The dining room in Nicole Cole’s early-1900s Philadelphia, PA home already had a lot going for it when the designer and founder of Vestige HOME, kicked off its top-to-toe renovation last fall. “The original bay windows provided incredible garden views, and the size of the room (230 square feet) was more than generous,” she says, adding that its only drawback was a lack of personality.
To infuse it with some character, Cole cleverly dressed the room in accents that nod to different periods: an antique butterfly vitrine is framed by an art deco mural by local artist Carla Weeks; classical wainscoting rings the perimeter; a new chandelier suspends from above. “Pairings like these created a bit of tension, unexpected delight, and intrigue,” the designer explains.
Her thoughtful introductions all went as planned—almost. At the center of the room stands a white oak dining table that, for a brief moment, threw the project for a loop. Why? Cole purchased it online on a whim long before kicking off the project only to find that its exaggerated, narrow shape meant it couldn’t comfortably accommodate eight people as promised. Even worse, it was also dwarfed by the scale of the room.
Instead of returning the piece (the base was just too good to give up), the designer tapped local woodworkers Edgewood Made to fashion a larger top for it. But first, Cole devised a genius plan to ensure she didn’t make another measurement misstep. First, she unpacked a heap of client deliveries and disassembled the boxes. Then, using an exacto knife, she formed the cardboard into an oval and placed it on the table’s base to see just how large the new top should be.
Cole had a local carpenter attach the custom table top to a base by Restoration Hardware.Photo by VESTIGE HOME, VESTIGE HOME
It may seem like a solution specific to Cole’s setback, but this ingenious trick can be applied to anything you want to bring into your home. Got your eye on a piece of art? Cut some cardboard to scale so you can get a sense for its size IRL. A desk at a local boutique begging you to bring it home? Ditch the passé measuring tape and put those old shipping boxes to good use before forking over the cash. Planning a gallery wall? Again, use cardboard mock-ups to design it before you start drilling those holes. Then, send Cole some love for saving you from a decorating disappointment.
Have you ever had to get creative to solve a design problem in your home? Tell us how below.