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I knew that having drink dispensers that closed for travel would be the easiest way to transport beverages to Jack’s splashpad birthday party, but dang those things are expensive! I searched high and low, unwilling to pay upwards of $20 each for something I might use once a year, and was thrilled when I finally found these for only $10 each at Target. I could have used them on their own just fine, but they would have had to sit at the edge of the table so that folks could fill their cups and that just felt awkward to me.

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I wanted to find a way to raise them up a few inches if possible. I couldn’t find any drinks stands that had the look I wanted and were worth the money so I started looking for everyday objects that might be repurposed. I really only needed something about 3″ high to accommodate the small cups we were using but whatever it was had to be pretty sturdy. Enter this wood box from the craft store! I think it was about $11 with a coupon. I totally laughed when I saw the text on it, though. I feel like Pinterest has taken our collective penchant for decor that states the obvious a little too far.

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To cover up the text, I painted the center slat kelly green. I was originally planning to stain the rest of it but that one colorful slat looked a little off so I painted the others navy and white. These are the same colors used in Jack’s room and in varying degrees throughout our home so I knew I could repurpose it to store toys or books after the party without having to repaint. I stained the remaining sides and bottom. I was going to stain the inside as well, but after some green paint dripped I painted it green. The green interior is my only regret.

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For the party, we just flipped it over to use as a platform! It was a little breezy that day so we tucked the napkins between the slats to help them stay put. I was a little worried about how the thin wood would hold up to all that weight and moisture from condensation but it did fine.

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The box is currently corralling cleaning rags in my laundry room, but the colors are so great that I think I will eventually just add some felt pads to the bottom and put it in Jack’s room. I might get another one just like it to paint yellow for the laundry room, though!

So after yesterday’s post about my total fail in attempting a painted herringbone effect, here’s the rest of the story. My new idea was to attempt the same effect with wood. I had these craft sticks left over from a previous project so I tried cutting them at an angle using a miter box.

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It looked pretty good, but I could tell right off that it was going to take forever to cut all those pieces and that keeping my cuts precise would be a nightmare. Even if I’d decided to butt the straight ends up against each other I still would have needed to cut a precise angle where the sticks met the frame. So I played around with it a little bit and decided instead to lay the sticks end to end like planks in a wood floor. This was perfect for covering up the previous layers of paint and so easy that I knocked it out in an hour.

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The sticks have a rounded end, so I used a pair of wire snips to cut off the tip. I set up a small container to catch the flying pieces like a soccer goal. I also cut the sticks to random lengths like you would do when installing wood floors.

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Once I had a bunch of pieces cut and could tell that it was going to work, I moved my work area to be near an outlet and used a hot glue gun to stick them down one at a time. I did the whole bottom row first, then followed one row at a time. After I was done with the gluing I touched up the green paint where it had been accidentally smeared with white.

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I thought about staining some of the pieces before gluing them down to add contrast, but the natural variations in tone were interesting enough that I left it as is. I still haven’t completely ruled out adding something else to the design but I’m just not sure what yet.

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It’s perfect on this sliver of wall in our downstairs bath.

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Up close you can see lots of gaps in the wood, but since the back is painted a light color it’s no biggie. I kind of dig it, actually.

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This project made me kind of wish that I had a dollhouse in need of wood floors! It was fun and relaxing, which is the exact opposite of what I think it would be like to ACTUALLY lay wood floors.

Yesterday I posted 25 Styling Tips for a Beautiful and Functional Kitchen and today I’m back to share how I’ve applied some of these tips in my own home. I don’t have many of the high end appliances and features that you see in magazines, but I do have a space that makes me happy and because I’ve set it up thoughtfully it’s very easy to work in.

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My dishwasher detergent is in a glass canister, my dish soap is in a cruet meant for olive oil, a bar of hand soap is in a dish on the windowsill, and an absorbent towel in a favorite color hangs from an inexpensive holder on the cabinet below. I’ve got a small collection of bud vases on display (handy for any pretty flowers I may collect outside), a couple of plants, and a metallic pear I got ages ago for a few bucks. The curtain adds fun color and pattern to a largely neutral space.

