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Mountain House Mondays: Our Dining Room Dilemma



This is one of those posts that as I was writing it, ended up changing my mind about the ENTIRE room. But instead of deleting out all the “debates” at the beginning, I left in the thought process that brought me to a big TWIST at the end, so keep reading.

**But before I get into talking about our mountain house, I want to recognize a fellow family blogger’s fire tragedy. Chris Loves Julia were also documenting their mountain cabin renovation of which we have loved following along. Last week, it tragically burned down and well, it shook our office and our family, with almost everyone tearing up so I can’t IMAGINE how they feel. I didn’t want to continue going along, documenting our mountain project, without just recognizing their tragedy and knowing that it might be hard for them to read along. Not sure what else to say except we, like them, are so grateful that no one was inside. They are a great family to support, creating wonderful content and putting good things out into the world so if you don’t follow them, now’s a good time to start. We are so just so, so, so sorry.

It’s another “where we are and where we might go” post on the mountain house, this time in the room that ALWAYS CHALLENGES ME the most: the dining room. Why? Keep reading, but first let’s remind us all what she looked like before.

Emily Henderson Mountain House Dining Room Before

Besides this strange peninsula in the middle, it was kinda the same shape. We put in new GORGEOUS windows from Marvin (more on that later) and changed out the flooring (from Ross Alan Reclaimed Lumbar—the nicest family with the prettiest wood, so if you live in LA, please go check them out and say hi from us).

What you can’t see is that the walls all had a thick layer of orange peel spray and the corners of the entire house were rounded—like every window, every doorway, everywhere. Do you want to know the most annoying way to blow your budget? Smooth coating walls. More on that later (and we didn’t do that here, actually, they are a slight plaster).

Emily Henderson Mountain House Dining Room With Opening

It’s a pretty room with GREAT light, but it’s not there yet. A lot of the elements could change.


Dining Room Options

First, once again I have a scale issue and I’ve finally learned my lesson. I, Emily Henderson, like smaller lighting fixtures over dining tables. Sometimes it takes three times, making the same mistake to really get it (Glendale house, Los Feliz dining room and now here). It’s like how I keep buying high waisted wide leg sailor pants and yet I always opt to actually wear a skinny jean. Always. So the other day I told my best friend as I was purging my closet, “I’m making a promise to myself and you that I will NEVER EVER EVER buy another pair of this style.” And then three effing days later, I bought low waisted wide legs as if that’s going to be any better!!!

Anyway. There is a reason for the larger fixtures. Originally we were going to punch through the ceiling and show the joists to match the kitchen, but once we decided on the plumbing in the directly-above master bathroom, we couldn’t. So the ceilings were supposed to be a foot higher. I also wanted glass as to not abstruct the view. They don’t look too overscale in the photos but when you are sitting at the table, they feel big above you. They are seriously beautiful, with black and brass detailing and they give great ambient light. It’s not ideal, as they were custom (from The Urban Electric Company) but I’m hoping my friend’s new 100-year-old huge Tudor will be a good fit for them.

Meanwhile, I’m still trying to figure out what should go there, and I may not know for a while until I for sure decide for or against a banquette going all the way around the windows. I’m leaning towards what we like to call a “micro pendant/sconce” like this:

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Trend Tiny Bubble Sconce 9 2500x3625

image source | design by studio joanna laajisto

Next, the ever-controversial pony wall:

Dining Room 2

A few facts about the pony wall: 1. Yes, the column is load-bearing and as we tried to move it, our engineer said the most we could move it is 12 inches to the right because our huge bathtub sits above it. At one point, we were going to get rid of the “pony” part of it and clad the column in wood, but then we thought that MAYBE we’ll still do a huge dining banquet in which case we’d want that wall. So it was one of those things that we thought to keep for now, deal with later.

But as the coats and boots are being strewn about (it’s right by the backdoor which is how we walk to the woods/lake), I was like ugh, maybe I should make this awkward wall more functional. Many of you shared my same woes on our family room update post, and we even polled it on Instagram Stories last week and it was 53 to 47 to close it up. We are so used to it being open and even though there is still a big opening directly next to it, it’s hard to close things up.

Dining Room 1

So I did what any professional stylist would do: I hung up a piece of fabric to see how it felt.

Dining Room 3

The idea would be that we would dry wall the dining room side of it and turn the family room side into a very shallow wall of hooks for coats. MAYBE a low shelf for boots. Kind of like a mini mudroom, similar to:

Mudroomstorage Studiomcgee
image source | design by studio mcgee

The pros of closing up the wall are as follows:

  1. It will be cleaner, architecturally. It makes the dining room feel more enclosed and we can put pretty art on there.
  2. We get some hooks for coats, therefore adding function.

The cons of closing up the wall are as follow:

  1. We like how open it is!
  2. I really don’t want to look at a pile of coats on the wall. Not having the storage means we are forced to hang them in the hall closet, of which I do three times a day.
  3. We would spend more money. We are SO done spending money on this house. I really should pursue a marriage with a handyman or a general contractor. I wonder if Brian would be open to that if he knew how much money our family would save?
  4. We might have to move the electrical unless we don’t take the niche down to the floor, which is annoying and yes involves dealing with an electrician and saving money and we MIGHT need it for code.

A lot of you want us to do floating shelves there which we had considered, but then I have to put something on them and I don’t want to create a space that I have to style. We already have a bar, so it would just be something that would just create visual clutter.

So where are we right now on the pony decision?

Last weekend, as we sat at that table with friends, fabric over the opening, everyone agreed that they missed the openness. Brian was pretty adamant about not closing it up and I was on the fence so I suppose that’s our decision for now.

I do think its a missed opportunity for function, and there is something a little dated about it but I will say this: There is STILL a chance that I will put in a big built-in banquette in which case we’ll want that wall.

