Mera’s House: The Breakfast Nook Reveal, 2 Ways

At long last, I’m ready to show you the progress I’ve made in the breakfast nook!  There are a few things I still want to do in this space, but for now I’m really happy with the way it’s coming along.

The ‘after’ in this post is coming to you in two parts.  You might recall from the inspiration post that Chester and I had a debate about the table.  We both love it, but to me it just seemed like too much wood with the floor and bench seats.  Chester, who rarely expresses an opinion about decorating, liked it just as it was.  Then this fall I found a tulip table (from Ikea–not the real thing. I wish!) on Craigslist.  So, version 1 of the ‘after’ includes the original table and version 2 is the tulip table.

This is what it looked like before:

Here's the before again, so you don't have to scroll up to see what I'm talking about.

Looking at this sunny picture from the depths of darkest January makes me yearn for light! But, apart from the lack of sun, the nook is looking a lot better now.   Here is the ‘after,’ Version 1:

Red House West || Breakfast Nook

And here is Version 2:

Red House West || Breakfast Nook

The rug is an eBay find.  With two dogs on constant high alert snack-patrol, it’s holding up well.  I made the bench seat cushions with 2 inch foam.  I’ve done enough upholstery projects now to know that cutting foam is a boar, so I went ahead and bought this electric carving knife and it made a huge difference.  The electric knife cut the foam like warm butter and left a nice even edge.  The fabric is canvas-like utility mattress ticking.  I sewed a zipper onto the back edge of the cushion covers so that they can be easily removed and washed when the inevitable hairball/muddy dog nose/marginally potty trained kid/coffee splash accident happens.

I also bought a Rust-Oleum cherry stain touch-up pen to repair and conceal scratches on the wood benches, and it worked wonders.  Most of the scratches can be traced back to the incorrigible Winifred.  I am happy to report that her behavior has improved considerably, especially in the table-cruising category.  It’s been at least two months since I’ve caught her with all four paws on the table–progress!

Oh, and at last the walls are white!  This has made a huge difference in the whole living room–I can’t wait to show you changes that we’ve made there too!

Here’s a breakdown of the differences between the two versions and the various things I did in each.


Red House West || Breakfast Nook

The chair in Version 1 is another craigslist score, and I’m not sure whether it’s the real thing or not, but it’s got a solid metal base and seems like it’s a quality piece of furniture.   It was covered in hideously stained burgundy suede when I got it.

Red House West || Breakfast Nook

Because this is where Opal usually sits, I reupholstered the seat with easy to clean oilcloth.

Red House West || Breakfast Nook

The artwork hanging in the corner is a pair of cross-stitched pansies that I found at a thrift store.  The reddish-purplish pillows are from eBay (they are the “Morroccan” pillows mentioned here that I got for a song because of a fortuitous (and embarrassing) misspelling on my part and the part of the seller).  The blue pillow is one that I sewed from my fabric stash.

Red House West || Breakfast Nook

Now for the specifics of . . . VERSION 2:

Red House West || Breakfast Nook

This version includes the sweet old bentwood chairs that I picked up at a thrift store a while ago.  I love bentwood, and I love caning, and these chairs have both.  I gave them a little rub down with Restor-a-Finish and they look much revived.

The artwork in the corner is a card from Carol Bryner that she gave to me when I got married. The portrait of Steinbeck underneath the shelves is another eBay find.

Red House West || Breakfast Nook

I have to say that I think the tulip table looks better, but the wood table is more solid and more tactilely pleasing.  What do you think?  Which version should we go with?

I’m still working on a pendant light fixture, and I’m trying to figure out blinds or curtains so that I can filter those glorious rays of sunshine that are coming our way in a mere 90 days or so (cue close up scene of a chapped wintery lips heaving a heavy sigh).

Thanks for reading along, have a great week everyone!

36 responses on “Mera’s House: The Breakfast Nook Reveal, 2 Ways

  1. PA Pict

    I hate to say it but I prefer the wood table. I completely love all the other changes you have made but for me the wood table works better in shape and tone than the white one. Sorry. But it’s your house so go with what meets your needs practically as well as visually.

    1. meramatthews

      No need to be sorry, your opinion is valuable to me! I love the wood table too, and maybe it’s just that the tulip table is a bit of a breath of fresh air for me. Cheers!

  2. youshouldabeenhereyesterday

    I love the wood table too – but that’s because I grew up in Anchorage in the 80s/90s. 🙂 Everything looks fantastic! One thing – that picture covering the electrical outlets is giving me OCD spasms – but I am finding relief in your great sense of color. Well done! You need to help us with Ada and Astrid’s rooms!

    1. meramatthews

      We can’t escape our roots, can we! 🙂 It’s funny, the slightly askew portrait over the outlets is the little rumpled detail that kind of makes the whole thing for me, but I can definitely see how it could bug someone with a tidier aesthetic. Thank you!

  3. Megan

    Tulip table IS prettier! But the solid wood looks like an easier place to eat b/c edges will be closer to the benches. Love it, Mera! (Come help me with MY house!! 🙂

    1. meramatthews

      Thanks Megan! The tulip table actually fits in the space really well and is comfortable to eat (and type, as I currently am) at from the benches and the chairs. But the wood table definitely has its own set of virtues too. Thanks for reading and for commenting! 🙂

    1. meramatthews

      All these votes for the wood table are actually making me feel better because I have a lot of affection for that table, whereas my feelings about the tulip table are purely superficial. 🙂 Thanks!

