Category Archives: Kitchen


Kitchen Update

It has been awhile since I updated you all on the kitchen progress.  Over the past year, we have been working on making our kitchen/dining area function for our family.  Our kitchen, dining table, main entrance and basement access are all located within this 15’-6” x 10’-4” space, so we have been coming up with Small Space Solutions to work with what we’ve got.  If you are just joining me on the blog, see our Pot Rack, the Fruit Basket, and the Microwave and Hall Closet ideas.  We also took out an upper cabinet and installed some open shelves, along with a row of coat hooks and a sliding door.  Here is the microwave in it’s current home:

All of these solutions have really helped our kitchen accommodate our little family much better, which brings me to a few more tips on updating your kitchen relatively quickly and somewhat painlessly.

1. Clear out unused items.  Go through cupboards and drawers, and be ruthless.  Decide how many spatulas and rolling pins you really need, and get rid of the rest.  When your drawers aren’t cluttered up with excess stuff, you will be able to quickly find things you need, and it will be easier to put them back in the correct spot.

2. Arrange according to function.  If possible, locate items in cupboards according to the function of the space.  If a section of the countertop is frequently used for baking, locate all baking supplies in the cupboard above the counter.  That way it is readily available when needed.  It is also convenient to locate frequently used dishes and utensils close to the dishwasher and sink.  They can be unloaded directly into their spots with minimal movement around the kitchen.


3. Update cabinetry.This isn’t a super quick update, but it is relatively simple and has a big impact.  I recently painted my basic cabinetry and added hardware to the cupboards and drawers.  I chose white because all of our appliances are white, and because the kitchen is very small and I wanted to keep it looking clean and bright.  Adding handles and drawer pulls where none existed has made the biggest difference as far as function. *all remaining pulls have been added since the photo below was taken.*  I also used the same pulls for drawers as well as cupboards, and chose to center the pulls on the bottom edge of the upper cabinets.  I love how they look and they are very easy to open.

4. Look for unused or wasted space.  We recently added labeled baskets above our upper cabinets for extra storage.  It really helps with overflow from our pantry closet.  We also moved some white dishes from the pantry to above the cabinets.

5. Paint the walls a happy color.  Since you likely spend a good amount of time in the kitchen, choose a color that is reflective of you and your family.  To make our small kitchen/dining space seem larger, we have painted it a bright and light gray.  This also allows me to use pops of color in art and other kitchen accessories.

6.  Change out your accessories.  A new dish towel or two will go a long way in sprucing up your kitchen.  Decorative mixing bowls displayed on a shelf, a fun patterned rug, simple curtains, or new chair pads are all simple and quick ways to help make your time spent in the kitchen a lot more fun.

Go ahead, rethink your kitchen a bit.  See if you can make a few changes and add some zest to your space.


The January Cure, Assignments 13-19

Whew!  Last week flew by, and this one seems to be going even faster.  Which is good, because I don’t know how much longer I can keep from adding cream to my coffee on the Whole 30!  I can do it.  We are out of coffee filters, so I might just skip the coffee altogether for the last few days.

Anyway, we have been doing an okay job keeping up with the assignments from Apartment Therapy’s January Cure. My kids are still little messers, but at least I know in my heart that at some point in the last month, each space in our upstairs has been thoroughly cleaned and organized.

Assignment 13 was to get papers and files in order.  That one is still being worked on, but all of the paper piles in the kitchen and on my desk area have been dealt with.  It feels good. I also rearranged the living room a bit so the file cabinet (which we use as an end table) is much closer to my desk.  Before, it was clear across the room and blocked by a box.  Sometimes all it takes is a simple solution.  I also have a small filing system on my desk for things like bills, tear sheets from magazines, and kid’s art.

Assignment 14 was to deal with cords.  Jer was a trooper on this one and spent the evening cleaning his ‘office’ corner in our living room.  It was past due for a cleaning, so that was a giant bonus to this assignment. We finally brought our printer upstairs so that it could be used. Jer brought in the base of an old tool box that was given to us by a friend for some storage and spot for the printer. It is not perfect, but it works for us for now. Jer likes having a drawer to put all of his ‘toys’ that the kids often got into before.  I like not having to fish the ear buds out of little mouths.

Daddy and his Helpers, fixing the tool chest/printer cabinet.

Freshly cleaned and organized space.