Let’s talk about the real problem here…


Chairs Grid

Right now, we have this IKEA table (I know, it’s pretty darn good) chosen because the day before we were moving all of our stuff up there, we realized that we didn’t have a table and IKEA stocked this one. Turns out we actually really do like it. We brought all our extra dining chairs up there to play around (and sit on), so naturally, I took photos so you could see the difference between wood and black.

What do I really want? A GORGEOUS live-edge table and beautiful yet comfortable chairs.

Appleton Oct18 2404
image source | design by bachman brown design

BUT DO YOU KNOW WHAT DOESN’T ACTUALLY EXIST? REALLY beautiful + unique + REALLY comfortable + sculptural + kid-friendly chairs. It’s not that I haven’t looked, it’s that by nature of being a chair, it can’t actually be all of those things. It’s like trying to find really low-calorie/low fat + really delicious food. It’s just not how life works and you have to compromise somewhere.

I know this because our dining chairs at our Los Feliz house were in fact VERY comfortable but they were kinda boring. My next door neighbor/good friend has them now because I found my dream set of Cherner chairs at the flea market which are a 7 on the comfort scale, but every time I’m hanging out around her dining table, my bum being nestled by the padding on all sides, I regret choosing style over comfort.

So here I will NOT choose style over comfort. It’s a bummer, TRULY. Maybe you are wondering what level of comfort a family could possibly need and I’ll go ahead and say our’s is VERY HIGH.

What makes a chair comfortable?

  1. Upholstery and cushion on both the seat, back and, ideally, arms. Think a club chair at a bar. That’s what I want. But those are rarely if EVER in the style that we want up here, which is more sculptural and minimal, with mixed finishes (ideally wood and upholstery). But upholstery on the arms is by nature NOT kid-friendly. Even if it’s leather, you still have to wipe up the marinara and jelly hand prints.
  2. Large scale. Especially for guys, we don’t want a dinky, light chair.

I love these below, but they are everywhere and that back looks VERY straight.

Valle Dumbo Ad Skj 09
image source | design by giancarlo valle

These look more comfortable but I still don’t want to sit for hours and hours (I write at the dining table from 5-7 am most mornings).

Kungshöjdsgatan 9a
image source | design by grey deco

Something like the below could work, they are large scale and have upholstered seat and arms…but perhaps too contemporary for us.

Catherine Kwong San Francisco Home 03
image source | design by catherine kwong

Are you ready for this????

After writing this post for three hours on Saturday, I finally realized what needs to happen that will solve all our problems: the light, the pony wall, the comfort, adding style and interest, the need for kid-friendly…


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We need to go back to the ORIGINAL plan which was to do a big built-in banquette on the three sides where the windows are and the pony wall. That’s what I ALWAYS wanted because EVERYONE loves sitting in a banquette. We’d make it deep and have a ton of pillows, so I can add much needed softness and texture. We’d likely do leather or a vegan leather for the bench.

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We’d obviously need an oval or round table, and then put three chairs on the front side, chairs that the kids can sit in with maybe an upholstered seat but not arms or back, thus checking off two of my boxes: sculptural + kid friendly. I’m not going to be sitting there, my spot is smack dab under a window. And yes I know that it MIGHT be annoying for everyone when the people in the middle have to get out, but it’s worth it. Who opts for a table at a restaurant when there’s a big comfy booth open? People who care nothing about coziness and comfort.

We had dinner there with friends on Friday night and it just didn’t feel good the old way. But by rotating the whole set up and eating breakfast by the window, it became such a happier, more inviting, more desirable space.  It’s a space you WANT to actually sit for hours.

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By doing a built-in along the window, it gives the pony wall some purpose. Our architect felt that there was a lot of wasted space in the middle up there, but we have kids and open space is FINE. It actually feels really, really good.

Lastly, it solves the light situation because we could simply get rid of the pendant closest to the kitchen and the other one is PERFECT for a rounded table/nook. Even the location of it is perfect.

I get my comfort, a place for me to sit and write and hang out on upholstered cushions. The kids will get their more kid-friendly chairs that are really pretty (I’ll probably just get cushions made for the Paul McCobb chairs that I have or mix up vintage). We keep the pony wall because we love how open it feels and we don’t have to change out the lights. Then we’ll put some low hooks for the kids’ coats on the other side of the pony wall.

BOOM. Even Brian was excited about this new plan.

Thanks for letting me externally process this all with you. I know not everyone will agree with this, but when designing a house, I really try to make EVERY single room as desirable as possible. A room you actually WANT to spend hours in and sometimes you don’t know what that is going to take until you live in a space for a while.

Thoughts? Feelings? Comments?

Fin Mark


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0 responses to “Mountain House Mondays: Our Dining Room Dilemma

  1. I am Team Banquette. Always wanted one in my own house. That banquette will feel like that whole end of the room is hugging you as you sit down to enjoy a meal. Warm and inviting.

  2. I like the new plan for a couple of reasons. 1. Of course you should enjoy the windows for their light and views.
    2. The banquette will bring in some textiles which I think are needed. I probably like pattern more than you do but I think as it is now, the room is too bare. I realize art is to come. I also think the pony wall has function but looks dated. I am sure you will come up with a solution that gives you both function and look.

  3. I think this solution is awesome!! It’s like a win – win! If it were me, though, I would not do hooks and instead do a pretty wood coat tree. I feel like the hooks are permanent, whereas, the coat tree can always be put away when not needed. I’m typically not a coat tree fan, but it just makes sense to me in your space and you showed a very pretty wood one in one of your renderings. I do still like the idea of a bench or something to put on shoes/store shoes.

    1. Ooooh- I really love this idea! Then you don’t have to stare at empty hooks all spring/summer/early fall! Totally agreed that a bench with some shoe baskets would be so functional as well.

      1. Coat trees could be tough for little kids. What about making a shelf for the opening at the top of the pony wall that matches the flooring and only having it protrude into the living room.

