Posts tagged ‘Kitchen’

February 2, 2013

Kitchen Improvement Baby Steps, Part 2

I promised a full post wrapping up my first baby step to improving the kitchen, so here goes. Let’s start with the Befores.

Kitchen 2011

Kitchen 2011

Kitchen 2011

These pictures were taken in 2011, but not all that much had changed before this past November, including my choice of pajamas. At this point, I was unhappy with practically every surface in the kitchen, but I knew I couldn’t afford any upgrades anytime soon… if ever. So, instead, I started thinking about ways I could improve the feel of the space without putting too much money into it. I came up with a plan, starting with addressing the items I disliked the most about the space.

1. The upper cabinets above the peninsula. I despised them. They got in the way of many conversations being had. I wanted to tear them down, but that meant patching the surfaces beyond. I had to be prepared for whatever state they may be in. I’ve had experience patching gypsum and texturing walls, so I felt confident I could fix whatever happened to the ceiling in the process. The wall, not so much. The backsplash tiles were cut around the upper cabinet, so if I took the cabinet off, the raw edges of the tile would be exposed. I do not have experience in tiling, so I did not feel good about that. Luckily, I had an idea. I designed a wood trim piece to cover the cut tiles and had a friend build it for me. I then painted it and liquid nailed it to the wall. You can see the down and dirty pictures here at my previous post on this subject.

Kitchen Progress

2. The dark and creepy window nook. I loved this window space when we first looked at the house. I thought it could be a cheerful space to grow herbs and other plants. Instead, it became a black hole that constantly felt empty, yet overcrowded. After staring at pretty kitchen windows on blogs, then at mine, I realized a curtain was the first step, and I could make it myself. But first, I painted the window frame to match my tile trim. Painting the trim white helped to brighten up the area and made it feel much cleaner than the old, worn stained frame did. I then got to constructing my curtain. I found a pretty simple tutorial here that is so easy I was able to start and finish the project in an evening. I then took the “less is more” approach to accessorizing the nook by removing everything I didn’t love. I was left with a knife block, a couple plants, three glass canisters (which each hold flour sack towels, dish detergent and fresh light bulbs) and a frosted mustard bowl to tie in my accent color.

Kitchen Curtain

3. Lack of interesting and cohesive accessories. What accessories I had were merely parts that did not add up to a cohesive look. Accessorizing is not my strong point, so I experimented with my accent color in various patterns. I mixed the geometric curtain with striped tea towels and a southwest style rug. Mustard colored bowls, a print with bits of yellow and produce helped add fresh color to the space.

Kitchen Accessories

4. The furniture in the space doesn’t accomodate the activities that take place there. Sure, a dinette table belongs in a dinette, but what if the dinette table only gets used as a mail sorter and a coat rack? The table just took up space and made it difficult to vacuum. What I noticed most was that guests preferred to stand close to the peninsula to watch whatever activities were happening in the kitchen. So how about some stools?

Kitchen Stools

Ok, enough ‘splainin’. Let’s get to the Afters!

Kitchen Progress

Kitchen Progress

Kitchen Progress

Kitchen Progress

Kitchen Progress

Baby step one is done. My plan, now, is to live with this progress a while and decide if anymore steps should be taken. At this point, those steps are painting the upper cabinets or painting all of the cabinets. We’ll see!

December 30, 2012

Kitchen Improvement Baby Steps, Part 1

Over the holidays, my focus has been on improving our kitchen. Even at its best, it has been strangely cavernous yet very bright. It lacked any interesting characteristics to warrant it being the heart of the home and where we would often find guest congregating during parties. I attempted, many times over, to rearrange countertop accessories to improve the interest, but it was never enough. We didn’t have the money for a complete kitchen renovation, so I came up with some baby steps in hopes that I would find a comfort zone somewhere in the middle.

