5 Easy Ways to Freshen Up Your Kitchen

August 25, 2010

As much as I would love to get new flooring, new cupboards and counter tops,to give my kitchen a face lift, my budget just won’t allow for it.  So I’ve had to be creative over the years and come up with other ways to give my kitchen a new appeal.

Paint of course is one of the least expensive ways to give your kitchen a new look. But painting can be a hassle too.  So if painting is not on your agenda here’s a few other ways to bring new life to your kitchen.

1.  Deep Cleaning.

Yes I know, cleaning is a gimme.  But be honest with yourself now, how often do you really get down on your hands and knees to scrub your floor. And not just your floor, when is the last time you cleaned on top of your cupboards or took everything out of the fridge and cleaned the shelves and drawers.  And don’t forget the light fixtures, ceiling fans or windows… by spending an afternoon giving your kitchen a good deep cleaning you will create a fresh and healthy environment in which to prepare your families meals.

2. Cleaning out the cupboards

A couple weeks ago I decided to reorganize my canned goods.  Do you know what I found?  Canned goods that had expired years ago. Not just one or two years, but 3 or more years! Yikes! My hubby is notorious for bringing home odd canned goods. Sometimes I find weird things like German potato salad, mandarin oranges or canned beets.  OK, maybe that’s not all that weird to some people, but these are just things I never use.  So do yourself a favor and take stock in what you have, what’s expired, and what you know you’ll never use. Get rid of it. If it’s not expired, donate to a food shelf.  If it is, toss the food and recycle the container.

3. Gadgets, gadgets and more gadgets.

As long as you are cleaning out your food shelves, think about your Tupperware, gadgets and pots and pans.  Do your lids match your containers? How many take out food containers have you saved that can be tossed?  Are there appliances and gadgets that you haven’t used in years?  Has that pan seen it’s better days? What would happen if you tossed or donated those items?  If you are afraid you’ll miss them, fill a grocery bag or two with the unused items. Set the bag aside for a couple weeks or even a couple months.  If you haven’t given those items a second thought then chances are you don’t need them and never will. Let them go.  Donate to a charity or a young person just starting out.  You’ll never miss them and you’ll gain extra cupboard space so you can actually find the things you need.

4. Lighting

Many people just starting out have a small lighting budget or have to live with other people’s lighting choices.  Lighting is something that can be easily changed and for under a couple hundred dollars you can get a new fixture that can make a big difference.  I started out with basic brass and glass fixtures throughout my house. And slowly, as I’ve changed my color schemes, paint and room decor I’ve changed out those fixtures.  Check out the clearance section of your local home improvement center for some great deals. But remember think classic style vs. fads and trends and you’ll be able to make changes around your lighting as your mood changes.

5. Aesthetics

So you’ve cleaned out your cupboards, dusted, scrubbed and gotten rid of unused items, now comes the fun stuff.  If you are like me and lack counter space but need to store a few things on top of the counters there’s a couple tricks you can use to hide the appliances yet spiff up the space.

Pick a theme.  Roosters, gardens, mod black and white…do you love coffee, exotic teas or wine?  Find a common theme and accessorize.  Many stores offer a variety of themed towels, napkins, table cloths and curtains.  Not that I suggest you buy the whole ensemble, please don’t buy the whole ensemble, but a couple complimentary items can really help you establish a look.  My theme is Tuscan-Gardens. I have chosen a color pallet of gold, reds, burgundy’s, greens and browns. I’ve accessorized my counters and cupboard tops with fancy olive oils in shapely bottles, vintage wine racks, unique glassware and hand-painted art with scrolling vines and rolling hills. I added a few themed towels with sublimated images of wine or oil bottles. Italian pottery is used to hold my teas and as a vessel for my mail.  I have beautiful floral cloth napkins casually tossed on top of the toaster and coffee maker to hide mis-matched appliances. Colorful artisan glassware sits in the window to catch the setting sun.

But don’t over accessorize, a little goes a long way. Think unique. Think treasures.


Re-Arranging your outlook….

July 30, 2010

I’m a girl that loves to re-decorate and re-arrange a room.  As a kid I must have re-arranged my room 6 times a year if not more.  I moved around so much in my teens and twenties that with each new place I felt I had a new outlook on the world.  I liked that feeling. I re-arranged my apartment so much so that my roommate was weary coming at night, never knowing where exactly the couch might be.