        Then you could put hooks in the underneath of the shelf and have a dedicated spot below for the shoe baskets and a spot on top for a try for keys, sunglasses, whatever.

        1. We actually bought one that i haven’t put together yet that is two tiered – so low ones for the little ones. We’ll see … i also bought some pretty wood hooks so maybe we’ll try both. I joked last week that from now on only white winter coats/shoes, MAYBE gray and light blue. (but bright colors lets you see them in the woods so much easier so thats not happening).

          1. This definitely doesn’t solve storage issues but it would make the opening seem more purposeful? What if you got a piece of “mobile” art (with colored glass or something so it’s light and airy) and suspended it in the opening? You could still visually see through it while also adding interest and purpose?

  4. What is your curtain situation going to be? Like with regard to glare on your laptop (assuming you’re not writing by hand with an old-timey fountain pen)? I find windows really challenging. Also, could you have a carpenter round off the corners of your existing table to create a rounded rectangle? That could suffice until the perfect table is found.

    1. Genius!! Round tables are so amazing in the right space (yours!) and I love how you can see the one pendant that’ll stay through the pony walk. Love the idea by some to frame the open wall. And the Eames molded plastic are virtually indestructible and super comfy. I know they might feel ‘typical’ but there are some amazing vintage ones out there that can be mixed and matched and don’t feel ‘run of the mill’ at all. Congrats on the breakthrough 🙂

  5. Don’t close up that pony wall! But, what about framing in the opening (adding some framing to the top) so that the opening is the same size as the windows surrounding the table?

    1. I had the same thought! It would make it look so much more intentional. I can’t tell from the picture if the dimensions are the same as the other windows, but it looks pretty close.

      1. Third this – think it is a small change that would make a huge difference when looking at it from the dining room side!

      2. Yes! I was thinking it would look better framed to match the window size, maybe even put in a window (but that might lead to a lot of window cleaning ????). I also love your new solution and think it will feel more balanced! Also very cool!

        1. Exactly what i thought when i saw the pictures from the kitchen! The pony wall would look more intentional!

    2. This! My main reason for being on team closing up the pony wall was because I felt like it looked a little awkward at the ceiling, this would help so much I think. LOVE the banquette idea!

      1. OOH i hadn’t thought about bringing the ceiling down to window frame height. INTERESTING IDEA. I like the idea of framing it out in wood, too. we’ll consider immediately. thanks guys

    3. Yes! Yes! Yes! Bring the frame down to the same height as the other windows and frame it out in the same wood as all the other windows and doors in both rooms. Suddenly doesn’t feel 90s at all. LOVE the banquet.

    4. I immediately thought of this too. Lower to the size of the existing windows, frame with that same frame. It’s a both win win situation – keeps the so loved openness, but at the same time looks intentional, more balanced and creates a little more visual separation from the back door entry. I am on the same boat with the banquette idea too. It just feels right. My whole dining area has always revolved around a beautiful dark round dining table by a large window. I only recently realised a banquette seating would be wonderful there too! Loved reading about your whole thought process.

  6. Yes, yes, yes for the banquette! And I’m so glad you are keeping one of the pendants because I think they are beautiful. I’m still not convinced about the pony wall. As much as I crave natural light, I think it’s crazy not to have a drop zone by the door.

  7. I can’t believe it’s the same place. i scrolled up and down multiple times and still skeptical 😉
    What a transformation! Turning the table was an excellent idea and like the light that the pony wall lets come in. The banquette with lots of nice cushions à la Emily is going to be perfect

  8. Great solution! Sounds cozy and solves a lot of conundrums.

    I have a totally lame grammar feedback, that I’m ONLY posting bc it keeps happening. Most of the time “of which” appears in EHD content, “which” is actually correct.
    “Not having the storage means we are forced to hang them in the hall closet, (unnecessary ‘of’) which I do three times a day.”

    Don’t secretly hate me, ok? ????

    1. Fellow grammar nerd here, and I was thinking of finally commenting about this today, as well! Lol. That extra “of” does not take away from all the amazing content, but it does jar me every time I read it.
      As for the design – I LOVE the solution, and the open pony wall doesn’t bother me at all.

    2. Thank you for that, Lashley, it’s mildly jarring to me each time too but I always forget a paragraph or two later.

      I’m delighted the banquette will be in place, definitely the right choice for comfort and floor plan and everything. The existing table and chair already look better with the dining room table rotated; the first orientation was fighting with the shape of the room.

      I really like the idea above of having the size and framing of the pony wall opening echo the windows and even though it doesn’t bother you enough I think you should mock it up in photoshop to see the potential improvement.

    3. HAHA, Lashley, I am glad I’m not the only grammar geek around! Emily loves an “of which,” and I don’t fixate much, but this one got me this morning: “…also documenting their mountain cabin renovation of which we have loved following along.”

      Glad I’m not alone in this AND that it has NOTHING to do with my love of Emily or her great content! Keep it up! (the content, for sure, and the of-whiching if you really want to 🙂 Do you!)

  9. And this is why I need to talk about everything out loud to someone – I am all about this entire process and I love where you ended up! Can’t wait to see it all come to fruition!

  10. Yay! I’m so excited about your decision. I just called my husband to talk about it (he’s an architect) and we agree that it will be so cozy and kid-friendly. I just added my less than ideal pleather desk chair to my dining table so I could do work, and it feels so comfy but so ugly. But hey! That’s where we are right now, and as long as I’m sitting it, I can’t see it, haha. Thanks for sharing your thought process with us!

  11. we are planning to build a small dining banquette in our eat-in kitchen and can’t wait to see what you do for yours! I love this idea and how it answers the conundrum of comfy and beautiful. I’d love to see a round up of your inspiration, and any tips whoever builds yours has!

