This whole philosophy of using what I have to decorate my home and trying to buy things for my home that have purpose is a conscious decision that I’ve made to start 2013. But I’ve realized that I’ve made decisions to work with what I have for much longer than that. Maybe not completely by choice, but by necessity.
When we bought our house over 5 years ago, I was swayed by the neighborhood nestled in the woods, the big backyard and screened porch and of course, the big master closet. I was not, however, swayed by the stunning kitchen. The kitchen looked like it walked straight out of an episode of Family Ties. There were dark wood cabinets with frosted glass and black iron hardware resembling gate latches. The tile backsplash had accents that involved wheelbarrows, garden tools and sunflowers. I’m not saying anything bad about a garden theme… just saying that it’s not my style. At least not in my kitchen.
(a before shot of the kitchen from the real estate listing when we bought the house)
We moved from a house we renovated ourselves (pre-kids)… and that renovation included a completely new kitchen. But, a major kitchen re-do definitely wasn’t (and still isn’t) in the budget in our current home. Having recently been through a remodel, I was determined to abide by a great piece of advice I received and didn’t follow the first time around… live in a kitchen for a year before you start changing it (and being 7 months pregnant when we moved in had NOTHING to do with it!). But I did it… I lived in that kitchen and learned what I liked about it and what I didn’t like… and what I wanted to change when given the chance.
(One of the things I LOVE about my kitchen… the abundant early morning sunlight at the breakfast table)
Now, talk to my hubby and the most I’ll ever get in my kitchen are new countertops and appliances… one day, far, far from now. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and being in mine with its dark cabinets and garden tiles was giving me a major case of the “I wants”. I saw those dark cabinets and wanted beautiful new white ones. I saw the sunflower and garden tool tiles and wanted white subway tile. I saw my cream/almond/whatever-they-call-them appliances and wanted stainless steel.
Knowing any kind of kitchen upgrade wasn’t an option, I pulled out my paintbrush and determined to make do with what I had. I did the only thing I knew to do… the only thing that I knew would make a big impact on a tiny budget. I painted… everything I could get my hands on. My lower cabinets got a thorough cleaning, some heavy primer and a couple of coats of a greenish-gray color called “White Sage”. The upper glass-door cabinets had their doors removed and were painted the same off-white color as the walls. I added simple corbels from Home Depot to the open cabinets and used painted beadboard wallpaper on the backs.
Open cabinets don’t work for everyone, but I’ve loved them for the 3 years I’ve had them. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to cabinets. It helps that my dishes are white (my mother-in-law has generously handed down tons of white china, including my beloved Johnson Bros. ironstone). It also helps that I kept the doors on several upper cabinets to hide my “uglies”… mismatched glasses, mugs and plastic containers. These cabinets are separated from the rest of the kitchen and sit next to the refrigerator. It makes a great space to tuck the microwave and baking supplies.
I also knew that new tile wasn’t in the budget. The tile counters aren’t great, but the solid cream tiles worked with what I had. The accent tiles on the backsplash, however, had to go. So, I painted them too… with plain old primer and latex. I wasn’t sure how it would work or hold up, but it anything was better than what was there before. I’m happy to report that 3 years later, the paint has held up just fine. I simply taped off the offending tiles, primed, painted and stenciled over them. It’s a quick and easy fix but makes me feel much happier spending time in my kitchen!
In the 3 years since I took a paintbrush and went to town, we’ve made few changes to the room. We’ve added an indoor/outdoor rug to soften the room and I finally added my perfectly sized butcher block this past summer. I still have big plans for my kitchen and its future (including finding that elusive perfect kitchen table) but I’m happy with the space I have right now… and that isn’t that the whole point behind working with what you’ve got?
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