My Kitchen Before and After (Thanks IKEA!)

So my kitchen has undergone many transformations since I’ve moved into the duplex in Milwaukee. The first of them can be seen here in a post about cabinets that Matt and I found on the curb and I painted and cut down some countertops to fit (that we also found). I have since painted the kitchen blue, but wasn’t a fan of the serene color in the kitchen. It was meant more for a bedroom or a bathroom. So I decided on Yellow.

paint sample

I decided on Behr’s “Gold Buff”.

blue kitchen 2

Blurry, but here’s what the blue looked like. Not bad, but not for me.

blue kitchen 4

 I think when people take before and after pictures they take really bad “before” pictures so the “after” ones seem that much better. Without knowing, that’s what I did here.


This was not fun. I don’t recommend it. But when you paint, it has to be done. This took 2-3 coats in some areas.

After- Yellow Kitchen

We decided to take the shelves down above the stove and sink and move them to the corner of the room. We were recently at Ikea and for around $15 total we got some bars, hooks, and a hanging basket for organizing above the stove.

Ikea Organizing

I love this little basket.

After Kitchen

We recently got a Reverse Osmosis filter and installed it for delicious, chemical free water. The catch- the drain that runs into the sink has to be lower than the faucet. So after we tried to install the faucet into the countertop, it leaked. It works great now! But there’s those hoses that need to be hid. Suggestions welcome. 

RO Filter

Unsightly hoses…  Small price to pay for delicious water.

Built Ins

I love the built ins. I painted them with a fresh coat of off-white (Sherwin William’s Greek Key) and we got knobs from Ikea for $1 for just 6 knobs. The organizing jars are from TJ Maxx for just $12 a piece, and keep our flour and sugar neatly stored for when we bake. (We bake all of our own bread.)

Found Bookcase

We also found the bookcase last spring when the college kids were moving out of their rental units. It adds some much needed storage. Nothing too fancy, but it works!

Faux Chalkboard

I created this faux chalkboard on a canvas with some black and white paint. First, paint the canvas black and let dry completely. Then take some white paint, and thin it out with water by dipping your brush in water, and mixing with a tiny dab of paint. Repeat until you have the desired consistency, then paint your design!

Chair redo

I found these chairs in the alley (4 of them) on my way home one day this summer and snatched them up ASAP. They are a little wobbly, but some tightening of bolts fixed that. I got this fabric at IKEA for $8 a yard and covered all 4 chairs, with enough fabric to spare for another project.

Curtains from Ikea

I also made this easy, light diffusing curtain with IKEA fabric for just $4 a yard. Note the knife holder and little coffee area we created for extra storage.

Coffee Station

My little coffee and tea area holds sugar, honey, tea packets and a few cups and is conveniently placed above the coffee maker. The tea leaf strainer and a tea kettle were birthday presents from the boyfriend last year.

All in all I think this transformation cost less than $75! I really wish there were an IKEA in Wisconsin… But it’s worth the drive whenever we DO get a chance to go. What have you done to make your kitchen more efficient?

Happy Before and Afters!


Re Fab Cabinets- from Trash to Treasure

So last month during the time when the college kids move out, Boyfriend and I scoured the neighborhood for treasures. Amongst our new finds we got two 15″ cabinets, and a 5 foot slab of butcher block countertop. I cut off some of the countertop to fit the cabinets with a saw I borrowed from my dad.

cabinets kitchen 2

Before: The kitchen lacked counter top, and storage.

cabinets before kitchen

The space by the fridge lacked countertop space for pulling things out of the fridge, and every time we moved the dishwasher by the sink, we had to unplug the Juicer.

 cabinets before

Before, with their natural glory. I filled in the holes to add knobs instead of pulls.

cabinets 6

I gave them a coat of primer, and two coats of black paint.

cabinets 4

After! I think they look amazing! And we can leave them for the next tenants. Total cost: $10. ($8 in paint and $2 in shims.) I left a little overhang on the countertop by the stove to store bags underneath and add some more prep space.

cabinets 2

Now… I’m on the hunt for cute knobs! Maybe something with color?

cabinets 5

Cabinet #2. It’s so nice to have a home for the Juicer! This has to be my favorite re-vamp in the apartment so far. Other than painting the wood paneling wall in the office/ craft area. Happy Re-Fabing!

Color Trends for Spring – 2013

With summer almost finally here (those from the midwest know how treacherous it’s been this season), it’s time for garage sales, spring cleaning, planting bulbs, and fresh coats of paint. Here are some of the color trends, and some of my favorites, from this season.

