It happens to all of us busily living in modern culture, feeding families, and managing time as best we can. The kitchen becomes cluttered, and it is tempting to dim the lights rather than address corners of chaos…ha! But SPRING has a way of shining its pretty light into those corners! How to bring calm to a kitchen? How to address the stuff of daily life, create adequate workspace, and help the space feel pretty and pleasant? Calming Spruce Ups for the Kitchen is a conversation to begin to creatively cast a net to capture kitchen calm.
Calming Spruce Ups for the Kitchen
Over the decades and more than a dozen moves to different kitchens, I have learned it is truly possible to create a tranquil yet hard working workspace for meal prep, living, and connection.
You’ll see images weaved into this post of the past three kitchens we renovated for ourselves.
No. 1: Clear & Scrub Kitchen Counters
I’m not just talking the talk. I began the sprucing with clearing the counters on Saturday. Although, it wasn’t a quick chore, I can’t tell you the level of gratification at the end!
While I worked, I had nature shows keeping me company on TV (think pot bellied little monkeys in Vietnam frolicking and devouring succulents). You could listen to music or a favorite podcast or the birds from an open window while decluttering.
I moved everything on the counters to a kitchen table including plants, canisters, lamps, cutting boards, crocks, cooking utensils and decorative objects.
Then I started my cleaning near the sink. Houseplants had created a disaster on the window sills since moisture and wood are never a good match. I scrubbed the sills then used touch up paint to spruce them up.
Thank goodness I didn’t wait longer to begin this kitchen spruce up. There were hardwater stains around the faucet and sink I addressed next with Iron Out and a Mr. Clean eraser. It felt so amazing to make those spots disappear and see my counters open and free of all clutter!
A part of me didn’t want to return any of my daily essentials to the tidy expanses! However, now I could see it all with fresh eyes and decide what and where essentials would return.
WHAT WILL YOU GAIN FROM COMPLETING THIS SPRUCEUP?
Objects living on the kitchen counters have an energy all their own which can drain yours. If you can keep them as free as possible, they will reward you with more workspace and beckon you to wipe them down more frequently. (Just gazing at a cluttery countertop can be exhausting to me personally.)
Before proceeding to the next spruceup, I’m sharing some finds, all of which I own because of sales and seasonal items (the round swivel counter stools are the exact ones we’re using in our current kitchen and on sale for $36 each).
No. 2: Add Beauty from Nature
If your kitchen is devoid of natural materials such as the warmth of wood, plants, stone, metals, rattan, etc., you may be unaware of the calming effects of organic material.
You don’t have to get a second mortgage to buy new counters. A simple bowl of green apples or lemons on a table or counter can be a lovely start.
If you don’t have a sunny spot, faux plants or a plain ol’ branch in a clear glass container can look chic and natural.
No need to stress about the perfect branch with buds or spring growth either. Even bare branches offer pleasing silhouettes, contrast, texture and warmth. Try it!
Bringing nature into the kitchen is especially important if there are a lot of synthetic design elements (vinyl cabinets, laminate countertops, etc.).
Create More Calm With Nods to Nature
There are inexpensive accessories made with stone, marble, woven textures and wood that will bring natural warmth and integrity from nature.
Even simple seagrass placemats bring a serene, simple, pared down look. They also function well and can extend the life of counters and tabletops with their protection.
Another way to give vinyl cabinet doors new life and to fake the look of wood? Paint them. When we bought our former fixer upper, the kitchen’s existing cabinets were worn out, broken, warped, and vinyl:
Our former laundry area’s cabinetry was also vinyl, but since cabinets were in good shape, I simply painted them with chalk paint. What an easy DIY that made a huge difference!
To create a more adhesive and matte look, I mixed a few tablespoons of plaster of Paris into ordinary flat latex paint, and you would never know they are not wood. Adding natural elements to that pass through space (real marble backsplash, wood beadboard, natural woven baskets) also paid off and made it a more pleasant space to pass through.
A good time to assess whether your kitchen could benefit from more nature is after the counters are clear and before you return everything back to them. Is there a good balance of natural elements? Do some of the fixtures feel overly artificial? Is there a lack integrity that could be balanced with more nature?
