in defense of open shelving + styling tips

 

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I’ve gotten a lot of questions and comments about our new open shelving in the kitchen. Many people have called us brave to replace a whole wall of cabinetry with a collective 17 feet of reclaimed wood. “What about all of the dusting?!?” “But you can’t just close the cabinet door and forget about it!”

We knew open shelving would work for us because I really really love hyper organized spaces – hyper organized in a livable and functional kind of way. There was very little that we were hiding behind cabinet doors, so the loss of the cabinetry hasn’t been an issue. It’s been about 6 weeks since we finished our 10 day impromptu kitchen makeover and the dust really hasn’t been an issue and I have some ideas as to why.

TIPS FOR MAKING OPEN SHELVING WORK

Issue: Keeping it Clean

  • Location, location, location: Our shelving is on an opposite wall from the stove so we don’t need to worry about grease splattering up from cooking. If we did, then we’d seriously need to reconsider our cooking technique.
  •  Filling up the space with items you use regularly and not having it be purely decorative is key. This avoids large swaths of open space that would act as big dust collecting areas. With daily use items like dishes and glasses, there just isn’t much space for the dust to settle.
  • Our glasses are turned face down, so no need to worry about rinsing before use.
  • We don’t worry about our plates getting dusty, because we’re continually using them and thus cleaning them, so it’s a non issue. The larger serving pieces that don’t get regular action, do need a quick wash or rinse before they’re used, but that’s something I would do regardless of where they’re stored so it’s not extra work.
  • We chose reclaimed wood, which I think was exactly the right choice from a dusting perspective. I treated the wood with a light sanding and two coats of polyurethane so it is easy to wipe down when needed, without snagging on splinters. On the flip side, it’s not a high gloss white shelf that would be a magnet for dust.

 

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Some day the rest of this cabinetry will go, but some white paint and the open shelving has entirely changed the space! More details here.

 

Issue: Styling/Clutter Control

  • Before the cabinets came down and shelves went up, I took stock of all the items that I would rather hide behind a cabinet door. I was able to find a home for all of these bits and bobs in the cabinetry that we still have.
    • Plastic cups from baseball games and what-have-you.
    • Less than attractive kitchen items like a chopping device and super boring mixing bowls.
    • The collection of mismatched beer glasses from different breweries. Because if you’re drinking a Two Hearted, it needs to be in a Two Hearted glass, of course.
    • Kiddo plates and cups.
      • {ORGANIZING TIP! I moved these to drawers that the boys can easily access to help them with independence. Although little G, being a typical 18 month old, just loves to empty the drawers and randomly throw stuff back in, so they are typically a hot mess, despite my best efforts to keep them organized. Sometimes you just have to go with it, right?}
  • I was really excited to style these shelves, in large part because it created an opportunity to showcase the our dinnerware that I’m obsessed with along with some other special pieces like my Grandma Jayne’s chocolate chip cookie recipe, vintage cook books from my mom and Grandma Bunny and a French poster the hubs and I got on our trip to Paris.
    • {SIDE NOTE: Dinnerware obsession. I spotted the Vietri Incanto dinnerware at the Home Show event at the Merchandise Mart probably 11 years ago – i.e. well before the hubs and I were engaged. I grabbed a flyer and tucked away, then hunted down a boutique that had an online registry for the dinnerware when we got married several years later. They have some new items that I think I need to get my hands on!!}
  • When it came to styling the shelves, I started with those pieces that I knew I wanted to feature and spaced them out in a way that I thought was pretty but also functional. {i.e. no plates on the top shelf; where is it easiest to grab a glass? etc.}
  • From there, I added serving pieces and just placed them in a way that felt balanced and visually appealing. After that, there were some big areas that were still open, so I went into our storage closet and grabbed the box of stemless wine glasses and mason jars that I only used for entertaining. Now these forgotten pieces are all out and getting daily use.
  • It’s worth mentioning that I kept the color palate consistent across the shelves and spaced out the white, pops of color and glass so that it feels balanced.
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Everyday items, serving pieces and a sentimental reminder of the little book sellers along The River Seine.

 

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These are a few of my favorite things! Complete with cookbooks and a framed recipe from my grandmas.

