By Kathryn Weber
Long and lingering evening meals with wine and candlelight are the ultimate in romance. However, under today's budget constraints, dining out at fine restaurants might not be on the menu. That doesn't mean you have to sacrifice that romantic atmosphere you love. A few tweaks and changes can turn your dining room into a chic and elegant spot that will feel indulgently opulent for far less than a nice meal out.
UP THE AMBIANCE
Ambiance is the key to creating a dining room that oozes romance. Decide on a look and style you want, then pull in rich colors and fabrics that coordinate with that style. Don't be timid but think grand and elegant. Dark woods and heavy fabrics are mainstays of romantic dining, and many dining room chair seats can be easily recovered. If not, inexpensive velvet chair covers can give your chairs more romantic appeal. The next step is to look carefully at lighting.
A single source of light, such as a single chandelier, takes the romance out of a room. Instead, lighting should come from a variety of sources, such as sconce lighting and candles, creating a layered effect. A $5 dimmer switch is the easiest and most cost-effective method for toning down chandeliers.
For secondary lighting, a nice option is lighting close to the ceiling. Try installing crown molding about six inches lower than the ceiling, then adding rope lighting inside. You'll need an electrician to wire an outlet for the lights before the molding goes up, and have a switch wired to the plug. When these lights are turned on, the ceiling will be aglow in a burnished light. Another good lighting source is candles. Place a tall, standing floor candelabra or candle holder at one corner of the room.
Whatever you do, think twinkle. Whether from the flickering flame of a candle or from small white twinkle lights in a silk tree, small lights can put a twinkle in your evening. Add some gilded or shiny elements, such as mirrors and gold- or silver-leafed accessories, for the light to bounce off and create a soft glow in the room.
If you have carving on any of your furniture, try highlighting it with some gold paint to pull out the details and add elegance.
To recreate that romantic restaurant coziness, add a heavy curtain across the opening to the dining room. If your home has an open design, consider placing a large standing room divider in the space to make it more intimate. Even a large rug under the dining table will help pull the room in. Be sure to leave 18-to-24 inches around the table. Throw on a rich damask tablecloth, then contrast it with a coordinating smaller table cloth turned on the diagonal.
Add some metallic plate chargers and you'll have an opulent dining room that will become your first choice for a romantic dinner.
Kathryn Weber is a home and decorating columnist and publishes the Red Lotus Letter feng shui ezine. For more information, contact Weber through her website, redlotusletter.com.