5 things we did to love our apartment kitchen

 Organizing, Small space  Comments Off on 5 things we did to love our apartment kitchen
Mar 252015

The hardest thing about last year’s move was adjusting to the kitchen.   It was grungy and offered only one stretch of countertop to the right of the sink.

Here’s what we did:

1) Paint inside the upper cabinets and remove the doors.

2015-03-17 067

It made the space feel cleaner and brighter.  Most landlords don’t mind if you paint inside the cabinets.  They may not even notice.

2) Add a temporary island.

2015-03-17 074

We bought this one, painted the legs, and stained the top.  It was a big investment, but we can take it with us or sell it.  We ran an extension cord along the wall so that it could house our toaster, microwave, and coffee maker:

2015-03-17 071

3) Use the walls.

We use these ledges as spice racks.  (White for baking, and black for cooking.)

2015-03-17 059

2015-03-17 058

We use this rail with these hooks to hang our utensils.

In the dining area, Zach built an alcohol shelf with hooks for his prized cast iron pans which he stole from his Dad.

2015-03-18 041

In this space there are two built-in bookshelves…

2015-03-17 054

…which brings us to number four.

4) Keep food visible.

2015-03-11 014

When we moved in, we threw our dry goods into the bottom cupboards. For months, I didn’t know what food we had, and I avoided checking at all costs.  You want to eat potatoes? I don’t want to know how much rotting food is down there. Let’s just go buy fresh ones.   It was wasteful and expensive.  Finally one day I emptied and cleaned every cupboard and moved all the food to the bookshelves.   Now I’m wondering how I can incorporate a shallow pantry like this into our new main floor.

5) Embrace imperfections.

2015-03-17 112

We love straight modern handles but the quirky dated ones here complement our crooked doors and drawers much better.  So we added the words “charm” and “character” to our vocabulary and called it a day.

2015-03-17 030

Mar 052015

I’ve been bathroom-spoiled for most of my life.

Last year I kissed my ensuite goodbye and wondered how I’d manage without its vast countertop and deep drawers.

Fortunately, what our apartment bathroom lacks in storage, it makes up for in walls.

2014-12-04 248

Walls: The one asset almost every bathroom boasts.

Hang it all

Zach hung the round mirror so that he can shave in the shower.

If you need shelves, go to Home Depot.  We bought a plank of cedar and had it cut into two shelves for free.  Zach stained them with Varathane “Early American” and mounted them with $2 brackets.


The top shelf holds makeup, Q-tips, and bobby pins.

Baskets hold daily essentials like facecloths, moisturiser, and hairbrushes.  In the spirit of over-sharing, I keep a few feminine products under the facecloths.

2014-12-04 305

The fly swatter is a necessary eyesore because I prefer to execute at arm’s length.

Zach talked me into hanging these baskets for my hair dryer and straightener:

2014-11-03 354

I’m so glad he did.  They are metal so I can use them at 400 degrees sans fire hazard.  I wish I could share a source, but I’m pretty sure I stole them from my Mom years ago.

Inside the medicine cabinet, we keep our toothbrushes (because I’m terrified of toilet germs swirling up into them) and a few extras that didn’t make the shelf cut (because they aren’t used every day).

2014-12-04 220

I keep my face wash in the shower, so it’s right behind me when I’m at the sink.

2014-12-22 010

This magazine holder is well worth the 18 dollars.  It mounts easily and holds extra-wide glossies.

2014-12-04 212

Since we only have one plug, I use this while getting ready:

2014-12-04 334

At other people’s houses, I’m always grateful when it’s obvious which towel I should use to dry my hands.  So we hung a hand towel near the sink and on the way to the door (seen in the first photo).

Our bath towels hang on the wall behind the door.


Laundry that needs a bit of pre-treating is scrubbed in the sink and hung to dry on the shower rod and extra hooks before going into the hamper.

2014-12-04 370

So that’s how we use our pedestal sink bathroom.  This post was mostly about me because I am remarkably more high maintenance than Sam and Zach.

I have a very different plan for our next home:  I will get ready in our bedroom so that the bathroom can be available for what it’s really needed for:  toilet, sink, shower.  Even our towels will be hung in our bedrooms.  This is my foolproof plan to ensure that we plus our 8 future kids will happily share one bathroom.  No one will ever fight and we’ll always arrive early for Mass.