Assignment 15 was to clean out medicine cabinets and drawers in the bathroom.  The medicine cabinet went quickly and I loved the result so much that I tackled the hall linen closet also.  I added some baskets there to corral some of Jer’s stuff and some of my extra decorating things.  I also use lots of little baskets for things like medicines and extra bathroom products.  It feels so much better now, even though it would probably look better if the baskets all lined up and matched. Ha!  I didn’t get to the drawers below the hall closet. Another day.

Linen closet.  Could still use some work, but SO much better than it was.

Assignment 16 was to declutter books and media.  This is the day I started on my livingroom/office shelves. They have been bothering me for a LONG time, but it was a daunting task.  I started by analyzing it and deciding where the problem spots were.  Mostly, it was just the two larger open shelves that were the biggest trouble.  That was where we put piled everything that needed to be out of reach of little hands.  It had become overwhelming and precarious, to say the least.  I started by emptying those shelves into a laundry basket (which I will soon have to deal with) and wiping them down.  I decided that to solve the problem of them becoming a junk receptacle, I would fill them completely with books.  I have all my design and art books upstairs by my desk for easy reference, and most of them are nice colors.  I like to organize these books by color, because it just makes sense and looks the best to me.  I filled those two shelves and called it a night.

Over the past few days, I have been working on my shelves (among other things, don’t worry), and I finally have them under control.  I have a serious magazine collection problem, but I went through and got rid of 10 magazines last night.  I plan to do a few each night, until my problem is handled.  The bottom four shelves on each side of my desk are pretty much filled with my kid’s books and games/puzzles/toys.  It works for us, except the littlest one loves to just pull books off the shelf.  He does look at them sometimes.  So, this picture was taken this morning after I put him down for a nap and before it gets messy again. Not kidding.

So.much.better.  You may notice that I moved the orange art and craft tubs from the top of the fridge to the upper right of the shelves. Working well so far.

Assignment 17 was called Weekend Chores: Flowers, Outbox, Living Room and Lighting.  Whew! Didn’t even think about the lighting yet.  Jer picked up a little bunch of purple flowers, I took one load (more to come) to the thrift store to donate, and I am still working on the living room. It has been vacuumed and dusted.  It is just not completely rearranged and sporting its new rug yet.  As I sit here writing this post, I am amazed at how much more relaxed I feel when these shelves are organized and my desk is cleaned off.  SO refreshing and positive that I might not even miss my coffee for the next few days. Maybe.


January Cure: Assignments 8-12

We have made it almost half way through January, and I am still pretty on track with the assignments in Apartment Therapy’s January Cure, and I am still on track with my Whole 30 eating reset!  I am feeling pretty good about things, and my house is starting to look better all around.

Last Monday’s assignment was to plan a party for the end of the month, and send out invitations.  Hmmm.  Jer and I have talked about having a Chinese New Year party to celebrate the end of the month, but we had overnight company on Thursday week and I start teaching evening classes soon, so I am just going to get through this month and see where we are with that.  The purpose of the party is to keep you motivated, but I feel like I am very motivated to get this figured out anyway.

Tuesday’s assignment was to create a landing strip near your entry door.  This is something I have been working on for awhile now.  When we moved in to our home, we quickly realized the existing exits were not realistic for our needs.  My awesome parents had a sliding door installed in our kitchen where a window once was.  This created direct access to the back yard and a straight shot to the garage where I park my car.  It also meant that we now used the tiny dining room/kitchen for our main entry.

Before: Dining/Kitchen with window.

Before: Dining/Kitchen with table and window.

After: With door and new paint. Pretty similar to how it looks right now.

I also created a coat hook in the dining area, which is working really well at keeping coats off the floor and chairs.  It needs a good paring down, but overall I think it serves its purpose. Now, the boots and shoes are another story.  This weekend I spotted one of those old dowel cd storage racks at the thrift store, and thought it might make a good shoe rack for right by the door.  Unfortunately, someone must still have cds that need storing, because when I went back to get it today it was gone. Back to the drawing board for now.

After: Coat hook wall. Located right beside the fridge. Table is directly to right in this photo. Sliding door is to my back.

We have also been using the counter right inside the door as a nice landing strip for keys, garage door opener, and mail.  I love having my keys right there ready to go.  Jer is learning that it is easier to just drop his there when he comes in rather that having to search the house for them every morning.

Wednesday’s assignment was a media fast, which worked well since our internet went down Wednesday and we didn’t get it working again until Friday night.

Thursday’s assignment was to work on your goal project.  Mine was to get rid of the piles in the kitchen, and I succeeded!  I am also working on the second coat of paint on the trim in the kitchen, so I will wait to take photos until that is all done.  I love being able to use my counters for cooking!  Now I just have to keep them clutter-free, which I know is a constant effort.

