Not all of us are fortunate enough (or rich enough!) to have the incredible, show-stopping kitchens that we see on Pinterest and Instagram. However, just because you don't currently have the kitchen of your dreams, doesn't mean that there aren't some easy things you can do to up your kitchen game. One of the biggest mistakes that I think people make in their kitchens is that they treat it simply as the utilitarian space that it is: a place for cooking food. As much time as we spend in our kitchens cooking and cleaning, we should treat the space as an extension of our living area. It should be visually pleasing and feel warm and inviting.
Let's take my own kitchen to use as an example for the purposes of this post. There's nothing horrible about it by any stretch of the way BUT, I do not love the counter tops or the back splash. They're fine, just certainly not anything to write home about or to post to Pinterest. Serviceable is the best description I can think of.
Because of the fact that I didn't LOVE our kitchen, I think I sort of let it slip. It became kind of a breeding ground for junk. I'm OCD about keeping things clean so it wasn't dirty, just cluttered. The kitchen was never a space that I really thought about decorating because I just assumed that we needed a large budget to renovate it to make it worthy of decoration and styling. While we would like to redo the back splash and counter tops at some point, it's just not in the top of the queue for things we plan to spend our money on right now.
My thoughts about how to implement affordable changes to our kitchen all started when I finally became fed up with the junk pile on our kitchen counter. One of my new year's organizing goals to get that area cleaned up. It was not only disorganized and unsightly, but it took up an insanely large portion of our kitchen counter space. The disaster started due to a big wooden bowl I sat on the counter when we moved in that never got moved. It became a breeding ground for crap. If I'm being honest, I'm kind of embarrassed to share this but in the vein of transparency and also to show you how much these little affordable changes make a difference, here is our cluttered counter top before I implemented any changes:
Pretty terrible, right? Right. Kids snacks, paperwork, charging cords and electronic devices, and just general junk had piled up to the point that I couldn't take it any more.
The first thing I did was invest in some drawer organizers. I recognize that this isn't earth-shattering advice but using these drastically improved our kitchen organization so much that I purchased them for our bathroom, my dresser vanity and our bedside tables. I got a few different kinds but these are by far my favorite. They're clear, come in a variety of sizes for different things and they are priced affordably.
I have also become A LOT more ruthless about throwing stuff away. For some reason I had tried to clean out the large bowl multiple times and always found a reason to put most of the junk that was in there right back in. But when I really thought about it and started to decide what would actually make it into the drawer, I realized I had not touched most of it in over a year and it could be tossed. My husband has always called me a closet-hoarder and as much as I hated hearing it, there may have been some truth to that. Not anymore!
Okay, so the clutter is finally off the counter. After that, I made five easy and extremely affordable design changes that have brought functionality, style and visual interest into our kitchen.
1. Use a tray for organized counter top storage.
Like I'm sure most of you, we have a few things that we keep on the counter by the stove for easy access. Olive oil, salt and pepper, and our mortar and pestle all sit stove-side at the ready along with a container of utensils. I was constantly straightening them up and trying to make them look presentable but it always seemed like they were just randomly sitting up there and it never looked neat and tidy. I found a small wood and marble tray (at HomeGoods, duh) and suddenly the area is so much more organized. And it takes the guess work out of it for my husband as well. When he cooks (which I'm so lucky is very often!), he knows just where to return each item.
2. Bring in plants and flowers.
Plants and flowers are just as important for bringing warmth and coziness into the kitchen as they are any other room in your house. If you cook frequently and have good natural light or a good window ledge, fresh potted herbs make for a beautiful and practical option. It also saves money. Just snip off what you need and throw it into your dish. If, like us, you don't have a window ledge option or too much natural light, pick potted plants like ferns that can handle less light. You can also bring in clippings from your yard or use fresh flowers. You'll be amazed what a big difference (for a low cost) plants or flowers will bring to your counter space.
3. Use clear containers to display dry goods.
Displaying your flour, sugar and other dry goods is a great way to keep these frequently used items at the ready. It also frees up valuable pantry shelf space. And depending on what you are displaying (think about different shapes and sizes of pasta, for example), it can add great visual interest. Clear canisters like the ones I have pictured can be found at all kinds of stores and are very inexpensive. Here's one similar to mine.
4. Get a couple of wooden cutting boards.
There's a reason that the wooden cutting board trend is one that you are seeing everywhere. The wooden cutting boards are practical AND pretty. The wood grains add warmth and texture to kitchens that are usually full of hard stones, tiles and metal from the appliances. But they don't need to just sit there as decoration. I can't tell you how handy it is to grab one quickly when I need it - especially with demanding little kids yelling at me to be fed. The great thing about these being so trendy? You can pick them up inexpensively at places like Target and HomeGoods. Alternatively, you can spend a little more money but there are gorgeous handmade versions with marble and other materials mixed in. Or, for a weathered, historic feel, there are plenty of antique options out there. Check places like Etsy and Ebay to score some good ones.
5. Add Art.
Some of my favorite kitchen designs nowadays all feature art in them. It really does make the kitchen feel cohesively connected to the rest of the living areas in your home - as well it should be with the amount of time we spend there! And while you can select art that does go along with the food/drink kind of theme (see below), you don't need to feel like it has to. An easy way to insert some art (assuming you have enough counter space to spare) is to lean pieces up against the wall. This makes it super easy to switch out when you want to change seasons or just need a change. Right now this little needlepoint owl that my mom made is perched on our counters. On the opposite wall, I also have two pieces of art that have a lot of meaning to me: a print given to me by my friend as a reminder of our time in Italy and a needlepoint "Cheers" piece that my mom helped me get started. I actually had intended to gift it to a friend as a wedding gift but when my mom died, I decided to keep it since she was the one who taught me how to needlepoint and helped me pick it out.
I love all of the little updates to our kitchen and how it makes it feel so much cozier and homier, and in several instances, makes it more functional. I also feel my stress level lowers when I am not staring at that big bowl of hideous clutter. In many instances, all I did was to recycle or re-purpose things I already had and bring them into the kitchen.
What are some easy updates you've made to your kitchen that has helped you love it more?