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

 

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

essentials for the kiddo commuting circus

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Our last city outing with the kiddos at Christmas. Santa and Zoo Lights!

I love living out on the furthest edge of the burbs. I love the stars, open spaces, the quiet, the deer in our yard and the homey vibe. Being out here makes my small town heart happy and it’s definitely where my country boy hubby and I feel the most centered. But, after living in Chicago for more than 10 years, I became a bit of a city girl and still work in the city twice a week.

We’ve been bringing both boys into the city since they were tiny because we don’t want it to feel like a novelty for them. It can be intense, but sometimes it’s a necessity thanks to our ever-changing schedule and hodgepodge childcare situation. We are super lucky to have someone who is more of an “auntie” than a babysitter, who will open her apartment to hang with our boys while I’m in meetings. After I’m done with work, I scoop them up and we have family time before heading home. {Bonus: we avoid rush hour!}

This week, the boys are going into the city with me for the first time since December. I’m feeling a little anxious because it’s been a while, so it got me thinking about all of the things I need to pack. I’ve tried to whittle down all of the items so that there’s the least amount of schlepping possible. We used to bring 837 bags: kiddo bag, diaper bag, cooler for food and milk, my handbag, my computer bag and my breast pump bag. I’ve been able to eliminate the pump bag and diaper bag and by upgrading to a larger kiddo bag, I can fit everything we need in there. It’s still a bit of a circus though!

Thus, I present our Essentials for the Kiddo Commuting Circus!

 

commuting must haves

1 – The stroller is key. We need something that holds both kiddos side by side, because our 4-year-old is in the 90th percentile for height and weight, so the tandem strollers don’t work for him. We also wanted a stroller that collapses easily and has a small footprint when it’s folded for easy travel. We landed on the City Mini GT, by Baby Jogger. {On sale now!} I love how it goes through doorways easily and has a great turning radius. The only down side is that the pocket under the seats isn’t as large and easily accessible as I am used to with our UppaBaby Vista. We still use our Vista a lot, as a single stroller with the PiggyBack attachment but the City Mini GT is better longer hauls or if we want to make sure that both boys are strapped in.

2 – Lovies. Our boys have both grown quite attached to very specific Aden + Anais swaddle blankets. The Silky Soft Swaddles are dreamy to snuggle with, so I don’t blame them for having a preference! They both have the regular Aden + Anais blankets, but they have a clear preference and have been known to completely freak out if they are in the laundry.

3 – Baby G loves his WubbaNubs. These are great because he can find it easily on his own at night or in his car seat. Can’t leave home without them.

4 – This wet bag was an impulse purchase, but it’s gotten a lot of mileage. It’s great for dirty clothes, especially if they’ve been spilled on, so it keeps the mess contained. It’s also a good size, so our city sitter can throw some diapers and wipes into it for outings without lugging an entire diaper bag around. I love things that can pull double duty!

5 – I love this little bento box! It’s great to pack snacks or lunch for the kiddos. I do usually send something else in addition to this, like a sandwich or something, but this is a concise way to pack small bites.

6 – We have tried a million sippy cups in our 3 years living in sippy cup land and these are the two clear favorites. We have several Nalgene water bottles for the 4-year-old and the 1-year-old will graduate to one shortly. In the meantime, we’ve found that this Avent penguin sippy is the easiest for him to hold onto but also doesn’t spill. He has one sippy that looks cool, but it’s essentially a milk paint brush. Awesome.

7 – While big brother isn’t interested in pouches anymore, they are a daily staple for little brother. Even more so when we’re on the go! We love Ella’s Kitchen.

8 – While we try to keep it simple with the big gear, we always miss it when we forget to bring our lobster claw phil&teds seat. We thought we’d use this more for restaurants, but it’s most helpful when we go to other people’s houses, because usually high chairs are not as readily accessible.

9 – A great bag to tote all of this stuff is an absolute must. I love these bags from Lands End. I’ll be stuffing this bag with all of the above plus these odds and ends…

  • Winter outdoor accessories to bundle up on walks.
  • A change of clothes for each, just in case.
  • A pair of pajamas for each, so we can get them bed-time ready before the drive home. {If you’re looking for a fun, family bonding activity, try changing two wiggly kids into their pj’s after dinner, in your car. Favorite.}
  • Enough diapers and then some.
  • Wipes, Aquaphor, Etc.
  • Food for lunch and snack, plus extra snacks for the car to keep the peace.
  • Little people utensils along with the sippy cups.
  • A bottle of wine for mommy, to help recover from the whole process. {If you don’t know me, this one is obviously a joke, although not my worst idea! I mean, the hubs will be driving home!}

xoxo

suburban problems: project mudroom

Our house is a 1965 work in progress. Parts of it are updated for modern life and other spaces need some love.

We jumped into a major renovation project over the summer, but since I wasn’t blogging then, I’m going to rewind and go through our process now. We are not DIY-ers. We love to take on some small things, but we don’t have the time or the knowhow to jump into anything major on our own. We knew we needed to bring in the professional expertise of a trusted contractor. However, we did not use a designer or architect, so that’s where things get kind of interesting!

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Entry from the garage into the kitchen. Dining room to your left, refrigerator to your right. Nowhere to unload shoes or bags.

The Problem: Coming from a two bedroom condo in the city, the hubs and I were thrilled to have an attached garage and didn’t think about much when it came to the logistics of said garage. The entrance into the house from the garage is really the primary entrance and the space was just not functional, no matter how we tried. You would enter the house from the garage and land in the most awkward space, without a single square foot to kick off your shoes or drop a bag. When we first moved in, it wasn’t a big deal, but add Chicago winters, a toddler and a baby into that mix, and you end up with a constant track of snowy, salty, dirty footprints and what-have-you all over the counters in the kitchen, before you even make it to the entry on other side of the house, where you can unload. We quickly figured out, we needed a mudroom.

