Washingtonian’s “Ask a Designer” series takes readers’ home design questions and conundrums directly to the experts—interior designers. Struggling to find the best kid-friendly rug for your mudroom? Looking for a desk to fill an awkward space? Need exterior paint recs? Send your questions to [email protected]washingtonian.com and we’ll get them answered.
“How can I decorate to create a distinct dining area in an open-concept rowhouse?”
We asked local designer Kate Hougen of Mira Jean Designs for her advice:
“When it comes to dining spaces, there are three main ways you can create a sense of place in an open-concept area: one, lighting; two, art; and three, table decor.
“For light: Begin by selecting your dining room chandelier wisely. Make sure it hits the right length when hanging over your table, and don’t be afraid to go for a statement light fixture that draws attention to the space. As for size, I generally aim for there to be at least 12 inches of space between the light fixture and each end of the table. One of my favorite go-to places to source light fixtures locally is Dominion Lighting in Arlington.
“For art: Have fun with it. The dining area is a place where guests, family, and friends linger. Invest in and display original art that you love, showcase framed photos of your travels, or create something new and fun for the space that will be a conversation starter. For example, we created these three prints for our client’s dining space [pictured above], each featuring a recipe and a fun quote like this one from Julia Child: ‘A party without cake is just a meeting.’
“For table decor: Nothing defines a space like a well-decorated table. Floral and tablescape designer Paige Canfield of Sumner B. Designs is a great source of inspiration, and Red Barn Mercantile in Old Town is a favorite local spot for tabletop linens. I love their Tulusa dot napkins, which are hand-stamped by the local artist Sue Henry.”
This response has been edited and condensed.