Gray. Yes, Gray. Not a cool steel gray, but a tan-gray. Something that when the sun hits it just right it almost looks tan. Something neutral where you can decorate with almost any color combination. Pairs well with brick walls, wood floors, older homes, and newer alike.

Shades to try: Benjamin Moore “Revere Pewter” for a gray that goes with ANYTHING, or Benjamin Moore OC-140 “Morning Dew” for a light, almost off white hue, or Sherwin Williams SW7632 “Modern Gray” for a little more color.

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Sea Blue- I’ve been seeing this color a lot lately. It’s not a robin’s egg blue, it’s a lot more subtle, it has gray undertones to it (notice a theme?)

Shades to try: Benjamin Moore “Palladian Blue”, Sherwin Williams 6204 “Sea Salt” or Pratt and Lambert 25-27 “Chanteuse”.

color- sea salt

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Peacock! The feathers, images of the bird, Halloween costumes, and the color have been trendy for the last few years. This color will bring an elegance to any space, and a cheerful whimsy to any dark corner. Pairs well with any wood floor, neutral carpeting, white woodwork, and bright fabric accents.

Shades to try: Hallman Lindsay’s 0688 “Cold North” (similar to photo below), Pratt and Lambert 22-11 “Reverie” for something bright and playful, or Sherwin Williams 6951 “Cote D’Azur” for a true peacock blue.

color peacock

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White. Yes, white is a trendy color. It’s like saying water is a trendy drink, but hey, you can’t reinvent the wheel here. Don’t go for a crisp white though, try an off white, something antique or alabaster. You can pair ANYTHING with white, and in the right space, it won’t make your home look manufactured, but clean and crisp.

Shades to try: Sherwin Williams “Alabaster”, Benjamin Moore’s “Dove White” (said to be the best white ever) or Glidden “Parchment White” for something a little toned down.

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So this season’s theme is very neutral, almost Cape Cod or Hampton’s beach house-esque. I say if you want some more color though, go for it. It’s your space after all! I have a TON more ideas on my Pinterest page. Check it out! Happy Painting!

Re-Store: Hidden Treasure

Habitat for Humanity Re-Store. Like a home improvement store on a mission.

I know you have heard of the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store, it’s a place that has been popping up in towns all over the US lately. I remember loving Habitat for Humanity since high school when they built a house down the street from me for a family that couldn’t afford one. I dreamed of being able to volunteer and give back to the community and thought “That’s a great idea. Getting volunteers to help build homes, un-used items from old buildings (mixed with some new items) to make a new home for someone that can appreciate it.” And now there’s a store you can shop at to buy things to fix up YOUR house at a lower cost, items that were pulled out of places being remodeled, torn down, and or upgraded.

Habitat home in Birmingham, Alabama.

According to the site: “ReStore resale outlets accept donated goods which are sold to the general public at a fraction of the retail price. The proceeds help local Habitat affiliates fund the construction of Habitat homes within their communities.” I can get behind that. They also promote re-cycling old use-able goods, being environmentally and socially responsible.

Trust me, there's a treasure in there. Look at that pedestal sink! Click on image for link to it's home.

I visited the Green Bay Re-Store yesterday and was amazed by all they had, and wanted to take it all home and find a place to put it all. Then I remembered I live in an apartment, and can’t use the cabinets, trim and tile. But I know a few home owners that can, and took mental pictures of all of the goodies in the store.

I know all this image proves is that gold is out of style... but imagine painting one of these a great shade of dark bronze, and making a new shade for it. Amazing!
Here’s some things I didn’t know they had:

  • joist hangers
  • switch plate covers
  • light fixtures
  • trim and molding
  • bay windows
  • tile, and grout- $5 for a 5 gallon bucket
  • vintage bathroom vanities
  • bar sinks with gold swan neck faucets
  • exit signs (a ton)
  • scraps of wood and laminate floors (great for repairing)
  • sheets of vinyl flooring
  • musical organ. (sadly it was sold)
  • desks and file drawers from an old city building
So much trim and lumber!

The list goes on and on. I would HIGHLY recommend checking out your local Re-Store if you are a home owner, maybe you’ll get motivated to do an old home project when you see how little money you are spending. I would even suggest volunteering some time on a day you have off. You might meet some cool people.

What does “Practical Enrichment” Mean?