Kitchen Before

Many times, I would find myself prepping food inside the kitchen and ducking to be able to chat with friends on the other side of the peninsula. So step one became tearing down the cabinets above the peninsula. It was a bit of a scary step to take, like stepping off a cliff, because we weren’t sure what kind of surfaces we would find behind the cabinets. Would we have to patch large areas of the ceiling with sheetrock? Would we have to patch the tile backsplash? These lingering questions became the reason why we waited so long to take this first step, but finally, I had had enough. The day after Thanksgiving, Rob and I tore that sucker down.

Kitchen Progress

Kitchen Progress

Kitchen Progress

We were left with some surprising and not-so-surprising surfaces. Not-so-surprising were the tile edges cut around the now non-existent cabinet and the once hidden wall texture that was now exposed and out of place next to the remaining texture-less walls. The tile would either have to be patched or covered in some way so that the rough edges would not be exposed. The textured wall would either have to be sanded down or the remaining walls would have to be textured to match. The surprising was the already textured ceiling that required very little additional patching to blend with the exposed ceiling.

And then the real work began. I decided to go ahead and texture all of the walls in the kitchen because the flat walls felt cold and out of place with the rest of the house. I then primed and painted both the walls and the ceiling with Sherwin Williams Shoji White in a flat finish. I had a little wood ledge made to cover the cut tile pieces. I originally tried staining it, but couldn’t get the stain color dark enough. I also realized I didn’t want a dark brown stripe that was the trim seemingly hanging in space. Another reason I decided against staining the trim was because the next kitchen improvement baby steps would involve painting the upper cabinets white. So why stain the trim only to paint it later on?

Kitchen Progress

Kitchen Progress

Oh, we also replaced the outlet and switch covers and re-caulked the counter.  It’s amazing what a difference those small changes can make. The final item to complete before wrapping up baby step one is accessorizing – a big step all on its own. I created a quick mood board for the kitchen.

Kitchen Mood Board

The easiest way to unify a space is through color. I already had several yellow items in the kitchen, so it only seemed natural to continue with that theme. The rug was a Christmas gift from Rob. I’ll also make a curtain with white and yellow print fabric, frame and hang a print, and replace our kitchenette table and chairs with bar stools (the brass pull is for future baby steps).

Jin on the Kitchen Rug

Jin is already enjoying the new rug.

May 29, 2012

Marked and Measured

In addition to cleaning out my spice cabinet in an attempt to streamline my cooking process, I also wanted to simplify the storage of my measuring utensils.

I was instantly inspired by this image I found on Pinterest.

image courtesy of

Knowing my new spice jars wouldn’t take my current, largely rounded measuring spoons, I took the opportunity to give my kitchen a mini-makeover and bought shallow, narrow, stainless steel spoons.

Once, I had my materials – cup hooks, blue painter’s tape, ruler, pencil, drill and drill bit – this project took me about 5 minutes, so this description will be just as quick. I eyeballed how high on the inside of my cabinet the spoons should hang. I placed one long piece of tape horizontally in this area and got to marking. I measured out 6 different points equally spaced 1 1/2″ apart. I also marked the drill bit with tape so I could make sure to not pre-drill all the way through the door. I then pre-drilled each hole, peeled the tape off, screwed in the cup hooks and placed my spoons.

These pictures make me so wish I had white cabinets. That, or a better way to take pictures of my cabinets. They aren’t the most impressive…

May 17, 2012


This last week of organization probably got me in a bit over my head. I decided to tackle the spice cabinet. Tired of digging through my variously sized plastic containers, knocking them out of the cabinet and onto the counter top – I started surfing Pinterest for storage ideas.

A few years back, I came this close to buying these spice jars from IKEA.

image courtesy of

Too bad they’re no longer available. I might have saved myself a few hours.

Then I found this inspiring image featuring Crate and Barrel jars.

image courtesy of

I found the jars pictured here, but couldn’t pull the trigger. I hate paying shipping when I don’t have to, and the fact that they’re on sale made me worry that they wouldn’t be around should I need more. After doing some googling, I found similar jars at Hobby Lobby. It was just my luck that they were having their 50% off glassware sale that week. As soon as I could, I made my way over to Hob-Lob and bought 25 of those suckers. Since the jars didn’t have a hanging mechanism attached, I also bought a 3 yard roll of 16 gauge jewelry wire. And to finish off the project, I bought Avery White Sticker Paper for the labels. Total spent? Just under $35.

