Category Archives: Kitchen

Focal Point Range Tile

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Ok, so clear back in August when we were starting to tear apart out bathroom, I found a small box of shiny gray square tiles at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Pocatello.  My idea was to ‘practice’ hanging tiles by putting those behind my stove as a focal point backsplash.

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Yeah. So in the middle of my bathroom renovation, I mixed up a batch of thinset and attempted to put tiles up behind the stove in my kitchen.  They slid down the wall.  I had a momentary breakdown/panic session as I thought I would have to call in someone to tile my whole bathroom, since I was obviously failing.  My mom wisely told me I was taking on too much, and to just focus on the bathroom.

Obviously, she was right.  I eventually figured out the right consistency for my thinset, and the bathroom tiling went pretty smoothly.  I did learn that it was much easier to lay tile on the floor than on the wall, but I made it through to a pretty decent finish.

Fast forward 8 months (!), and the area behind my stove was still splattered with old thinset.  I had to avoid photographing that area, because it was obviously not finished.  But, all of the tile materials were finally put away, and it was hard to think about getting that mess started again.

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Lately I have been trying to finish projects that I already have materials for, so I got out the little box of gray tiles and started playing around with the layout.   Then, I added in a few tiles I had remaining from the bathroom floor.  And I eventually decided (after taking lots of pictures) to use just the prettier tiles. 🙂  They are from the Merola line at Home Depot.

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Of course, then I had to decide on a pattern for those tiles that would best fit the small space behind the stove.

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We decided on the last one, so then I had to get out all the messy tile stuff and get to work.

Unfortunately, even with all my bathroom tiling, I didn’t really learn the concept of tiling UP the wall, instead of down.  I started at the most obvious place to me: in the center, right under the range vent.

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Which meant I spent a LOT of time doing this:

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Which was very tedious, especially since the kids were hollering for something every two minutes (they were sick all spring break).  But Landry did step in and help.

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So, what I should have done is to measure out where my bottom row would be and nail up a ledger board.  Then, start the tile at the bottom and build up.  Yep, much easier and much less time-consuming.

Many, many hours later, I finally made it to the end.

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I framed in the tile with some 3/4 inch wood slats I had from another project.  I painted them a dark charcoal (the same as our table) and it really tied everything together with the charcoal grout left over from the bathroom remodel.

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I ended up tiling a whole row below what is seen behind the range.  I figured this way, if we ever get a lower profile range, the backsplash will still work really well!  I know I sure wouldn’t mind seeing a little more of that awesome tile!

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Loving Our Homes

Since Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, I thought it would be nice to take a moment to stop and appreciate our homes for all of the warmth and security they give us.  As a designer who is always looking at images and plans for beautiful spaces, sometimes I get caught up in everything I want to do to change our home.

I have all these ideas to make it better and often focus more on the problems our home has than on all of its great attributes.  So, at least for today, I want to think about what makes our home special.

I like the idea of taking a minute to write down three things about your house that you are thankful for.  It could be that you are thankful for a kitchen that supports you in making food for your family.  A refrigerator that keeps your food cold and fresh, or a table where your family can all sit down and have a meal together.  I am grateful for the sliding doors leading out to our backyard and garage.  They allow me to see the kids playing outside, and they let in beautiful sunlight to warm the kitchen.

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It might also help to focus on all of the areas you have already improved your home.  Instead of stressing about the horribly desolate laundry room, I can focus on the beautiful bathroom we just carefully remodeled.  The kitchen floors might still be ugly, but the cabinets and shelves are a huge improvement from when we moved in.  Taking before and after photos can help remind you of all the love and hard work you may have been pouring into your home.

Think about the connections you make with family and friends in your home. The games you play around the coffee table, the forts you build with sheets and sofa cushions, and the conversations with your friends and family around the dinner table.  If we appreciate and focus on the small joys, it helps us to see the beauty in all of our home’s imperfections.

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As I look around my home, I see a lot of messes.  But if I look at the meaning behind the messes, I can be thankful for many things.  The legos strewn all over the kid’s room means that my five-year-old daughter is building and creating, using fine-motor skills and her incredible imagination.    IMG_5548

The fort in the corner of the living room was a labor of love between my three-year-old son and his daddy.  

