Creativity and Contentment In the Home Spaces: Kitchen Installment

I know I’ve talked about our kitchen before, but I thought you might indulge me and consider taking a fresh look.  I actually started thinking about this post a couple of months ago, when we started tackling my laundry room.  We (ahem….I) had these great plans – my utopian vision of a laundry room.  It consisted of about 800 more square feet, miles of countertops, an exterior door, a utility sink the size of a small bathtub, a visually delightful array of color-coded baskets and shelves for sorting and organizing, and a flotilla of deliciously useful wall hooks.

And then?


There is no measure of reality that isn't helped along by a little cafe' au lait!
There is no measure of reality that isn’t helped along by a little cafe’ au lait!

Soooooo…….where’s the visually happy post on the laundry room, you ask???  🙂  I’m working on it.  We’re finishing up little details in there…and I really can’t wait to show it to you!  Fair warning though: this room is still little!  But in the meantime I thought, “You know…this isn’t the first time we’ve had to creatively carve out a workable space.”  In fact, in our vocation, we do this all the time, don’t we?  We’re always having to get creative…work within – a budget, a space, a circumstance.  And I thrive on this kind of challenge!There would be no knocking down of walls, no additional square footage, no moving of plumbing lines, no new doors.  So we shifted our brainstorming and came up with an alternative plan that involved no change in the footprint of the room, but addressed some of the biggest challenges I faced in my little laundry room.  And you know what?  It worked!  It’s pretty – oh so much prettier!  And exponentially more functional!


So I thought it might be fun to encourage and share together all those ways we get creative and brainstorm within.  There is contentment there, you know!  Perfect?  Nope.  But is it workable?  It can be!  And pretty.  And delightfully satisfying as the domestic art of creating often is!  So…anyone care to join in?  We’re all stretching and stewarding our material resources!  Let’s encourage each other in contentment and seek to uncover, restore, find…or creatively brainstorm beauty within our spaces!

I’ll start with an update of my kitchen and identify challenges, our brainstormed solutions and resources as we go.


Our dishes are all from flea markets and thrifted sources.  I paid very little for each set, and they are all mismatched.  I have three large-ish different sets of Ironstone, and many onesey-twosey pieces from various sets.  The one unifying theme is their color: white – which, of course, is typical of Ironstone.

The shelves that are on either side of my Cranberry Cabinet are actually cheap, cheap, cheap old pressboard book cases.  Which I hated.  Loathed.  So…I did what any self-respecting girl would do…I painted them!


My Cranberry Cabinet is Milk Paint in Barn Red.  Don’t go there, friends.  Really.  For your marriage’s sake.  Do.Not.Use.The.Milkpaint.  Of course, since we’ve now suppressed all memories associated with painting the Cranberry Cabinet, I can tell you that I DO love the unique finish Milk Paint affords (lots of instant depth and character), but sealing it was a near occasion of sin!  Sooooo…when I decided to bring the bookshelves in a few years later and that I just had to paint the bookshelves to match, my husband said it was him or the bookshelves.  I chose the bookshelves.  KIDDING!  We chose a paint that was a good latex that would match the Milk Paint as closely as possible. (Scuff the surface of those cheap bookshelves with fine grain sandpaper or your paint will peel.)  It’s a really good compromise and it works.  You really can’t tell the difference unless you’re very close!  And it gives us so much storage in the kitchen that we didn’t have before!  No custom cabinets.  No major $ investment.  Just a small vision of a possibility, and the elbow grease needed to bring it to life.

In the past, I always used my Cranberry Cabinet as a way to display and enjoy all my “pretties” – my collection of random white dishes.  But I needed to make my bake center (across the room) more functional, which meant moving my serving dishes to the Cranberry Cabinet.  It’s great horizontal space!  If you’re short on storage and don’t have the cash for new cabinets, consider refinishing a piece of furniture or hanging pretty wood shelving on the wall to store some of your kitchenware.
I know what you’re thinking – you think you don’t have enough “pretty” stuff to set out for public viewing!  I challenge you!  I bet you do!  Go bold with a group of brights…or gather up all your white serving-ware and set them out.  Think of one common theme: shape, color, functionality – and build a collection around that theme!  Don’t be afraid to build your collection through inexpensive little splurges at a thrift or flea market!
Cups hanging on cup hooks – a seriously practical space saver…and pretty, too!