I guess whenever I get in a rut I feel the need to re-arrange.  What I’ve learned with my house is that sometimes that is not always possible.  Some times you get a room that is just limited in it’s flexibility.  My living room is small, only 14’x14′.  It’s got a little corner nook that works wonderfully with a chair, table, lamp and shelf – but it will accept no other arrangement.  I only have one wall that really fits my entertainment unit. And therefore am very limited as to where I can put the couch or chairs.  Oh, and did I mention I really only have 2.5 walls in my living room to begin with.  One “wall” is a railing” and one wall is lofted, 3′ and capped.  So I don’t have many options.

But I did have an arrangement that worked well.  My furniture was in perfect scale to the room.  It functioned both aesthetically and practically. Yes, part of me wanted a change too but I knew that it just wouldn’t fit any other way.  I’ve tried it afterall. Every time my husband suggested moving the furniture I’d shake my head and say it wouldn’t work. So I had to keep it that way, for quite some time. 

Maybe it’s all these other life changes I’m going through right now. Maybe it was the comment from my husband that said I had become so set on the arrangement of the furniture that I was failing to think creatively about it….but this weekend I got a wild hair and decided I needed a new outlook again.

So I moved the furniture. I cleaned behind everything.  I took my own previous advice and re-thought those floral arrangements and knick-knacks. I relinquished a chair; a table and a CD stand to the basement. I moved wall arrangements and lamps and played with the lighting effects.

So did it change my outlook? Yes, I guess.  My favorite chair now looks out the window,  the couch no longer faces the sun…but for some reason both my hubby and I are uncomfortable with it.  The chair sticks out too far now.  There’s a glare on the TV and he can’t see it from the Dining room anymore.  If we have company they’ll have no choice but to share the couch, because the company chair is gone. This new arrangement is irritating the both of us.  My hubby even admitted that I was right.  That’s big.

But I told him that I’m not changing it back.  That we both need to be a bit more flexible and live with it for at least a month before anything gets moved back the way it was.  Besides with this new arrangement, when I’m sitting in my chair and my hubby is on the couch, we can actually touch, hold hands…maybe even play a little footsie. 

That’s kind of nice.


Are you a clutter monger?

July 19, 2010

Are you a clutter monger?  Do you hang on to things because you might need them “some day”? Is your kitchen counter covered with “stuff” that has no place in the kitchen.  Do you hang clothes on the doorknob because there is no room left in the closet?  Do you have boxes of stuff in your basement and have no idea what is in them?

You, my friend, might be a clutter monger.

What makes us feel the need to hang onto things?  In this throw-away society you’d think we would feel free to dispose of un-used items at will, and instead,  many of us hang on to them year, after year, after year.

I am completely guilty of this.  I have jeans in my closet that literally the last time I wore them I was 16.   They were my first pair of designer Calvin Klein jeans, and they are a size 4.  I haven’t been a size 4 since then, and more then likely, I’ll never be one again. But I can’t seem to throw them out.  Perhaps it’s the memory attached to them.  I remember  standing up in choir one day and one of my friends who stood behind me declared quite loudly, “look how skinny you are!”  You see, that was the first time in my life I was ever called skinny.  I had always had a good 20 lbs on the rest of my friends, but that summer before my sophmore year I went on a diet.  And for the first time in my life I really liked my figure.  I remember feeling so proud of my rear-end at that very moment… And so, I’ve held onto those jeans for twenty-seven years.

Yikes.  Twenty-seven years. Can that be right?

I think it’s time to clean out my closet.  To come to terms with the size of my ass and love myself despite of it.  Perhaps I can do that with a few other things that have cluttered up my world too.

I’m pretty sure that bread machine on my kitchen counter can be retired.  I don’t think I’ve used it in a decade.  And those half bottles of shampoo I didn’t like 4 years ago aren’t getting used under the bathroom sink.  And I’m pretty sure I still have spices in my cupboard that are from the last century. 

Why do I hang onto these things?  The thought that they may come in handy one day does not seem to apply.  I haven’t touched some of these things for more then a decade.

I think it’s time to let go.

So I’m going to do just that.  Today I’m attacking my spice cupboard.  I will toss the spice and recycle the bottle, that way I won’t feel so wasteful. Same goes for that old shampoo.

I will donate those jeans and about 100 more outfits of my past to a shelter for battered women or to the poor.  I will, box by box, go through the memories of my past and donate the things I have moved beyond.

After all, I really don’t “need” that stuff anymore.  The stuff doesn’t make me feel any better about myself.  In fact, I think it makes me feel worse. 

Don’t I owe it to myself to free up some space in my home?  To clean out the cobwebs of the past and live in the here and now without all that stuff clogging up my psyche.

I believe I do.

I’m moving on…”some day” has come.