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The stack of bills on my desk means that we have heat and water, and a roof over our heads.  We are living life, and that is why there are a few messes.

If you like to take pictures, one way to appreciate our homes more is to carry your camera around and take photos of the little things that really matter.

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What makes you smile?  It could be the dog napping in the sun, your kids playing together, a good book waiting to be read or the chairs you lovingly painted to bring color into your home.  I think we would all be surprised at how many positive and wonderful things are happening in our imperfect homes!

 

Kitchen Shelving Reveal!

I am so excited to finally show you some pictures of our newly reconfigured refrigerator wall!  Over the last month or so, we took down all the existing cabinets on that wall to make room for a new refrigerator.  All two cabinets and some shelves, so it wasn’t a huge deal.  But we had just moved the cabinets up and caulked them a few months before, so it was sort of a big deal. ha.

Anyway, here is our current and hopefully longer-lasting rendition!

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Moving from the original single upper cabinet over the base cabinet to this setup has increased our storage space exponentially.  It allows me to display the platters and plates that don’t fit in a normal cabinet.  I find I use them a lot more when they aren’t packed away in the back of the pantry closet.

IMG_6670 IMG_6671 IMG_6678 IMG_6681 IMG_6686 IMG_6689A few things to note if you are considering something like this for yourself:

1. You might want to consider buying a pipe threader and cutting your own pipes, depending on your own arrangement.  All of the little pieces add up and can get expensive

2. All of the threads aren’t the same, so it was hard to get things as tight as we wanted.

3. Look around for pieces without labels taped to them! After completing the entire project, we found that one store had pipe pieces in bags, so you wouldn’t have to try to take the stickers off of each piece.  As you might have noticed, we are still working on getting those stickers off!

4. Our project cost around $300.  We used 1/2 inch pipe and fittings and 2 x 12 douglas fir for the shelves.  The microwave shelf was custom joined to be 16 inches deep. We used Minwax oil based wood finish in Classic Gray 271.

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I will do my best to answer them!  Check back later this week for some tips on living with open shelving.

 

Redo! Another Kitchen Challenge

When I was an elementary school teacher, I often gave my older students an opportunity to redo an essay or project if they wanted to improve their work.  By rereading or redesigning their previous attempt, they often learned much more about the topic (which was the ultimate goal) and hopefully even discovered a bit about their own thinking process.  It seems like a valuable skill to have, because let’s face it, many of us spend a lot of time at our jobs redoing or updating things.  Unfortunately, when it comes to our homes, we often get stuck in a mindset where we think things need to stay exactly how they were when we moved in, or when they were built or when we first arranged them.

IMG_0865 IMG_0866Kitchen: When we bought our house in 2010.

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IMG_6519Refrigerator wall: a few weeks ago…

It is a good thing my husband and I are both used to working and reworking projects until we are happy with them.  A few weeks ago, we bought a new refrigerator, which ended up changing a few (very recently completed) key arrangements in our kitchen.

Our new fridge lured us in with the promise of much more interior space along with ice and water on demand.  Plus it was on a fantastic sale at Home Depot.  Unfortunately, the larger size meant we had to take down the recently added cabinet above the fridge, which meant things on that wall were looking unbalanced and a little crazy.  Also, the new fridge is stainless so it doesn’t match the stove and dishwasher anymore.  It was classic chain reaction where one thing leads to another.

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Instead of bemoaning the loss of a storage/display cabinet, we decided to take the opportunity to rework things and try something new.  We took down the remaining cabinet on the fridge wall and put it over the stove, filling out that space a bit better.

Then, my handy hubby began building a wall of shelves using ½ inch galvanized steel pipe and 2 x 12 boards.  The mix of steel and wood fits really well in our kitchen, and the industrial modern look of the shelves works well with our simple 1950s home.  It also makes it so the mix of stainless and white appliances isn’t so obvious.

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Since we used pipes that screw together, we were able add to it as time and budget allowed.  IMG_6662

IMG_6655After considering a natural wood look via a clear coat, we decided to stain the wood gray.  I am happy we did, because it really makes the whole system work with the concrete countertops and the stainless refrigerator.

While I wouldn’t have spent all the time painting and caulking cabinets last month if I had known we were going to change things this month, I don’t regret it at all.  We gained a lot in the process, and I feel like we are really learning how to make our home more functional and beautiful within the space we have.  Our end result will greatly exceed what we started with, both in usability and appearance.