Could you swap out a plastic table for a wood or glass one? Have a sunny location plants could grow? Can plastic storage containers be upgraded to wood, glass, stone, or a natural fiber? If the floor is vinyl, is it possible to layer it with a woven cotton rug or simple jute runner?
WHAT YOU’LL GAIN FROM THIS MINDFUL CALMING SPRUCE UPS WORK
Here’s where I grow philosophical. We aren’t just living on the earth; we ARE the earth, so the things of it affect us at deep, subconscious levels. Natural elements are sustainable, age better, and unite us with planetary harmony and wholesomeness.
- Towel| 2. Chair| 3. Pendant| 4. Tote| 5. Table| 6. Mirror| 7. Candleholder| 8. Terrarium| 9. Stool|10. Broom|11. Chandelier
Psst. Cookbooks are an essential in my kitchen. The Unofficial Dollywood Cookbook (Adams Media, 2023) by Erin Browne just joined my favs, and I can’t wait to try the recipe for Frannie’s Famous Fried Chicken Sandwich first!
When my copy of Erin Browne’s book arrived the other day, I thought I would just skim it then set it aside for later (reading cookbooks while luxuriating in a bubble bath is kinda my thing). Nope. Read the whole delicious Dollywood ditty cover to cover straight away. Ever tasted the fare at Dollywood?
No. 3: Add Breezy Spare Simplicity
An airy feeling in the kitchen can happen in a number of ways, and if you tackle No. 1, then you know the power of subtraction in achieving a tranquil feel.
Color palette surely is another strategy to lighten up, and in most cases, pale and tranquil cooler tones do it effectively.
Dig into my archives for paint color ideas.
Think about visual weight. Dark stained woods often impart strong, rugged, formal, heavier mood factor.
Subtracting them could make a significant difference. Whites, light woods, and softer shades lend themselves to more of an airy feel.
If you’re taking a long hard look at your kitchen and want to remove visual weight without renovation, you could start by assessing paint color, lighting, and windows.
Address Paint Color, Lighting & Windows
First, decide which colors feel tranquil to you and try samples on the walls to see how they marry with other design elements. Tranquil light greys are timeless, and I love how they work with warm natural wood.
As for lighting, think beyond simply shopping for wispy or woven light fixtures. Rather, look for ways to infuse pleasing light into the space.
Can window treatments be removed for more natural light to stream in? Is there a fluorescent cloud fixture casting unflattering artificial light into the space?
Would a table lamp on the counter or floor lamp in a corner bring a soft source of calm glowy ambience? Lamps in the kitchen don’t make sense for all kitchens, yet they are often overlooked in casual, country, more traditional spaces which…let’s face it…are more than spots to prepare food. Many of us LIVE LARGE in our kitchens.
Thirdly, decide whether window coverings in your kitchen are helping or hurting. Removing them could eliminate more weight than you might imagine. If privacy must be addressed, consider whether a light filtering alternative will lighten things up.
WHY THESE Calming Spruce Ups & TWEAKS MATTER
Life can be lifey with its stains and burdens. Maybe an airier space to prepare meals, happily bake, gather around the table, and breathe will help your spirit to be a bit more buoyant.
No. 4: Carve Out a Cozy Moment
When we mapped out a design plan for our current kitchen’s renovation, an important consideration was whether to keep the corner sink and windows.
It wasn’t a small thing to leave that corner alone since it meant less design flexibility (and I’m not a fan of angled anything…I’m looking at your 1992 architecture!). However, leaving the windows and sink placement as is allowed daily naturewatching to remain. I prefer kitchen design plans featuring simple, clean lines rather than fussy bumpouts or angles or jogs in the line of cabinetry. Losing a window or two often makes way for a functional and beautiful new kitchen design, but in our case, it would have also meant the loss of deer sightings, chickadee in the hydrangea watching, and abundant sunlight at the sink.
Is there a cozy moment in your kitchen or potential for one?
I already mentioned lamps which add cozy factor, but here are a few more ideas.