    1. meramatthews

      That’s it precisely! The tulip table has less visual weight, which balances out the bench seats. If only I had a real tulip table, there wouldn’t be any need for debate! Thanks so much for reading and commenting, I appreciate it!

  4. Lea

    The wood tabletop is a better shape for the space and will be easier to actually use while seated on the benches. Now that you have the seat covers on the benches and the rug under the table, the wood from the table is not excessive. Although the tulip table is pleasing on its own, its size and shape are not well suited that space or the benches.

    1. meramatthews

      I agree that the rug and cushions make the ‘too much wood’ less of an issue. It’s funny, I’m sitting at the nook this very moment and the tulip table shape is actually quite comfortable to use from the benches. I always like to sit where the two bench seats meet, but with the corner of the wood table jutting out it wasn’t a comfortable spot to eat or work. Thanks so much for your input! 🙂

  5. y2knina

    Team tulip! Much less visual weight in a relatively tight space. I am also possibly being influenced by the styling/accessories in the second version, all of which I love.

    1. meramatthews

      Yeah, I could probably have said nothing at all and you would be able to tell that I’m leaning toward the tulip table just by the styling effort I put into the second version! Thanks Nina, hope you’re enjoying your vacay! 🙂

      1. y2knina

        Thanks! I’m technically not on vacation since we’re retired. But I guess, yeah, it is a vacation from the negative temps in the northeast today. (I have RA. The cold really aggravates my symptoms. Between the warm temps here and the “hyperbaric treatment” I get scuba diving every day, my symptoms disappear almost entirely.)

        My husband and I own an apartment which we rent out as a business investment, but since we retired we hog it in the winter. 🙂

  6. Diana Burch

    Your white chair seems like it would go with the tulip table. Why did you opt for the bentwood chairs? It really looks great with white or wooden table but I agree the wood seems a little “heavy”.

    1. meramatthews

      They definitely do go together, but I like the contrast of the bentwood chairs with the tulip table better than the tulip-tulip combo. Thank you Diana! 🙂

  7. Carol Crump Bryner

    Fun to see both possibilities. Just have to say something about the chairs. I have bentwood cafe chairs in our dining room in Portland, and the kids, when they were smaller, and even now, actually, usually landed on their butts or their heads because those chairs tip over so easily. So I sort of vote for a good Opal chair for whatever table you put there. Those kid noggins are important, but maybe Opal is quieter in her seating than the boys are.

    1. meramatthews

      Very true Carol, and dinnertime around here can get pretty wiggly. The tulip chair is quite stable and Opal sits there or on the bench seats, but not on the bentwood chairs. Nothing more important than kid noggins!

    1. meramatthews

      Aw, thanks Judy! Opal’s chair did work out well–it looks cute, and we (meaning me and the dogs) just wipe it down after meals. xoxo

  8. Terra

    Version 2! The tulip table contrasts the heavy wood feel of the benches perfectly. However, it’s good to let the hubby get what he wants every once in a while.

    1. meramatthews

      Thanks for your vote! Chester has almost no opinions about decorating and design, even in this house that he’s lived in for 40+ years! So the fact that he has an position about the tables at all is really saying something. I’ve pretty much decided that we’ll have the wood table in place until I strike thrifters’ gold and find a real tulip table. No one could argue with the real thing, right? 🙂

  9. Sheepy Hollow Farm

    Love it!!! The textiles are beautiful… drooling over the rug too! Color me happy!! I really like both tables, but, the ‘white’ table is less obtrusive and highlights the built-in bench (did I mention I hate sewing zippers!??). Awesome job!!

    1. meramatthews

      I actually kind of cheated with the zipper: it’s a boxed cushion, but since the foam is so thin I used the zipper to form the whole back edge. In other words the zipper itself is sewn to the top and bottom pieces. It actually worked out really well! Thank you so much for reading and commenting! 🙂

  10. melbajo

    I really like both, but I do favor the wood table a little bit more! The tulip table is just so common to see now, and that wood table is totally unique! But, what I really want to know is what white paint did you use? I’m in a black hole of white paint (ha!) and yours looks just right.

    1. meramatthews

      The wood table really is unique, and I do have a special love for it–thanks for your input! Choosing white paint can be a deep morass: my paint is by Pittsburgh Paints and is called Mother of Pearl. I would say it’s a true white, with just the tiniest bit of warmth. Good luck!

  11. mech986

    I prefer the wood look but I agree the square wood table is visually too thick, but it also looks very sturdy. I feel the white tulip table looks a little too modern for the nook, and the roundness to contrasted with the nook seating.

    Give some consideration to finding a tulip base in wood (or adapt the white base to the wood table). As for the wood too, I’d use a thinner butcher block, maybe 1 to 1.5″ thick, and rectangular if it fits better (can’t quite tell if nook is purely square or a little rectangular). In any case, I’d also suggest smoothly rounded corners vertically with a little double rounded corner detail on top and bottom edges.
    One could also consider a bright white with patterns or floral top liner (interchangeable) and cover with a rounded edge glass top, about 1/4-3/8″ thick, clear for a clean and easily cared for surface. My MIL had a table like that in her small dinette and the liner matched the wallpaper.
    In any case, a thinner table with thin glass top would be visually sleeker, and adopting a wider yet thinner, (shorter) base (not in total height but just the bottom base) would provide better support while reducing visual heaviness.
    A bit more work but sketch it out and see what you think.

  12. Courtney

    I found your blog as I was looking at images of breakfast nooks and pendant lights. Images of your nook caught my eye. I’m curious about the pendant light, I love the wood detail on the stem. Do you know who makes or sells them?

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