But for now, I’m enjoying our last few months using this happy little hard-working space.

Feb 262015

My love affair with candles has ceded to my desire to clean the bathroom more easily.  Last month I tackled our dumping ground for all things home-related:

2015-01-29 252

That photo doesn’t even show the bottom shelf brimming with empty frames.

It was a little arrogant of the out-of-rotation décor to take up four whole shelves.  And the living room carpet had been clutter-free for a bit too long.

So I cleaned the closet and took the carpet down a peg.


After a good purge, the surviving décor was sorted into boxes (Candles, Keepsakes, Containers, Glass) and stashed with the frames on hard-to-reach shelves in the living room.


Then I set up the closet to reflect the way we live.

My weekly cleaning supplies and other useful things sit at (my) eye level:

2015-01-29 369

Above the bookshelf are tape (duct, packing, and measuring), screws, trash bags, and light bulbs:

2015-01-29 409

The top shelf is for our detergent, watering can, and paper (toilet, towel, and tissue):

2015-01-29 417

The ladder holds our dust pads, tool box, and Dirt Devil:

2015-01-29 401

The level, Swiffer, duster, and ironing board are hung:

Level swiffer duster

And the door holds laundry things like clothespins, Bounce sheets, and loonies and quarters:

2015-01-29 397

But the real improvement is two whole shelves for “refills” and bulk purchases, which was the whole point:

2015-01-29 382

The vacuum and laundry basket fit in easier too now:

2015-01-29 445

Like the linen closet, it doesn’t look dramatic.

Before and After just basket

But it’s a game changer.

2015-01-29 424

Reaching for supplies is so much more pleasant now.  I almost enjoy cleaning the toilet.

With our “home” refills here, our “people” refills (like shampoo and diapers) can breathe a little easier in the linen closet.

Our monthly Costco trip is much smoother.  No more buying stuff we already have.  As Emily Henderson says, “not being organized actually costs you money because you are constantly re-buying what you can’t find.”

And no more running out of toilet paper because we were “pretty sure there’s some in the closet.”

Dec 172014

When Zach put an end to Mount Linen, I giddily tackled the floor space and three shelves of toiletries below it.

The plastic drawers were great but a few were nearly empty.  The floor beside our donation bin was not being used to its full potential.  And while the bottom shelf looks fine in the “before” photo, without a camera flash it was a dark hole where products went to expire.

My goal was to free up the floor space and bottom shelf to hold bulk purchases.  Sure enough, after sorting and tweaking, I was left with plenty of room for Costco:

Linen closet BA

Sometimes the most satisfying projects involve no surprise twists and produce the least exciting Before & After photos.  If these shots were people, they’d be the characters on Klaus’ favourite sitcom about a neat-freak living with an ever bigger neat-freak.  (Video clip contains partial nudity.)

Please humour me while I chat about the invisible improvement.

These two shelves now act as an extension of our bathroom:

2014-12-11 068

We have a pedestal sink (read: no counter, no cupboard), so here we keep the things we don’t use every day, like extra hair clips and bobby pins.  Zach really appreciates having these handy.

2014-12-11 072

Our medicine and vitamins also live here, which works well because I’ve heard that pills shouldn’t be stored in the bathroom anyway.  And it’s nice to have a place to toss the goodies we bring home from the dentist, for our semi-annual flossing ritual.


The floor and bottom shelf now hold our bulk purchases and “refills.”

2014-12-11 086

When I see my favourite shampoo on sale, I stock up, stash it somewhere in the apartment, and forget about it.  Now I will know where it is.

Linen closet - AFTER

This closet was a fun little project to end the year.  For the next few weeks, Zach and I are off to enjoy Christmas and his sister’s wedding.

May your days be merry and bright, and a very Happy Christmas to you and yours.

2014-12-16 088

No more Linen-Jenga

 Organizing, Small space  Comments Off on No more Linen-Jenga
Dec 102014

As I mentioned here, we want our “people” closet to work harder for us.  The easiest place to start was the leaning tower of linens.  Any time I reached for a towel, I’d brace myself for the probable avalanche.