 

I know I’m not crazy for wanting to add this design feature, because I’m certainly not the only one. Open shelving has been all over Pinterest, social media, blogs, magazines, etc. and for good reason. It really opens up the space and adds endless amounts of character because in styling your shelves, you can change it up while keeping your favorite items showcased. Don’t be deterred if you want to jump on board the open shelving train. It’s a fun ride!

xoxo

 

the snowball effect: one week kitchen makeover

Have you ever started a project that seems relatively simple and then it takes on a life of its own and turns into something completely different, entirely? That has definitely been me this week. On more than one occasion every day since Monday, I have said, out loud, “What the hell did I get us into?” And my new favorite, “What kind of fresh hell is happening in our kitchen?”

When we first moved into our house, the only thing that we didn’t touch with paint was the kitchen because we just weren’t sure what to do with it. We I really have never liked our cabinets. The word hate would probably be appropriate. It’s some kind of paneling from the 60’s that was painted and glazed with an antiqued vibe. The paint and glaze wouldn’t have been my choice regardless, but on this paneled cabinetry it just isn’t working for me. A particular pebble in my shoe has been this wall of cabinetry. We definitely don’t need quite this much storage, considering everything on the other half of the kitchen and it’s all of that terrible paneling right at eye level.

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60’s era paneled cabinetry, reimagined with glaze. Also, note the charming shade of olive and it’s patchy paint job near the ceiling. Perfect world, I’d be tearing most of this wall down to create a bigger opening into the dining room.

I’ve been daydreaming of a massive kitchen overhaul since we moved into our house five years ago, but that’s definitely not in the cards. After completing our mudroom project this past fall, the contrast between the kitchen and the mudroom, as well as the rest of the house, for that matter, is even more pronounced. Thus, I wanted to come up with a DIY fix that would be a good placeholder until we can do a full kitchen reno.

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The daydream: future kitchen inspiration. Via.

Ideas we tossed around:

  • Painting the cabinetry. While this seemed like a viable option for a hot minute, ultimately painting doesn’t change the paneling of the cabinets and would be a considerable amount of effort considering the amount of cabinetry we have. NEXT.
  • Refacing the cabinets. Apparently our 60’s situation comes with weird sizes so this would be a quite costly, custom job.
  •  Painting the walls regardless of the cabinetry decision. Because, that shade of olive.

We decided last weekend that we were going to paint the walls white and then take it from there. So we bought a couple of gallons of Simply White, by Benjamin Moore, because I felt that shade of white would be a good middle ground with the warm tone of the cabinetry and the more crisp look that I’d prefer. We didn’t want a stark white, because I didn’t want to pick a shade too bright that would make the cabinets stick out even more. The goal is to make them fade away.

Monday morning, I apparently had too much coffee because I must have thought to myself, “Hey! I don’t have childcare today, my four year old is under the weather and there’s a mountain of laundry to tackle, so obviously I should start painting the kitchen!”

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Our kitchen in all it’s olive green glory.

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After: light and bright!

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When your kiddo wants to help you paint, but you don’t want to pause to get him appropriate painting attire. And then he asked why I wasn’t taking my shirt off to paint. #motheroftheyear

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This is the moment when my coffee buzz wore off and I realized what I had gotten myself into. That and the baby woke up from his nap so that made things interesting!

So, you would have thought that I would have learned my lesson and quit while I was ahead. Painting that entire kitchen in 1 day, without childcare was quite the feat in and of itself. And I even responded to emails and did a little work on breaks from painting! I must have been cocky after all of that accomplishment in one day. But it dawned on me. We didn’t need to repaint the cabinets, because we didn’t really need them. We need open shelving.

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I somehow convinced my sweet sweet husband that we needed to remove the uppers on this wall and replace with two large pieces of reclaimed wood for open shelving. I then went shopping for said reclaimed wood with one of my besties, who further solidified this plan in my head!

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Stasi talking to Todd at Reclaimed Wood Chicago about a few particulars with the two pieces we selected.

So we were on our way to our scheduled DIY open shelving install date of this Saturday, yes 5 days after I painted the kitchen. I have my list of things to do before Stasi and her husband come over to help us with the install: patch the wall after the cabinets have all been removed; prime and paint; sand the wood and seal with polyurethane. Manageable with a few late nights this week after the kiddos go to bed.