On the other side of the room is my bake center.  I first heard of this idea through Marilyn Shannon‘s newsletters.  Marilyn advocated strongly for healthier cooking and nutrition and she suggested having all your baking tools together and in one place so that regular baking would be smoother and easier because all tools were at hand.  I loved that idea the first time I read it, and I’ve always enjoyed setting up a bake center!


After having the baby, I really wanted to freshen my kitchen and my bake center was at the top of my list!  I reasoned that I only wanted pieces that I regularly used when baking to be on the shelves above.  Brilliant, no?  I can be wily that way!  LOL!!


So, I removed all my extra dishes and only added back those items that I use regularly when baking.  Very useful!  Which is why I moved all my dinner dishes over to my Cranberry Cabinet – where they bask in the glory of the Milk Paint!


The bake center itself consists of a large piece of maple butcher block that weighs a gazillion pounds, atop a very simple wooden base.  I love butcher block as a work surface!  It’s durable, warm looking, and very resilient – just hit it with a little beeswax polish every now and then.  As you can see from the above picture, the bake center butcher block naturally extends my counter surface.  Aprons and spices hang nearby – all quite necessary in any baking venture!


Can I just mention that if you need a food processor and don’t want to spend hundreds of bucks on one…you can do very well for yourself for under $100 by seeking out an older Cuisinart.  You can often find them on Craigslist or ebay – full sets – for very little.  I did a dizzying amount of research on this, and found that I preferred an older Cuisinart anyway.  When they were originally made in the 80’s, their motors were made by a french company, Robot Coupe, and were built to last!  I have a DLC-7E with a 14 cup bowl.  It’s a workhorse and had I an extensive amount of counter space, this is one appliance that would stay out on the counter!  Since I am bereft of such luxuries, it is usefully situated just below my favorite work station.


This is the sum total of the counter-space I have to work with in my kitchen.  It amounts to a little over 4 feet.  Total.  Not even in the neighborhood of ideal.  But honestly, you get used to being frugal with space.

And just because I’m smitten with it – you simply must know about my favorite olive oil dispenser.  See it there on the counter just to the right of the cooktop?  I use it all.the.time.  It makes me feel all foodie-like!


In farmhouse kitchens, the table is often used in a working capacity, so in a kitchen with a small amount of counter-space the same practical solution must be applied.

So there you have it….those are a few of the ways I creatively worked with what I had in our spaces!  Now, I’m not knocking the overhaul of a space that involves sledgehammers and new cabinets!!  No indeed!!  What bliss!  BUT…I’m just saying…if you’ve gotta “buckle up buttercup” in whatever space you’ve got – throw on a fresh coat of paint, and brainstorm your space!  Contentment is abundant when a space is practical and works for you and has a touch of pretty!
Wall color: Behr Paint and Primer in one (Home Depot) Fortune Cookie in semi gloss

It’s the Little Things…

And now…just because when I find something absolutely indispensable and useful I just HAVE TO tell you about it….AND….because it sort of relates to my contentment in the kitchen 🙂 !!! ….


You’re going to want one of these for your evening bottle of wine!  And plan on putting a set in all of your adult friend’s stockings this year, too!

The Metrokane Houdini wine bottle stoppers really work and seal an open bottle of wine perfectly!  It fits any size bottle, provides an air-tight seal, and is easy to remove and re-seat.  The stopper comes in a set of 4 different colors (of course…that is so you can put a stopper in your husband’s Merlot and your Chardonnay!!!).


Rob and I went to a friend’s house and they were using these wine bottle stoppers and swear by it!  In fact, they pack their Houdini wine bottle stoppers in their luggage when they go on vacation!  Now, if that isn’t an endorsement, I don’t know what is!

Seriously though, this tiny little tool makes me so happy!

And now…something else…

…that I think you’re going to just LOVE!

