheetrock put over the old alcove and had the walls covered in a grayish/silver Phillip Jeffries metallic grasscloth. We got rid of the old sink and replaced it with a classic polished nickel and marble washstand, pairing it with a tall, narrow mirror which works with the height of the room. We added a pretty new chandelier, and sconces, continued the black and white marble basket weave flooring, and added some framed art over the toilet. The result feels fresh, pretty, and timeless.}


{After: I just love the way this powder bathroom turned out and my client couldn’t be happier.}

I hope you’ve enjoyed Part 2 of the tour and would love to hear your thoughts on the changes we made. I was really so very lucky to have a client who was so open to change and willing to trust that my design decisions would give her the results she was looking for in the end. I will share the third and final part of the tour early next week. Happy Monday!


{“After” Images by Max Burkhalter}