In my pre-kid life, the dining room was the easiest room to furnish. The options were endless, and I could choose upholstered chairs or a light colored rug without worrying that raspberries or ketchup were going to be smooshed all over them. With a 1.5 and 3.5 year old, things are a bit more challenging, and I've gone through more dining room iterations than I care to count. Here are just a few.
I'll go through my mistakes first, and put my tips/ plan at the bottom!
Mistake #1: Dining room furniture is kid safe if its in an "indoor/ outdoor" material!
Its a lie, believe me. Maybe a dark colored upholstery would hide stains better, but if you're thinking about a white or light color? Forget it. Do you really want to be scrubbing down your cushions or taking off cushion covers to wash constantly? And don't even think about doing art at the dining table. Paints? Markers? Five minutes of crafts --> 2 hours of cleaning. Its just not good for anyone's sanity. I've sold all upholstered furniture except for my white bench, which is now in the guest bedroom.
Mistake #2: A rustic table will hide any wear and tear, so you don't have to worry about damage!
Tried it. I bought a beautiful restoration hardware dining table (the brown one above). It had a lovely rustic texture to the wood, including on the top. It didn't take long to discover that texture actually means little nooks and crannies for all liquids and semi solids to fall into and dry. No longer can you just "wipe down" the table. Oh no. Now you have to wipe it down and scrub the junk out of all of those little crevices, using a fork/ knife to get the cracks clean, turning a 2 minute job into a 20 minute job. We had a few months of double tablecloths before I sold that table on craigslist.
Mistake #3: Getting too attached to your rug.
There really isn't any way around it. The rug will get dirty. Some rugs hide it stains than others. For example, we had a pattered woven jute rug for a while. It was so dirty that it was probably growing things, but you couldn't actually tell (for a while at least). I had a pretty restoration hardware rug under the table for a while. I literally put a piece of carpet saver plastic over the area where my kids sat. I ended up moving that rug to the guest bedroom. Learning point, don't go fancy/ expensive here, it'll just lead to sadness and disappointment.
Mistake 4: Cheap paint.
I suppose this only counts if your walls are anywhere close to your table, and if your kids are as crazy as mine. Somehow, my kids end up getting food on the wall. All. The. Time. Which means I'm scrubbing the walls all the time, too. Obviously, cheap pain will scrub right off. Enough said.
Alright, so that was a bit of a downer. So, what have I found that works?
Tip #1: If you want an upholstered dining chair or seat cushion (for comfort!), use leather.
Leather wasn't ever on my radar for dining chairs, but it should have been. My current chairs are a wishbone style with leather seat cushions. While I'm not totally in love with the chairs, I love that I can just take the dirty seat cushion to the sink and easily wipe it off! And there are so many reasonably priced leather dining chairs out there these days (and some not so reasonably priced).
Tip #2: Find a dining table with a smooth wood tabletop, and add extra coats of poly.
I finally splurged on a beautiful modern oak dining table. I love it, and want to keep it looking good for as long as possible! I was nervous to put extra sealer on it, because it had a beautiful natural matte finish. But, I researched and found General Finishes "Flat." I was super nervous to put it on, but it didn't change the sheen or tone of the wood at all! It was amazing. If you haven't tried General Finishes for stains and sealers, I totally recommend them. Extra note: don't forget to seal the legs!
Tip 3: No rug is safe, but some are better than others.
This tip I know well, I've gone through a lot of rugs! Its true that certain rugs will clean up better than others. The best ones? A vintage wool flatweave rug from eBay (from this seller, who's worth a look if you're rug shopping), which was super easy to vacuum and spot clean and was already worn in looking, so any damage just added to the charm. A cowhide from Overstock was very easy to clean but too much scrubbing did make the fur more fuzzy. Indoor outdoor rugs were super easy to clean but felt like plastic. More expensive ones might be worth the splurge, I'm not sure. I've debated these Perennial ones below for months because they're such a good deal on sale.
So, after much struggle, I *think* I have a plan for the dining room. I already have the table, and light fixture. The chairs are incredibly affordable solid wood chairs from Target. The rug is a leather/ jute combo that will add texture to the room while (hopefully) proving somewhat cleanable. I would like to update my current sideboard and art (DIY for cost saving), but those projects will be on the back burner for a while. Here's my mood board for the room!
We'll see how this dining room version goes!! Please share any of your tips, I'd love to hear!