      1. Will do. Trying to figure out this week if we want/need storage or if we can save money and just have a simple box with cladding on the front. Maybe a flip top with summer outdoor stuff in side? but we have a garage so not sure its necessary and i feel like if I have the storage i’ll just find stuff to put inside of it. hilariously the only storage needs we have is for every day coats/shoes and lord knows shoving them in a banquette trunk doesn’t make sense.

        1. if you don’t need the storage than a floating bench could be cool.. reminiscent of the family room too!

  12. Yes that space begs for a banquette. The second you turned the table it all fell into place. And the open pony wall frames the beautiful pendant perfectly. Win win win!

  13. I’m so glad you aren’t closing up the pony wall. To me, a mountain house is about taking in as much of the beautiful scenery as possible. I was kind of baffled that anyone would suggest closing it up. Can’t wait to see the banquette!

  14. I love everything about your plot twist plan! I love that you can see through the pony wall into the tv room and that you aren’t closing it up, I love that the table aligns with the pony wall window, I too think the dining room looks so much more inviting us a table on that access instead of the other. I also want to sit there in the window seat that I am imagining I too think the dining room looks so much more inviting with the table on that access instead of the other. I also want to sit there in the window seat that I am imagining, AND I love the open space because I also have kids. We had a large open space before we bought our coffee table in a very large living room and the kids loved to play there. I finally filled it with an amazing large square coffee table, but it left very little open space in the centre of the room and now they don’t play in that room at all. There is a large open space in my master bedroom because it’s been last on the list to decorate and the kids have moved up there to do all of their acrobatics and fun open space playing. Since I noticed that, I have purposely decided to leave my master bedroom open and empty for them. I just love watching them do all of their fun stuff and would be heartbroken if I took that space away from them to have a large object that looks pretty sit there instead.Having a home that works for your family is so much more important than any other kind of style priority. I am so thrilled with this new plan.

  15. I was hoping from the beginning that you would do the banquette. It will look and function better in all the ways you say. Once the seating and coat storage are built I don’t think you will be thinking back to that old pony wall. I look forward to seeing it. Yaaaaayyyyyy!

  16. I would close up the pony wall. Especially if you are going to do a banquette. There is still a large opening into the family room but it will feel so much cozier. Also will block tv noise if adults want to hang out around tv while kids watch a movie or people watch sports. Could put a hall tree on other side for boots and coats that could be styled cute when you want and easily moved if you decide you hate it. Personally, I just really don’t like the look of the pony wall either.

    1. maybe we’ll sit this week while we are up there in the ‘banquette’ position and with the fabric on the wall to see if we miss the openness. as of last week we definitely missed it.

      1. This is exactly what I was going to write – love the banquette, and think closing it would be cozier and cut down on family room noise. But I know I’ll be fantastic either way 🙂 Btw, dumping coats into baskets instead of hooks works well at our house in terms of compliance (but we don’t live in a wet/snowy climate, so they rarely need to dry out).

  17. That light fixture though….it reads so traditional/transitional. You are going so modern the rest of the house (that modern bathroom with the Allied Maker lights), this dining fixture isn’t at all in the same realm. You even said it would look great in your friend’s Tudor (i.e. traditional) house. I just don’t get it….

  18. Yes to drywalling the pony wall and creating a mini mudroom! What a great and FUNCTIONAL entryway! Yes to the gorgeous oversized pendants and yes to the black chairs!

    1. I think whats hard to get is how ‘mini’ the mudroom would be. it would be literally 3″ deep and 20″ wide. I can’t believe this 3000 square feet house doesn’t have a mudroom. Insane. we tried to put one in at the beginning but no where made sense without blocking access to exits or light.

    2. It is still insane to me that you didn’t block out an exit or something. I mean, mudrooms define mountain houses. The better the mudroom the better the chalet. This comes from someone who lives in a place with four very distinct seasons and loves her mudroom the most in the house – it is literally the best room in my house.

      I don’t mean to be a mean person and throw a spanner, but if I were you I would leave the table as it is – I actually think this goes more with the spirit of a mountain house than a banquet ever would. In fact I don’t even recall ever seeing a banquet in a mountain house – in a ski chalet or something of that nature you want to minimize soft furnishings and maximize visual space because you want to be able to maintain it – first and foremost. You want it to be clean and last long and show off the surroundings. Have you found pictures of banquets in mountain houses ? I would really be interested to see those. I would also leave the pony wall as it is – I like the light too. Instead I would think hard to see if my exits could be arranged in a way to have a mudroom put in.
      I just can’t see how you will ever 100% love your house otherwise. Trust me, the snow and salt and the mucky gloves and hats – all of that gets old, quick. You need a mudroom otherwise you will want to move in five years. Guaranteed.

      And last but not least, I have to say that your posts on this and the children’s playrooms both reveal how much of a premium you place on the looks and photos and pins etc. But a real designer designs for functionality first .. no? How can you have a playroom with no storage (and hundreds of words written on fabrics but no storage to be found) and a mountain house with no mudroom? It’s like a car with no wheels. Sorry for my candor – this is meant to be constructive.

      1. I have stayed in a lot of mountain homes at ski resorts and more than half ha banquettes, usually two- or three-seaters.

      2. This seems like a pretty dramatic statement. Millions of people live in 4 season locales without mudrooms and do fine. Coats can go on a hook and boots can pile on the floor and life will go on.

      3. I am very confused by this comment. I have a vacation ski home and we added a banquette in our dining room because it maximized seating and comfort. Many of our friends with ski condos and mountain homes have banquettes. It’s definitely a thing here in Colorado.

  19. This is an excellent solution. I do not know if they are the look you seek, but I will note that I find the Eames molded plastic chairs to be quite comfortable even without any cushion, particularly the armchairs. And they are virtually indestructible since they are so easy to wash.

  20. I’m SO GLAD you are keeping one of the lights— they are so perfect!! How about a giveaway for the other?!?
    A banquet is so perfect for a second home— so cozy and welcoming.

