Malcolm’s First London Reveal – His Modern Traditional Dining Room (+ The Easiest “Chair Rail” Hack)

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I’ve finally found a dining chair I love for my London flat but would it be a post from me if there wasn’t a deeply introspective underlying revelation involved?? …Nah. This time, I’ve dissected what’s so appealing about trends, discovered how they can make it difficult to change one’s mind about design decisions, and highlighted how I’ve been inspired by the ubiquitous modern-meets-traditional design scheme present throughout the UK.

If you read about my dining chair dilemma here on the blog a couple of months ago, you might be surprised (or not-so-surprised if you actually know me) that I didn’t choose any of the options I was initially interested in. They were certainly all viable options, but each was missing something important and necessary—be it comfort, cohesion with the rest of my flat, or the right price tag. I decided to keep looking for something that checked all the boxes while being mindful of the elements that spoke to me initially: a classic form, vintage feel, and metallic detailing that would align with the chrome finishes throughout the rest of the apartment. As a reminder, here is where we left off:

Somewhere along my continued search for the perfect chair, I stumbled across these Breuer beauties on Vinterior (an online marketplace for vintage homewares that’s fairly popular in London). These chairs immediately caught my attention and incited a viscerally positive reaction within me, but I (falsely) thought that if I went with a classic Breuer chair, it would need to have a woven seat and/or back—because that’s the current trend…not leather. So I kept searching for a woven version, which ultimately didn’t yield any options that made me feel anything. 

While I’m writing this article—funny enough—I’m seated for lunch at a restaurant in central London that’s using that exact type of chair…

…which highlights the comfortable thing about design trends. They’re visible. They’re tested. They allow us to make decisions without doing the heavy work required to understand the “why” and the “so what” associated with beautiful things. They usually just work—straight out of the box—and can make us proud of our “on-trend” choices. And that’s not a bad thing at all! Most of us don’t have the a) time b) background, or c) resources to do the deep work to understand the elements/principles/sciences of art and design that make trendy trends trendy. 

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For me, though, trends can be pretty stifling. Like many of you, I spend a lot of my time looking for design inspiration on Instagram, Pinterest, and too many hours of Magnolia Network shows. Invariably, that content is eventually embedded into my brain and influences what I think I like. You are what you eat, and I think I ate way too many woven-back Breuer chairs for my own good.

…poor analogy, but I think you catch my drift.

Table | Vase | Kitchen rails | Kitchen hooks

As such, I found myself continuing to fall back to the leather option. Each time I glanced at pictures of them on Vinterior, my stomach dropped. Eventually, I decided to forego my presumptions about what kind of chair I thought I needed because, at the end of the day, that presumption was based on the idea that in order to be “successful”,  I needed to adhere to some arbitrary definition of what other people liked. Bump that noise. Ultimately, if something makes you happy, that’s enough. Regardless of how trendy—or unpopular—it is. 

To be fair, though, this choice isn’t a massive departure from my initial pick (and this certainly isn’t an unpopular chair). The form of the chair is identical to one of my top contenders, but the leather seats are so much more comfortable than a woven alternative. I’ve sat my booty in these chairs for hours on end, and there is no soreness to be had!

i can’t get over how handsome this photo is

The way these chairs play off my marble table is magical. Somehow, they match each other’s energy. The delicacy of the table’s curves speaks to the softness of the chair’s leather seats, and the darkness of the chairs begs to be balanced out by the brightness of the table. The black, worn-in wood arms of the chairs also toes the line between hard and soft. Such a classic pairing, no doubt, but one that I haven’t seen very much of as of late.

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Faux Olive Tree | Pot

The warm color of the leather just warms my heart. I’m lucky enough to get very bright evening light in this space (as you can tell from these photos), and the way the leather eats up the sunlight makes for such a sumptuous scene. The cognac color of the chairs is neutral enough to stand the test of time, but vibrant enough to really make a statement (similar to the red chair I was previously drawn to). These chairs were certainly investment pieces, but I’m fairly certain that I’ll hold onto them for the rest of my life. They feel worth it. One hundo percent.

OTHER DINING ROOM DETAILS 

Pitcher Vase | Trash Can

More broadly, while this room doesn’t boast any of the high-impact DIYs of my past work (but don’t worry, that’s coming…), it does boast a quiet and harmonious energy that feels very natural for this home. I made some very intentional and functional design decisions for this little nook that make it feel quite special.

Mirror (vintage from Community Forklift)

As I was conceptualizing ideas for this space, I had a random dream about a chair rail/wainscoting kind of situation. Yes, I am strange and often have inspiring dreams about projects (that’s also how my Arlington bedroom headboard came to be). I woke up from that dream and thought “…that could actually work,” and subsequently rushed over to Ikea to grab several of these black kitchen rails and hooks.

I love that these rails serve multiple purposes. Primarily, they allow me to hang a canvas bag to hold my recyclables (recyclable storage has been tremendously difficult for me in this flat for some reason). Additionally, the way I’ve installed the rails throughout the entire space creates the illusion of a sort of chair rail, which breaks up the tall height of the ceiling and makes the dining nook feel more like an intentional and dedicated space.

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Oil Paintings (vintage from artsper.com)

The rails also allow me to hang beautiful objects in an impermanent way, which will be great for rotating out plants and artwork—like this string of pearls and fabric art I bought in Spain.

I’ve always wanted to own vintage seascape oil paintings, and seeing Emily pursue a seascape-centric gallery wall in her new TV room inspired me to finally take the leap. I was lucky enough to be gifted these two paintings from Artsper: an online resource for sourcing original artwork from across the globe. These paintings of the New England shire—painted in 1891 by a Dutch artist named Peter Koster—were shipped to London from Rockport, Massachusetts. Something felt appropriately fitting about the America-Europe story of the artist, considering my current circumstances in London.

You might recognize this mirror from my Arlington dining room project. It felt apropos to bring it with me to London and hang it in this space, as a small homage to the lessons I learned from creating spaces in that home.

Ultimately, I’m proud of my choice of dining chair in this space, and the continued choices I’m making to make this rental flat into an intentionally-designed landing pad during my European adventures over the next few years. The architecture of the flat and the building itself (and so much of the UK) is an interesting study in the balance of modernism and traditionalism, which is a theme that I’m inspired to replicate and study here at home.

So, what do you think about my pick? And what’s your hot take on design trends—sound and important, or arbitrary and unnecessary?

*Design and Photos by Malcolm Simmons



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James Henry
James Henry
Recruit CRM is on a mission to help recruiters across the world streamline their recruiting process using our intuitive and easy-to-use cloud-based ATS + CRM software. Check out our latest ebook “101 recruiting power boosters to ace your hiring in 2023” for expert recruiting tips and advice. 

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