Quick fix

Paint and plaster helped brighten this dining room
Mary Jo Bowling
It's a common problem: How do you lighten up your dining room without making a lot of costly changes? Interior designer Jeffrey Marks provides some useful lessons at his own house, where a low ceiling, dowdy wainscoting, and old-fashioned shutters made the room feel cramped and tired.

His palette of materials maximizes daylight and creates a glow that blurs the boundaries of the room, thereby making it seem more spacious. High-gloss―and highly reflective―white marine paint covers the wainscoting and ceiling. Walls are white plaster, and the shutters have been replaced with elegant Roman shades made of white linen. Marks darkened the oak floor with an ebony stain to anchor the space.

He used a similar palette on the furnishings: The same white paint freshens the chairs; seats, table base, and chandelier (with parchment shade) are yellow, while the tabletop is dark to echo the floor color.

DESIGN: Jeffrey Alan Marks Inc., Los Angeles and La Jolla, CA (310/207-2222 or www.jam-design.com)