The lesson: Don’t be afraid to take a redo.

Check back Monday morning for completed shelf pictures!

 

The Uncluttered Life: Pantry Overhaul

This pantry project has been a long time coming. It has been a jumbled disaster for several months, but I didn’t bother to reorganize it because I wanted to do a complete overhaul on the pantry closet while I was at it.

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Horrifying.

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The problem with ‘overhauls’ at our house is that the rest of the house then becomes a complete disaster. Also, I usually have a lot of help.  This week, we finally tackled the pantry, and I am excited about the results.

To begin, I brought in a garbage bag and a donation box. I got rid of a toaster oven that burned everything, a Salad Shooter, a manual food processor and the Magic Bullet. I recently bought one nice food processor that does everything except burn toast. It was such a relief to finally send those appliances to the donation box! I tossed opened bags that were stale or that no one was going to eat. I took every item out of the pantry and washed the entire thing. IMG_6572

Then, I found some ceiling paint and a half gallon of paint left over from our bedroom closet makeover and painted walls, floors and ceiling. I decided to stain the shelves instead of painting them. I used a water-based Minwax stain in Pecan. I chose to use water-based stain because I was working in an enclosed space and it is less toxic and smelly.

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Dark phone photo, but it feels fresh!

One thing about our pantry is that it is the closet over the stairs to the basement. In the 1950s, they often made these closets with deep steps all the way to the back. I have been researching solutions for making our closet more user-friendly, but haven’t found any help. So, Jer and I decided to put horizontally adjustable shelves across the shelves we put in a few years ago. They can be pushed back if needed, but we pulled them forward so everything is reachable from the first step. I found that things would just get lost and piled in the deep cave, so the shallower adjustable shelves are nicer for us. (We can access the back, so I put a few very infrequently used items back there, like the dehydrator and angel food cake pan).

A pantry works best with multiple shallow shelves. When Jer and I added shelves to our closet, we made the ones on the sides 6 inches deep and the ones on the back 11 inches deep. This keeps items from getting lost in the black hole that often happens when shelves are too deep. If you happen to have deep shelves, consider installing pull-out bins or drawers.

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I also wanted to add a little fun to the steps, but I didn’t want to spend a ton of time on it. Jer suggested using half a grapefruit. The ones we had were pretty large, but I spotted some Cuties and decided they would be perfect! I found some orange and yellow craft paint and two paper plates. After practicing on a piece of paper, I started randomly stamping the Cuties on the steps. The final look is not for everyone, but I like the 70s retro look and think it will be fun for awhile. When I get tired of it, it will take 10 minutes to paint it again.

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After the pantry is clean (and the paint is dry!) it is time to put things back. I arrange items according to use and size. Most frequently used things go at eye level. For us, that means canned goods and cereals are readily available for easy grabbing. Multiple cans of the same food are stacked together.

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I prefer to take things out of larger packages so I know when it needs to be restocked.  At lower levels are individually wrapped snacks and things that are ok for our kids to grab. The highest shelves are reserved for empty glass bottles, extra spices and lesser used appliances.

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As far as other organization tools, I use plastic half gallon and gallon containers with labels for things like rice and granola. I also decant extra flour and sugar, etc into labeled containers to keep random bags from leaking everywhere.  I wish they were clear, but they are recycled (aka.free) so I like them. Clear containers of any kind are nice because you can see the contents inside and know when it needs replacing. There are many container options for sale, but make sure it fits the food and fits into your space before you buy. I am using baskets to corral picnic supplies, extra Kurig cups and bags of chips. I tried a few different baskets before I remembered this orange one that goes better with the ‘citrus’ theme.

We mounted a broom holder on the inside door of our pantry to keep them from falling out every time we open the door. I also have a grocery bag holder mounted to the inside of the door. Other options for the inside of doors are over the door racks, spice shelves and shoe holders. Painting the inside of the door is an upcoming project.

Now that the pantry is stocked and organized, the food will just cook itself, right?