Basic Decorating 101

July 5, 2010

Moving? Getting your own place for the first time? You may be feeling overwhelmed and not “know what to do with the place”.

 Might I make a few suggestions?

 The most expensive pieces you will purchase will be your couch, chairs, dining and entertainment units, so you need to think of the big picture and really ask yourself if you are going to like that style in 10 years.  And believe me, garish colors or patterns, funky, overly-embellished styles and high tech items will change often. 

A good example of simple classic lines and versatile color

Do yourself a favor and think “classic style” for your major purchases.  Keeping the lines simple, un-adorned and neutral will give you many more accessorizing options, and allow you to make changes as styles change.

An armoire can be a versatile piece of furniture

Mission and Shaker are a good example of styles that are simple, yet classic.

I believe that items such as couches, chairs, love-seats and dining sets need to be of neutral tones.  I suggest this because although you may love that abstract black and white mod couch now, in a couple years you may hate it.  Trust me, I’ve been down that road. Recovering a couch costs almost as much as buying a new one these days so I recommend buying a good quality, comfortable couch in a neutral tone.  Leather is the most environmentally friendly when it comes to off-gassing toxins, but a comfortable fabric will do just as well.

 I like couches with removable cushions so you can re-plump them from time to time. One with reversible cushions or removable covers will come in handy if you have an issue with spillage.  But if you are on a tight budget, attached cushions will bring down the price quite a bit.  Just make sure there is a way to fluff them, most will have hidden zippers that allow you to plump them up when they matt down, and they will.  Matching couches, chairs and love-seats sets are fine, but you can also get a very clean look by choosing a solid color couch and a solid color chair(s) in a contrasting tone.  I like to mix up textures a little too.  A chenille taupe couch will compliment a burgundy leather club chair, for example.  You can tie the two together with your accessories.

 When it comes to woodwork, there are a lot of light and dark extremes.  The rule of thumb with wood tones is that it is good to have a mix of shades in a room.  It creates warmth.  However, huge light and dark extremes might not feel comfortable to you.  For example whitewashed oak and dark walnut will be hard tones to mix.  I like to keep my wood tones in the light oak to dark cherry ranges and somewhere in between. A neutral light cherry or maple finish will go with pretty much anything and will stand the test of time.  So when choosing side tables, entertainment units and dining sets, keep that in mind.  Although the current trend might dictate high tech silver or black finishes, trust me, in time you will appreciate the wood.  I have a simply designed, medium finish oak dresser that I picked out when I was 13.  30 years later, it still looks good, and more importantly, I still love it.  I have changed the look of my bedroom a dozen times and that dresser has worked with every style; it has stood the test of time.

 Another thing to consider is size and scale.  You may think it’s a great idea to have a giant entertainment center to encompass all your gadgets, but down the road you may not be able to fit it into your next place.  I recommend a smaller unit with doors to hide CD’s, movies and such.  Personally I like the look of an armoire, it’s clean and will hide the clutter, but with the newer TV’s these days you may not need something that big.  Consider versatility too.  That armoire could double as a dresser, desk or other type of storage unit in another room.  Big sectional sofas or overstuffed furniture is going to close in the walls of a small room.  Conversely, too many small pieces will add clutter, so be sure to shop armed with your room dimensions. 

Ultimately by keeping the big items neutral you allow your accessories to change the color scheme, look and feel of the room.   So keep the fads and trends to items you can change out easily and with little expense and you’ll be able to update your room as the trends change without breaking the bank.


7 Tips for Redecorating a Room on a Budget

June 26, 2010

An area rug will anchor a room and create unity

My first real opportunity to attack someone else’s home came through a friend.  I love her to death, but she lived like a college student.  It wasn’t that she had bad taste; she just sort of stalled when it came to putting together groupings that worked. And it drove me nuts that she had patio furniture for end tables.  She had been given a lot of antiques and furniture from family and friends but there was nothing to really pull it together.  The result was kind of a mish-mash of stuff that needed some redirection. When she decided to switch apartments in her building I took the opportunity to ask her if I could help her organize and redecorate, I gently expressed my dislike of the plastic furniture.

My friend welcomed the help.  We spent about 14 hours that day going through her pictures and accessories.  We accessed the furniture and it’s placement and what we could do to bring the décor together without breaking the bank.  She had an eclectic collection of stuff.  So we laid out the pictures and the big pieces.  We talked about what colors moved her and what she had to work with.  We went room to room to see if we could re-purpose any pieces. We got rid of a few things that she was willing to part with, and we worked with the ones she had to keep. Part of the battle in organizing a room, is knowing when to get rid of things.  We tend to hang onto things for sentimental reasons, but in essence we can end up with a lot of clutter.