And then I got this text…

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So now we’re entering into serious kitchen overhaul territory. I’ve read about soffit removal and I know about the insane undertaking that it is, but he’s right. Removing the soffit would make a huge difference. So we checked it out to see if there was any duct work lurking behind the soffit and to our chagrin and excitement, no obvious or major detractors. With some encouragement from friends and neighbors and A LOT of help and pep talking, it looks like this soffit is coming down.

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I knew it was a lot to take on in a short amount of time, but our summer weekends are already completely full between now and late July and I love a project. There’s something kind of cathartic about this kind of project for me, so I’m not as crazy as people think I am. I actually enjoy it! But seriously, this all started because I wanted to paint the kitchen and now here we are. Please send wine.

xoxo

storage upgrade: new pantry reveal

When you buy a house, you can be so blinded by charm and character that you overlook little things that ultimately can turn into very big things. For us, that would be the pantry. Our kitchen is large and there is tons of cabinet space, so coming from a two bedroom condo in the city, we were wowed by the amount of storage we’d be gaining with a move to the burbs. But the pantry. Dear Lord. I did the best I could to make it functional but anyone who knows me has likely heard me bitch about this skinny ass, inefficient, sad excuse for a pantry.

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This pic gives me anxiety. Organizing a broom-closet-turned-pantry is next to impossible.

We have yet to delve into a major kitchen overhaul, but when we decided to build an addition for a mudroom, we took advantage of that project and included new storage solutions, including a pantry. Someday we’ll get around to giving our kitchen a facelift, but now we can just skip right over that tiny joke of a pantry and head around the corner to the new space!

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What used to be part of our garage. The space started to take shape with two separate pantries and an alcove for an auxiliary fridge. {i.e. the beer fridge}

The original idea was to have one larger walk in pantry, with double doors and wrap around shelving. We ultimately decided to break it up into two separate spaces so we could have one area to house bulk Costco items, the vacuum, broom, etc. while the other space would be the food pantry.

I began plotting the organization strategy long before construction was complete, but the current version is the result of many iterations, after seeing what worked the best as we lived with it. I looooove organizing pretty much anything, so this organization project was a dream for me! I’ve titled my organization board on Pinterest, “OCD” because, if the shoe fits.

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Organizing: it has to get ugly before it gets pretty.

For me, when I get any space organized, I start by pulling everything out and spreading it all over the floor, so I can get a clear vision of what I’m working with. The right containers are essential in any organized space. Containers buy you more real estate on your shelves so that you can ultimately fit everything nicely, but moreover, they help keep like items together.

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Pantry Organization = Happiness

For organizing this space, I utilized items that I already had and made a couple of trips to Target. We don’t live near a Container Store anymore, which is probably for the better, because I would have spent a small fortune with all of the OCD candy that is happening in that place. From The Container Store, we already had these canisters, this shelf organizer, and a stacking basket similar to this. I grabbed all of the random, unutilized baskets around the house and put them to work. From there, it was off to Tar-Jay!

On the left side of top shelf, you’ll see this jar peeking out from around the corner. This is the perfect spot for fruit snacks, suckers and other kiddo sweets.

I discovered that these wooden chalkboard milk crates in both large and small are perfect for a pantry. They conceal less-than-cute packaging, multiply available surface area and make labelling super easy.

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I’ve been back a few times for more and more of these canisters in multiple sizes. They are great for pasta, nuts, raisins, you name it. They’re also great for breaking down all of those huge items from Costco. {I’m looking at you, 20 pound bag of rice.}

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One cannot have too much storage, IMO.

Our love for Costco runs deep. I realize just how suburban this fact is, but we definitely do the bulk of our shopping there now and it saves us a lot of money overall. Did you know that Costco brought in more revenue last year in organic items than Whole Foods? We call this the “Costco Closet” and rightly so: bulk paper products, bulk canned goods, extra items to fill pantry canisters, the totally ridiculous barrel of pretzels the hubs just came home with, etc. This is also where our steamer mop, broom and vacuum live, along with the recycling bin and reusable grocery bags.

These wire milk crates, in different sizes, are great for keeping some of those items contained.

