Tag Archives: kitchen

My (“new”) Semi-Italian Kitchen!

I’ve had a productive winter, starting in December. I was feeling vaguely dissatisfied with my kitchen, which I last showed here aĀ  year ago. I thought I could do better.Ā  After all, I am in the kitchen a lot and I want it to be cute, usable, and inspiring. I was looking at stuff on Amazon when I saw these Tuscan stick-on tiles. I was immediately smitten (at the time I was able to get two packs of four for $20; they are higher at the moment).Ā  The tiles gave me an idea. Why not an Italian kitchen? Or a semi-Italian kitchen? After all, that’s what I am! Semi-Italian.

My kitchen was busy, there was no getting around it so I decided best to just give in to the busy look. (I see those sleek, modern empty kitchens in magazines and on TV and while they can look great, that’s just isn’t happening here.) I was thinking also of something somewhat retro in theme. I’m a renter so a major overall is out of the question but I still have a lot of leeway.

I took down and dismantled the mug rack I built over the stove and extended the utensil rack I made in its place. I took down the spice rack I built and made a new, more compact one. I painstakingly removed the (free) blue glass tiles I’d put up as a back splash over the sink. That was a bitch. Apparently I put ’em on real good!Ā  For the cabinets I foundĀ  wonderful ivy stickers on Amazon as well as the yellow glass knobs. I toyed with getting bright colored ceramic ones, like a bright yellow but decided to go with something a little more subtle.


The vinyl tiles have a clear plastic cover that adds dimension and makes it look more like real tiles. I didn’t extend it over the oven because the manufacturer said not to on the product page and besides, that would have cost more. I ditched the silly two-outlet tap and replaced it with thisĀ  six-outlet tap. (By the by, whoever installed the outlets did so upside down which I finally realized but after taking a look inside I decided that level of electrical work was beyond my pay grade.) I used double-sided tape squares to put the tiles up (instead of permanently installing them by removing the backing).



Because I eliminated the mug rack I needed to make more room in the cabinets. I previously made shallow shelves for the back of the lower cabinets so I opted to make more so that there are narrow shelves all along the backs. Very convenient!

I found great little Moondance (by Circleware) salt & pepper shakers at Ross for the back of the stove. I found the sugar dispenser at Dollar Tree years ago. That’s a “vintage” tea kettle I’ve had a long time now (it came from a house that was being cleaned out). I previously put decorative stick-on paper on the back of the stove (where the word “Sunray” is) and took many days peeling it off in tiny, tiny, tiny, bits. The color part came up but left the sticky back in place which I proceeded to remove by fingernail (I didn’t want to scratch the stove surface with a tool and nothing I tried would dissolve the sticky stuff). It was the worst part of the project.


The shelf unit to the left of the stove is one I made from scrap wood a few years ago. I fixed it up a bit now by adding colorful place mats I found at Dollar Tree to the bottom door and the top. It was only after I bought them that I saw “Moroccan” on the receipt. Oh well, I’m not splitting (Italian/Moroccan) hairs here! That small $2 fix really spruced up the shelves. I found the retro kitchen timer at a rummage sale last year. It works great.

The cabinets extend on the left side of stove so you can see below where the ivy starts.Ā  I took the blue-checked fabric off the window where it’d served as a curtain and instead hung it in front of an ugly water heater and various cleaning tools (vacuum, brooms, etc). It might be fun to have a red-checked one eventually… but I already had this blue one from a thrift store.


My canned tomato stash is on shelves below the far left cabinet. I also moved my glass jar collection there (from above the kitchen cabinets). I am proud to say I have wittled it down to what you see here in the bag, so far as jars I’m not currently using. (I tend to hang onto glass jars for fear they will one day be unavailable.)

Initially I tried fire-retardant decorative foil-look film over the stove, thinking it would be reflective and add light to the space. It didn’t. I didn’t like it. It absorbed too much light and looked cheap. Instead I put a small piece on the bottom of this 1800’s (or thereabouts šŸ˜)

Recessed lighting of some sort would be nice but plug-in under the cabinet lights suffice. I had one light and added another; they link together. The photo on the left is how it looks straight on and the one on the right lets you see the actual light fixtures.