The Rise of the Kitchen Cabinet

 

What happens when you try something new and don’t totally love it?  At our house, we try, try again!  Over the past year, I painted our kitchen cabinets white, and the walls a light gray.  I still am really happy with both of those choices.  Because our kitchen is pretty small, I wanted to make use of the space above the cabinets, and also try to conceal the lumps on the ceiling from someone else’s soffit removal job.  I tried using labeled bins and some other containers above the cabinets, and it actually worked very well for storage. IMG_6162The only thing I didn’t love was that it felt a bit crowded or dark for the high space.  I left it for awhile, because I really liked the increased functionality.

Then, I saw this image, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do:

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IMG_6476 I am not sure why I hadn’t thought of it before, but raising the cabinets to the ceiling and putting a shelf underneath was a brilliant solution!  It would work perfectly for a space like ours, and would also camouflage the wonky ceiling.

Right after I finished the concrete overlay on the countertops, we decided to moved the cabinets up.

It was a two person job a lot of the time, and the car jack was even involved at one point (ahem, rednecks).

Behind the cabinets was a bit of a mess, so I scraped off the big chunks and then primed and painted everything gray to match the walls.

IMG_6473I really like the open feeling of no upper cabinets, but since our space is smaller, we need the additional storage.IMG_6479After the cabinets were reinstalled, there were noticeable gaps along the upper edge by the ceiling.

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I ended up just using a paintable caulk to fill in the spaces.  It made a huge different in how finished and clean the final result looked.

IMG_6489The ceiling needs a bit of paint touch up when you get up close, but it looks so much better than it did.

IMG_6488We decided to leave the space above the microwave open for now.  I like the idea of building an open box around the space also, but for now it is perfect for large platters and a spiky plant.

IMG_6508We added an open shelf underneath the cabinets at typical cabinet height (18 inches).  We used the same shelving from IKEA that we used for the open shelves above the dishwasher.  We made a few modifications in the corner, and Jer reinforced underneath with some wood pieces.

I store most often used items on the open shelf, like spices and flours.  IMG_6528We opted to hang mugs from underneath the cabinet by the coffee prep area instead of adding a shelf.  We love the convenience and the added color from the mugs.

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The cost of the shelves and a few brackets was our only expense for this project (so about $75).  It feels so much more open to us, and having the lower open shelf has been really handy for cooking and baking.  What do you think?

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After

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Kitchen Concrete Countertop Overlay

 

We have slowly been making updates in our kitchen to make it a more fun and functional space.  The latest project wasn’t really a ‘functional’ issue, but it has definitely made it more ‘fun’!IMG_6162Kitchen countertops: BEFORE

Our kitchen countertops were a neutral beige swirly patterned laminate to start with, so it is not like we were dealing with an offensive color or even lots of scratches.  But, they really didn’t add anything style wise to our kitchen, and I was looking for something a little more interesting.

About a year ago, one of my favorite bloggers posted about covering her laundry room countertops with concrete.  After reading more about it and looking into the product a bit, I decided to order some for our kitchen.

And then, I put it off until last month.  We use the kitchen extensively every day, and I knew I would have to do without countertops for about a week while everything dried and cured.  Finally, I just decided it was now or never and started sanding down the countertops! I have learned that one way to get myself doing a project is to take a step that is irreversible!

IMG_6424Sanding with a 60 grit paper to rough up the surface.

That very afternoon, I mixed up the Ardex Feather finish and slathered on the first coat.

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I mixed up the concrete mix in a plastic cup using a fork.  That way I could just throw it away and not have to worry about how to clean it up without clogging the drain.  We just replaced plumbing from the kitchen sink into the basement, and as much fun as it was, I didn’t really want to be doing it again while attempting to renovate countertops.

I can’t really tell you the ratio of water to powder that I used, because I am a dumper, friends!  I tried several different consistencies, and I really think you have to experiment a bit to find what works best for you.  Here is a good tutorial from karapaslaydesigns.com in addition to the link at the top.

I used my fork and sometimes the putty knife to do the top backsplash and edges.  I blobbed on the goop, and then smoothed it out with the putty knife.  I didn’t worry too hard about it all being to perfect, because the sanding step is where you smooth everything out again.

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I ended up doing four coats of the concrete mix, with overnight drying time in between each. I also scraped off ridges with the putty knife and sanded with 60 grit then 100 grit between each layer.

IMG_6459It is extremely dusty, so I also vacuumed and wiped things up many, many times.

