Why Not . . . Use Simple Changes to Transform Your Kitchen?
Wednesday October 10, 2012

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Part of creating a simply luxurious life is building a sanctuary that is welcoming, comforting and tranquil. One of the highlights of my day is pulling into the garage and walking into my home where I can let my hair down, come a little undone and breathe a huge sigh of relief that I can do as I please. And part of the reason I feel this way is because my sanctuary is clean, organized and suited to my needs and tastes.

My current focus when it comes to my home is re-decorating the kitchen. Every other year or so, I tend to want to see a change or become involved in a facelift in a particular part of my house so that it better reflects who I am and the life that I’m living. So the focus of my attention and a few hard earned dollars is the creative cooking space better known as the kitchen.

Now this particular facelift will not involve a contractor, instead only my creative ideas and elbow grease which will be much easier on my budget. And if everything I have on my list to do comes into fruition, the changes will be quite significant. So no matter what size your kitchen may be or how much you have to invest in a mini-make-over, I’d like to share with you today simple ways you too can turn your kitchen into a welcoming, simply inviting and comforting space.

During the past weekend, the local AAUW chapter in Walla Walla sponsored a kitchen tour of eight kitchens in the area that were uniquely impressive in their own way. With all proceeds going towards scholarships for young women pursuing a college education, I invited my mother and we both gladly donated our $20 to gain a few ideas on how to we might create a more welcoming, organized and streamlined kitchen.

So after a day that was full of brilliant fall blue skies and endless inspiration, I sat down to make a list of what I knew I wanted and what I was now inspired to incorporate into my simple kitchen make-over.

1. Purge
Go through each and every cupboard, shelf and drawer and place in a box to donate or sell anything that is unused (no matter how beautiful), or a duplicate of what you already have. By spending time purging what isn’t necessary, you create a space that less cluttered, enables you to find exactly what you are looking for and helps you decide what is truly needed.

My example may seem a bit extreme, but after spending a week in a flat in London this summer that did not have a microwave, I realized I honestly didn’t need one either. So, in order to clear my counter space and force myself to plan meals a bit better, I removed it from my kitchen. For the past two months, I have yet to miss it. It takes more planning ahead to warm leftovers up, but I love the reduction of clutter.

2. Keep the Counters Clear
Speaking of counters, keep them clear. Find a space or eliminate anything except absolutely beautiful and necessary items from the counter top. For example, keep – a gourmet espresso machine, a retro toaster, a wine rack, glass canisters for baking essentials, ceramic canister for cooking utensils and clear bottles of EVOO and/balsamic vinegar; and eliminate – plastic bottles of anything, food, etc.

3. Monochromatic Dishes
As a lover of white kitchens, I am a tremendous fan of all-white dishware in the kitchen cupboards – bowls, plates, mugs, etc. Why? It makes it simpler when setting a table (choose a colorful bouquet and accessories to change the look for the particular occasion), it looks nice and uniform on the shelves and I don’t become too terribly attached to it if an item breaks as I can purchase a new one white piece just about anywhere.

4. Choose Beautiful Containers
I can easily go through an 8 ounce bottle of extra virgin olive oil in a week, so I have chosen to keep a glass olive oil dispenser on the counter next to my stove. If you too use any item regularly (flour, oatmeal, sugar, etc), keep it on the countertop, but place it in a beautiful glass or ceramic canister that follows the color scheme.

5. Include a Touch of Originality
At one of the kitchens we visited, a family had the fortune to find and place in their kitchen a 19th century Belgian butcher’s block (image below). While it had to be taken apart, refinished and then reassembled once inside the home, it was a tremendously, impressive piece that brought character and a sense of history to a very clean and functional room.

Keep your eyes out for a special piece to bring into your kitchen (large or small), but be sure not to bring too many, as you want such pieces to be the focal point.

6. Line your Shelves
A simple change that won’t cost much and is a simple task is to reline your kitchen shelves. Especially if you have open shelving for your dinner and serving ware, choosing the right shelf liner can pull a space together.
7. Display your Cookbooks
While going through each kitchen, I found myself lingering near their cookbook shelves, perusing their titles. From Julia Child, Barefoot Contessa, The New York Times and more, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing what type of meals they preferred to enjoy. And then I thought, why not display your cookbooks? Choose an extra open shelf you don’t know what to do with or as one of our hosts creatively did, bring in extra standing shelves (she had this particular shelf from Pottery Barn in black), and place your cookbooks, a radio or television and a plant or two on it in a corner in your kitchen where you would like some height.

With the books being visible, you are regularly reminded of ideas you may have discovered in any one of them or find yourself more apt to pull one off the shelf and try a new recipe one evening when you have extra time.
8. Welcome Beautiful Sound
Whenever I’m cooking I love to have either music (classic or smooth jazz, French cafe music or old crooners) or the news radio station playing. To help create a more welcoming space, place your iPod docking station, a Bose radio, your iPad or a simple radio on top of the fridge on an open shelf or somewhere that will amplify the sound well, and lose track of time as you cook or bake to your heart’s content.