I then got to washing.


And before I knew it, I had a bucket full.


The next step was snipping and bending the hanging mechanism.


Using needle-nose pliers, I cut each piece of wire to approximately 2.25″. I then used those same needle-nose pliers to bend the ends of the wire at a 90 degree angle the width of the pliers. Next, I attempted to find the midpoint of the wire and bend that at a 90 degree-ish angle. I was left with what looked like a miniature musical triangle.


I took my mini triangle and placed each leg under the spice jar hinge, then wrapped the legs around the hinge x25.


Unfortunately, the physics of my design wasn’t as simple as I expected it to be. But I’ll get to that later. Next was figuring out the grid on the inside of my cabinet. Oh, while we’re at it, let’s take a look at my spice cabinet before.


Ouch. What a mess. This post is only addressing the bottom shelf, but I’m working on future ideas for the rest of the cabinet. Ok, back to the cabinet door.

Putting together the grid was difficult and would be just as hard to explain, but I’ll do my best. First, I drew everything out on grid paper. My cabinet door is 13 inches wide and 28 inches tall, so I drew a rectangle 13 squares wide and 28 squares tall. Based on my measurements, I noted where the horizontal shelves were so I would be sure to avoid knocking the glass jars into them. I was then able to determine that I could fit 2 rows of 4 spice jars between each shelf with 1 inch between each jar.

Next, I translated those locations on to the door. First I found the middle of the door, marked 1/2 inch on either side of that middle point to find the interior edge location of both middle jars. Moving outward from those points, I marked 3/8 inch (half the width of the jar) over to find the center-line of the two middle columns of my spice jars, which would help determine where my nails would go. With my first row height in mind, I marked these locations with an X on top of painter’s tape.

From those two points, I moved outward again 1  3/4 inch to find the center-line of my two exterior columns, marking locations as I went. From that row, I measured up 1 inch plus 3 1/2 inches (the height of my spice jars) to find the second row. I repeated those steps for rows 3-6.

And yes, it was as complicated as it sounds. My cabinet door was full of X’s by the time I was finished. Some pieces of tape even had two X’s on them because I realized halfway through that I had mismeasured by 1/4 inch.


Fairly confident with my markings (and after several sessions of actually taping spice jars to my cabinet door to make sure it would close properly), I pulled out the hammer. 24 nails later, with painter’s tape removed and Rob having not heard a thing as he was engulfed in his Batman video game, my cabinet door was ready for some spice jar hanging. Only my jars weren’t.

As soon as I would go to close my cabinet door, the jars would roll all over the place, throwing disorganization into my beautifully laid out grid. By this time, it was 9pm, but with determination and the knowledge that Home Depot was open until 10pm, I hopped in the car to purchase some vinyl sticky dots. I was convinced these would solve all of my jumbled problems.


Well, the friction they provided certainly helped. Unfortunately, with enough force (that I’m known to use when cooking furiously), these sticky dots couldn’t hold up to physics. Darn physics. Where are Grant Imahara and Tory Belleci when you need ’em?

So I got to tweaking the jars a bit more, this time at the hanging mechanism. By simultaneously swinging and watching the rolling jars, I noticed that the triangle would rock back and forth at the nail point, so I tightened the top of the triangle to be a tighter angle. This helped a little bit more, but what finally got the jars to their most stable state was tightening the legs around the hinges to the point where they could no longer slide around the hinge. The jars still aren’t 100% fixed and I may need to do some tweaking in the future, but it’s at the point where it’s “fine for now”.

Especially considering I was anxious to get to the fun part, label making!

