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We lived in our historic fixer-upper for 12 long years before we had the budget to finally tackle the worn and dated kitchen. After more than a decade of dreaming about what I wanted to do with this all-important room, I couldn’t wait to get started picking out cabinets and countertops and paint. From the moment the drywall dust settled, I was crazy about this reinvented space. And I still am. But like all good love affairs, you’ve got to mix things up every so often to keep the love alive. So I periodically make little decorating changes in my kitchen to keep it fresh and new. Here are a few you can try, too.Fetching Edges and Ledges

I view every edge and ledge in my kitchen as a small stage, waiting to be filled with something spectacular. My favorite spots to deck out are the windowsills above my kitchen sink and in the little breakfast nook that adjoins my kitchen. This spring, you’ll find a single topiary sitting in the middle of each of the sills. Sweet, simple and eye catching.

Do you have room on your kitchen windowsills for a display? If so, perk them up with a small potted fern or a few garden herbs. How about a whimsical figurine, like a terra cotta statue of a frog? Or, a bud vase holding fresh flowers from your spring garden?

Artful Organization

You won’t believe this, but when I was single, the linen drawers in my kitchen were a thing to behold. I kid you not: I would iron my kitchen towels them fold them in precise stacks. Those days are long gone, but I did get a chance to revisit my past when I was at a friend’s for dinner not too long ago. When we were cleaning up after the meal, I opened her drawer to put something away and was transported to heaven. The drawer was filled with beautiful kitchen linens, pressed and neatly arranged by color. I wanted to stick my face in the drawer and kiss the towels!

This spring, set aside an afternoon to deep clean and reorganize your kitchen. It may be one of the most gratifying things you do. After you toss out the expired food in your pantry and clean out the crumbs in your silverware drawer, come up with new ways to organize the kitchen items you use every day so they are attractive and accessible. One fun idea is to keep your dish soap in a pretty crystal vinegar pitcher and your hand soap in a decanter. That’s what I’ve done in my kitchen – see the snapshot above.

Here’s another idea: Find a woven wicker caddy you can use to transport the items you use on your kitchen table every day, like salt and pepper, or olive oil and balsamic vinegar. One of my favorite organizational tools is a big cast iron planter I fill with oils and flavored vinegars. I’ve had it on my counter for the past two decades and still love it.  I also include baskets in the displays on my kitchen shelves because they are not only attractive, they also provide extra places to store the kitchen items I don’t use every day.

Beautiful Backsplashes

Your backsplash is another fabulous spot to decorate. In keeping with the age and style of my home, I picked a simple white subway tile backsplash for my kitchen, which serves as a blank canvas, ready to show off anything I lean against it. One of my favorite tricks is to rest a piece of framed art on the back of my counter then lean it up against the backsplash. People don’t think to put artwork in such a hardworking place, but it is visually arresting. I also like to lean beautiful platters on the counter behind my sink to serve as a shield to stop splashing water. It’s easier to clean than the backsplash and gives me a chance to showcase a nice platter.

Wonderful Walls

Nothing will spark up your kitchen like some lovely artwork. Don’t allow yourself to be limited to conventional kitchen artwork, those stereotypical pieces that depict fruit or chickens. Instead, treat the walls of your kitchen just like any other in your home. Dress them delightfully in a mix of interesting pieces, from framed artwork to silver serving trays. The snapshot above is of a display we created in our mock kitchen at Nell Hill’s Briarcliff, and it would be fabulous reproduced in your kitchen. We filled a blank wall with a baker’s rack – one of my favorite kitchen storage pieces because they display collections of dishes so beautifully. We surrounded the rack with a constellation of amazing silver trays and creamy white platters and plates. Then we finished off the look by filling the baker’s rack with silver and white dishware and serving pieces. Classic and beautiful!

Another fun way to decorate a kitchen wall is with a huge plate rack filled with amazing dishes. I like to think of a plate rack as an easel, ready and waiting to hold a medley of plates, each a wonderful work of art in its own right.

Dish Displays

If you have open cupboards or bookshelves built into your kitchen, decorate them deliciously with beautiful dishes. This is a shot of my kitchen cupboards holding my antique china. This set is so special to me that I hate to hide it away when it’s not in use. So, when we renovated our kitchen, we picked glass-front cabinets so I could enjoy looking at my dishes every day.

