This Is How a Furniture Designer and a Chef Decorates His Dining Room
When newly married couple Chris and Amber Earl moved into the groom's grandfather's old house in North Hollywood, the 1940s home needed a lot of work. And while the newlyweds initially refreshed parts of the home beautifully—transforming the garden into an entertainer's dream patio and refreshing the hidden speakeasy located behind the den's hidden doors—they still kept some original features of the house intact. But a few years down the road—the dining room built-ins, which were constructed by Earl's grandfather, were starting to show their age, and the couple went on a mission to refresh their dining room once more.
Chris Earl, a chef and furniture designer, knew it would take the perfect furniture to finish off this petite space while still keeping it functional—after all, the couple loves to entertain, and they do so often. We chatted with Amber Earl, sales and business manager for her husband's booming furniture business, about all aspects of the project—from the renovation to the furniture and the last styling elements. Play with the slider below to reveal this impressive before-and-after transformation, and learn all about the process of renovating this petite dining space.
"The house definitely needed an update," says Earl. "The dining table didn't fit with the space, and we hadn't had real dining chairs for a couple years. Chris's grandfather constructed the built-in unit in the '60s. For the sake of nostalgia, we tried to keep it as-is for as long as possible, but there came a point when it detracted rather than added to the charm of this old home." The couple went on a mission to refresh the room and give it a more modern vibe.
"Unfortunately, the home had fallen into total disrepair when we took it over," explains Amber Earl. "We basically had to gut the space. We completely redid the inside—from refurbishing the wood floors to taking out walls and rebuilding others. We turned pocket doors into archways, replastered and tiling as we went—essentially, we tried to fully update while keeping as true as possible to the original feel and charm of the home."
To freshen the space, the couple decided on a white palette with stark black accents. "We wanted the primary base color to be white, to be classic while always lending itself to adaptation and change," says Earl. "We felt like that afforded us a good palette to expand or adapt to the seasons as we choose."
Because her husband is a furniture designer, he was able to make the dining set to perfectly fit the space. "Dining chairs are a very tough find," says Earl. "We had been looking for the perfect set for years. After never finding what we wanted, Chris ended up designing his own. We were happy that his most recent table design and chairs fit perfectly in the newly decorated space. The set is customizable, so we chose the ebonized black oak chairs and tabletop with a powder-coated white base as we thought this sat well against the refurbished built-in."
"We needed to brighten up the dining area as the existing space was poorly aging and all finished in old lacquer that was becoming increasingly orange and unappealing," adds Earl. "There were doors on the built-ins that featured '60s-style opaque découpaged plexiglass that needed to go. The goal was to update the structure that already existed by transforming the negative elements and highlighting the great 'bones' that were already in place."
"Painting a built-in is so much more work than one would think," she adds. "We had to sand the built-ins down first, then add the primer, paint, sand again, and then repaint some more. Putting everything away and styling it out was the fun part."
Once the built-ins were primed and painted, Los Angeles–based home organization company Assembly came in to help style the space and organize the bookshelves to make it visually appealing but still fully functional for the larger dinner parties and events that the couple often hosts.
"We love the windows surrounding the room and how the light comes through in the morning and at sunset. We also love how the breeze passes through to sound the wind chimes of the chandelier. It's a great space to entertain," says Earl. We predict many more dinner parties in this couple's newly designed dining room—topped off with a nightcap in their secret speakeasy bar.