  21. I loved the thought process! And YES to the banquet and the light fixture is swoon worthy so I’m glad one is staying. Yay! I was in team floating shelves or indoor window (which can go badly so quickly design wise) so appreciated reading the bit about more visual clutter. V good point.

  22. Before I read the banquette part I was thinking lower the pony wall to bench height and make it a slim place to sit and put boots underneath. But you could still drop that wall and let the banquette bench pass through the opening to be double sided?? But maybe too convoluted. ????

  23. Ooh another option to add to the banquette is to frame out the opening with wood like the other windows but no glass. Just wood. It would give more continuity

  24. Oh man, you are NOT wrong about the chair situation! I have been on the hunt for 6 chairs that are comfortable, kid-friendly, interesting and not a ton of money for our dining room. They just don’t exist! Our kids are 9 and 5 and I thought we could get away with upholstery now that they’re older – nope. Kids (and all their friends) are disgusting at every age. We ended up with 6 Prouve Standard chairs after reading your blog (and consulting the shop section). I think they’re going to be great in there!

    The banquette is an awesome idea. It’s going to be everyone’s favorite spot in the house. I can’t wait to see it!

  25. I would love to see some posts on kid friendly furniture! I’m currently looking for a dining table and chairs for our house but can’t seem to find anything that’s comfortable, kid friendly, and not ugly! Great post, thanks for sharing your thought process!

  26. I say close up the wall I think it would frame out the front doors better. I think the lights are incredible they way they are and the black chairs are a winner for me. I love the idea of a bench by the door but for clutter reasons it might be better to do a higher shelf as an entry table and style it with some art above. The house looks amazing.

  27. It’s funny, as soon as you started to share what you wanted, this image came to mind of what sort of situation you need to create. Perfect from your mountain house theme, live edge table, to comfy cozy booth seating. Haha love where you landed!

  28. I like the table being rotated, and I love the banquette, but I’m still opposed to the pony wall. The pony wall looks so ’80s or ’90s. I think you should seal it off, and add the hooks. That would be the most practical + it would look the best.

  29. I think the new plan is perfect. It solves the comfort and function delimma, and leaves breathing room near the kitchen. We don’t have to fill every space. My only suggestion, which does require spending some money ????, would be to mimic the window frame within the pony wall opening. Frame and drywall up top so that it visually lines up with your windows and frame the inside with matching wood for a cohesive wrap around the banquette. On the family room side, I would add a vintage foot locker for the boots and gloves. Line the bottom with a plastic tray, or a winter grade auto floor mat for function. Poof, the pile by the door is gone! And move the hooks to the little corner to the right of the door, or, maybe, a vintage single locker? Okay, more than one suggestion…ha! Designing with you is always fun ????

    1. I think this is a very good idea and one that we might do (re framing the window wall). And yes, trunk with liner. great idea. Thank you Teresa 🙂

  30. I looove it. I’m so happy for you!! Ha ha but I am! Also, may I just say how refreshing it is to find a great designer deciding to go for comfort over visual style? Most of us decide that way because we want to live comfortably in our homes every day and it cuts out so many pretty yet unrealistic choices.
    I love that almost every factor worked out for you (keep a light/placement, open pony wall, add low hooks, sit on a sofa basically while you write and eat, lots of space for kids to tornado) although you will have to be spending more $$ now on building that banquette! Love the way your mountain home is going. I was/am so shocked and saddened by C&J’s A frame loss too – we moved to a mountainish home in the Cuyamaca range east of San Diego a year ago so these two houses have been my most eagerly followed projects on the internet.

  31. Yes to the banquette ???????? and basking in the warm sun from that window — super cozy town! With the table turned this way the pony wall looks intentional creating symmetry with the other windows — just need to drywall a bit at the top so that it’s the same scale as the windows. Also this will make it look less dated and more architectural. Boom. Everybody wins

  32. I think it’s brilliant. The room felt blah or something before, now it will feel like a prime spot in the house.

  33. 200% agree with the banquette and changing the orientation of the table. When I saw the first picture of your dining room, my first thought was that you needed a round table to take advantage of the windows. Plus, there is nothing more inviting than a “booth.” I also think it is the only way to make the pony wall work. What about adding wood or your kitchen countertop material to the top of the pony wall with a little overhang so it looks more intentional and not just drywall? The only thing I am struggling with are the lights. I feel like you only need one. Two distracts from the windows for some reason. Maybe it is the scale. Anyways, I love these Monday posts on the evolution of your mountain home. Thanks for sharing!

  34. YEAH!! I was so excited to first hear about a huge banquette (I was always on team banquette) and then terrified you skipped it. So this makes me VERY happy. I LOVE a banquette and this is the perfect space for it. Would be so gorgeous under those windows. It will be big, wide, comfy and beautiful!

  35. Love the idea of a banquette. Maybe add millwork to the pony wall to dress it up a bit and make it more of a feature. Would definitely keep it open.

  36. Your changes look great and perfect for your family! It definitely takes living in a home to know how a space functions.
    I have a question on your wood floors – did you seal them at all or are they natural? If natural, how do you care for them with the snow being tracked it?

  37. I enjoyed the feature story but it’s the mudroom situation I can’t get over. Emily, you will NEVER be ok seeing your entryway strewn with coats, boots, shoes, wet towels (summer). It’s just too much clutter in a living space. What is OUTSIDE that entry door? It wouldn’t cost that much to create some kind of covered (doesn’t even need to be fully enclosed) mud room entry. Hooks, bench, some baskets to corral balls and sand toys and you’re good. No, it won’t look tidy every second but at least you can enter the sanctuary and have peace there. When you leave everything is put away inside and swept and you’re good to go next time.

  38. Loving these posts! I know this may stretch the budget but have you considered taking the pony wall out and actually putting in a wood built in that could be used for closet storage? That way you don’t have the visual clutter of having exposed coats etc but its still practical? Best of look. The house is looking great!