9. Window Treatments
Placing simple white Roman shades, wooden blinds or curtains around your windows in the kitchen changes the space immediately creating warmth and providing a more comforting, less sterile space. A great place to custom design your own window treatments (size, inside or outside mount, etc) for reasonable prices, but at the same time ensuring a quality product is Blinds.com.

10. A Wall Clock or Framed Art
Depending on the style you have chosen to work with for your kitchen, consider unique wall decoration or a beautiful over-sized wall clock. Frame your favorite print (remember larger and less items to great a more regal, streamlined environment), or during your travels, find a unique painting at a flea market, bring it home and frame it. Each time you look at it, you’ll have a moment of beautiful nostalgia.

11. Organize a Comfort Shelf
Last, but certainly not least, create a comfort shelf somewhere in your kitchen. Feeling inspired, this past weekend I reorganized and purged all of my cupboards, choosing an easy-to-reach shelf to place only my favorite teas – Mariage Frères, Beecrowbee, Tazo Zen and Mason & Foster. My comfort shelf is dedicated to soothing and calming me down after whatever each day may bring. So, I’m curious . . . what would you place on your comfort shelf? Chocolates, almonds, your favorite bottle of wine? Have some fun designing your own cherished space within an already wonderful kitchen.

More than anything, I hope you finishing reading today’s post and realize that simple changes such as these can make a very significant difference. When you walk into a room you love and enjoy being it because it speaks to who you are and is welcoming to those you love, you begin to enjoy the time you spend in your home even more. And having a sanctuary such as this is key to establishing balance and rejuvenating your body and mind after being out in the world each and every day, no matter how much we enjoy all the opportunities such a life affords us.

14 thoughts on “Why Not . . . Use Simple Changes to Transform Your Kitchen?

  1. Another really great blog! Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂

    There is one thing I disagree with however, and it’s clearing my counters of food. You see, like most French women, I use lovely old white bowls filled with fresh produce as decorative items: at least until I need them!! For example, I was up at 5.30 this morning to get the freshest produce from my local market stalls. (I always keep a raffia panier du marché on a hook in my kitchen, and when I came home this morning it was overflowing with goodies.) So today, I have a bowl full of lovely sunny and fragrant lemons; another overflowing with tomatoes, aubergine, courgettes, and red and green peppers which tonight will form the basis of the ratatouille I’m planning to make. In the meantime, these and my plaits of garlic and shallots make(to my mind, at least) a beautiful and fragrant ‘still life’ in my kitchen!! I’ve also brought pots of my favourite summer herbs indoors, and I love coming into the kitchen at dawn to be met by the heady aroma of basil! So sorry, Shannon, but for once I’m not with you. I love using colourful fruits and vegetables to create ever-changing living art!

    1. La Francaise,
      First of all, let me say, I love your comment. Thank you for sharing in such beautiful detail. I couldn’t agree with you more. Let me clarify what I meant when I mention “food” needing to be removed from the countertops. I too place fresh fruit, veggies, baguettes, etc in bowls and baskets on the counter, but any boxed food, commercially labeled needs to remain in a cupboard, etc. After all, our kitchens are our own piece of art in a way, and to clutter it with commercialized processed food boxes, etc detracts from actual food and ingredients for upcoming meals.

  2. Great ideas! I’ve been procrastinating my cabinet purge, and am now more inspired to get it done. Also loved the post from La Francais, merci madame.

  3. Another inspiring post….love the brilliant ideas and photo’s 🙂 The first comment sounds intriguing, must try that tip 🙂
    Have a lovely day.

  4. Another wonderful and very helpful post. You make chores and organizing such a pleasure and essential for our whole well being. Thank you 🙂
    Lisa | Happy By

  5. I loved so many of these ideas. One of the things that drives me faintly nuts in my (wonderful) parents’ kitchen is the amount of stuff and clutter on work surfaces.
    Most of my dishes are white, but I’m totally realizing now how incredibly simple it makes entertaining, if you can simply change an accent color (linens, candles etc).
    And yay to the comfort station! One of my 40th birthday treats was a set of tins to give pride of place to different types of tea.
    Great post!! Hopping on over to Twitter to share…

  6. Ah, this makes me kind of wistful. I bought a ‘new construction’ condo over a year ago and I have just over a year still before I move in. That kitchen will be wonderful, but my current apartment one here is quite terrible. There is absolutely nothing comforting or serene about it! I function the best I can, but there isn’t anything else I can do to make it look better. Cooking and baking are part of my joys and to not have the proper space for it is frustrating. But, so far I’ve managed just over a year here (I previously lived in other condo/apartments that had much better kitchens but I’m on a budget and saving money while waiting for my new place to be constructed). I can only collect ideas for now but I can’t wait to put together a beautiful kitchen from scratch when the time comes!

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