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The Room You Want to Host Dinner In

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Franca and Pat both come from big Italian families that love to cook -- and eat! In fact, Pat turned his love of good food into his livelihood and opened a downtown Italian eatery that serves traditional fare cooked up by his mama. But despite feeding hungry diners day after day in their restaurant, the couple rarely entertained at home -- a traditional 1960s side-split they share with their three daughters.

While that wouldn't be a big deal to some, it just didn't cut it in a family where everyone takes turns hosting dinners, and where get-togethers of 25 are the norm. The problem for Franca and Pat was a lack of space. They recently undertook a long home renovation, but after bunking with relatives for months they decided to head home before renovating the one room that was large enough to host big parties: their family room.

The room was dark and dated, complete with a curved wet bar, scallop-edged ceiling beams and dark wood details. So I worked up a healthy appetite -- for design and food -- and got set to cook up one big "gastro lounge" for Franca, Pat and all of their relatives.

SLIDESHOW: A DINING ROOM FOR ENTERTAINING

I had to start from scratch in this room, so I pulled out the existing bar, ripped up the dingy floor, and took down the wood and stucco from the ceiling. I then painted the whole space in a light cream, except for one feature wall which I painted a darker moss. I also installed a new floor comprised of large format, butter-cream porcelain tiles.

However, the most dramatic change happened when I tore out the room's small window and replaced it with a wall of windows and large patio doors. The new arrangement not only allows light to flood into the room, it also gives Franca and Pat some much-needed access to their beautiful backyard -- and its barbecue!

I then divided up the room into two zones: a satellite kitchen and a lounge area. I filled the kitchen with subtle cream-coloured cabinets, light quartz counters and a stainless steel subway tiled backsplash. I put in new state-of-the-art, stainless steel appliances including a fridge, a warming drawer and an under-mount trough sink. I also set up a large, wooden table with a rustic feel that seats eight.

The lounge area focuses on a new fireplace. The old room had two outdated fireplaces, so I got rid of one and updated the other with a gas-log insert and a wood surround. I then put a new television above the fireplace and added some shelving beside it. In this area, I also created a big family seating area, which includes a huge quartz-covered coffee table, a creamy L-shaped sectional, a few caramel-coloured chairs, and four moss green leather ottomans that can be stored under the coffee table.

To help lighten up the space, I installed recessed lighting around the room. Then, for some extra sparkle, I put up a gorgeous mother-of-pearl pendant light over the table and matching sconces above the fireplace.

After a few final touches, this new gastro-lounge and entertainment centre was complete. By blending streamlined finishes, natural colours and windows galore, this once-dated room got a hearty serving of style and is now ready for family, food and feasting!

A DINING ROOM FOR ENTERTAINING

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A Dining Room for a Big Family
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