Total Transformation: Designer Turns Garage into a Dining Room

Jules Duffy loved to entertain, but her family’s 2,000-plus-square-foot Chatham home didn’t even have a proper dining room. Desperate for more space, she hatched a plan to transform her little-used one-car garage into a light-filled dining room. “It was too small to fit a car,” she says, “so it was pretty useless.” Inspired by her vision of a French garden room, Duffy used a bit of ingenuity and a lot of floral-inspired art and accessories to create an ideal spot to host an intimate gathering. It’s a bright space the whole family—husband Lawrence and sons Peter and Max, along with a large extended family—can enjoy year-round. 

“I’m a color lover,” Jules Duffy says. She created the subtle, pinkish wall color by taking a sample of the pale sand of her beloved Harbor Island, Bahamas, to a paint store. “I call it Harbor Island Pink,” she says. “I needed a feminine touch with three men in the house.” Tall windows stacked on the wall that was once the garage door allow for maximum natural light. Artwork, collected over the years, also adds color. The piece above the bar cart was painted by Duffy’s grandmother. “I love incorporating meaningful pieces into every room.” 

Duffy took inspiration from the warmth of French gardens, as captured in Impressionist paintings (think Monet). “I wanted to create a summer feel year-round in a relaxed, earthy, and inviting space,” she says. Houseplants are relatively easy to maintain, she emphasizes, and add a lot of bang for the buck. “Plants are a pretty inexpensive way to decorate,” she says. Duffy incorporated plants with different leaf shapes and a range of scale, texture and color. An assortment of pedestals serves as stands. 

Oak dining chairs from the late 1800s flank the modern clamshell table. Duffy found the table at Made Goods, a to-the-trade furnishings and accessories showroom. The oval shape is a space saver. The chairs are hand-me-downs from Duffy’s mother, who painted them bright green nearly 40 years ago. “They were in our home growing up,” she says. “They’ve traveled to every house I’ve lived in.” Duffy, left, relaxes on a bench she designed to optimize seating in the narrow room. “The modern table married with the old chairs creates a very unique look,” she says. “I’m all about being eclectic.” 

Duffy wanted to steer away from the expected, starting with the floors. Rather than wood or tile, she selected white-washed brick and laid it in a herringbone pattern. She put radiant heat underneath so the room stays cozy during winter. Wall brackets spray-painted in high-gloss raspberry add an extra pop of color. The show-stopping chandelier from Made Goods was fashioned from tiny cocoa beans. “It definitely adds drama,” says Duffy. 

 

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