The Decision Process: We talked about it a lot. Could we reimagine our current kitchen/dining room layout to accommodate all of our stuff? Could we carve out space in the existing garage for a bench and hooks? Do we need to add to our home’s footprint? Or do we just move, now that we know better? We talked about these options all the time; to each other, to our neighbors, to our family and friends {sorry guys – one of us *ahem* may have been borderline obsessive}. Eventually we landed on the concept of building an addition.

Initial Planning: The first plan was something we imagined would be the most cost effective, out of the three potential ways we could expand upon the existing garage. HA! Is there such a thing as “cost effective” when it comes to building an addition onto your home?? The original plan was about double the cost of what we had initially ball-parked. Granted, to come up with that number, we used the super precise method of completely pulling a number out of our asses. After all, we were just taking the 10 feet at the back of the garage and converting it to a mudroom/laundry room and then adding 10 feet of space to the front of the garage. That plan would have altered the whole roofline, without adding any additional livable space on the second floor.

Change of Plans: We thought about scrapping the project all together after seeing the estimate, but we decided to re-work the plans so we could get a little more for our money. The investment made more sense if we weren’t putting so much money into roofwork that was purely aesthetic. We learned that a large part of the cost is getting the workers to your house in the first place, so if we were going to be putting that kind of money into our home then we needed to get more bang for our buck.

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A snapshot of our revised plans, going into the project.

 

Pulling the Trigger: By extending the garage out to the side, rather than forward, we were able to fit a third garage space in addition to the mudroom/laundry, and a better “side” entrance. So now we’re talking about the mudroom/laundry of our dreams + an extra garage, instead of a different roofline. The snow blower needs it’s own space, after all. Hello, first world suburban problems! We started the process with our contractor again, with our revised vision, a process that took a few months, after you factor in the time to for him to price out each specific subcontractor and to secure permits. I acted as the designer and he told me what would logistically work and what wouldn’t. The project evolved a bit as we went, but now we’re done, after 16 weeks of a 6-8 week project.

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Boots & more finally have a home. Having a mudroom is a game changer!

It’s already one of the hardest working spaces in our home – getting almost as much action as the kitchen. It’s a mudroom, a laundry room, the pantry that I’ve always dreamed of and extra storage for days. I don’t think we realized how much of a difference it would make in our daily lives and in our ability to stay organized and sane. It’s been a game changer, even without a major built-in that we plan to add down the road. Now I get to relive the process of getting to the finish line. #stcmudroom 

 

scheduling balance

 

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Pretty things and organization! I heart Rifle Paper.

I am OBSESSED with my new Rifle Paper Co. calendar that just arrived today! Pretty things that also facilitate organization… I mean! Heart eyes for days (literally days, because we’re talking about a calendar).  I’m sometimes a little too type A for my own good and for the good of the people who have to deal with me… I’m sure the hubs could write his own post on this topic. But, I digress.

Scheduling can be super stressful, so having a great place to keep track of everything is essential. Bonus points for the fact that it’s designed by one of my favorites and the artwork makes me happy. This will hang in the space between our kitchen and our new mudroom (more on that later!) and it will be our base of operations. Though I love my electronic calendar for specific appointments throughout the day, we need something that functions as a basic overview for each day, at a glance. I love this layout because it allows plenty of space for just that.

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Is it weird that fresh calendar pages make me happy?? This baby will be full of details in no time.

We take our schedule week by week and it’s constantly changing, so that’s why having this central hub is so important in keeping us sane. There are days I’m in the city, days that I’m working from home, days that my hubby is traveling for work, preschool, doctor’s appointments, etc. You get the idea. Lately, we’ve fallen into a pretty solid system that works for us.

I set my days each week that I’ll be in the city based around when my clients can meet and other events or happenings. Usually this works out to be about 1-2 days per week, but sometimes it’s more. City days require a serious childcare plan. Depending on what my meetings look like, the childcare plan will play out in one of a few ways:

  1. I bring them with me and drop them off with our “city sitter” turned auntie/super close friend. She hangs with the boys while I’m working and then we all rendezvous at the end of the day and find a yummy spot for a family dinner out. This is super fun, but used to be way easier when Henry was flying solo. Now with two kiddos, it’s imperative that we have them changed into their jammies and in the car by 7:00. Theoretically, the baby falls asleep in the car and transfers into his crib and we’re home in time for Henry’s regularly schedule bedtime. So, as fun as this option is, we don’t do it very often because having it all work perfectly is kind of a crap shoot and we’re usually all fried by the end of the day.
  2. My mother-in-law comes over. This is an awesome option, because it gives the boys quality time with their grandma and the obvious… free childcare! But, Nina has 7 grandchildren and we’re not the only ones who think this is a great idea. So, we try to be careful not to ask her to come over too frequently and we certainly don’t want to take advantage.
  3. Our AMAZING nanny! We hit the jackpot through care.com this fall when we met Young Mary Poppins. The boys and I adore her and she is totally comfortable doing preschool drop off and/or pick up if needed. We don’t do a full-time nanny schedule because she’s in grad school and also, we like having the flexibility for me to have days where I’m just solo with the boys or having a grandma or auntie get some quality time with them.

Once a month or so, it works out where the boys are at our house in the burbs and I don’t have an evening meeting or event, so the hubs and I are able to grab dinner and have adult conversation and pretend like we haven’t actually moved 42 miles from the city.

The phrase, no two days are ever the same, has never been more true. It is a constant juggle to make sure we don’t lose our minds and sometimes we do. Just as I think we’ve got the hang of balancing everything, something changes and then we have to find a new system again. For us, the only thing that is constant is change… and the need to stay organized and flexible!