The challenge: Catherine Garrity had a formal dining room that she didn't like and almost never used. She especially disliked the look of her traditional dark-cherry dining set. It had sentimental value; she had picked it out 20 years ago as a newlywed, with help from her parents. "But styles had changed, and I wanted something less stuffy and traditional," Garrity said. "Both my parents are gone now, but my Mom would have said, 'Do what works for you.'"

The designer: Jeralyn Mohr, interior designer and muralist, Full Nest Design, 651-442-5596 (,

The catalyst: Mohr, who had worked on other spaces in Garrity's Eagan home, created a "vision board," including an abstract painting for the dining room. "Jeralyn knows what I like: simple, with a more modern feel," Garrity said. The visual of what her dining room could be inspired Garrity to make it a reality.

New furniture: Garrity knew what kind of furniture she wanted in her dining room, but first she had to sell her cherry set on Craigslist. That took months, which worked to Garrity's advantage. One of the new pieces she wanted went on sale, and another was discounted because it was discontinued. "The timing was right; she was able to save a chunk of money," Mohr said.

New paint: The Garritys didn't want to repaint their neutral dining-room walls, so Mohr came up with a way to freshen them: a color-block paint treatment in a lighter shade. "It's brighter, and added a graphic element," said Mohr.

Focal point: Mohr created a bold abstract painting for the dining room, using terra cotta and other colors carried from the family room. "I wasn't looking for an actual picture of a person or scene," Garrity said. "I love looking at colors, and I wanted the colors to talk to you."

"New" chandelier: Garrity had picked out her chandelier when she and her husband built their home three years ago, but she now felt it was too dark. Mohr transformed the fixture inexpensively with new globes from a home-improvement store. "It's amazing what that did to the whole feeling of the room, for less than $100," Garrity said. "Now I love the chandelier."

Window treatments: Mohr made the new drapes, in fabric printed with a graphic pattern. Garrity loved the fabric, but she mentioned that she also loved grommets, so Mohr incorporated them, too, along with a cap of terra cotta velvet. "It added more punctuation of that color," she said.

Table talk: Now Garrity keeps the table set, so it's always ready for meals. "We have family dinner there on Sunday, and whenever else we can manage it," she said. "It feels more special than having dinner in the kitchen, and it's lovely to have the dining room used. That was my biggest frustration before. Now our family is getting a lot of value out of it."

Best compliment: When the room was finished and the Garritys' 14-year-old daughter first saw it, her reaction told Garrity all she needed to know. "She came in and said 'Wow!'" Garrity said.

Kim Palmer • 612-673-4784