What's Old Is New

Brunch, Budgets and Black Walls

Pre-Dining-Room PXL_20201215_054624358-1

It was 2018. After 10 years, we finally saved up enough money to buy a house! A duplex.

Upstairs is amazing. Downstairs, outside of one bedroom, is used as a throwaway. A mandatory entry point. There is a small kitchen and washer / dryer that only guests use. It’s filled with storage of vacuum cleaners and Amazon packages. An area for a large workout mat to exercise. The cramped foyer has a couch we couldn’t bear to throw away. And because we have a living room upstairs, we made the living area downstairs into a dining room.

By, “made it into a dining room,” I seriously solely mean that we bought a table and chairs. That is all that we did. In hindsight, it’s crazy that we didn’t realize that we were actively making the guest area a place where no one would really want to stay. We were kind of like McDonald’s with the bright lights and uncomfortable subway-like seats urging you to get a happy meal and get out. And, in our case, when people came over for dinner, we would eat upstairs. And, as long as we’re really sharing here, happy meals might have been better than a lot of my cooking experiments.

Reset. The “dining room,” wasn’t hideous. It was functional. We would even dress up the table if we had guests, but it was bland, boring and basic. Nothing like me or you, dear-reader-with-excellent-taste-in-blogs.

Enter 2020. 

Neil starts working from home and uses the dining table as his work desk. Every time I would walk downstairs or answer the door for just one more Instacart order, I would see him. Big, hulky, arms crossed, staring at some aftermarket standing desk, standing above an exercise ball chair and adorned with a massive headset which seemingly had only one purpose – to tune me out – and the whole scene was just awful. Like everyone, we had no idea how long we would be out of the office, but the longer that the guest-less guest room stayed lonely and unused and the more tax valuation calls that I had to overhear, I ultimately was just broken down. I was like, “I can’t see your face anymore! I’m done. Take the guest room!” 

As he moved, I looked at the dining room. It had taken such abuse housing Neil for a few months, that I knew that it could use a little TLC. But just cosmetic TLC. I wasn’t breaking down walls and I wasn’t going to buy a new table. I rarely spend a lot of money on furniture and spending $1,600 on this ZGallerie one (that I still really like) was my limit. I also had some super inexpensive chairs because no one was going to really sit there and I needed something delivered in a week. I squinted the chairs away (between this over squinting and the need to be more expressive with my eyes over masks, my Botox is barely lasting!) and realized that I could go really glam with the space. And, make it less of a basement and more of a lounge. And, I could do it on a budget and cap my investment at $2k. Budget glam is totally my jam.

First, I wanted a really bold wall and a bold light fixture. This place was a nightclub that had the hugest chandelier ever – like, Vegas would envy this chandelier – and used to serve brunch. Metallic ceiling and wall panels. It’s since closed, but it was one of the only places where you could make brunch reservations instead of standing in the stupid hipster lined streets anywhere in San Francisco on Sunday morning. Reservations for brunch make it incredibly convenient – and also incredibly uncool. Supply / Demand has spoken. If you’ve made reservations, and the food is no good, you kind of shrug off the food as a nod to the masses who were right about this place. Anyway, I was super inspired by the chandelier and metal. 

So, to recreate it quickly and budget-friendly:            

I need a Black wall. Our painter looked at me like I was crazy. Black in such a small space? She tried to convince me to go with a Charcoal Brown. Though I usually just follow along, I wasn’t deterred. It had to be ballsy. So, Black wall it was. Next, was the light. A modern raindrop chandelier. I found this one for ~$350 plus $150 to lower the strings for the perfect height. (Did you know that you should pick a chandelier diameter by adding the length and width of a space? Or, take the room’s height in feet and add 2.5 inches to get the height? It’s actually quite fascinating.) Now, I needed a big, huge, obnoxious mirror to reflect the obnoxious chandelier. It turns out that mirrors are super expensive and it’s hard to find one that is not a standard size. Then, I went to this custom site and built out a 60×90 inch mirror and because I picked the sale frame, it was just $800! Last up were chairs. I bought them from Overstock (no longer available) for $100 each. 


  • 8 chairs – $800
  • Mirror – $800
  • Chandelier – $500

$2,100. And, I already had the black paint and the painter was doing other rooms, but I really should add in an estimate for transparency. I’m probably missing something, but it’s close enough. And just a quick update has totally elevated that area and changed how we interact with that space.

Now, I can have my own terrible brunch any time I want it. 


2 weeks