  39. I really don’t like that big whole in the pony wall, I think would be so much better if it was closed and you could just add some interesting details to it.

  40. LOVE hearing the process & REALLY LOVE where you landed. No need to compromise on design or your family’s actual functioning within the space.

  41. We put a 24” deep window seat with an oval table in our kitchen and everyone loves it! It’s the first place everyone goes to when they come in my house and it’s awesome for breakfast with the sun streaming in!

  42. Love the light fixture as a single over the banquette. What about a single piece of wood on the top of the pony wall to match the windows?

  43. love the banquette idea! we have one and i love it but did not plan outlets well so it’s not as useful as I would like for working at – so figure that out ahead of time!

    and I am team low hooks on the pony wall for kiddos…we have a cottage in Wisconsin and when kids are in and out playing in the snow a dozen times a day, you will lose your mind unless you have a super easy drop zone for them to hang stuff up. I saw a suggestion to create one outside the door but no one wants to take off their coats and boots outside the door when it is below freezing! esp kiddos. yes it is visual clutter in your space, but if you have a closet then you can sweep it all into the closet when you are sick of it and artfully hang some pretty textile thing and it will be lovely.

  44. I just love these pendants. Maybe when you get the banquette in and table turned, just one pendant will look good? The way they are framed through the opening in the pony wall is just gorgeous.

  45. Love love love this idea, so satisfying when you solve the puzzle! Not really in love with the pony wall still but I have faith that it will all look amazing, and feel good for you guys staying there. Just really like the feel of the fabric covering it. Those rooms have such beautiful light. I get so excited about mountain house Monday!!

  46. I’d love to see the banquette!! My husband and I are moving into a new home next week and are planning on putting one in. It’s a bit of a fixer upper and you and your team have been our biggest inspiration for designing the new space! I can’t wait to see how this turns out!

  47. Am I misunderstanding or will the banquette be under the pony wall hole? If so it will be a fantastic launching pad for kids to jump/climb through it to the other side.

    1. Love the banquette idea!! So very much suited to the feel and purpose of the space. And I 100% think you should close in the pony wall and make that wall functional with a cute mini mudroom idea. The cut out feels dated to me and the space is very open, you won’t lose anything!

  48. i loved your story. glad to know you agonize over things, too. as someone with severe arthritis, i can tell you that finding a comfortable dining chair is just impossible. i’ve looked everywhere for years. the only chair that has ever been sort of perfect is the bertoia bird chair. but that’s not really a dining height. i love your banquette idea. be sure (like i have to tell you!) that you make it deep enough. measure from your bum to your knees to get the right depth. that’s the problem with most banquettes — not enough sit room. also, did you think about storage beneath the banquette? great for out of season stuff. anyway…i loved this post and learned a lot. thanks. p.s. don’t close up the wall. think of air circulation. just finish at the ceiling.

  49. Love the banquette idea! Love the pendant, and the pony wall window being framed to match. Not loving the mini mudroom idea. Not enough usefulness for giving up the clean lines. How about just a smal bench with a basket under it for the kids, and low hooks INSIDE the clost for them to hang their own coats?

  50. I have built in banquette style l shaped seating (due to limited space) like you’re talking about and the function is not great for more than 4 people. People don’t really want to sit down then scoot scoot scoot scoot to find their seat then be trapped. If they want to go to the bathroom or get up to get something more to eat they basically can’t or they have to ask 3-4 people to get up also. It really ruins the vibe of a dinner party. It’s nice for a breakfast nook but if you plan to have a lot of people and you have the room for it I think you’ll be happier with a traditional set up with table and chairs.

  51. I have been having the same struggle with chairs. It’s real, man. Can you please post about the cushions you’re having made? I can make my own but need something that (A) won’t rip and (B) doesn’t look like it belongs in a farm kitchen (no disrespect, just not my aesthetic).

  52. I love it. And you could maybe have the carpenter build over the pony wall with reclaimed wood or v-groove paneling/open shelves to update it.

  53. After nearly 15 years, I turned my oval dining table around, and the room feel twice as big! Why didn’t I think of it sooner?

  54. Aw man, I did not see the banquette coming! I definitely like it as a solution, but as the friend in my group with a bad back I absolutely hate banquettes (practically speaking). I’m always forced to claim one of the real chairs with a proper seat back like I’m calling riding shotgun. Or worse, I get stuck in the banquette and must pretend like I’m not in agony the entire time.

    Looks like I’m in the minority, but something to consider if you plan on having older family members or anyone with injuries over (or you know, a lame-o friend in her late 30’s with back problems!).

  55. 1. Don’t mind the pony wall as it brings in light, but the room would function better if it was closed up, then you could use the wall on either side.
    2. This room BEGS for a round table, the long square table is not good in there, with the odd windows and their odd corners. Built in banquette with storage, a round table and good lighting would be ideal for the space
    Hope this helps…

  56. Love the banquette idea with an oval or round table. One mistake that I often see with banquettes is using a table with legs. Banquettes require a pedestal table that you can easily slide around.

  57. I’m team banquette but also crossing fingers that someone will read this and know where I can get the tile (brick maybe?) from that inspiration photo of the restaurant with the mini sconce? I’ve been trying to find backsplash tile and that is perfect.

  58. I vote along with everyone else for framing in the pony wall to match the windows. Even if you didn’t do that right away, you could line the bottom of the opening with a nice bit of wood. I do not think you should close it up! Once it’s lined with wood it will be beautiful, and a perfect place for a plant or three to sit.
    One of the things that I like about it, especially if you’re doing the banquette seating, is that you will be able to see people when they come in the door in the family room. If it’s walled up that would just drive me crazy to hear the door open but not be able to see who’s there and have to get up from the comfortable banquette to go see.

  59. Can you just buy a standing coat rack? And it is way less expensive than doing construction, and way less permanent than installing shelves. Sure, it may look visually cluttered, but you can always put it away in summer when you aren’t hanging up coats.