First, a visually pleasing vignette can often become a moment for cozy. Even a few cookbooks in a stack with a simple glass vase with branch or eucalyptus sprigs can be a start.
Second, vintage objects are often a way to bring warmth and character as well as cozy charm. Shop your house for treasures you may have forgotten about.
Thirdly, a cozy teapot and beautiful kitchen towels can work wonders.
Ideas for Easy Breezy Cozy in a Kitchen
Wooden benches may look even cozier draped with a soft throw. Even a simple wooden stool that feels homey and humble can work.
Lastly, don’t forget about the magic of original art work.
Have you seen professional stylists display vintage canvas portraits, casually leaning them on a kitchen shelf? Try it.
I personally love living with original abstract paintings by me and others, and I hung three together in our former not-huge kitchen which still felt breezy.
WHY THIS ADVICE WORKS
Cozy corners and vignettes invite our eye to rest, and at rest, bodies and spirits more easily recover, heal, function optimally. With a body at ease, responses can arrive from a place of greater capacity and spaciousness to meet daily challenges.
No. 5: Honor a Favorite Color
When you inherit a kitchen where someone else made all the kitchen design choices, it’s easy to feel stuck thinking you must live with an existing color palette. But a personalized result may be within reach.
For example, if your jam is soft, ethereal, cool tones yet your kitchen is dominated with saturated or warm colors, you may not realize the right paint color alone could work wonders.
Here’s what you could do to start:
Snap a close-up photo of your cabinet door when there is good light in the kitchen so you get an accurate rendering of the color.
Next, do the same thing with more large surfaces i.e. wall color, counters and appliances. When you gather those images and can view them together, you’ll be equipped to view paint color swatches in a fresh way. Seeing the expanses together may even lead you to a paint color or accent color you had not considered. (BTW. You know I’m not afraid to paint cabinets!)
WHY THIS IDEA WORKS
There is a whole discipline of psychology devoted to color and its affect on human emotion, productivity, aggression, appetite, etc. Color matters for mood, well-being, resale and even as a functional matter since more reflective colors will help you see and be safe.
No. 6: You’re Allowed to Paint Trim
You have a permission slip from me to paint your trim. Painting the trim throughout your whole home may feel overwhelming. It’s more than okay to begin with just one room.
I know how scary this decision may be if you are painting over stained wood trim. But unless you live in a historical home with one of a kind architectural moldings, it’s just trim. Realistically, new wood trim could be added down the line if you grew to hate painted trim. What I know is that if dated wood trim or trim painted the wrong hue are bringing your mood down, change it.
Color affects us in mysterious ways. Dark red-toned browns, for instance, assault and overwhelm my own senses. White oak flooring in our former home was left natural and glowed with golden warmth. Get to know yourself and how color affects your emotions.
For me, browns rarely emote a feeling of safety or coziness, and this lesson comes years after living in a home with quality, costly oak trim. (I thought I might learn to appreciate it with time in a prior spec home I didn’t design).
Folks who are less visual may hardly notice a trim’s tone. Practical, logical, left brain types who size up a room’s appeal based upon other factors may think this whole discussion is drivel.
But then there are aesthetes and design freaks…ha!
Since I’m mostly indoorsy, it makes sense that brown wood outlined everything feels more outdoorsy rustic and less home-cozy. Take time to discern how you respond to trim when it subtly recedes or assertively veers forward.
Be mindful too that painting over stained wood is generally not wise if your only motivation is to be on trend. If your eye loves stained wood, keep it!
Painted trim and the addition of trim around windows and doors itself falls in and out of favor. (The Giannettis along with many high end designers skip trim altogether!). Your decision should support your personal style, taste, and preferences for what feels most like home.
And don’t forget there are all sorts of neutrals beyond white for trim.
HOW THIS ADVICE HELPS
Painting trim around windows, doors, and floors is a task which stirs up anxiety for many folks. Since it is still rather uncommon to deviate from either white or wood trim, we may forget the power of color. A calm trim color can help if there is a shortage of architectural interest or to enhance a not so great window.
Peeks At Our Current & Former Kitchens
Thanks for trying on these ideas and ever adventuring into deeper calm with me.
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Peace to you right where you are.
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