Last summer, I had finally come to the conclusion that I was indeed very truly tired of my sad, spaghetti-sauce-speckled recipe cards.  So, I decided to undertake an overhaul of my recipe cards.   I downloaded them from Tie That Binds (free!) and printed on card stock.

Most of the cards pictured here are “brick,” my favorite, but I also printed aqua, and it is quite pretty as well!  Theoretically, you should have been able to fill these out on your computer, but I had trouble with text wrapping…so I just printed blank and fill them out with a nice fine point black felt tip pen.  I keep a nice stack of blank cards in the back of my recipe basket.


Now…a certain little pregnancy slowed my progress, but I’ve resumed my efforts and have been making my way through my recipe basket and re-writing recipes on my new cards.


They’re quite pretty, aren’t they!

Now, it’s your turn!  Get your cameras and share some ways you exercise creativity within your spaces in order to uncover more workable, practical spaces – spaces that inspire contentment and joy in the way they invite hospitality.  Do let me know if you share something!  I’d love to stop by!

And now…back to snuggling!  Warning: gratuitous baby shot to follow!

3 months old
3 months old


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  1. Jen
    So excited to see a post from you pop up in my feedly:) and talking pretty:):)

    Wow I thought I was the only one with such a tiny workbench! Thanks for the Cuisinart tip!

    Your timing is interesting, I've been thinking pretty for the last couple of days, how to make my situation look a little more pretty. Honestly living on a building site could get trying if I let it. I take photos of the children and behind them are unplastered, unpainted wall. Oh well at least we have walls now;)

    My latest pretty project has 'bucked me up' no end, not sure if I can really explain just HOW MUCH happiness it has bought me. I made fabric bins, and then proceeded to carve out a new toy area for the children. To consolidate, re-organise, sell of unused toys and give away surplus furniture has made me feel awesome!! Yes the walls behind are unplastered, but hey a girl takes happiness where she can.

  2. You have a beautiful kitchen. But the best part of that kitchen is that gorgeous baby! I'm so happy for you! Thanks for sharing! So true what you say about contentment. And thanks for the tip about the recipe cards…gonna start that project soon!

  3. It was nice to see your name pop up this morning in my blog list, Jen! 🙂 We're at the point where making cosmetic changes to the kitchen would be like putting lipstick on a pig, but like your laundry room, we have to work within the footprint. Right now my kitchen display space is taken up with homeschooling stuff. Good thing I like books 😉 Actually, I'll be waiting for your laundry room post, too, because we're going to have to work with a small, dark space as well. Right now you have to walk through our laundry room to get to the other part of the house and upstairs. *Not* a good thing in a house with this many kids. So we're going to try to wall it off, but that will make it a smaller, darker place than it already is. But it will have a door I can close! And then maybe boy's underwear will stop migrating into the kitchen and computer room. (I'm pretty sure the architect didn't stop to think about that.)

  4. “Contentment is abundant when a space is practical and works for you and has a touch of pretty!”

    Thank you! I've been wrestling with contentment a bit this week, and this is just what I needed to hear. Off to make some practical changes 🙂

  5. Oh how lovely to have a post from you today 🙂

    I always enjoy your home spaces posts — you have such terrific ideas: thrifty and pretty both. I appreciate you sharing your enthusiasm with us.

    My home improvement budget doesn't exist 🙂 so this spring we rummaged in cupboards and I found that we still had plenty of paint from our last big interior painting (a decade ago!) and I directed the kids in repainting the kitchen and our dining room / lesson room (it's all really one big room). As well as the bathroom/bedrooms hallway. Now everything is so fresh and pretty! It's made a world of difference, and we only used what we had.

    Looking forward to the laundryroom post!

  6. I love how clear your countertop is. Mine is a landing pad for darn near everything. Need to figure out how to get that under control.

    And my stars, the sweetness at the end made me smile so wide!

  7. As always you inspire me! A few years back I go so tired of clutter that I took out nearly all my pretties in my house. Now my home feels not like home. I need to find middle ground and put up a few pretties. As usual, you inspire me to do so. I hear my kitchen calling me! Must find a thrift store soon! Too cute baby!!