  60. Go for it! We’ve had window seats at two of our four houses and whenever we don’t, we miss them. We are in the midst of planning one for our midcentury house, as we just don’t feel like we have the cozy spot for coffee. My son, who is now 21, used to sleep in the warm winter sun at our first house. They are good for so many things, especially building memories! Love the new plan!

  61. YES. I love the banquette plan. I’ve always loved them and they’re so much more inviting (to me at least) and not so stuffy! Actually family friendly too. Perfect solution! You’re a genius. ????????❤

  62. What about putting a coat tree so you don’t have to walk the coats over to the closet? I had low hooks for the kids when they were little so they could hang up their own coats – could put up command hooks until you find a solution you like better.
    And the banquette idea is really good!

  63. I love knowing your thoughts regarding your design decisions. It makes me think that maybe I’m not crazy when I flip back & forth on my own conundrums.
    Can I offer my opinion on your light fixtures? First let me say that I think they’re beautiful. But one of my friends has a glass fixture that’s similar & she came to the conclusion that it’s not easy to live with. Because it’s open on the top, dust, grime, & even dead bugs have collected in it. And she says it’s very hard to take apart to wash the glass bowl. So it ends up staying dirty longer than she likes. It ends up being embarrassing to her. Just thought I’d share her experience.

  64. I love the banquette idea & my first thoughts about the pony wall was to also frame it in timber…..
    With regards to the coat & shoe storage have you thought about using the hallway cupboard that you said you already have & taking the doors off completely to make a “mini mud room” in the hallway. I am assuming the cupboard is still on the back of the kitchen wall, which is not that far from the back door that you use? I know you’d still need to take your shoes off & carry them down the hall a bit but if you don’t have doors on the cupboard it’s more likely to be used, but if it’s down the hall a bit you can’t really see it all either. It could be framed out much like your inspiration picture above, hooks on the wall behind (not a hanging rail with hangers that people can’t be bothered using), a shelf at the top, bench at the bottoms, tiled underneath for wet shoes? The back wall of the open cupboard could be lined in real timber (to match the rest of the house), or painted panelling, or wallpaper with a real timber bench for seating? This way, even if the kids dump their stuff at the door, it’s very easy for an adult to pick everything up, & hang on the hooks etc but hopefully the kids would soon learn too?

  65. We bought a house with a banquet and it is so comfortable that it has become a favorite nap spot and guests always fight over who gets to sit there. We randomly met a person who had once been to our house when the previous owners lived here and the first thing she asked was if we kept the banquet. Banquets are memory-makers! You’ll love it and I picture your kids putting on great shows for you on your new dance floor. I vote close the pony wall. It just reads random when everything else looks so intentional. Plus when your kids are learning their multiplication tables that would be a perfect spot to hang a chart and have some fun with math at meals. xo

  66. Yasssssssssssssssssssss how funny I would never have thought of it and as soon as you pointed out the solution it was so obvious! LOVE IT!

  67. I vote leaving the pony wall alone:
    — If you frame it out with wood & bring the part by the ceiling down, you’ll lose light & visibility.
    — The lamp by the back door reflects onto the ceiling & you’ll lose the view of that reflected light.
    — You’ll lose the view of daylight reflected onto the ceiling from the windows, too, if you close up the pony wall, even if you replace the lamp with a coat tree (which really makes sense to do).
    — I think the opening in the pony wall echos the dining room opposite it enough as it is without having to replicate the look of an actual window.
    — If you frame it like a window, it will look like a window that’s missing glass. It looks lovely as it is!

    I also vote replacing the navy sofa with a low white leather or Crypton sofa or sectional with wide arms (think Ikea’s Kivik in style) or something more like your friend Corbett’s white sofa. Or at least cover the back of the sofa with a light-colored blanket.

    1. More ideas:
      How about putting the credenza you were thinking about getting against the back of the sofa? There seems to be more room for storage along the back of the sofa than on the pony wall. Maybe shoes & boots could be put in the bottom part & hats & gloves in the top drawers.

      Also, the credenza would look nicer than the back of the navy sofa.

      Coats can go on the coat rack. Or else you can put the wall hooks in that little area between the doors & sliding doors (where the floor lamp is currently) instead of a coat rack.

  68. I like the pony wall (also the name…I didn’t know what a pony wall was). I think you should keep it, at least until (unless) you think of a “solution” that truly excites you.
    I love the project section you added. You have done such great work, but I have to say that the Spanish House inspires me the most. I find myself going back to those photos every few months. I painted the main part of my house Swiss coffee and I have never regretted it. If only I could channel the rest of that vibe….

  69. I would rip out the pony wall and make a built in on the hall side for storage and have the backside as part of the banquet then you could use the outlet in the interior of it as a charging station.

  70. Regarding the issue with coat and shoe storage, what if you put a bench behind the sofa to sit on while
    getting shoes on/off? Assuming you keep the pony wall, you could put a trunk and/or baskets under the opening to corral shoes, hats, mittens, etc. Finish it off with a coat tree on the other side of the door. This is a less expensive, less permanent solution. Maybe when the kids are older you won’t need it and can just use the nearby closet. I said maybe! 😉

  71. In our childhood vacation home, in Mexico, I designed a banquette that turned into a bed. My handyman followed my design. Everyone always sat there. The view of the water was exquisite, the hummingbirds hummed at the cacti outside the window and the seats were comfortable. If alone, you could prop up your feet and stay there all day.