I attempted to use the electric sander for the final coat, but dust started flying EVERYWHERE.  And I was afraid I would sand right through to the laminate again and that would make me cry.  So, I just sanded by hand until it was smooth to the touch.  In retrospect, I wish I would have added two more coats just to get it a little thicker, but I feel like that can still be done after we have lived with it for awhile.

I didn’t remove the sink for this application.  Maybe I should have, but I chose to just work to the edges and I think it looks just fine.  If any concrete got on the sink part, I just scraped it off.  If your sink is easily removable or your husband is willing to do it, that would probably be the recommended step.

I went back and forth on what to seal the countertops with.  Many people recommend a product called Cheng Concrete Countertop Sealer, but it can’t be frozen, so shipping it in November didn’t seem like a great idea.  I ended up going down to Lowes and went with a recommendation from a super nice lady who works there and also has concrete countertops.  FullSizeRenderI did worry for a bit about it not saying “food safe” on the label.  But I typically use a cutting board, so I hope it is not too harmful.  Depending on how this product holds up, I might try the Cheng product in a year or so.  The Lowes clerk did say that you have to sand it down lightly and reapply every so often.  She recommended a mohair roller, which I tried. I ended up liking the ease and smoothness of my trusty 2in brush much better than the roller.  I put on two coats of sealer.  If water is left on the counter, it does eventually soak in and get dark.  It dries within an hour or two and doesn’t leave a mark.  The only think that has left a little ‘permanent’  spot is maybe a bit of oil?  I think it just adds character!

IMG_6541Kitchen Countertops: AFTER

For now, I am loving the inexpensive update in the kitchen, and they have been easy to care for.

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What do you think? I have a few more ideas and places I would like to try using this Ardex stuff.  I am so glad I finally took the time to get the countertops done.  It is much more fun to be in a kitchen that makes you happy!

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Creatively Displaying Collections

Collections are often a tricky design dilemma. While we really don’t want to be known as the ‘beanie baby lady’ or the ‘fast food toy hoarder’ most people have at least a little assortment of something that they value or find meaningful.  Whether your passion is rocks or crocks, stamps or lamps, if you have a collection of something you have probably wondered how to show it off in an aesthetically pleasing way.  The way I see it, at least if it is out of storage and on display, there is a chance it will gather compliments along with the dust!

The best piece of advice I have regarding collections is to gather items into one area so they become a focal point.

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A dedicated accent wall, cabinet or row of shelves is more appealing than items scattered randomly around the house.

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A high shelf mounted above a doorway is a simple way to group like items, such as baskets or vintage tins.  Use trays to gather similar objects for display on a countertop or coffee table.

Design*Sponge | Leah Verwey Photo

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If you collect really small items, consider displaying some of them in a divided wooden box.  This separates them out a bit and causes the eye to see them as one cohesive piece rather than fifty tiny things.

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The box can be hung on the wall, and items can be rotated occasionally so that each piece gets its day in the spotlight.  If you have an extensive collection, you might just pick just a few of your favorites to show off at a time.  This ensures that you and others will be more likely to notice and enjoy them.  Canned air is useful for the frequent and detailed dusting that small items require.

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Image source: http://ultimatedisplaycase.com

A collection of various sized pieces look nice staggered along a shelf or mantle (much like a city’s horizon line).  Size variations are good in a collection because it makes it more dynamic and interesting to look at.  Find balance by grouping a taller object with several smaller ones.  If the collection has a variety of colors, consider grouping items by color, or create a pattern of sorts.  The trick is to be willing to tweak things a few times until you like how it looks.

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I don’t collect objects for hobby, but I do enjoy displaying our white serving dishes and platters.  My favorite way to show them off is to use a contrasting background to make them stand out.  We recently installed a cabinet above our refrigerator as a home for my ‘white’ collection.  I removed the doors, sprayed the insides berry pink, and used retro floral duct tape on the back of the cabinet.  The white dishes really stand out and the bright colors add an element of the unconventional.

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Bring your collections out of hiding and make them a part of your decor.  And for the love of simplicity, only collect objects you enjoy and that tell a story about you.  You do have to dust them, you know.