Island Magic

So many kitchens these days have huge built-in islands that seem it stretch on to infinity. If you have one in your kitchen, make sure to dress it up with a wonderful display, perhaps something you can freshen up for each new season.

My kitchen is too small for a built-in island, so instead I got a free standing one I can move about if I need to. In theory, this little beauty is in the kitchen to help Dan out when he cooks big family meals, serving as a spot for him to put bowls and platters full of food. But if the truth be told, I got the island so I can dress it up. I fell hard for a French pastry shelf I saw at market, but didn’t have any available counter space in my postage-stamp sized kitchen to hold it. Then I had a light bulb moment! I would get an island just big enough to hold the shelf and a few more decorative pieces.

Luminous Lighting

For some reason, I’ve never been a big fan of overhead lighting. I prefer the soft glow of accent lamps. And the same holds true for my kitchen. I keep this darling little lamp pictured above on the corner of my kitchen counter to soften the hard edges and make the space feel homier. If you have an enormous kitchen island with electrical outlets built into the side, why not place a pair of lamps on either side of the island? It will not only ground the space, it will also add soft, beautiful light to the room.

Reflective Surfaces

I really like light, bright kitchens. So when we renovated, I decided to paint my cabinets Garrity Cream and use glass doors wherever I could. The downside of the glass doors is you have to keep the shelves behind them tidy. But they make the entire room look bigger and brighter, a huge plus for those of us with small kitchens. Another trick is to pick white or stainless steel appliances that reflect light.

Coffee Central

Since I don’t cook, the only appliance in my kitchen that I’m truly passionate about is my coffee maker. For me, morning coffee is almost a religious experience. One of the ways I make my first cup special is to create a pretty coffee station in my kitchen. Try it in yours. Build your station on a lovely silver tray – gallery trays that stand on little feet are my favorites for this kind of thing. Then, fill the tray with a darling coffee urn, a vintage china creamer and sugar bowl, and some demitasse spoons displayed in a crystal glass. If you like to use flavored syrup in your coffee, store it in a decanter. I can’t think of a better way to greet the day!

Fill in with Fun Stuff

Seriously, can you ever have enough kitchen gadgets? I don’t even cook and I can’t say no to these things.

Look at some of the tempting tools we have at Nell Hill’s Atchison: peppy rubber spatulas, amazing measuring cups, spoons, linens and aluminum serving pieces, like this ice bucket and scoop. Come check it out soon!

Next Week … I asked a few of our Nell Hill’s team to pick out their favorite decorating tools in the stores right now. Find out what they can’t live without, and how they use these timeless pieces in their own homes.

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42 Responses to “Get Cooking in Your Kitchen”

  1. Kim Says:

    Always wonderful inspiration! I LOVE the use of the crystal vinegar pitcher! I’m so copying that in my kitchen! Have a wonderful day!

  2. Yvonne @ StoneGable Says:

    I seem to be reading about kitchens all over the blogs! I think it is because I am starting a facelift on mine! I love the idea of making my kitchen useful and beautiful and a real statement and entention of who I am. YOu have so many inspiring ways to do that!
    As always, a creative and gorgeous post!
    Yvonne @ StoneGable

  3. Mari Says:

    You’ve inspired me to do a mini facelift of my kitchen! I have a shelf above my cabinets that is in dire need of some love (I’ve had the same stuff up there for over a year!). I’m also looking for the perfect utensil holder to keep beside the stove. I might use a cleaned-out #10 can! I’ll have to see… thanks for the inspiration! :)

  4. Marilyn Says:

    What a wonderful article!

    I agree re overhead lighting…not the most flattering. I have a wonderful lamp on the counter that is reflected in my mirrored backsplash. Kinda’ glam.

  5. lu Says:

    where can i purchase the small table/island in the first picture?

  6. April Says:

    I want your lamp………. It is adorable… Do you sell at your stores????????

  7. Jennifer Says:

    Fabulous article with great ideas. I like the idea of the platter behind the sink against the backsplash and I can’t wait to try one out. As an interior/kitchen designer I am always looking for new ideas and inspirations. Thanks again for sharing such inspiration!

  8. Glinda Reynolds Says:

    Thanks to your wonderful books and articles over the past several years, I have incorporated 2 beautiful lamps into my kitchen, You are right , they definitely soften the room and add a romantic touch to the kitchen.