I love this little storage tip for canned goods, so listen up! Take a desktop file basket, like this, and pop the cans in on their sides. Labels are still visible yet it’s much more concise than keeping them in the original bulk boxes.

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And there you have it! I’d love to swap out the light fixture in the pantry to something a little prettier, perhaps with a pull string instead of the switch that’s on the opposite side of the door opening. {Logistically, that’s the only place the switch could have gone, but it’s not exactly convenient.} I have a few other tweaks on my list, like adding some additional shelving, paint and wallpaper, but even without those touches, this space makes me super happy!

xoxo

cabinetry & countertops: on the cheap & beautiful

After months of building an addition and transitioning one of our garage spaces into a mudroom, the finishes were coming together and the end was in sight. I talked about our plan for the floors last week and this week it’s all about the cabinetry and countertops.

We decided to go cheap simple on those elements, because it is a mudroom, after all. Hopefully, we are going to do a major kitchen remodel soonish, so I’d rather spend the money there than in mudroom cabinetry and countertops. I also knew we could accessorize boring cabinets with hardware, so I didn’t spend too much time worrying about it.

The finished product wasn’t quite what I had initially pictured; I mean, perfect world would have been refurbished, painted cabinetry that felt like a 1900’s farm house. But, sticking within reason, these prefab cabinets were a super simple solution that provided decent storage for all of the what-nots that live in a mudroom. Maybe we might change this at some point, but for now, it gets the job done.

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Basic cabinetry waiting to be dressed up with hardware.

We decided to only do the one upper cabinet because we want a rod extending from the cabinet to the wall for hanging freshly washed items. I thought the easiest solution would be a tension rod – I got a pretty and substantial one from Target, that’s technically a shower curtain rod. After having that damn thing fall down, I don’t know how many times, we’ve decided to table it and come up with something else.

Countertops were a bit trickier because there are just endless options and we didn’t have a clear vision of what that should be. First we had to narrow down the material. Here’s a great countertop breakdown on function and price of various materials. In our research, we learned that laminate countertops have gotten quite sophisticated and they’re still the most obvious cost effective option. I read a handful of reviews that described today’s laminate countertops as not your mother’s formica.

So formica it is… but now, do we want to go with solid white, white with flecks of gray, or maybe gray with flecks of white or what about something with a wood grain or a faux marble finish??? It’s enough to make you lose your marbles or give you a drinking problem. I was terrified of it looking like the laminate countertops of childhood. You know… like this.

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This vision is almost enough to scare you off of the idea of laminate. Via.

When our contractor stopped by to see if we’d made a selection, we still didn’t know what we were going to do. And then it hit me: we needed faux butcher block in a dark stain, to bring a little warmth into the space to offset the gray floors and white cabinetry. Though we hadn’t considered that type of option in our wine-fueled sample viewing the night before, there was a sample that looked promising. A google image search confirmed that we were headed in the right direction with Old Mill Oak.

With a little emotional support from our contractor/family friend, who assured me that we would not end up with edges that resemble the scary laminate of yesteryear, We felt comfortable pulling the trigger. {Holds breath and hopes for the best.}

Voila!

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Old Mill Oak laminate countertops with gold cabinetry hardware, pre-install.

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Our completed laundry space in the new mudroom.

I’m super happy with the way it turned out. We will probably end up putting some open shelving in that space where the tension rod wouldn’t stay put. Then we can potentially secure a legit rod from the shelving. Maybe a basic white shelf with pretty gold supports?

Next up… my favorite part of this space, the PANTRY!!!

xoxo

 

the case for herringbone tile

Time for the fun part of our mudroom addition project! With the bones of the room in place, the pretty things started to come together. First up: FLOORING!

Knowing that this room is going to be all about function, I wanted to make some kind of a statement with the floor. The walls are largely reserved for functional pieces, so the floor is the largest swath of blank space to do anything fun.

We tossed around the idea of doing a brick floor, to play off of the exposed brick in our kitchen, but after some research, it appeared that brick floors are actually not as durable as one might expect. They are also hard to clean because they are so porous, which is not the best bet for a space so heavily trafficked. Hardwood was a viable option, but our whole house is hardwood, so I wanted a bit of variation from the rest of the house.

Tile really ticked all of the boxes for us.