I referred back to my spice jar inspiration pictures for inspiration on designing the labels.

image courtesy of

image courtesy of

It seemed I preferred simple borders with handwritten names. Although I had to learn to write in a certain style for my profession and enjoy doing it, I’m far too much of a perfectionist to do it once and be happy with the outcome. Instead, I downloaded a free font file and put together the labels in Photoshop. I chose mustard for the accent color since it seemed appropriate for spice jars, plus I already have various mustard colored items sprinkled throughout my house.

I printed the labels onto the Avery sticker paper and cut them out using a ruler and a utility knife. I could then peel off the backing and stick the labels to the jars. A word of caution: I learned through this craft session that ink jet printer ink can run when exposed to water. Since I know I don’t always dry my hands thoroughly while cooking, I plan on finishing the labels with clear sealant for that exact purpose.


I got to filling the jars with their respective spices and finally…



In alphabetical order, of course…

I’ll be making more changes to this cabinet and hopefully it won’t take as many hours as this project did!

May 6, 2012

Toe Dipping into Organization

The House on Penny Lane may seem nice and tidy, but it does not run efficiently. Call it nesting or call it being at wits’ end, but I have been obsessed with finally getting this place organized.

The terrible thing about disorganization is that it trickles down and influences many areas of life. For example, my fridge is a mess. When my fridge is a mess, I don’t know what food I have stocked. When I don’t know what food I have stocked, it can spoil, wasting money. I might also double buy items I thought I was out of. Also wasting money. Both of which, I have done. It also wastes time. I waste time trying to remember what I have in stock, rummaging through the refrigerator thinking I had something when I didn’t. Can you tell I’m annoyed?

I have convinced myself that something needs to be done. Piles need to be corralled and contained. Meals need to be planned ahead. Unfortunately, it will be a long process. So let’s toe dip, shall we?

Thanks to Pinterest, I came across a couple blogs that have some great advice on cleaning and organization: Clean Mama and One Good Thing by Jillee. With these blogs added to my reader and a new meal planning app that also helps me keep stock of what’s in my refrigerator, I began my journey into organization.

Saturday, while garage sale hopping, I bought my first organization tool: a Pampered Chef birch storage rack for lids, cookie sheets, etc. For $0.75, I’d be a fool to say no.

My pot and pan storage had been organized recently, but it didn’t quite stick. Apparently, microwave racks don’t work well for lid storage.

Before: Under-Cooktop Storage

After: Under-Cooktop Storage

That was a nice 5-minute organization session. I contemplated ending on a high-note and wrapping up with a few hours worth of Disney movies, but decided I should push ahead.

Next up was the refrigerator. What better way to start this journey than attacking the appliance that wastes so much of our time and money?

Before: Refrigerator

After: Refrigerator

All items were pulled out and filtered through. I’m embarrassed by the amount of spoiled products hidden from view. I wiped down every surface with a water/mrs. meyers/white vinegar solution and products were reorganized in a thoughtful manner. The biggest change was obviously adding the plastic bins to the mix. My goal with these bins is to keep items from getting pushed towards the back and out of sight. They also make it easier for me to sift through items and find what I need. I also removed fruits and vegetables from their plastic produce bags, which seems to encourage their consumption.

Next on my agenda? Tackling meal planning. This should be interesting…

March 18, 2012

To Do List

It’s been a long while since I’ve last updated my to do list, so here goes…

Those items highlighted green are those that have been completed since I last updated the list (June 2010)

To Do List

1)  Replace carpet with wood

2) Replace existing tile

3)  Replace all light fixtures

  • Entry – pendant
  • Dining – pendant
  • Living Room – recessed
  • Kitchen – pendant
  • Master Bedroom – pendant/close to ceiling
  • Master Bathroom – pendant or sconces
  • Bedrooms – close to ceiling
  • Guest Bathroom – sconce
  • Exterior Front – sconce

4)  Demolish partial wall/cover existing opening

5)  Replace Living Room doors with windows  (I haven’t decided if I still want to do this.  Originally, I thought the door was inoperable, but the wood had just swelled the door closed.)

6)  Replace window treatments (I’m about halfway through with this one, not enough to cross it off, unfortunately.)