  9. patti g Says:

    you add the seasoning into living! thank you for all
    of the wonderful ways of bringing a smile to your own
    lips just by taking the detail up an easy notch.
    i saw your kitchen in the tour & have become quite
    the copycat :) love to you and your staff.

  10. Torre Says:

    Where did you find the three tiered glass shef stand sitting on the island? Do you sell them? Also…do you sell the wooden dish shelf?


  11. kate Says:

    I love the lamp in this blog. Is it available in your store and if so much what is the price point.

  12. Jean Newbery Says:

    Love your blogs and this one was especially helpful as I am in the process
    of redoing my small kitchen. I have about worn out the Midwest Living
    Magazine your home was featured in several years ago, particularly because of
    the kitchen!! My little cottage was built in 1942 and I so want to keep it looking
    updated but not screaming I’m a new kitchen in this little old house!! Keeping
    colors light and I would like to know what you used for countertops????? I
    would like marble but am being discouraged to using it. What do you suggest?


  13. Doreta Boyd Says:

    You kitchen is WONDERFUL and so are you – even if you don’t cook.! ! ! ! Dont have to when you decorate everything with love.
    Miss you, Hugs & Kisses, Doreta

  14. Darlene Says:

    Thanks so much for making my day!! My husband and I are looking for an older house to remodel….this article is great inspiration for a new kitchen. And I totally agree with the overhead lighting…I have never liked it. It’s so much cozier to use lamps, and light candles.
    Keep up the great work!!!!!!!!!

  15. Jenny Says:

    This is the first time I’ve seen you mention the insides of drawers (although you might have before, and I just missed it). Lurking in the back of my mind is the idea that I’d love to line all of the drawers in my house with something lovely, but I just can’t seem to get started because I lack a plan? Paper? Fabric? How to adhere it? (I think I don’t want to permanently adhere it, but I do want it to stay put.) Ditto with the vertical surfaces inside cabinets. I would LOVE it if you’d dedicate a colum to things like this – the hidden touces that can make us smile. And if you have any recommendations for actually accomplishing it, that would be great!

  16. Carole Says:

    Is the lamp available? So hard to look at these wonderful items and not be able to purchase. Thanksd.

  17. anita tovich Says:

    I’ve got a question. It looks like Mary Carol used darker drawer pulls and I’m wondering…My apt. was built in 1926. I have stainless steel appliances & chrome fixtures, but I’m thinking of putting oil rubbed bronze drawer pulls on my light maple drawers-partly because I have ombred terra cotta floor tiles.

    Any opinions decorating divas? Thank you in advance. Loved this article.

  18. Dee Ann Says:

    I agree with you, Mary Carol! The Silver Tray with elegant creamer; sugar bowl and spoons somehow makes the coffee even better! It’s so nice to serve ordinary meals in extraordinary, antique, pieces. Makes the table look sensational and your guests feel like Royalty!!!
    What excellent ideas for the kitchen….You are the BEST!
    Thank you for sharing…..your marvelous expertise with all of us!!!

  19. Kathy G. Says:

    I’d also like to hear about lining kitchen drawers with nice touches! I do cook a lot and have many utensils – When the collection outgrew the crock, I moved them all into a glazed flower pot that had a small crack. It may not hold water or plants anymore, but I love its color on my counter! Thanks for your ideas once again.

  20. Lisa Miller Says:

    I absolutely love being in my kitchen. My husband and I
    both love to bake and cook. So any ideas on how to make it more efficient and more homey is Awsome. Love the idea with the vingar decanter as a. dish soap holder. Will definitely be doing that one with my great grandmothers vingar decanter. Thanks as always for the wonderful ideas.

  21. Mimi Tafour Says:

    can’t tell you how many times i have had the pleasure of being in your home. always love every room, every detail, but the kitchen is always my favorite. love the art, the silver, the butler’s pantry feeling ,love the light above the table as well as the lamp on the counter. i could go on and on. it is a feast for the senses and reminds me of my dear Grandmother from whom i get my appreciation for all things beautiful…china, silver, crystal, flowers from the garden, linens, manners, gentleness and kind words. thank you for your gift of hospitality in inviting all of us into your home. PS just a few years past, i ironed everything also-napkins, handtowels, sheets, pillowcases. now i am doing good to shake out a few wrinkles as i take them from the dryer…not lazy but think there might be a connection to my own wrinkles. will settle for a kitchen facelift starting with lifting some of the winter dust and cobwebs and putting the coffee fixins in some pretty containers on a silver tray. love and blessings.