I love the look of wood floors in a herringbone pattern, like something you’d find in an NYC pre-war apartment, so I became obsessed with the idea of herringbone tile for our laundry/mudroom.

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Pre-war style floors. Via.

Our contractor tried to talk me out of it and the hubs was initially hesitant that it wouldn’t be worth the extra $600 in labor, but I remained undeterred! This plan was definitely not something revolutionary, so I’m not sure why it was such a hard sell. I envisioned good-sized tiles, rather than a shorter or thinner tile that might be more typical for this pattern. I was also picturing something with a woodgrain texture, kind of reminiscent of my initial inspiration, but in a gray tone, with charcoal grout. I love this combination for being forgiving with all of the action that room gets.

I am able to picture a complete finished product, just by looking the individual elements, but sometimes I forget that not everyone works this way. {I guess this is part of the reason I am a wedding planner!} It took a little convincing, but the hubs was quickly on board. When you’re investing so much money in a home addition and transforming part of your garage into a new room in your home, at that point, $600 feels like a drop in the bucket! {Another parallel to planning a wedding…}

We didn’t want to make this process too complicated, so we just loaded up the boys and ran to Lowe’s to see what they had in stock. We figured we’d look into other options if we didn’t see anything we liked that was within our budget, but luckily, we found several options. This one was the clear winner for us!

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The winning tile.

It’s amazing that we actually agreed so quickly on this. We have a little window of overlap in what we each like with design, but when we’re making choices like this, there is usually some kind of heated debate involved. Being married to a lawyer, I have picked up some of his argument debate techniques to prove my case. But, he was the one who spotted this tile and it was exactly what I was looking for. Good find, honey!

Even after we had the tile delivered and I placed a few pieces herringbone style to demonstrate my idea, our contractor/family friend wasn’t fully convinced. Pretty sure he thought I was crazy. But once the tile was down, BOOM. Vindication.

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Loooooove the way the herringbone turned out!

 

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Herringbone prettiness.

Next up… cabinetry, paint and countertops! xoxo

building an addition: the unglamorous

As I think back on the process of building an addition onto our home, there was a lot of waiting before we got to any of the pretty stuff. It was fun watching all of the different pieces come together, but sometimes I really wanted to have a fast forward button and watch it all in quick snapshots.

I would’ve been much more anxious with every week that ticked by if it had rendered more than just our garage and driveway unusable. I’m sure living construction adjacent is much different than living in a construction site. This experience might have been a helpful warm up for future home renovation projects that would be a giant imposition – hello kitchen and second floor dream plans!

Part of wanting it to move faster surely came from excitement to just have it done. However, the original estimate was 6-8 weeks and, being newbies to construction, we took that at face value. People told us that we should plan for it to take longer than estimated, but what did we know? Maybe a couple of extra weeks? Try DOUBLE. There are so many moving pieces and things that are out of the contractor’s control. For any future projects, I’m going to go into it expecting double the estimated time.

One might think we are actually still under construction, because our contractor’s sign is still in our yard. Really, we’re just waiting for 2 exterior light fixtures that we had to keep sending back for broken glass. So technically, I guess we’re still in process…

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The plan.

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My fab sketch illustrating that I wanted a door instead of a window. I should be an artist.

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The framing of the two new garage spaces. 

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Starting to look like something! 

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The garage space closest to the house was commandeered to become the mudroom.

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Lots of garage spaces, old and new.

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Super exciting: Mudroom insulation and ductwork.

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Slowly but surely… mudroom taking shape!

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Entry into the kitchen and lots of future storage.

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My door and little window! Much better than the sketch.

The original plan was to keep an existing door to access the mudroom from the side of the front porch, but it just didn’t seem functional. The whole point of this project is function, after all. I was also worried about the idea of having a “side entrance” on front of the house. Now that it’s done, I am SO happy about the decision! When we repainted the whole house after the construction was complete, we chose to paint this door the same color as the siding, so it sets it apart from the main entrance. {Complete before/after photos to come!} I’m still a little sad that we didn’t do a dutch door, but turns out those aren’t the smartest choice when you consider winters in Illinois.

I remember coming home from work on a Friday in September and seeing this door and being so excited. It was like the kick off to the fun part and it was the point when the finished product seemed within reach.