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I use the peninsula immediately adjacent to this area for food prep so the corner is prime real estate. I keep apples and bananas out in a platter (though the fruit flies are killing me lately!). Next to that sits a knife block and stand mixer. All of my baking supplies and mixer accessories are stored in the cabinet above.

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Over here I’ve got a memo board, stemware, and paper towels taking advantage of vertical space and on the counter a pretty silver tray groups raisins, almonds, tea, sugar, oatmeal, and a pretty candle. I keep a glass bowl out to collect corks and a couple of handy supplies like a corkscrew, bottle opener, matches, and more tea are in the drawer below.

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Grouping these items together on a tray helps it look less cluttered and adds a decorative element as well. I love love love vintage silver, but the same effect could be achieved with a shallow basket or any kind of tray that suits your fancy.

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The eye prefers odd numbers and symmetry but careful disregard for these rules can be fun. Make a list of your favorite colors and textures and find ways to work them in. You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars at Anthro, Pottery Barn, or even Target. Most of what you see in these photos has either been collected over the years from various secondhand sources or picked up inexpensively at closeout stores like Marshall’s or Stein Mart (sadly we have no HomeGoods here, but that’s a good option as well). I know that my kitchen would look so much better with a new stove, but I’m not letting the ugliness of the old one stop me from decorating around it. You’ve got to work with what you’ve got!

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The narrow black tray came from Ikea several years ago and I think is intended for candles but it’s perfect for keeping some things handy near the stove. The four taller items looked weird by themselves so I added a vintage sugar bowl with a small preserved plant inside (that’s what I like to call plants that I’ve killed but that still look okay). The bowl serves no functional purpose here but it made the grouping odd-numbered and thus instantly improved the aesthetics. My cast iron skillet stays out all the time, mostly because it’s so freaking heavy. The silver platter was gifted to Nick’s great-grandfather upon his retirement from the jewelry store where he worked for 65 years.

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This side of the stove has been switched up a few times as I try to figure out what works best. I used to have all of my measuring cups and spoons in a plastic bin in the pantry but I started getting annoyed that the bin was in the way of the food. I just got this woven flatware caddy and it’s perfect for hiding these things in plain sight. I looked for a pretty glass measuring cup for liquids but couldn’t find one that I liked enough to leave sitting out, so the ugly plastic one I’ve had for years has been relocated to a cabinet near the sink. I was surprised to find that that’s actually a much more convenient home for it! All of my cooking utensils are gathered in a cylindrical container on the counter–it’s intended to be a lantern for candles but, you know, whatever. This move freed up the drawer below to store potholders and trivets.

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My mother in law gave me these sweet measuring cups and spoons with birds on the handles for my birthday. I love seeing the little birdies peeking out from the top of the basket. Also, most of us can’t afford to buy fresh flowers all the time but clippings from the great outdoors can be just as pretty. These buds feel fancy despite that fact that they were 100% free and are sitting in a shot glass.

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This is not the kind of thing that I’d suggest doing all at once. Take some time to think about how you use your kitchen. What do you need stored where? What would be best kept behind closed doors and what would be better kept in plain view? And what is taking up space that you don’t really need? Then find creative ways to make it work and keep your eyes peeled for items that can serve as attractive storage containers or decor. You might be surprised by how many beautiful things you already have!

If you’re new here and want to see more here are links to several posts about the progress of my kitchen:

My Big Plans for a Small Kitchen Makeover
Beadboard Backsplash Complete!
DIY Lined Cafe Curtains
DIY Wood & Metal Kitchen Shelves, Part 1
DIY Wood & Metal Kitchen Shelves, Part 2
DIY Etched Glass Dish Soap Dispenser
Organized Baking Cabinet with Hooks
DIY Pantry Doors Part 1
DIY Pantry Doors Part 2
Easy Pantry Shelf
New Kitchen Cabinet Hardware
How to Make Old Drawers Slide Smoothly
How I Finished the Undersides of My Cabinets
DIY Pantry Door Storage
Handed Down Silver Platter
Trial Run: Microwave in the Pantry
Styling and Organizing the Kitchen Counters
Sippy Cup and Kid Dish Storage
Another Silver Platter
New Kitchen Light

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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. Something 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. Think 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!