  22. marsha Says:

    is the lamp for sale??? if so, how much??

  23. Nicole Moore Says:

    Just love the plate rack!

  24. Angela Ponomarenko Says:

    Thank you for the ideas. I have a new kitchen- just a few years old and I’m still trying to get it to look warm and cozy. I will give some of these tips a try. I especially like the coffee station, placing a small decorative lamp on the counter, and I will be using more baskets in my pantry. I like to hang special cake pans and artwork in the pantry too. Thanks so much!!

  25. Karen Says:

    I too, want to buy the little lamp. Please let us know if we can purchase it. I never would have thought to use a cord cover to camouflage the electric cord. Only have seen them with chandeliers and I love the use on a little lamp. Looks like you used the toile fabric that you have in your kitchen windows on this cord cover. So cute!!!

  26. Karen Says:

    Please write another book! Special request…..one for decorating all the major holidays and one for each major room of the house. Just bought your “out of print” book and will be in soon to ask you to sign it PLUS more shopping. Would love more books to add to my collection. Please keep the ideas coming. Maybe a show on HGTV

  27. Terri Domenzain Says:

    Thank you from Phoenix Arizona! You are an inspiration with new and fresh ideas for my home. Cant wait to visit again soon. Love your thoughts about coffee in the morning…a coffee station! Blessings, ~Terri Ann Domenzain

  28. Shari Pratt Says:

    Mary Carol, are you sure you don’t cook? What do you eat? I began to enjoy cooking several years ago. My husband of 31 years loves it! I’m quite sure you’d be an amazing cook. Since amazing is just who you are! I met you in your home during your Christmas open house, it’s beautiful! Keep your ideas coming! Thank you! Shari Pratt, Nebraska
    PS Can I send you a recipe?

  29. Mary Carol Says:

    Iu–Thanks for asking about my island. We have them on order and we are expecting them in about 60 days. Feel free to call Janet @877-746-4320 to put your name on a pending list.

  30. Mary Carol Says:

    Torre–We carry both the 3 tier marble dessert server and the large wooden plate rack at the Briarcliff store. Call Janet @877-746-4320 for more details.

  31. pat frank Says:

    To the people who are interested in drawer lining ideas:

    I wanted the master bedroom and bath are coordinated. So I took some leftover wallpaper and cut it to the size of my dresser drawers and the drawers in the bathroom vanity. Then I took them to an “office store” and had them laminated. They have been in use for several years and clean up nicely with a spray of cleaner. Most of all, they are pretty!
    Love your website.

  32. Mary Carol Says:

    Karen, April, Kate, Carole and Marsha—Wow, I so wish I could have that lamp reproduced! However, that is an antique lamp given to me from a dear friend many years ago. So glad you all liked it.

  33. Mary Carol Says:

    Jeanie–To be honest, I really don’t remember what the name of the counter top was–it has been awhile, however, it is granite–and I love it. I considered marble, but I didn’t want to worry about stains.

  34. Mary Carol Says:

    Jenny–As far as lining your drawers, I think it is a personal preference. Fabrics, paper or plain—totally up to you–adore Pat Franks answer.

  35. Mary Carol Says:

    Anita– Variety, texture and color add interest—Sounds BEAUTIFUL!

  36. Mary Carol Says:

    Shari—You are sweet—maybe someday, you never know!

  37. Mary Carol Says:

    Pat Frank—Love it!

  38. Mary Carol Says:

    Enjoyed all your comments and questions this week–Very fun! Have a great weekend, seems we are finally going to have some nice weather. See you again next week!

    Happy Decorating–Mary Carol

  39. Miss Janice Says:

    Love all the ideas! I especially love all the silver service trays on the wall. I just took one of the black serving trays I bought from y’all and leaned it up against my backsplash in the kitchen…awesome! Thanks for all the inspiration.
    Miss Janice

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    Llook forward to all your ideas and like I have said before PLEASE come to my area of Florida. I know your ideas would go over great here . Check out –
    The Villages, Florida 32162

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