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Kitchen Update

*For those of you coming over from the Idaho State Journal in hopes of a guest room update, I don’t have it today. Don’t worry, it is coming within the next few months, and in a lot of detail.  My sister and her kids will be coming to stay a few months in the summer, so I will be getting their room(s) ready in the spring.*

BUT, I do have a little update on what is happening in our kitchen at the moment.  I’ll give you a hint: It is not a lot of holiday baking, which may or may not be a good thing.

If you have been following along for awhile, you may have read that I wanted to try a concrete overlay on my kitchen countertops.  I have been reading a lot about it lately, and it seemed like a very inexpensive solution to our uglyish countertops, with just time and effort involved.

BEFORE

The time and inconvenience involved (you can’t really use your countertops for the whole process) meant that I kept putting it off.  I have had my bag of Ardex Feather Finish for about a year now, and finally decided it was now or never!  (I don’t get any money or products if you click on that link, just so you know).

Sanding with 60 grit to rough up the surface.

Mixing up the Ardex. I have ended up mixing it thicker since the first time.

First late-night application. Crazy lighting! Left is done, right is still laminate.

There are some great tutorials out there if you are interested in doing this yourself.  Since I am still in the process, I am just going to show you a few ‘before’ and ‘during’ photos for now.  I will write up a post with some links when I am all finished.

 

Three coats of Ardex later, with lots of sanding in between.

I am hoping some of the color differences and trowel marks aren’t quite so noticeable with the last coat.  I know my application has gotten smoother with each layer.  I also plan to go over the final layer with our electric sander and a very fine grit sandpaper.  But for now, this is what it looked like this morning after a rough sanding…

Keep checking back! I will have more updates and a few more Small Space Solutions soon!   It involves the relocation of some of those cabinets.  Shhhhh, don’t tell my husband, but I am hoping some of that happens this weekend, too.

Details: Amazing Tile Refresh

Could your tile floors use some attention? Maybe the grout is too light, too dark, or an outdated color.  If your tile is still in good shape, you have a few options that can make a big difference in the look of your tile floors.

One of my clients had tile installed in their kitchen and dining area about 15 years ago, and chose a terra cotta grout.  Over the years, their tastes have changed and they were wanting a lighter color without so much contrast between the tile and the grout.

One option is to remove the existing grout entirely and replace it with new grout.  If your grout is in good condition though, a much easier option is to clean and paint it.  Since their grout was not cracking or chipping, my clients decided to try out the relatively new grout paint and sealer.

To prep the grout for painting, it was first scrubbed with a mixture of lemon juice, vinegar and baking soda.  They used 7 cups water, 1/3 cup lemon juice, 1/4 cup vinegar, and 1/2 cup of baking soda. Apply it liberally to the tile and grout and let it  sit for 15 minutes, then scrub with a brush.  If you just want to clean your floors, you can stop at this step, because it is amazing!

The directions on the grout paint say to use an acid cleaner before applying the paint, so you might decide you want to do that.  My clients decided the acid from the vinegar and lemon juice was good enough for them, and less toxic.

To apply the paint we used flat craft brushes.  We found the size 6 brushes to work the best for us, but it would depend on the width of your grout.  We just poured a bit of paint onto a plastic lid and applied it to the grout lines with the brush and let it dry.

 

The whole process was a bit time consuming, but not as much as chipping the grout from between the tile would have been.  And the results were amazing.  We chose a medium gray color, and it brightened up the look of the entire kitchen and dining area.  Instead of pulling out the orange colors from the tile, like the terra cotta colored grout did, the gray grout picks up on the subtle gray colors in the tile.

 

Now that my client’s floors are now more neutral, they are working on reupholstering their dining room chairs in a cheery bright red.  One small change in the flooring has allowed them to make some much-desired updates in the rest of the kitchen and dining area.

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After

If you have some tile with grout that could use a fresh look, give some grout paint a try!  It is an inexpensive update that brings a significant change to your flooring.

The Uncluttered Life: Kitchen Continued

I cannot even begin to tell you how awesome it feels to have our kitchen cleaned and organized!  I finished the cupboards and tackled the countertops early this week, and it was a full day job (with two little messers and lots of play breaks).  I feel so much less stressed that I am even more committed to keeping the clutter out.