  8. I was so happy to see your post pop up today. Congratulations on that precious bundle! I love the idea of a baking center. Will you go into detail of what you keep there? For instance, all kinds of spices or just ones related to baking? And what kind of baking – breads, muffins, cakes, pies, cookies – basically desserts, or other baking – casseroles, etc? I'm very curious about this.

  9. Your baby is so cute! I love your kitchen so neatly organized. The first time you showed us your Cranberry piece, I just fell in love with it. You just gave the topic for my next post. I'm not sure if I would right it soon but I'm making a note to remember to work on something to share with you.

  10. Thank you for coming back to your blog.

    You have been greatly missed!

    Congratulations on your precious little girl.

    I look forward to your upcoming homeschool posts.

    God bless you, Jen.

    You are a great encouragement to many!

  11. I've been following your blog for a while and have been greatly inspired by so much and wanted to thank you for sharing it all here.

    I'm refreshing and reorganizing my sewing room currently. There is something wonderful about creating spaces in our homes that in turn inspire us to further create, learn etc.

  12. I love your blog and this is my first time commenting.

    Timely post. Thank you! I recently made changes to my small counter space, as well. The knife block (like yours) had to go and instead my husband put in this: It's been great. Also, I am breaking my bad habit of letting the dirty dishes pile up on one side of the counter by the sink. My sweet mom suggested that 1) I keep up with the dishes – hand washing the plastics and utensils, and loading plates, etc. into the dw, many times throughout the day to keep from having an overwhelming pile at dinner (my procrastination has to go!) and 2) to think of my dishwasher as that counter space – let it pile up in the dw. Sometimes it takes someone else to give us that “duh” moment, lol. It sure is nice to walk into the kitchen and get right into cooking now. Here's to welcoming, pretty, useful spaces!

    Congratulations on that beautiful baby, Jen!

  13. Oh Jen, your sweet little Elly is just precious! Three months old already! Oh my, how those days have flown! Thank you so much for sharing glimpses of your lovely kitchen and giving us insight into how you find contentment and beauty within your home! May you and your precious family always be thus blessed! Good luck with your laundryroom ~ it's sure to be a picture of serenity and joy, just like the rest of your home!

  14. I LOVE when you share things like this, Jenn! You help me to understand how to think of what I already have and its use. I get so lonely standing in front of a dirty counter that I know is like that just because things need a better resting place. Thanks for the company!
    I would love to know your thoughts about the laundry room! I have been completely OVERWHELMED in that capacity. It really came to a head when I was nauseated in the first trimester of this pregnancy (baby #10!) I have made some progress, but I need more inspiration in that area.

  15. Jen,
    Could you link where you purchased the shelves from. We are actually in planning mode for our kitchen and are going to purchase three for just about the same function. Stemware etc. Thanks so much… so glad you've posted new pictures of the youngest and oldest (my does she look like you).

  16. Which shelves? There are so many in my kitchen!

    Shelves flanking the cranberry cabinet –> cheap pressboard shelves came from Walmart.

    Stainless steel shelves hanging over my bake center –> on clearance from I got them too many years ago to link them.

    Bake center with shelves below –> Also purchased way too long ago to link, but you can find things like this all over now.

    Am I missing one? Let me know what you're looking for specifically and I might be able to at least point you in the right direction!

  17. Oops, it was the metal ones. Still shopping around, do you like the metal shelves? Easy to clean I imagine but how about being slippery? Thoughts? Btw, just printed out a few documents and you've inspired me to work on our school year today. Thank you! 🙂

  18. Wonderful post; I so enjoyed it, Jen!
    I've been watiting for a bit of downtime to sit and enjoy it. Thank you so much, not only for refreshing, practical ideas, but for your lovely style. Love the pictures, the commentary. I selfishly hope you'll be able to squeeze some regular blogging time into your busy HSing, Mommy schedule…I am truly waiting for more!
    Congratulations,again, to all of you! She is beautiful. What a blessing.
    Good luck and have fun setting up for this coming schl yr!
    God bless!

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