I designed a living-dining room for an older couple who moved into an apartment after their children had married. They chose a "restaurant approach" to the tiny space. The French bistro they returned to again and again in trips to Paris suggested a design.

From their descriptions, the character of the place was established by a clever combination of odd bits of furniture blended into a soft and elegant background.

By good fortune, they already had a lovely pair of French open-arm chairs, a perfect start to an eclectic dining group. At a country auction, I found the perfect counterpart to these chairs, a small settee, large enough to seat two, but small enough to be in scale with the narrow wall of the dining area. The settee needed refinishing; we decided on an off-white painted finish to match the French chairs. To cover all three pieces we chose a pale green velour, an appropriate upholstery for two adults.

The table turned out to be a composite. The fluted pedestal was part of an old column, cut off at the appropriate height for dining, and painted in the same off-white antiqued finish as the chairs and table. The top is off-white plastic laminate edged in painted wood, like the pedestal, a contemporary, practical touch.

I found a simple molding at the lumber yard that made a perfect wainscot. The walls below the wainscot, which I painted the same off-white as the furniture, was a deeper shade of green paint, similar to the green of the upholstery and the wall-to-wall carpet. Above the wainscot, I chose the palest tint of the same green. Shutters at the window on the adjacent wall were painted the same off-white color as the wainscot.

A last appropriate touch was the large, gilded mirror my clients discovered in their favorite antique shop. It was just the right size to place above the wainscot; tilted forward, images of the folks at the table could not be seen, which would have been a distraction for everyday dining. Incidentally, this was another ingenious idea, copied from a different restaurant.