I put everything that was using the kitchen as ‘limbo-land’ back in it’s proper place, and found places for things that used to reside on the countertop.  I decided the mixer wasn’t used enough to warrant a permanent place on the counter, even though I loved the cheery red color.  Having it in the corner just seemed to attract more items to want to congregate with it!  Into the lower cabinet it went, fitting in nicely with the red crock pot.  The only things on the counter are the Keurig and our kombucha brew. The kombucha is waiting for a hidden spot in the pantry, because really, it’s not the most beautiful thing to look at.

I am embarrassed to show you the ‘Before’ photos of my counters, but in the name of keeping it real and knowing that there are others out there just like me who are ‘creatives’ with a thousand things going at once, here they are:

I forgot to take photos before I put the mixer away…

And now the ‘Afters,’ our Fresh Start.

For those of you who love a true Before and After, here’s a comparison of when we moved in and how it looks now…

 

Lots of changes, and it feels like us.  Now that we can see the counters again, I have plans to resurface them.  But for right now, I am going to enjoy the simple feeling of clean and organized.

The Uncluttered Life: Kitchen

Last week, my husband and I had a “Light Bulb!” moment (I am saying that in my best Gru impersonation).  We occasionally chat on the computer during the day, and send photos and articles from our research that we think the other might find interesting.  Often we are both sucked into the world of tiny homes and how people get rid of all but their necessities and live very happily in extremely small and awesomely designed spaces.  During one of my searches on ways to get rid of excess ‘stuff,’ I came across the website becomingminimalist.com, and I was sold.  I especially loved the nudge from his neighbor that made him realize that he wanted to be spending time with his family, rather than cleaning a garage full of their possessions.

Lucky for me, Jeremiah was on board, and we committed to working toward a realistic minimalism for our lives.  For us, I know this won’t mean living without books or computers, and we will still enjoy our various creative hobbies.  What it will mean is taking a good hard look at what we really need, use and enjoy in our home and lives, and eliminating the cluttering excess.

I started with the kitchen this week, because this is where it all happens at our house.  I am not completely finished, but this is how I have gone about the process.  I hope to post more progress throughout the week.

1. Take photos of your existing space (even inside the cupboards).  Photos can help you look more objectively at your things and will give you some motivation to declutter.  They also help you take a good look at how things are stored and used.

Spices and Baking Items:Before

Storage Containers and Misc. Cooking Items: Before

2. Make a list of your problem areas.  Mine are: Spices, Storage Containers, Coat Rack, Shoe Basket and Countertops.

3. Take stock of what you really use, and how often you use it.  Do you really need four spatulas, three wisks, and five large water bottles?  Pick out the ones you use all the time, and donate the rest.  Take a deep breath, and let it go.

 

Yay! The donation pile.  Most of the stuff in the plastic bag came from the storage container cupboard.

4.  Remove all items from the cupboards, wipe them down, and only put back what you use.  I love using baskets or bins for their organizing benefits and because they look nice.  Measure cupboards and items when looking for organizing systems to make sure it will actually help you rather than just clutter up space even more.  It can be difficult to find containers to fit the 10 or 11 inch depth most cupboards allow.

5. Organize according to use.  Don’t use prime shelving or cupboard space for items that are only used once per year.  I use open shelves for everyday dishes, cupboards for baking items and container storage, and my base cabinet for the crock-pot, stock pot and dutch oven.  I also just moved my mixer to the base cabinet, because I don’t use it often enough to warrant taking up prime real estate on the counter.  Less frequently used items like the dehydrator, waffle maker, etc. go in the back part of the pantry.  The pantry closet will be a much later post, as we are designing a complete overhaul for our needs.

 

Spices and Baking Items: After

Storage Containers and Misc. Cooking Items: After

Base Cabinet: After. The mixer was added and a skillet taken away.

6. Remove things that don’t belong in the kitchen.  Right now, I have a box for the garage, a box for the basement and a box for donating.  I know this will be the step that I have to be the most vigilant about.  You know, so the boxes don’t become a permanent part of the kitchen.

Are you interested in spending more time with your loved ones and less time stressing about clutter? I am incredibly excited to be going through our house one room at a time (the garage is not safe either, don’t worry!) and getting rid of the clutter that is adding unnecessary stress to our lives.  I am also hoping this simplification of our lives has a positive and lasting effect on our kids.  Join us on our adventure as we discover our unique way of living with less stuff!