I found cute retro-style coffee curtains on Amazon. Looking at Amazon gave me general ideas because I wasn’t too sure initially what inexpensive things I could fairly easily do for an Italian theme. Much of what I saw was to cutesy (fat chefs were featured on a lot of decor) but I wanted more authentic, subtle touches.


I eliminated most of the fire-engine red color I’d previously added to the kitchen- I decided it was too much – but have left this lone cabinet over the washing machine that I painted long ago. I toyed with painting it white but as it’s different from the other cabinets, I think it kind of works as red and adds character. I also wanted to show you my “plastic bag hanger” for freshly washed bags that I hung over the washing machine; it’s actually a small laundry hanger in design. And those are just-fit shelves I made a few years back for laundry detergents. It may not look it but you can still open theĀ  right cabinet door.


I took off a dark wood handle I’d put on the kitchen’s token drawer and put this simple white one on instead. Some time back, in search of more space, I’d opened up the area under the sink and made a slipshod “drawer.” It never worked very well so I ditched it and put in this wire basket instead. See where I added more of the ivy stickers just under the sink too. (To the right of the stickers, with the small white-handled door, I made a simple shelf for microwave pans, in what was previously unused space.)

Turning our attention to the other side of the galley kitchen, I painted this previously bright red, tall cabinet door white and added a few ivy stickers. The inside of the door looked awful where I’d tried to peel off stick-on paper rather unsuccessfully, so I added new wood-look paper and a place to hang bag clips.

In my quest to eliminate the fire-engine red (a change I started before I came up with before the Italian theme) I painted the posts and the defunct pipe this red-orange. I eliminated an ugly shelf I’d put over the doorway – the board was warped & the stuff on it wasn’t attractive – and re-housed the stuff I had up there in other places. I got an inexpensive olive-themed clock from Amazon to hang over the doorway but sent it back because it was mediocre quality. I am still looking for the right thing to put there like maybe a tin sign featuring food.


I put fresh paper from Dollar Tree on these open shelves. I didn’t do anything new to these jar shelves by the window that I made (I don’t think) but just wanted to show them to you again.

Here’s a view from outside the kitchen.You can see the new color on the posts, which closely matches the chair. I got a new chair pad for the chair too. The “stone wall” stick-on paper was an earlier project but it complements the Italian theme so that worked out well.


In keeping with my semi-Italian theme, I added these placemats I found on Amazon to the small table.

I don’t think I’mĀ quiteĀ done with my kitchen project but I’m really happy with what I’ve done so far. It’s a cheery place to go into now!

More improvements to my small, organized kitchen

It’s been two years since I posted about how I organize my small kitchen. In the past week or so I’ve been working on the kitchen to make it even better and I’d love to show you! While I definitely have a good bit of leeway, I am a renter (and don’t live alone) soĀ  I’m not in a position to start ripping out cabinets and installing new fixtures. Still, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and want it to be as attractive and useful as possible.

Here’s the view from outside the kitchen. I made the tall shallow cabinet seen on the left of the kitchen entryway. It serves as a pantry. It’s shallow, about 9″ so it doesn’t take up much space and yet holds a lot.



This summer I added the “stone wall” paper, leftover from another project, to the half-wall. I loved how it made it look moreĀ substantial.Ā  This week I thought to add another piece to the wall holding the clock. Someone threw out that fabulous orangey-red chair and I added an orange cushion given to me by another person (she gave me two). It is super comfy and a very solid piece of furniture.


Here’s a different view from outside the kitchen.


Many years back I found the wood for the cabinet to the left of the stove, where else but, tossed out by the side of the road. It’s a peculiar manufactured wood that I hadn’t encountered before. The outside looks like the real thing, attractive finished lumber, but the inner core is hollow. Initially I made a long, low two-shelf that was in the living area. When I found something better I was able to eliminate my need for it there and sawed it down and made a higher, narrower unit. I was using it in its current space next to the stove but I had incorporated both an unmatched top board and shutter-type doors. Basically it was Frankenstein furniture, cobbled together with various pieces. It was also a tad too wide for the space. I got tired of looking at it and yesterday I completely took it apart and remade it into the 24″ wide cabinet you see here.


