Monday, December 27, 2010

5 Steps to Loving the Kitchen You're In: Step 1--Choose to Embrace Your Space

not my kitchen...
I love kitchens. I always have. I can remember the smells from my grandma's kitchen like it was yesterday instead of thirty years ago: coffee, pine-sol, and fruit. She hung a hummingbird feeder outside the window over her sink so she could watch the hummingbirds while she worked. I never cared that the floors were orange linoleum or that her stove was twenty years old, I just remember what happened inside that kitchen when we were together: magic. I remember when my mom, stepdad and I moved into our house when I was 15, and it was the first time my mom had ever had a window over her sink. She said she would never complain about the dishes now that she had a view. Come to think of it, I can't really remember ever hearing her complain about doing dishes after that! But really, you don't need a window over the sink, granite countertops, fabulous custom cabinetry or even linoleum on the floors to create a magical kitchen for you and your family to enjoy together. I know a lot of us, (me, included) are somewhat underwhelmed by the kitchen spaces we have to work with. And when you eat gluten free, you tend to spend a lot, and I mean a LOT, more time in the kitchen compared with other people. And if you're on the tight end of the budget like me, that means you really can't do much with it other than use your imagination and elbow grease to make it somewhere you really love. Take my kitchen, for example. It has the original, 26 year old cabinets and countertops and footprint, and I have done everything within my limited power to make it pretty. I am about to show you a few pictures that may make you gasp. Here is where I cook and feed my family and test recipes for my blogging. I love my Swedish rag rug that only cost me $12 from IKEA. Here is the crack (!) in the 26 year old Corian countertop that I created one day when I left the pancake griddle on after the kids left for school. No one will repair it for me because it will void the warranty. (Uh, some warranty, I'd say.) These are the cabinets that were a horrible brown when we moved in and I have painted twice. I decided to go ahead and buy the knobs I wanted at Lowe's and go ahead and put them on the old crappy cabinets, because I wanted to look at something pretty and not wait for someday to see egg-shaped knobs and cup-shaped pulls. I did put in new appliances when we moved in three years ago, and that has always been one of the saving graces of my kitchen for me. I love my double oven and on occasion, when it's working correctly, my double dishwasher. JoLayna taught me that buying good quality appliances will always pay for itself in dividends of work you don't have to do yourself. This is my baking center, which is full of my new collection of small appliances. I am also the lucky owner of a drop ceiling and a flourescent light. Ooooh, you're all jealous now. And, the grand finale of the tour is this: Attached swinging barstools. Oh, yes, they did. Apparently these were high society in the 80s. Every single one of my children has fallen off of these and hurt themselves in some way during the last three years, one requiring stitches. And they make a really annoying "bang" when the kids get off them and they snap back into position against the bar.

For about two years now I have been really bratty about this kitchen and have told my husband all kinds of blackmail-like things to get him to pay for, finance, steal, or just plain call the wrecking crew to get this kitchen renovated. Guess what? It ain't happening. We are cash-paying people and unless we win the lottery that doesn't exist in Utah, we are just going to have to keep saving for at least a couple of years to be able to afford that. For months I have been really ticked about that. But in June, this cute boy of mine got baptized and we hosted a luncheon that day in honor of him. The day before the baptism I decided I hated the curtains and wanted to clear off all the counters, so I did. I picked out fabric I really liked and had thought about for a long time (bonus: on sale) and sewed up some curtains. You can't see very well from the picture, but they have a darling little brown velvet ruffle on the bottom. The top fabric is a cheap linen with some other name than linen that they sell at every fabric store. I only had 1/2 yard of the cream patterned fabric so I had to do strips to stretch it out for 4 windows. It seems like the finished measurements minus seam allowances were 12", 4" and 2". (Just in case you were wondering.) I filled my clear canisters with gluten free ingredients and brought them out of the baking center. They became the center of interest in my cracked-counter kitchen. (By the way, I really don't recommend sewing curtains and rearranging your kitchen the day before a major family gathering. I really don't.) I filled up my beehive-shaped canisters with seasonal candy and set them on the windowsill. But a funny thing happened. Those curtains became the catalyst for me actually enjoying this space where the people I love come and don't really care about my counter or my cabinets that hang crooked. Just like I didn't care about my grandma's orange linoleum. Once I let go of the fact that I wanted everything to be perfect about my "work zone" and let it be a place where magic can happen, it became what it was meant to be...a family kitchen. Oh, I still want gel mats and granite countertops and new cabinetry and refinished wood floors, but it doesn't define the endless possibilities that lay ahead of us when we are all there together.

So, now that I've explained my mental process in learning to love my kitchen, at least on a somewhat shallow level, here's my challenge to you: pick one thing you don't like in your kitchen that you can control and fix it. Today. I'm not talking call Home Depot and have them come fix something huge, I'm talking:
* clean out that cabinet you can't find anything in
* Find a new curtain at TJMaxx or sew one or mistreat one yourself like the Nester
* Rearrange your counter space so you have more room to roll out sugar cookies with your kids
* Move the bills and mail to the office
* Clean out the fridge
* If you've been saving for a new appliance you need and just haven't bought it yet, go order it and have it scheduled for delivery
* Do not go into debt and do not underestimate your own powers of organization!

You use the space, you know where things should go. There's about a million jobs you could choose from. I guarantee it will make you feel happier with your kitchen. Embrace your space. It's yours, make it feel like it's yours!

And, after you've done that, if you're still unhappy with your kitchen, create a little vision of your dream kitchen by finding pictures of kitchens you love and then find a common thread. When you understand what it is you like, sometimes it's easier than you think to achieve it. For example, here are some pictures of kitchens I like. My all time favorite ever in the whole world kitchen is Ina Garten's kitchen recently built in her barn on her property in the Hamptons:image from young house love

Notice the common thread? When I figured out that I was really drawn to white kitchens with black knobs and stainless steel appliances and rag rugs and goose-neck faucets, I realized it wasn't that hard to make that change in my own kitchen. I also realized I like clear things that I can see into, and I like seeing practical, everyday things almost as artwork. So I incorporated that into my display. My kitchen is far from perfect, but it is the only one I have, so I keep it clean and try to keep it organized so that I respect my own wishes to have a clean, happy, neat, tidy space. The kitchen doesn't run me, I run the kitchen. Good luck and check back tomorrow for step 2!

Happy eating!


  1. This is why I love you Margo! You know how to take what you don't like and make it amazing while you save up for what you you really want! You have great taste and style and it shows. I am feeling a little more insipired on how to work with my icky cabinets and very poorly laid tiles on both my floor and counters. Think I will try to discover what I want my kitchen to really look like! Love ya!

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  3. Oh, I'm working hard to love the space I'm in too! And count things I'm thankful for--instead of those I wish I could change. Anyway, I featured this entry in my blog today!

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