Friday’s assignment was also for the weekend: flowers, bedroom organization and cleaning.  Jer picked up an inexpensive bouquet of flowers on his way home from work, and I spent Friday cleaning and rearranging the kid’s room.  It feels so much better and they are enjoying the new arrangement. We still have a lot in there for such a little room, but the crib and rocking chair are still necessities at this point.  Our room was already cleaned to the core when I painted and did the floors, so it just needs a little touching up.  I say ‘needs’ because it didn’t get done this weekend.  We were pretty much gone all weekend, so our room is still on my list.  I would like to get some artwork hung and the too big rug out of there.  It is still rolled up on the floor at the foot of the bed. Yes, I trip over it all the time.  It is a hazard.  The rug has a future home in the living room.

I realize this post is pretty text-heavy.  I apologize and promise more pictures this week.  It is just so crazy hard to get photos before the kids mess it up again!! All for now…today’s assignment is to get papers and files in order.  This may take awhile.


finished shelves

Small Space Solutions: Open Shelving

I decided to hop onboard with a trend I have been observing a lot lately.  Not that it is anything new (and our grandmothers are probably shaking their heads at us), but open shelving is all the rage.  There are several reasons we decided to try some open shelving in our kitchen:  space, visual ‘breathing’ room, storage and organization.

Although I would love to have every one of my cupboards organized and arranged so beautifully that I could put up open shelves in the whole kitchen, sadly, they are not.  Since that may not ever be the case, I decided to pick one cupboard that I felt would make the most difference in the look, feel and function of the kitchen.  I picked the cabinet above the dishwasher, by the sink and between the window and sliding door.

This is where we store our everyday dishes, and the items in that cupboard stay relatively organized.  Obviously I will not be adding open shelving where I store my plastic food storage containers (the bane of organizing).  Because they are our everyday dishes, they will also not get the chance to get dusty like less frequently used items could.  Another reason I chose this particular cabinet is that having the sides open allows people to see ‘through’ the shelves and make the whole space appear more open.

After researching open shelving for a crazy amount of time, I decided I liked the look of a very simple white shelf and bracket found at IKEA.  We made a quick family shopping trip to Salt Lake last weekend and I was finally able to pick up my awesome shelves.  I chose the 11+inch deep shelves for this wall because I wanted them to be as deep as the other cabinets in the kitchen and to be able to hold large dinner plates.

Jer and I took down the cabinet the night before we went to IKEA to make sure the wall behind it wasn’t a total mess.  As I was repainting the kitchen, I noticed once again how poorly executed a soffit removal had been, especially above the cabinets, and I started to worry that the open shelves would just draw more attention to the lumps and bumps on the wall.  After removing the cabinet, I was pleasantly surprised that the wall was in decent shape, and my husband assured me that we could make it work.  So, I filled the holes and painted over the very dark brown that was underneath.  As I stepped back to admire my painting job, I sure loved the feeling of openness removing the cabinet provided.  (It also helped that all the clutter was removed from the countertop).

To get a feel for spacing and the number of shelves we wanted, I put painter’s tape on the wall.  I wanted to make sure there was a balance with the other cabinets in the room, so my new shelves wouldn’t look like they didn’t belong.  I decided three shelves was a nice fit, even though Jer was pushing for four.  After putting them up, he agrees that three fits really well.  We did decide to extend the shelves clear to the edge of the sliding door, because we eventually want to extend the counter a little further out also.  Doing that also allowed for a sturdier and more weight-bearing shelf because we knew it was truly in a stud.  (Anyone else have trouble getting consistent readings on a stud finder?)

For around $75 and about half an hour’s work (including cutting the boards to size), we now have a chic new look and feel to our kitchen.  I love how fresh and open the shelves are.  It is also amazingly fun and easy to change out a few accessories and add a pop or two of color to our white dishes.

Small Space Solutions: Microwave and Hall Closet

Do you ever feel like some projects will never be finished?  I am starting to feel that way with our kitchen makeover.  I have been sharing my small space solutions for the kitchen with you as we have been doing them.  With two small children, I am finding it extremely difficult to make quick progress with anything.  We are chugging along though, and I am going to share a few projects with you that are in the process of being completed.

