The Cocina: Clear(er) Counters + Open Shelving

A lot can happen in a month. And a lot has. Two weekends ago, I took a whirlwind trip back to the East Coast to visit family. And while a Friday-through-Sunday trip is hardly enough to justify having taken off nearly a month from posting, I’m going to excuse myself by saying I’m striving to have a “something” mentality rather than “an all-or-nothing” one. Isn’t that a relief? Moving on.

The room I was first most eager to tackle was my kitchen, and I’m happy to say it’s been tamed. All it really took was a few basic supplies, and a brutally minimalist attitude. No sweat.

Here’s the before:


There she is, the old humble kitchen in my little casita. You’ve probably seen worse, but admittedly, there’s  a lot goin’ on in there. And at some point,  looking over at this  scattered mess of objects and colors from my nearby living room  made my heart race. I wasn’t sure where to begin, which meant getting rid of things was probably a  good first step. Starting with that lavender tub. What’s the deal with that thing, anyway?

One of the biggest challenges in my kitchen was the lack of cabinet space. My temporary solution had been a shelving unit from IKEA, but I was ready to ditch that. Turns out, open shelving is all the rage right now—the trick is making sure all of your goodies look nice on display.


I gush.

In my case, space is pretty limited, so I needed to be  serious about keeping only what I use. Initially, I had a tough time deciding what would go, but a few episodes of Hoarders: Buried Alive cured that. You don’t need as much crap as you think you do. Really, you don’t. I slashed my stemless wine glass collection from 12 to six. Haven’t regretted it yet.

Aside from actually having less stuff in them, small rooms can also benefit from looking like they have less stuff in them. This meant being smarter about what I hid in my cabinets. Anything I could sensibly get off the counters, I did. Including my dish scrubber, which now hangs under the sink. (“Sensibly” is the key here–if the stuff that’s put away isn’t readily accessible, then getting it out becomes more trouble than it’s worth.) Since I couldn’t feasibly hide my dark dishware, I replaced it with glass plates and bowls. Using white or glass where possible helped give the illusion of negative space.

In one final, totalitarian decision, I cleared the magnets off of my fridge …and then, I spray painted my cabinets to match the tile countertops. Because particle board cabinetry. Yikes.

For funsies, here’s a throw back photo of the kitchen when I very first moved in:

kitchen 1

As you can see, no shelving and several missing counter tiles. A real treat.

And now, the big reveal:


Looks like I’ve gained some order, and a couple more bottles of wine, hooray! A streamlined cocina and a cohesive color scheme. I dig it. (Actually, looking at this photo, I could probably afford to let go of a few more things… small victories, people.)

Before signing off, I’d love to give credit to this lovely series of videos by Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan of Apartment Therapy, in which he outlines a few fundamental skills and techniques for masterfully using color. Learn about color families, easily changeable color, and the 80/20 rule. Then never look back.

Up Next: What I love about my “transformer”—how did I ever live without it?


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