Susanna Salk’s Dining Room Refresh

Susanna Salk's dining room makeover

When our great friend Susanna Salk mentioned she wanted to switch up the look in her dining room, we couldn’t wait to see where her imagination would take her! So we were thrilled when she wanted to use our own Dayna Armchair! She kindly agreed to detail the process in a post for us, so we could share her good ideas with all of you!

They say that it’s important to embrace change when it comes to life. And they also say that your home should be a consistent haven in an ever changing world. So when do you change your home? I don’t mean renovation as in “we need a bigger kitchen or bathroom” sort of change. I mean tinkering of the non essential variety. How important is it to switch up a room that more or less already works?

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]

For more than six years I had loved my orange leather parsons dining room chairs. They represented the change from moving from our more traditionally decorated home to a lake house as an opportunity to decorate more fearlessly. The tangerine color gave me that deliciously happy feeling you get when you smell freshly baked chocolate chip cookies no matter how many times I saw or sat in it.

Until one day it no longer did. I don’t mean to sound heartless but one afternoon I simply walked by them and it was over. The orange had become overly-familiar and I yearned for a new palette.

The best thing about change when it comes to interior design, especially if you can’t afford to hire a decorator, is the instant inspiration and gratification online shopping offers. As soon as I saw the elegant Chinese Chippendale lines of Ballard Designs’ Dayna armchair (at midnight on my computer while my husband slept blissfully unawares beside me), I knew I was going for it (and rationalize it all to him later.) I still wanted the dining room to feel whimsical and the Dayna’s exotic nature gave just the right unexpected punch especially in crisp white.

Dayna chinoserie chair from Ballard Designs

For years I’ve paired Ballard’s extensive fabric patterns on different Ballard pieces for them to arrive all decked out but in this instance, only a beige seat cushion was offered and this did not feel brave enough.

Susanna Salk's dining room

Undeterred, I sent a picture of the chair to my local upholsterer, and she emailed back that switching out the seat cushion for another fabric was not an issue. Then came the fun part.

Choosing fabrics for slip seat cushions

I admit that sometimes this is how I’ve chosen fabric: I click on the sample, let it fill up my computer screen and then hold it up in front of said piece.

For my new chairs, it wasn’t so easy: I was torn between Ballard’s Venice Ikat in indigo (if you told me I would use blue in my dining room ten years ago I would have thought you were crazy but repeated pinning blue interiors on Instagram and Pinterest had convinced how little I thought I knew about my own taste) and Queens Velvet in Leaf. Did I want a snazzier vibe of the ikat or the gem-like sophisticated palette of the green? Swatches were ordered.

Testing fabrics for seat cushions

I pride myself on being decisive when it comes to making decor decisions but now looking back and forth between them both, I kept flip flopping. I needed some perspective. So I went and posted each swatch on Instagram and asked my followers…

Deciding between two fabrics for dining chairs

After a few hours the people had spoken: the Venice ikat. I was about to order it when one kind follower actually reminded me that I had green ikat on the love seats in the living room (having seen it published) and by chance was that room nearby? Indeed it was. Then another follower suggested why not the green on the cushion seats and the ikat for pillows?

Sometimes it takes a village.

Then a friend left a comment wondering where the orange chairs were going? She always loved them and seemed sad about the switch up. I told them if she wanted to pick up them up they were hers. Tired of her rickety antique ones, she jumped at the chance. And soon the orange chairs not only had a new home but set off a wonderful decor chain of events that inspired her to buy a new mirror to keep up with them.

Susanna Salks' orange leather Parsons chairs find a new home

And then my rolls of both fabric patterns arrived at my doorstep and were loaded along with my new chairs into the upholster’s van with some foam pillows I had ordered online. I followed the van to its workshop to make sure it was clear which went where. As I was explaining it to the front office, I had a nervous impulse to switch it to the ikat on the seats and the green for the pillows. But I stayed with my gut even though my poll preferred it the other way around. After all, it was I who would live with them….

Susanna Salk's dining room

Until one day I decide not to anymore.

After all, we should never cling too tightly to our choices. I always want to be as open to change in my life as I hope my rooms are.

Thank you Susanna for sharing this fun process with us! Find Susanna Salk’s book, Decorate Fearlessly!: Using Whimsy, Confidence, and a Dash of Surprise to Create Deeply Personal Spaces, or visit her blogs, Open House  and Quintessence.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]


Susanna Salk

Susanna Salk helped launch Elle Decor magazine as Interior Design Manager and later became a Contributing Editor there before ultimately going on to become Special Projects Editor at House and Garden magazine until its closing. She has also appeared regularly on NBC’s “Today Show” to discuss design style for the home. Salk is the author of “A Privileged Life, Celebrating WASP Style,” (Assouline) as well as “Weekend Retreats” and the bestselling “Room for Children: Stylish Spaces for Sleep and Play,” and “Be Your Own Decorator: Taking Cues and Confidence from Today’s Leading Designers” (Rizzoli). Her 2013 Rizzoli book “C.Z. Guest: American Style Icon,” was the first pictorial book celebrating the iconic style of C.Z. Guest, the American author, columnist, fashion designer, muse and socialite. Her latest book, “Decorate Fearlessly! Using Whimsy, Confidence and a Dash of Surprise to Create Personal Spaces,” (Rizzoli) explores the power rooms can have when decorated with confidence instead of rules. She is currently working on her eighth book, “It’s the Little Things: The Power of Detail in Design” (Rizzoli 2015) Salk is a Contributing Editor to and hosts the monthly Stylish Shopping/At Home With video series on the Quintessence blog. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and two boys.


  1. Avatar


    December 23, 2017

    can you tell me how many yards of fabric it takes to cover a Dayna seat cushion?
    Thank you….I bought six

  2. Avatar


    February 20, 2017

    Love the green with the pillow!! Curious as to how many yards it took to recover your chairs? I have four of the same Ballard chairs in my dining. I’m wanting to recover the cushion, just not sure how many yards to order!!! Help!! 🙂

  3. Avatar

    ashley krause

    November 29, 2016

    where did you get the lighting~ the pendents?

    • Caroline McDonald

      Caroline McDonald

      August 21, 2018

      We don’t have any source information about Susanna’s drum shades. So sorry!

  4. Avatar


    June 23, 2015

    Wow. I LOVE the table. Dark, heavy wood appeals so much to my taste. I’m not sure, however, how I feel about the rug because I normally don’t try to draw attention to the floor of a dining room. Maybe it makes it too busy for my eyes. Still, I love the furniture and the whole ambiance of the room; it is very light and cozy, which makes a perfect place for happy, comfortable meals.

    • Avatar


      December 23, 2017

      Amy did you find out how many yards? I bought six of same chairs
      Thanks , Karen

  5. Avatar

    Maril Baxter

    May 14, 2015

    You did real good…….all kidding aside…..I like it