25 Styling Tips for a Beautiful and Functional Kitchen

Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap  —  April 28, 2014 — 3 Comments

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Kitchens in magazines always look so beautiful, but when you look closely it’s clear that things are only styled that way for the camera. Eggs displayed in a bowl on the counter, lemons being sliced on a wood cutting board, fresh flowers near the sink, bottles of perrier, etc.. These photos may be inspirational but they are not practical. It’s like the home decor version of photoshopping models and leaves many readers thinking that their own kitchens can never measure up.

As I gather motivation and money to tackle some of the less glamorous tasks that I’ve put off to the end of updating my kitchen, I’ve been working on making the everyday experience of living and working in it more pleasurable. This means having what I need where I need it as much as it means being easy on the eyes.

At first I didn’t even know what search terms to use on google and pinterest to get ideas for how to arrange things. I just scanned through pictures of kitchens looking for good ideas. I remembered soon enough that this particular aspect of decorating is called styling–it’s the finishing touches, the small details, but it can make a big difference in the way you use your kitchen every day if done well.┬áSomething as simple as pulling some frequently used items out of the pantry and placing them in canisters on the counter can feel like the height of luxury when you’re not having to reach into the pantry once again just to hand your kid a couple of raisins.

When it comes down to it, functional styling is all about determining what you use most often and finding a way to keep it close at hand in a way that’s aesthetically pleasing.┬áThink about what you need and then find ways to either make those things beautiful or store them conveniently.Put ugly things away, keep pretty things out, look for more beautiful versions of everyday items, and get rid of what you don’t need or love.

Here’s a list of items you may like to keep out in the open:

  1. Attractive small appliances, like a stand mixer or an especially attractive toaster or coffee machine (we are not coffee drinkers so our $10 coffeemaker stays in a cabinet and comes out only when guests are staying overnight). Find ways to store accessories close at hand, like using hooks to hold mixer attachments in a nearby cabinet. If having a toaster or coffeemaker out is important to you keep your eyes peeled for one that you don’t mind seeing every morning. There are tons of ideas on Pinterest for setting up a nice looking coffee station.
  2. Fresh fruit displayed on a platter, in a bowl, or or on a plate stand
  3. Soap in a pretty dish or bottle
  4. Wood or stone cutting board
  5. Knife block or magnetic strip
  6. A collection of pretty vases or something similar–I’ve got several small bud vases grouped on my windowsill
  7. Plants, especially herbs or aloe but really whatever you can manage to keep alive. Succulents are easiest.
  8. Kitchen-ish whatnots you can find around the house, like the small metallic pear I got from Z Gallerie a few years ago
  9. Plain white paper towels
  10. Canisters galore–I’ve got canisters and jars of dishwasher detergent, raisins, almonds, tea, sugar, and oatmeal
  11. Candles in beautiful containers
  12. Pretty trays or shallow baskets groups items together
  13. If you’re a wine drinker like me, a small bowl on the counter to collect corks is both convenient and easy on the eyes
  14. Glassware can be really pretty displayed in the open–consider keeping frequently used glasses on an open shelf or hanging wine glasses from a stemware rack
  15. Relegate all of your ratty old dishtowels to dirty jobs and treat yourself to a couple of new ones that you won’t mind keeping out in the open. Look for some that are absorbent so you won’t be cursing them every time you dry your hands. There was a towel rack installed across the room when we moved in but it was impractical so I was excited to find a pretty over-the-cabinet one for $5 at Marshall’s.
  16. Put salt, pepper, olive oil, vinegar, and anything else that you use frequently in attractive and easy-to-use containers near the stove.
  17. If you have a favorite pot or pan don’t be afraid to store it on the stovetop. My cast iron skillet stays out all the time. Same goes for cute teakettles or whatever else you use and love.
  18. Store measuring cups and spoons in a basket or flatware caddy that can be moved to wherever you need it. This way you can always have it close at hand whether you’re adding ingredients to a pan on the stove or working in a separate food prep area.
  19. Another option for the flatware caddy is to–get this–use it for flatware! This may free up valuable drawer space for things you’d rather not see but want close at hand
  20. Free up another drawer by storing cooking utensils in a crock on the countertop
  21. Display fresh flowers or clippings from outside–even just leaves can be pretty!
  22. Cookbooks. I don’t really use them but some people go gaga for them. If you have a collection consider displaying them in the open.
  23. If there’s something you use frequently for cleaning consider transferring it into a clear spray bottle that you won’t mind keeping in plain view (I clean practically everything with vinegar)
  24. Art–there are a ton of inexpensive prints available on etsy
  25. Consider downsizing your collection of appliances. The old fashioned versions of many kitchen tools are easier to store. Do you really need an electric can opener, wine bottle opener, or sandwich press? Of course if you love having these things then keep them! But if they’re in your way or you find it annoying that you can’t open a can of beans or bottle of wine during a power outage then maybe think about downgrading to a version that can be stashed in a drawer and operates on elbow grease.
  26. And here’s a bonus tip since it may not apply for everyone, but I moved my microwave into the pantry and it was a total lifechanger. I’m saving up to hire an electrician to install an outlet in there.

It’s about more than just looking pretty–it’s about efficiency and order and making your life easier. This process of arranging everything just so has made such a huge difference in the way I feel about my kitchen. I used to think it was so cluttered and inefficient, but now I’ve got what I need where I need it and it looks so pretty that I feel a little bit fabulous even if I’m just fixing a cup of tea. I’ll be back tomorrow with some photos showing how I’ve applied these ideas in my own space.

Thanks for reading, y’all, and I hope y’all had a great weekend!

Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap

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3 responses to 25 Styling Tips for a Beautiful and Functional Kitchen

  1. Great tips! Love your idea about putting vinegar in a pretty spray bottle. It would make things easier if things like that were easily accessible!

  2. i found an odd yet pretty tall/narrow basket somewhere (thrift or garage sale) and it fits all my daily household cleaning stuff on the counter beautifully & it’s harder for the kids to reach it in that spot then under the sink (they pop the baby safety latch device).
    I have the floor cleaner, de-greasing cleaner dishwasher & dish soap in there to quickly attack anything they do before it stains.
    I keep finding the counters so cluttered in general that I wonder if I should do away with the basket but then i notice when the kids are busy enough to be gone from the house for a few days the clutter goes down a lot so maybe I just need to be patient :)

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