2014-11-25 023

Last night  Zach put an end to this madness by adding an extra shelf on top to hold our rarely-used linens.  This improvement cost all of two dollars (the price of two Ikea brackets) because the shelf came with the apartment.  Can you spot it being lazy in the above photo?

Linens organized

Now I can’t wait for laundry day.

The top linens will be enjoyed by our (hopefully) future larger family.  I don’t mind giving them that shelf because it’s a lot like Rockland or Stittsville:  Wonderful on its own, but hard to access from where I am.  That same shelf at eye level?  Way out of linen’s league.

Dec 012014

When we sold our house, we had exactly twenty days (offer date to move date) to purge just enough to squeeze ourselves into the new apartment.  Now, it’s time to tackle each space one at a time to evaluate what really belongs here and make room for new priorities.  Case in point, we’ve recently decided to buy everything in bulk to save the planet by reducing packaging let’s be honest: to save money.

The Costco life is tricky in a small home.  Most people wait until they have a basement with a chest freezer and storage shelves.  My strategy will be to use our two hallway closets:

Cleaning and linen closets on floorplan

These closets already work pretty hard for us.

The cleaning closet holds everything home-related such as cleaning supplies and out-of-rotation decor.

The linen closet – which I will tackle first – is for anything people-related…

A messy pile of linens:

2014-11-25 023

Birthday and Christmas gifts:

Gift shelf - hidden

Toiletries, medicine and our donation bin:

2014-11-25 154

And wrapping paper in the door:

2014-11-25 153

The gift shelf and wrapping paper are fine.  But the rest of the closet needs to work a little harder so that we can store bulk purchases in there too.   More on this soon, hopefully!

Nov 272014

This post is sponsored by Floorplanner. Just kidding. But it should be.

When we downsized, we said goodbye to most of our furniture, an abundance of kitchen cabinets, and six giant closets.  I was terrified our new apartment would be the next space on Hoarders.

To find a spot for everything that survived the purge, we drew a diagram on Floorplanner and ended up with this:

Apartment floorplan

If you are moving, measure the rooms and use Floorplanner!  It’s well worth your time.  Why spend sweat and money bringing furniture to a new home only to discover that it doesn’t fit there?  Purge before you move!

And in our case, we needed to come up with a storage solution.  Floorplanner made that obvious:  the living room was big enough to fit bookshelves behind our sofas.

We wanted 8 matching bookcases which meant we couldn’t rely on Kijiji (our usual furniture source), so we settled on the Ikea Billy in black for its price ($69) and for a little contrast with our off-white sofas.  It was still expensive, but selling the rest of our furniture more than covered it.

2014-11-03 438

We anchored them to the walls and removed their backs to lessen the black hole effect.

2014-11-03 473

Wicker baskets hold things like greeting cards and instruction manuals.  And in case you can’t tell that we love Ikea, these boxes hold everything from receipts to craft supplies to Christmas mugs.

2014-11-17 130

We store extra blankets and pillows in the shelves hidden behind the sofas.

2014-11-03 479

If you have space in your living room (or any other room for that matter) bookshelves add so much function and only stick off the wall by 11 inches.  Of course there are downsides to this design.  Most of our art is sitting in storage.  But ultimately I’d rather look at my stuff on the wall than trip over it on the floor.

Nov 142014

A couple years ago there were more toilets than people living in my home.  There were entire rooms I never went in.  Our fancy townhouse was new, sparkly, cold, and felt like a museum.

Then I got pregnant and started reading a book called Living with Less so Your Family Has More.  It dawned on me that I wanted more time, less stuff, and fewer bathrooms to clean.  Zach was game.  So we sold our house and moved into a cozy apartment, going from 2100 to 780 square feet.

Glenbow to Kirkwood

We got rid of 70% of our stuff, while adding new baby gear, because one month later, our son Sam was born.

2014-11-03 328

I realized I was in good company when I discovered Dana Miller at House*Tweaking who downsized from a McMansion to a modest bungalow while pregnant with their third child.  She has become my design hero for her aesthetic and her space efficiency.

It’s been so freeing to have less stuff and less space to manage.  As we learn to embrace a more minimalist lifestyle, we find inspiration everywhere.  Here is a helpful list I came across this week:  12 Things You Probably Own Too Many Of

Happy weekend!