The first project we are working on involved moving the microwave from a shelf by the refrigerator to the cupboard above the oven.  You might remember from my last post that I put a row of coat hooks in the space beside the refrigerator, so the shelf with microwave had to find a new home.  My first thought for the microwave was to try to build it into the wall beside the fridge because there is a big pantry/closet space right behind that wall (which you can see in pictures at the end of this article).  We decided against this mostly because we aren’t totally in love with the microwave and don’t want to commit to having to find a replacement that is exactly the same size as the hole we would cut into the wall.  Since a new microwave isn’t in the budget for a long time, I needed to find a different solution.  After measuring to make sure the space was large enough, we decided to sacrifice the cupboard above the stove as the new home for our microwave.

My husband worried that it would be too tall for me to reach, but I actually like the new height, and it saves me from worrying that our button-happy 2 year old will play with the microwave.  We did have to place a board under the feet of the microwave because it extends out of the cupboard a bit.  We have plans to frame in the base to disguise the bottom of the microwave and to put the cookbooks on an even plane.  I am also going to paint the cupboards, so that will make everything blend a bit more seamlessly.  For now, I am loving that the top of the microwave doesn’t get piled with junk, and it is off of the counters and out of the way.

The second project involves repainting the walls.  When we moved in a year and a half ago, the kitchen walls were a (not) lovely shade of pinky beige.  I happily chose an avocado green color and quickly painted those flesh-toned walls.  After living with the green for over a year, it definitely feels a bit too dark for our teensy kitchen.  This past week I painted the ceiling with a fresh coat of crisp white, and I am planning to paint the walls a very light gray.  I am going to experiment with mixing a few colors of paint that I already have (you know I hate to waste things, and I love to save $$), so wish me luck!  After the walls are painted, I will be turning to those orangey colored wood cabinets with a can of sparkling white paint.  I am hoping all of the white and light colors will give the illusion of a bigger and more open space.  Because all of our large appliances are white, painting the cabinets white will keep them from visually chopping up the space.  I will definitely be writing more about this and will be sharing many more photos of the process and of the finished kitchen.

 Our third project deals with useable storage.  In the hallway between our kitchen and living room, we have a closet that I have been using as a pantry of sorts.  It is not just any ordinary closet, though.  It is above the basement stairs, so it has very large steps that go back quite a distance.

When we first moved in, I organized everything really nice and neatly.  About a month later, we had a big dinner that involved climbing clear back to dig out the ‘fancy’ dishes.  Then we just started tossing things in to get them out of the way.  The closet became one of those black holes that just kept swallowing up more and more random items.  When I started talking with my husband about getting our kitchen organized and more efficient, the one thing that always came up was to make the pantry closet a more usable and user-friendly space.  I wanted a place to put cans of food and supplies bought in bulk from Costco, a spot for our mop and broom (and vacuum?), and room for those fancy dishes and infrequently used appliances.  Our small space solution was to use the 6 inches of space on either side of the door frame for shelves that attach to the side walls.  This past weekend, my husband quickly attached some shelves to one side so we could see how they would work and decide whether it is a good solution for us.

I really like it so far, because it puts the cereals and canned goods within easy sight and reach.  I hope to can a few things from our garden this fall, so I can see how these shelves will be nice for storing jars, too.  We are still contemplating whether to attach the broom and mop to the door or to make a framed-in space on the right wall for them.

Just having shelves on the left side has already freed up more space in the center for those larger items and has made them much more accessible.  We plan to add shelves on the right side and create more convenient storage for the mop and broom (and hopefully vacuum).  Then I will clean out more junk, organize, and paint the entire closet!

Hopefully these space saving projects inspire you to take a look at your own home with a fresh eye.  Instead of adding square footage, you might just be able to make better use of the room that you do have!  Follow along as our quest to downsize and create usable and efficient living spaces continues.

Basket After

Small Space Solutions: The Fruit Basket

Welcome to Part Two of my series on Small Space Solutions for the kitchen.  Awhile back, I wrote about our homemade DIY pot rack that helped free up some cupboard space and added to the industrial modern feeling of our home.  Today I will show you something that has helped free up some space on the countertop: the hanging fruit basket.

This hanging fruit basket has plagued me ever since my husband brought it with him to our marriage.  Just like the idea of hanging pot racks, my husband loves his hanging fruit baskets.  I on the other hand, do not.  But, since we tend to live in places with small kitchens, this crazy fruit basket has made its way into one corner or another in every home we have had.  Until this house.  For a year and a half,  I really and truly thought this fruit basket might finally be able to ‘disappear.’  Then one day a month or two ago, I looked at my kitchen counters and table full of little plastic bags of apples, lemons, bananas, onions, garlic…and I thought, “There must be a better way to organize and store all of these fruits and vegetables so that they would be out of the way!”  And I remembered that lonely little hanging fruit basket that I had tried to hide away in a box along with other random items going to Goodwill.  I was the one who dug it out this time.