 Since most apartments specialize in “realtor beige” for the carpeting, walls and woodwork, we had a whole lot of neutral and not much color to warm the place up.

 We needed to go shopping. 

Her couch and chairs did not match.  Both were solid colors and of similar style so that was good, but we needed an anchor to pull them together.  My first thing on the shopping list was an area rug.  You can get a pretty decent 5’x7′ rug for under $100 if you go to Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Menards, Lowes or other discount stores.  We chose one that pulled in the dark hue of the couch, the browns of the chair and woodwork, some black for the entertainment components and some lighter accents colors.  That one piece gave us our pallet.  It was a floral pattern, and it worked with the antiques, yet it was modern enough to work with her newer pieces.  Once we positioned the seating, the rug completely tied it together.  So readers, if you are struggling with your room being of mixed décor, try anchoring the room with a rug. (One without fringe will last longer and stay neater.) Tip #1.

 Next on the list were tables.  She had several antique accent tables but of different heights and wood color.  None of them were really suitable as end tables for a couch or chair.  So we picked up a few small tables of neutral wood tone.  They needed some easy assembly and cost less then $18 eachHere’s tip #2:  If you have mixed wood work or tables that don’t match, you can easily pull them together by adding a fabric topper.  In this instance we chose a cream colored crocheted topper.  It echoed the antique look of the other lace she wanted to display, but really gave the place a cohesive look.  Toppers were under $8 each.  You can also easily make these yourself.

 Now the place was really starting to take shape.  A couple little accents and we had a room fit for a grown up instead of a college student.  We bought some fabric that encompassed the colors from the rug and from it made a few accent pillows. Tip #3: A note about patterns – You can indeed mix patterns in a room.  Just watch the size of the pattern and the colors.  You can blend a small floral pattern with a larger pattern as long as the colors coordinate. If the patterns are too similar in size, they will compete rather then compliment each other. We also bought a solid fabric and recovered the seats from an antique dining set.  That’s another easy tip #4: Pulling one color from room to room will help create flow and balance. 

In this case the dining/living room was one big room with no dividers.  Pulling the  tone from the couch to the dining chairs created balance. Re-covering a dining chair is very easy.  You just need a screwdriver to remove the seat and a staple gun to adhere the fabric.  Tip #5: Cut your fabric large enough so you have ample fabric to pull it taut on the backside and tuck the raw edge under for a clean finish.  Secure with a staple gun.  Don’t by shy, use plenty of staples.  Be careful to watch any pattern direction and keep corners neat and consistent and you will have great results.  It’s a quick, easy and inexpensive fix to improve the look of mix-matched or worn chairs. 

She had a lot of family pictures in small frames all over the place.  So instead of creating a lot of clutter by setting them everywhere, we decided to create a family wall.  We bought inexpensive frames of the same style in various sizes and made a collage.  Tip #6:  Keeping the frame a universal color and style is a great way to bring together a grouping of different subject matters.

The room was just about complete.  But we had one issue that bugged us.  In this particular apartment the front door pretty much walked right into the living room.

You felt sort of exposed sitting on the couch.  An easy fix was to add a room divider. A typical 3-panel divider was too big, so for this instance we used a tree.  A real or silk tree will do, but in this case we went with a silk tree as my friend didn’t want to worry about watering it.  It was just what we needed.  It added some height and privacy to the living room, blocked the draft from the door and softened the edges of the room.

Tip #7: Greenery will bring life to a room. It will add color, and give a room a soft, homey feel.  

My friend loved the results.  She and her husband felt proud of their apartment.  She’s moved a few times since then, and the first couple times she asked me for help.  But after that she learned a few simple decorating tricks she felt confident she could do it on her own. You can too.


Building Strong Bones

June 18, 2010

A neutral wall will compliment most any style

I’ve gone through many home décor fashion trends over the years.  Country, Shabby Chic, Contemporary, Monochrome…you name it. I’ve been able to achieve all those styles without changing the “bones” of my home.  Like most of you I can’t afford to change out the cabinet doors or flooring when the trends change but you can make small changes that will give you a new look or freshen up an old look.

Keeping a neutral base to your décor is the easiest way to allow you to change your look through the years.  You will thank yourself over and over if you keep your furniture classic and neutral.  Paint, curtains, textiles and art are easy and more affordable to change.  Paint and curtains will be the more expensive or time-consuming things to replace so keeping those a bit more basic will allow you to be more flexible with the lesser expensive items.