    Your windows scream for a banquette……duh. That would be the only place I would want to be except when the fire was on. ???? Also, I like the pony wall but in a perfect world, I would close it. No mud room, stupid California, we just never have them. I want one too. Cheers-L

  72. I don’t see the problem with the pony wall…..but mark my words, as soon as you keep it, it’ll look amazing and suddenly it”ll be the “in” thing. You’re just that good 😉

  73. You might not take the fastest route, but it’s always interesting! It was fun for me to follow both your cabin and Chris loves Julia Cabin as you both remodeled and decorated since they were both such different projects. Alas, [email protected]*%# happens and their cabin burned down. The only comfort one can take is that their family and dog were not there and it’s not their primary home.

    So Emily, you’re my vicarious remodel-a-cabin fix. Keep your projects coming…

  74. I LOVE hearing your process! It is so encouraging that you make mistakes and change your mind etc etc! ❤️ Bc me too. Xo

  75. I read every word. I loved the plot twist at the end. You basically just had a therapy session with the internet as the kind practitioner sitting and holding the space for you while you process. I think the banquette will be awesome. I can’t wait to see it. And as you style all the time, you’ll get to change out pillows! I read something somewhere that throw pillows are grown women’s stuffed animals.


  76. totally different suggestion from me! If you wanted to feed 16-20, couldn’t you consider either a huge square dining table, or putting two dinning tables together with the long edges touching to form a square? I actually think your existing lights are awesome and just missing a much wider table. (When looking at the original orientation). A wider table should seat 4 people on the windows side! The baquettr idea is great for your small family, but might be insufficient for guests!

    A few other thoughts. Header on the opening of the pony wall to match windows is great! If you’re leaving the opening, can you consider some sort of custom art installation there in wire? I see twigs or hand blown glass!

    I’d find a low antique cabinet that closes, I’ve used one for years for shoes. Also if you want to try hooks, just try the command strip sticky ones – to get the feel for it!

  77. Have you seen the Block Shop x Amsterdam Modern chairs? They’re very not child friendly and extremely expensive but inspiring, they look beautiful and comfortable . I also think it might be fun to paint the inside rim of the pony wall a color.

  78. I have an idea for the pony wall! Leave it open but add a vertical wood louvered divider. I love the idea of a banquette! I hope it will be a floating bench rather than the traditional banquette with storage.

  79. Ha I never thought about a banquette in terms of “Who opts for a table at a restaurant when there’s a big comfy booth open?” Now I kind of want one too.

  80. We have a similar set up in our family mountain house with a large oval table and a banquette that runs along the length of a picture window and it’s everyone’s favourite place to sit. I think the new plan is a winner and I enjoyed reading your thought process!

  81. Maybe the pony wall needs to just become a rectangular cutout that mirrors the window opposite it, so you need to build down a little bit from the ceiling closing the gap slightly, so it looks exactly like all the other windows, just no glass! It might be nice and symmetrical with your built in banquette.

  82. I am cor the banquette! We are going to put one in a small 1950 mid century house we just purchased in Palm Desert so I am looking forward to seeing yours!

  83. I love banquettes, booths, window seats, and cozy nooks- so I agree you will love that! I also think it’s cool when you can solve a problem well without changing too much of the existing structure. And that you consider the needs of all who will be using the space- husband, kids, visitors. Can’t wait to see it!

  84. Good choice. As I was reading I came to the exact same conclusion you did at the same time while reading your post.

    And hey I just wanted to say that the quickest way to not getting anything done around your house is to marry a contractor or handyman. You will either have to be the handyperson or be perpetually in a new 3 month relationship with a handyman if you want anything done.

  85. Round table might work if the banquette follows the curve of your windows which I imagine it will. Oval might be better. I have a round table with a rectangular bench. Lots of wasted space since only a couple people can actually sit on the bench and comfortably reach the table. Round could be a potential disaster with kids being too far from the table. Interested in seeing what you decide.

  86. I honestly Think the space would function better if you closed the pony wall. A great piece of art would make that space seem like a separate dining room. The table looks good turned and I like The banquette Idea too! It’s all so pretty though!

  87. I had to laugh because I’m in the middle of building a banquette so I thought “she needs to do a banquette and lose the one light. Problem solved!” and that’s what you ended up with. Love it! I really like the black chairs, are they from Target?

  88. Love the new plan. The pony wall looks great and the banquette! Use a hall tree as someone suggested, I have one in our cabin (no closet), we love it’s purpose.

  89. Love the banquet idea! Definitely seems like the wall of windows were made for a big cozy banquet to sit on underneath. The pony wall definitely feels very outdated. I am excited to see a possible post on how to make pony walls more modern and functional. Your doors to outside are so gorgeous and I worry that a lot of hooks, shelving, etc will distract from their beauty. Perhaps, a bench with a lid that closes (where you could tuck away the boots and shoes) would keep that front area clean and crisp. I like the idea of a pretty wood coat tree that another reader mentioned and wonder if placing it on the family room side would keep the front entryway clean and open and highlight those gorgeous doors.

  90. Love the idea of the ‘new’ table orientation. And the single pendant works great too.
    The banquette work great and the shimmying in and out past other people can be minimised if you choose a light enough round table that can be moved in and out to allow people to move in and out.
    And remember when it comes to catering to the little people, that they will be big people before you know it.
    And Emily, wide leg pants look great on you, but if you don’t wear them stop buying them. It will give you more cash for cushions on the banquette.

  91. Love how the pony wall opening will frame anything you have on the table like a piece of art

  92. I am a 100% on board with this plan! The table moved this way just works so much better in the space and with the windows, and with the one pendant over it. And just having little kid hooks lets you help them be independent and get their coats hung up, while still minimizing the visual clutter because the adults can just walk over to the closet to do their coats.

    I am loving this new series as well – it is nice to see the behind the scenes, but in a more cohesive way than with the Portland house – I think because you live in here, even just part time, and so your work and solutions are for a real family and real living, and not just for resale or a reveal. And it is fun to see the thought process through this -for a blog, we are reading (I am assuming) because we can’t afford/want to do the designing ourselves, and not just see pretty spaces, and so it is great to get inside your thought processes and what a room goes through before getting to the final end.

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