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?

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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]

Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.


  1. Reply


    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. Reply


    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. Reply

    ashley krause

    November 29, 2016

    where did you get the lighting~ the pendents?

    • Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      August 21, 2018

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

  4. Reply


    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.

    • Reply


      December 23, 2017

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

  5. Reply

    Maril Baxter

    May 14, 2015

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