Wednesday, October 5, 2011

La Cocina en mi Casa

It's no secret that I'm a Southwestern girl trapped in a New England Salt Box. Nowhere is this more evident than in my kitchen which, admittedly, has a bit of the feel of a Mexican restaurant.

Said kitchen was the focus of September's installment of my Total Home Reorganization project (really, by the time I come up with a catchy name for this whole adventure, I'll be done with it).

The most offensive part of the kitchen was this corner which I'm sure was just sucking away all of our chi (in fact I'm starting to blame it for the complete and total suckiness that has been 2011). It was always an odd spot, an abrupt dead zone where the cabinets ended and noting else began. I tried a variety of furniture pieces there, but nothing really worked. Then when C put in the dishwasher five years ago, he just moved the cabinet that was where the dishwasher needed to go down to the end and slapped a piece of plywood on top.

Although the plywood came in handy for things like gluing and painting and cutting with exacto knives, it was never attractive and became one of the biggest "hot spots" in our house (that's Flylady speak for "place crap piles up"). Also, one of the kids broke the door off of it, causing it to vomit out the tupperware stored within. It was bad.

Just looking at this picture makes it hard for me to breathe.
 I've had my eye out for the perfect cabinet/hutch type of thing, with shelves on top and doors on bottom, to fill the space for quite some time, but anything I saw in antique stores was either too wide, too short and/or painted with (no doubt) lead paint. Finally, I gave up on the antique and instead picked up a perfectly-sized piece at the unfinished furniture shop when I was there last spring.

In between soccer games and various other weekend activities, I sanded (C actually let me use the power sander), painted (with some milk paint I had bought long ago for another project that never happened) and clear-coated (on the most damp, humid day imaginable, despite the can's warning not to use it in high humidity--I aimed the fan at it and hoped for the best). Other than a few mishaps with doors and shelves sticking to newspapers while drying (oops), it turned out fantastic (if you don't look too close).

You'll note I placed a small wooden stationary box on the end of the counter for C to store his odds and ends, like charging phones, note cards and the book he reads while eating breakfast...I am not entirely un-accommodating.
There was a tense moment when it looked like C might have to take out all of the cabinets in order to fit it into place (I had measured from the end of the counter to the sill of that window in front of it, and thought I had a couple of inches of wiggle room; it turns out, however, that when C put in the dishwasher, he also had to move the cabinets down, so that the last one sticks out beyond the counter). As it turned out, though, we were able to lift it over the windowsill and had a good solid 1/16, maybe even 3/32 of an inch to spare. Whew. (I think C would have been completely justified in filing for divorce had that come to pass).

I haven't completely decided how to deck out the shelves--I keep rearranging things. On the top shelf I hung a tea towel my mom made me for my birthday, and placed a flowery plate and trivet, along with some vases and my Akro-Agate tea sets--that shelf is now officially the floweriest place in this house.  Other shelves hold more useful objects that we use regularly--syrup and milk pitchers and tea pot. I do plan on making a trip to the antiques barn soon to buy something special for it (and, I must admit I've already ordered some Fiestaware off of Etsy).

The bottom shelf holds the kids' dishes so they can, in theory, set their own places at the table. Inside live the Lunch Bots and water bottles (which were transient before and bounced from cabinet to cabinet to counertop before), as well as all the plastic storage ware I still somehow have, despite my efforts to rid our home of plastic (I just can't throw away "perfectly good" and useful items).

Happily (and not entirely by accident), the color of the new hutch (or is it a sideboard? dresser? whatnot? tell me, dear reader, what I should call it) matches closely (but not exactly) the big one across the room, whose shelves have a bit more breathing room, now that some of their contents have moved to a new home.

The fire extinguisher doesn't add a lot to the appearance of things,
but it's nice that it matches the clock.
While I waited for the paint to dry, I emptied and rearranged every single drawer and cabinet in the kitchen. No kidding. I wanted to do it all at once, and take a picture of everything piled on the table, but that would have involved: a) clearing the table and putting in a couple of leaves; and b) enough time to get it all done in one event. Here you can see the contents of just the bottom cabinets piled on the counters and the floor (which was none too clean, so that's kind of appalling).

I got rid of a few things and moved some other things to more logical locations (which, of course, has left C lost in the kitchen). Everything has more wiggle room now, which creates a feeling of spaciousness.

I also cleaned the oven, the exhaust fan, washed all of the decorative dishes and dusted the shelves, and even dusted in that narrow space above the cabinets (oh, how I wish someone would put up some molding so I never have to do that again!)

Aside from the cabinet, I didn't buy much for this project, other than a pot lid rack (have been dying for one of those for ages), some new dish rags and towels (I demoted the grosser ones to either the rag bag or the camping box), and this cute hook for hanging towels:

And, finally, on the door to the basement (which is situated between kitchen and living room), I created an organization center. C had suggested painting the whole door with chalkboard paint, which horrified me (I'm very much a natural-wood sort of person, aside from the occasional turquoise cabinet), and I have been saving corks to make a cork board for somewhere around 14 years. I initially thought I'd buy a giant picture frame at Goodwill, paint it, get a piece of masonite cut to fit in it, place a divider down the middle, paint one half with chalkboard paint, and glue the corks on the other half. Then, at Goodwill, I found two brand-new chalkboards. I snapped them up, spending half (or less) the money that I would have on the other project and waaay less time. I just painted the frames, glued the corks (waited about a week for the glue to dry--perhaps I used a tad too much) and, voila!

I still need to wash the floor (I was hoping C would do it--I told him it would be sexy, but even that didn't inspire him) and polish the table, but those can wait for a dreary rainy day sometime. The next room in line is the sunroom--I was hoping to get it done before the plants came in for the winter, but with frosts predicted for the next few nights, I had to bring them all in tonight.


  1. Andrea--I have read every single one of your posts since we were both doing One Small Change, but I haven't commented in ages. I've hardly commented on a single blog lately because I've been so busy. But I have to say that your kitchen looks amazing. The improvement with the new turquoise hutch is incredible. And I love that enormous blue shelf/hutch thing on the opposite wall. I've been doing a similar home organization/decluttering project all year, and I've really been wanting to paint the hutch in our dining room and serves as our art cabinet, but I've never painted furniture before except for some kids' Ikea chairs. I'm a little nervous, in part because I'm worried about the color commitment.

    Also, a bit late, many congratulations on your new educational journey! I would so love to be able to start a new writing degree, but my current status would make me an international student, and I don't have that kind of money. So I will live vicariously through you for the moment. I'm so excited for you!

    All the best,

  2. Your bright, pretty colors and dishes make me smile.

  3. Jaimie--Thank you so much. It is hard to find time to comment on blogs, isn't it? I love knowing that you're out there reading along, though (and I love your blog, too!) And I'm glad to have you along vicariously for the grad school ride--I think it will be a wild one!

    Rachel--Thanks! My entire house is painted/decorated to be a mood-enhancing drug during those long, dark winters.

  4. I would send my kids to live with you for their own good, but I am afraid they might freeze before they got acclimated.


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