If you are considering colored walls for the first time, I highly recommend a warm neutral color such as a muted gold, taupe or green, to start with.  Going from white to a stark color change is going to throw you into a bit of shock.  And although you love that red wall now, it may give you nightmares next year.  A warm wall will make your woodwork look better, it will feel new and clean, and it will be versatile enough to allow other easy décor changes.  Don’t get me wrong, if I had my way I’d have at least one room or wall in a dramatic color, but your spouse or roommate may not agree. So start adding color gently.

Then start to think about your window coverings.  Do you like things neat and contemporary?  Or do you like things more soft and subtle. If you like contemporary, slatted blinds might be your thing.  But before you purchase them for every window think about the air flow.  Blinds will generally rattle with the wind, if you like to keep your windows open, this could very well drive you nuts.  Also think of how your window opens, does it go side-to-side or up-and-down. Vertical blinds will work better with side-to-side openings and horizontal blinds will work better with up-and-down windows.  You’ll get less noise.  Also think about the fabric.  Do you have pets? I had fabric blinds at one time and my cat loved to sit in the window. The result: tons of cat hair that was ALWAYS stuck to the blinds.  It was such a pain to clean I ended up changing out the blinds because of it.  Certain fibers such as polyester will resist pet hair.  This is a good thing to keep in mind when making your choices. 

I’m more inclined to keep my curtains to a solid neutral color as well.  A good combination may be the soft gold wall and a soft sage curtain, for example. There’s a subtle contrast in color and yet they still coordinate.  Work within your color pallet to find a combination that speaks to you.

Some people like to change out the curtains seasonally, or maybe just add a heavier panel for winter and change it to a sheer for summer, whatever works best for you.    But choose the appropriate rods in the beginning, it will save you headaches and a lot holes in the wall later on.

By keeping some of the more expensive items simple and neutral you will build yourself a strong foundation to allow future style changes. Then you can accessorize your home with color, patterns and adornments to suit any taste.


5 Steps to Refresh Your Home

May 30, 2010

1.  De-Clutter

We all have too much stuff, things that accumulate over time.  Newspapers and magazines that you “have to save for the article..”  kids toys, books, knickknacks…  And all that clutter makes you both look and feel unorganized. 

If you must keep your periodicals, keep them in one place and vow to yourself that in a month’s time you will get rid of it.  If you haven’t gone back to it by then, you probably never will.  Give your books and toys a home.  A dedicated shelf, cabinet or decorative box will work nicely.  Remove any items that aren’t pertinent to the room.  i.e. kids backpacks in the living room.

 2.  Re-Access

As for all those knick-knacks and floral arrangements; well time to re-assess.  If you’ve had that floral arrangement in that same corner for more then a couple years, perhaps it’s time to get rid of it. Same goes for those little figurines, candles or pictures. Your home will it look cleaner, and you’ll feel better. 

Ask yourself these questions: What shape is your furniture in?  Are there rips, stains that need repair? Or mix-matched pieces that don’t belong?  Is the scale of the furniture appropriate for the room?  Do the pictures coordinate? The accessories? Choose at least on big piece from the room and remove it, how does it make you feel?  Do you miss it?  Are there any other pieces you can live without?  Do some things need replacing?

 3.  Clean

A good deep cleaning goes a long way in making your room feel better.  Move the sofa, vacuum behind it, get those dust bunnies in the corners, wash the windows, need I talk about cobwebs?

 A fresh coat of paint will do wonders too.  When was the last time you painted?  Are there knicks and dents in the walls?  Spend a weekend, spackle and paint.  A new color will make your room feel brand new.

 4.  Re-Arrange

The quickest way to give a new look to a room is to re-arrange it.  Do you have a conversation area? What is the room’s purpose?  TV, reading, games…eliminate items that don’t go with its purpose and you will improve its functionality.

 5.  Re-Accessorize

You don’t have to get new furniture to improve the look of your room, you can simply re-accessorize.   A new rug, pillows or pictures can change the whole look of a room.  Re-think the lighting.  Adding a new shade or painting a lamp base can give it a whole new appeal.

Today’s homes are clean, uncluttered and streamlined, yours can be too.


  • All my life I've waited for things to be right in the universe before I could really start living my life. If only I had the perfect job, the perfect home, was the perfect weight or had the perfect partner... then my life could begin.

    What I've realized now is that these challenges I faced were not obstacles holding me back, they were the steps in the journey that is my LIFE.

    Life has it's ups and downs, heartaches and joys. We need to appreciate each day, and do our best with what we have been given.

    It's not the destination, it's the Journey.

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