The bottom piece looks like a decorative flat front, one I covered with the same wall paper seen in above photos. However, it’s actually a door I added to hide 6 full size paint cans stored behind it on the floor. (I discovered the hard way that paint should be stored at room temperature.)


Here’s a long view. I guess you’d call this a galley kitchen? Not sure how narrow a space has to be to earn that title but as you see, it’s a relatively small space. Those are my pasta boxes over the window – I take my pasta seriously! (And there’s more stored elsewhere.) To the left of the window are open shelves I made for holding laundry products as the washing machine is right there.


There is little counter space so the washer has to do its part as it did one day last week when I made pancakes in “peg leg” skillet”. (Note the front right leg is actually a long screw as is one other leg.)


Previously I had introduced the color red into the kitchen and while I liked it, I ultimately decided I’d gone too far with it and should tone it down. A little red goes a long way – I see that now! I made the cup and spice racks a long time ago and painted them fire-engine red some years ago. Last week I put a coat of primer over them as well as the dowel for hanging kitchen tools. I am much happier with this white; it’s just more polished especially with the blue back splash I made from glass tiles I got from Freecycle. I had too many colors going on even for a cheerful, busy kitchen. While it’s stillĀ busy it’s cleaner-looking. (A side note: the stove is 20″ wide to give you an idea of size.)


I also put primer on the narrow strips at the top and bottom of all the white cabinets, which had previously been brown. The underside of the cabinets, which are made of some sort of manufactured wood, were also that brown shade. It’s not attractive and I realized, especially after I saw how even eliminating the red cup and spice racks made the space look brighter, that it was likely absorbing light. I put on a coat of primer and will likely either add another or a coat of regular white.

The cabinets initially had no door pulls and I added my own, red wood knobs. I took those off and finally used door pulls I found almost two years ago. They’re so pretty but I just hadn’t figured out the best way to use them before now. I only had the four so I’ve put white knobs on the other cabinets.

I made a place for a dish cloth by screwing in hooks and adding a plastic chopstick to the bottom of the spice rack. I made a similar towel rack on the cabinet door below the sink with hooks and a dowel. I did have a regular towel rack there but it had started to rust so I recycled it. This new version doesn’t stick out quite as far and I like that, especially given how much time I spend at that sink (um, A LOT).

In the fall I tackled the clutter that resides, as it does for many people, under the kitchen sink. I was tired of bending over and rooting around in the dark space trying to find a particular item. Using scrap wood I made narrow, shallow open shelves on the opposite wall (under the wall lamp) to hold the products used most often. This allowed me to tidy up what remains under the sink. I figure eventually I will remake the unit with nicer wood and maybe even add a door but for now, this has been very handy.


The very tall red-door cabinet next the small open shelves was one of the first things I ever added to the kitchen (what else but…ROADSIDE FIND!). It didn’t have a door so I added one (it too could stand to be replaced but it’s not pressing). The cabinet almost reaches the ceiling and holds a lot of stuff (such as more pasta!)


Beyond it, next to the window are high, open shelves I made for food stored in glass containers. The top row houses my glass Mr. Peanut Planters jars. Hoo boy, am I glad I hung onto them! Glass jars are a thing of the past for peanuts and they’re such a great size for storage.


Speaking of glass jars… I have previously admitted to being a bit of a glass jar hoarder. (I get nervous that food will eventually not be sold in glass at all.) It’s difficult for me to toss glass jars; they seem like they’ll be useful but I had more jars than I had room to keep them. I have made a new commitment to only save what I can fit into this plastic bin (which is stored on top of the main cabinets).


Below the glass jar shelves I made very rudimentary shelves to hold the microwave, a small toaster oven, the trash can and a container for recyclable cans, jars, plastic, etc. This isn’t very pretty but it’s serviceable and not in a highly visible area. Also- I’ve made a new commitment not to leave anyĀ  junk on the wood counter (as I previously committed to with the dining table), so any miscellaneous stuff I have hanging around because I intend to use it soon – recipes, jars that need refilling, etc – will go here.


