Local Interior Designer Re-imagines the Dining Room

In recent years, there has been a renewed focus on reinventing the dining room into a space that is both beautiful and functional.
Jeanne Anselmo of JJ Designs (left) is currently helping neighbor Alex McKenna (right) update her dining room.

Life’s hustle and bustle can make it difficult to gather as a family over a meal—but that seems to be changing. Though formal dinner parties might be a thing of the past, there is still an interest in spaces that facilitate casual entertaining and serve the needs of families throughout the week. 

Jeanne Anselmo, an Edina-based interior designer, noted that a majority of her clients do not use their formal dining room. But in recent years, there has been a renewed focus on reinventing the dining room into a space that is both beautiful and functional. “The nature of entertaining has changed,” Anselmo says. “Fewer people are registering for china and silver. My clients want the dining room to be part of the home again.”

Anselmo, a natural and trained creative, got her start in interior design in a rather unusual way. She and her husband were building a home. Throughout the process, she was actively involved in all of the design elements. The builder would bring guests to see the home and many asked who did the interior design. Once they learned it was the homeowner, Anselmo started getting job offers and a career was born. She has been working in the interior design business for 18 years; today she is involved in a variety of projects, including everything from a small bathroom remodel to a 16,000-square-foot gut and addition on Lake Minnetonka.

When working on a project, Anselmo starts by asking questions about why the homeowner doesn’t use the space or what makes it uninviting. She is currently helping a neighbor, Alex McKenna, update her dining room. “In our 1950s rambler, the dining room is the first space you see when you walk in, and we want it to make a statement,” McKenna says. After purchasing the home in July 2016, she and her husband knew they wanted to update and make it their own with a full remodel down the road. They entertain weekly, eat in the dining room a few nights a week and wanted a space that was inviting, comfortable and still useful for their family.

After connecting with Anselmo at a neighborhood block party, she was excited that the designer was willing to work with her existing furnishings and incorporate a few bold pieces to create a statement space. “Custom wallpaper is the focal point of the room, with a statement rug, new light fixtures and window treatments to complete the look,” McKenna says. The process took about three months, and finishing touches are constant, but the dining room has become a space where the family wants to spend time.

Anselmo notes that clutter creates negative space. The key to de-cluttering is finding a space for everything. If it has a home, it won’t live on your dining room table, because nothing makes a dining room less inviting than piles of papers.  

Decorating Tips

For those looking to update a dining room to create a more inviting space, Anselmo shares these tips:

• Paint and lighting are the perfect combination to freshen and update on any budget.

• Color and less clutter make it a happy space.

• Incorporate a statement-maker such as a Kelly green accent-Fabulous wallpaper that sets a tone-Reupholstered chairs with a new and functional fabric.

• Use pieces you already own to create an art wall (think gallery wall).