7)  Remove upper cabinets above peninsula in kitchen

8 ) Paint Fireplace

9)  Add Fireplace doors (crossing both 8 and 9 off my list because I’m fairly certain I’ve changed my mind about both items)

10)  Add pocket/barn door to Master Bathroom

11)  Replace Master Bathroom sink

12)  Replace toilets with dual flush toilets

13)  Paint Interior (I decided to paint the kitchen the same color as the living room and to paint the cabinets. I may treat the laundry room completely different from the rest of the house since that room is so dark and depressing.)

  • Living Room/Dining Room/ Hallway/ Kitchen – SW Pearly White
  • Kitchen Cabinets – White (which white, I don’t know.)
  • Laundry Room – ???
  • Office – SW Pearly White
  • Guest Bathroom – SW Worldly Gray
  • Master Bedroom/Master Bathroom – SW Balanced Beige

14)  Paint Exterior (In progress, yes, still.)

  • Trim – SW Black Fox
  • Field – SW Universal Khaki

15)  Replace Kitchen counter with quartz or butcher block

16)  Replace all windows (4 out of 10 of these will be replaced this year!)

I’m hoping this will be inspiring to those who feel they need to tackle everything at once. We have actually made great progress here in under 3 years, but I try not to rush myself. I’ve learned that my ideas change with time (see items 8 and 9) and almost always for the better. If I had tried to tackle my whole To Do List at one time, I would not be as happy with the (in progress) outcome as I am!

Enjoy it!

March 5, 2012

New Faucet, Attempt No.1

We have a new faucet!



Too bad it only half works. And too bad it’s wholly our fault. I get the nagging feeling the blog’s ‘Mishaps’ bin is filling out. First, some pictures mid-installation.. before the bad happened.

Rob unhooking our old faucet while Polly looks on.

Me hooking up the new faucet while Jin finds a cozy spot.

As far as the mishap goes, our strength got the best of us and when ended up twisting off the copper pipe connected to the new faucet. We should have known better, but it’s just so darn awkward under there. Right now the faucet is only hooked up to the hot water line. Great for dishwashing and handwashing. Not so great for washing greens. At this point, though, it’s working for us. We’ll replace it sooner or later. For now, let’s marvel at the shiny, shiny.

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July 25, 2011

Cat Grass

I think they like it.



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February 16, 2011


The kitchen has been painted and I have pictures. But first, a little history.

From what my eyes tell me, most areas of our kitchen had wallpaper. Make that have – the owner prior to us painted over the existing wallpaper. Luckily, they did a good job. Having wallpaper on most of the walls in our kitchen gives us the advantage of smooth walls. Having smooth walls gives us the opportunity to paint more chalk walls.

Our nephews will love it. We’re not completely sure about it, but we think it’s pretty cool.

But first, the Before.

way before.


Thoughts? Yes?

October 1, 2010

Walk This Way Remix

Way back in January, I wrote about my plans for redirecting the traffic through the common areas of our house. Then I followed through with my plans. Then I didn’t write anything else about it, except for this brief peek at the opening before the new floors were installed.

So here I am, posting the results of our largest renovation project to date. Let’s start at the beginning.


Here’s Rob during our first viewing of the house, complete with the previous owner’s furniture and shoes. I specifically took this picture because I was less than thrilled with the pass-through window between the living room and the kitchen. We decided to cover up the existing doorway and tear down the half-wall under the window to create a new doorway to the kitchen.


Our house was a bit of a mess for a couple of months during the demolition and patching of the wall. The work required tearing up some of the tile, but we were fortunate to be racing against the clock for flooring replacement, which made our house even messier. It was all worth it for the after.


Here’s a view of the new doorway from the entry. I love how much light pours into the main living area now that there isn’t a half-wall in the way.


A view from the living room into the kitchen. Too many unfinished and unstarted projects to mention twice.


The view from the kitchen into the living room. Things are fairly unfinished on this side of the new opening. I will get started on the kitchen once we tie up the loose ends on our other projects.

So there you have it, the start to almost-finish of our pass-through knock down, largest home renovation project to date!