I also removed the clutter from the top of the cabinets and found other places to store those items (string lights, plastic to go over windows in winter, holiday decorations). In their place I added a few decorative pieces. This is a panoramic shot which is why part of it looks scrunched together.


The lion has found a spot by the pots & pans to hold rubber bands.


I had a shelf holding two large cooking pots in the space over the kitchen “pass-through” and I have to admit I whacked my head on it by leaning too far into the space more than once. That wasn’t why I decided it should go but I found another spot for the pots (on the top of the cabinet above the washing machine) and eliminated the shelf. I really like how open it now looks. On the opposite side of the wood counter I have low shelves for dishes and simple curtains to cover the area and keep dust out.


Making all these little improvements has made my life better and I walk into the kitchen and look around with pleasure, ready to start cooking.

EDIT: After I posted this I got one more good idea. As there are no – no – closets, it can be tricky to find storage spaces. One end of the kitchen houses a large, squat water heater that isn’t very attractive. That’s where I store brooms, mops, buckets, and a vacuum cleaner. My idea was to put a curtain in front of it to hide the area, but still leave it easily accessible. Much better!

NOTE: Please forgive a delay in responding to comments. I love to hear them but am having internet issues and won’t see them right away.

Ideas from my organized (small) kitchen

I’ve been on a de-cluttering and organizing kick. I do both regularly but winter is a particularly good time to focus on home projects plus I was sick this past week and I think the slight fever spurred me to make changes (Good news: it was only a cold. Bad news: that’s because I already had the flu this winter. Boo, hiss.).

Today I want to show you the small, galley-style kitchen. My biggest challenge is finding storage space; for instance there is only ONE drawer and it’s for silverware. Over the years I’ve worked to make the kitchen Ā attractive and organized; most of these photos reflect fixes that have been in place a long time, but I did a couple things this last week. Lack of space means a lot of things stay out in the open; the trick is to have them out but still looking nice, not a cluttery mess. Of course, in a kitchen, it’s helpful to have certain items that you reach for often out where you can get them quickly anyway.

Now this makes me PROUD. See this below? It’s a mostly EMPTY SHELF.


I am impressed with myself! There’s never been an empty shelf in the kitchen. At first I thought there’d been a mistake – whatever was supposed to go there must just be momentarily elsewhere. But no – I accounted for everything and STILL had an empty shelf! You just don’t know – storage is at a real premium here and an empty shelf means I’ve rid myself of enough stuff and/or got so organized it created extra space. Immediately I’ve begunĀ to plot what could go thereā€¦.Ā  What new kitchen thingee could I get?

Within that cabinet, I used scrap wood to make the little shelf with coffee mugs at the back. It’s just 4″ deep so it doesn’t interfere with putting things in front of it. I like that it’s solid wood, not one of those flimsy wire shelves you can buy which would be too wide anyway. I was thinking of making another to put vitamin bottles at the back of another cabinet. Such a simple thing but it frees up a lot of cabinet space.


In the kitchen my weakness is hanging onto potential storage containers, especially glass jars. See, I think glass jars are going obsolete. I’m worried about it. Plastic crap only? Noooo. I tended to squirrel away containers in a variety of places but no more. Here are my extra containers and glass jars, the ones I am allowing myself to keep for now, in one place. (The blue ones are mushroom containers. They seem like they could be USEFUL for somethingā€¦) I can store them like this on an out-of-way shelf where it doesn’t show.


I made the spice rack and cup holder below out of scrap wood and attached them to the bottom of the cabinets. I got the glass tiles for free from a Freecycler and made the backsplash. It’s a “busy” looking area but since it’s organized, it doesn’t look messy. If one of the hanging utensils hasn’t been used in awhile, I give it a quick wash or rinse before using it, same with the cups. The red cabinet knobs? I painted those and attached them to the doors which formerly had no knobs at all. I like red accents in a kitchen. To create more light inexpensively I added a slim plug-in under-cabinet light over the sink.