Let me just tell you that there are actually several pretty cool looking hanging fruit baskets out on the market. If you are interested in this space saving trick and don’t happen to have one ‘lost’ somewhere in your basement storage, I really recommend looking online to find one that is fun and fitting with your decorating style.  Since I already had this one, and I am determined to use what I already have whenever possible, I decided that it needed a little sprucing up.  Our fruit basket started out as a three-tiered white wire mesh looking thing.  It actually doesn’t look too bad in the photo against the green wall.  But, since I have plans to paint the green wall very soon, and since the basket doesn’t look that fresh and white in real-life, I spray painted it Raspberry pink.

I realize most people would paint the wall and cabinets before they decided on the color of the fruit basket, but I have a vision, and that includes a Raspberry pink fruit basket. Ha.  And since I could easily spray paint the basket while my kids were napping, it was much easier and quicker than trying to paint the wall and cabinets first.

Since the basket needed to hang while being painted, my husband rigged up a cardboard spray station for me in the garage.  I sprayed several thin and even coats, then turned the basket and sprayed the other side.  After sufficient drying and airing out, we brought the basket inside and filled it up again (I really did miss those counter-clearing abilities).  Now I can’t wait to get those walls and cabinets painted so it can really be a fun splash of color in our kitchen.  Overall, I think the once-shunned fruit basket is pretty pleased with her new look for Spring.

Pot Rack

Small Space Solutions: The Pot Rack

Spring Fever has hit our house once again!  It has brought a renewed resolve to clean, organize and streamline the function of our kitchen and dining space.  Since our kitchen, dining table, main entrance and basement access are all located within this 15’-6” x 10’-4” space, it has become imperative that this area gets some focused attention asap!  Warmer weather means even more traipsing in and out of the sliding door to the back yard and garden, along with sandy shoes, wet swimming suits, and muddy hands.  This is the first part of a small series I will be writing about ways to make the most of a small space.  We will first discuss something that has become one of my favorite additions to our kitchen: the pot rack.

Yes, the pot rack.  I know, you might be thinking what I often have thought…why in the world would I want my pots hanging overhead in plain sight?  I typically have a small aversion to pot racks, but my husband loves them, and after tripping over pots that were strewn across the kitchen floor one too many times, I agreed to give it some consideration.  You might now be wondering why I have pots all over my kitchen floor?  I have a 2 and a half year old.  That probably answers the question for many of you.

She loves to play in the cupboard, and since the cupboard that fits the pots and pans is also the only other lower cupboard in my kitchen, it was necessary for her to remove all the pots and pans before she could play in there.  And, since she is very busy and gets into everything, I do like having her play in the kitchen while I am cooking or baking.  See the dilemma?

Only a bit reluctantly, I started researching pot racks.  I knew we didn’t have the space to hang one overhead in our kitchen, but I did have a bit of wall space that I could possibly sacrifice to save my toes from hitting pots and pans with every step.  I found several interesting images online, and then proposed some ideas to my husband.  The goal was to make something that fit our style, our budget and our most often used pots and pans.  It had to be high enough that kids couldn’t reach it, which meant there could only be one row of pots and pans in our limited space.  I also wanted to leave some room on the lower portion of the wall for another small-space solution I have brewing in my mind.

With our requirements fresh in mind, we made a trip to Lowes to see what we could come up with.  We considered several options, such as copper tubing, aluminum pipe, towel bars, etc., before deciding we really liked the industrial look and interchangeable nature of a square steel perforated tube.

We chose the 1-1/4 inch x 3 foot tube, and added bolted J hooks in two different lengths.  We capped the tops with (appropriately named) cap nuts to give it a more finished look. We anchored the tubing to the wall with an abundance of screws and spaced out our most commonly used pots and pans to fit the space.

And just like that, we had a pot rack!

After living with it for a few weeks, I must admit that I really love the pot rack.  I do not miss tripping over pans on my floor, or bending down to search through the cupboard for the pot that I want (always the one on the bottom of the stack).  Our little girl now has plenty of room in the cupboard to play, even with a crock pot and a pan or two left.  In the spirit of cleaning and downsizing, a few of those will soon be eliminated, too.  For now,  we are enjoying the fun industrial modern look and love having our pots and pans free of grimy (but cute!) little fingerprints.