Below is a close-up to show you the “kitchen cloth” that hangs on a chopstick – yep a plastic chopstick sitting in as a tiny dowel – that hangs from hooks.


Formerly I had a long shelf over the window with storage type things on it. Appliances that didn’t get used often, a dutch oven, a box of untried recipes. It wasn’t very attractive. I always thought there just wasn’t space to have decorations in the kitchen – only room for “useful” stuff – but that area Ā seemed ideal for decorating. This week I found other places for those items, sawed down the shelf to fit only the 42″ over the window and brought in decorative pieces that had been elsewhere. I love it. I haven’t decided if the shelf should ultimately be white but for now this is fine.



To the right of the over-the-window shelf is another scrap-wood project. I have always liked the look of food in glass jars, maybe just because I like being able to look at food. The top shelf holds peanut jars I hung onto (see? I was smart to start sitting on glass jars years ago!) that are excellent for storage. Yes, I eat a lot of peanuts. What’s good about this unit too is that it is high up on the wall in space that would otherwise go unused. Before this week the top of the unit was one of the spots I stuck unused glass jars but no more! It too holds decorative pieces. That Saltine can has been moved all around but now has its home.


This is a little Ikea cabinet that came from a yard sale for $5. I painted the doors red, turned it UPSIDE DOWN and anchored it to the end of the existing cabinets.


Look at all the stuff it holds!Ā  One day I’d like to make a glass-doored cabinet to display my pretty bowls but for now they live in here. That’s a 1-cup measuring cup on the lowest shelf to give you a sense of size.


This next shelf isn’t exciting but I am pleased with it nonetheless; it’s one I put in this past summer over the entry way to the kitchen (on the inside looking out). More glass jars! I use those two bigger-than-they-look jars ALL the time (to soak dry beans overnight, for soups, etc). Good place for lunch bags too. Again what’s great is this is space which would otherwise go unused. As you can imagine I regularly eye any unused space with a thought to what might go there.


Finally, this is under-the-stairs. Pictured is one of those plant/flower holders people put on the outside of their homes. I found this one thrown out, painted it red, and hung it up here to hold kitchen towels. This is also where I keep brooms and buckets hanging from cup hooks.


Home Making Digest (1955 style)

This is the 3rd and last installment of the old pamphlets I found at a used book sale. Here’s the first and second.

Ahh, 1955... when a woman had to put on a dress and heels before dawn in order to work in her own kitchen.

Ahh, 1955… when a woman had to put on a dress and heels before dawn in order to work in her own kitchen.

The dishwasher is a surprise but the "gas disposer" that reduces trash and food waste to "fine ash" is just peculiar. Love all that counter and storage space though!

The dishwasher is a surprise but the “gas disposer” that reduces trash and food waste to “fine ash” is just peculiar. Love all that counter and storage space though!

Much as I'm certain I'd like a "Handsome and Delicious Lemon Chiffon Pie," the only thing I'd consider are the drinks. Having never made fruit punch in my life, and recognizing all the listed ingredients, I vow to start here. Stay tuned!

Much as I’m certain I’d like a “Handsome and Delicious Lemon Chiffon Pie,” the only thing I’d consider are the drinks. Having never made fruit punch in my life, and recognizing all the listed ingredients, I vow to start here. Stay tuned!

Be the envy of your neighborhood when you cleverly craft your own trashcan lid & sand barbecue grill. Why, don't be surprised if your Home Owner's Association or rental office even takes an interest! (p.s. When your walls start making faces like that, it's time to call an exorcist.)

Be the envy of your neighborhood when you cleverly craft your own trashcan lid & sand barbecue grill. Why, don’t be surprised if your Home Owner’s Association or rental office even takes an interest! (p.s. When your walls start making faces like that, it’s time to call an exorcist.)

One gets the idea a gas company may have had a hand in this publication... The kid, who looks like an SNL skit extra, was clearly from the pre-irony days.

One gets the idea a gas company may have had a hand in this publication…
The kid, who looks like an SNL skit extra, was clearly from the pre-irony days.