I’ve been thinking of starting my own home organization business lately, (with the push of my current boss,) and I’ve been throwing tons of terms, words, and phrases around to try to come up with a name. After much, much painful deliberation, (remember, i’m a perfectionist), I’ve decided to use the name of my blog and have come up with Practical Enrichment- Organization and Design Services. I’ll do anything from organizing your house, or just a room, getting things boxed in the basement and garage, helping you choose a fresh paint color for your home office, put toys in bins at day care centers, and arrange office furniture to create a more functional space. I’ll help you sort what stays, and what goes. I can even take your items to the donation center. I’ve been doing it for friends and family for years. I’m passionate about keeping a place neat, to lessen anxiety and stress at home, and help daily productivity. It will be something I start part time, and when (yes WHEN) I become successful, I will go full time.

I’ve thought long and hard about what “Practical Enrichment” means to me. It is the way I live my life, living practically, logically, with less clutter, and with “a place for everything, and everything in it’s place”. I like to “enrich” my life simply, spending less money on things that could easily cost twice as much, and not be materialistic. I shop at thrift stores, for clothes I can make my own, and for little design items. I buy organic and local, when I can get away with it. I like to help the planet, when and where I can. I recycle, and try not to use un-nessesary amounts of packaging and (when I remember) bring my own shopping bags to stores. I use recycled items to make crafts, wrap presents, and design my house, and try to reduce my carbon footprint. I shut off the water when I brush my teeth. I water the plant with leftover glasses and bottles of water lying around. So I thought that Practical Enrichment was the perfect name for a home organization business. It is, after all, what I stand for. Being neat, organized, and living practically, and enriching life simply, while being chic and elegant. I’ll let you all know when the business is up and running, and how you can find me.

My tagline? “Your things, only better.”

Just think, your pantry could look like this! Happy organizing!

Guest Post: Preparing Your Home Prior to Move

After having planned to move to a new place, you start making preparations for the move. Relocation is a big project, as it is associated with a lot of moving fears. Though you take all necessary precautions to make sure that none of your possessions gets damaged in transit, you seldom think of preparing your new home before you actually move into it.

There are some obvious reasons behind that. Your new home might be at a distant place within your country or you might be moving overseas. It is really difficult to inspect and improve the condition of your new abode, if you are arriving from a far off place. Though, you can always request the landlord or the previous owner to make sure that end of tenancy cleaning is arranged weeks ahead of your moving date.

On the other hand, if your new home is located in your area or in the same city, it becomes easier for you to prepare it for moving, well ahead of moving date. Moving is a cumbersome task, and it can become all the more tiring, if you do not prepare your new home. Checking the property ahead of time and making the changes you want will help you reduce moving stress. Here are a few thing that you must take care of while preparing your new home:

Inspection of the property

No matter, whether you are going to rent a home or are buying one, you must conduct an inspection to make sure that it is ready to be used. If there are damages, deal with them before you actually move into it.

1. Interior: As far as the interior of the home is concerned you may face defects like, dripping faucets, light bulbs that are not working and dirty window panes. You can also hire professional cleaners to clean the chimney or dirty roof. Inspect the roof for any broken shingle and check the bathrooms for fixing plumbing leaks. Similarly squeaking doors can be greased before you actually start using them.

2. Exterior: See if the house needs to be painted. If you have a garden, mow the lawn and clear debris like loose branches. If the shingles need to be replaced, do it before hand. Clean the garage before you start using it. You can always hire handyman if you do not have enough time to do these cleaning jobs.

Contact utility providers:

How does it feel to move in a home without electricity and power supply. It will make you feel more tired. Call the different utility providers ahead of time. You must apply for other connections like internet and telephone well in advance.

Make a design plan of your new home to decide what furniture item should be placed in which corner. Measure the space to avoid confusion when you actually arrive with your bag and baggage.

by Adam Williams. Aussie Handyman Service is based out of the UK.

Contact Adam here. 

Guest Post: Top Ways to Strengthen Your Basement From Outside Forces by Kyle O’Brien

Many basements, especially finished ones, can sometimes be open to insect invasions of the cricket, spider and rodent kind should they be hamstrung in a few vital points of the home.  Home improvement can sometimes be a matter of having the right defenses against pesky insects and/or sealants around the exterior of your home.

Rather than trying to have your exterminator on speed dial, there are many ways to ready your basement, both simple and a bit more stretched out.  Below are four great methods to gain the upper hand:

1.  Traps of the Inventive Nature

If your home hasn’t had the luxury of being greeted by al lovely bunch of crickets known as the Camel Cricket (or Cave Cricket),  then consider yourself lucky.  These wonderfully annoying creatures love to nest in damp, dark and cool basements, breed rather too quickly, are blind and can jump extremely quickly (usually towards approaching homeowners), and love to eat wool or cotton.  They usually will make their home underneath bushels of leaves pressed up against the house, and will try and retreat inside homes as the weather dips.  Once they get inside around the basement, it’s best to get at them quickly before they spawn ridiculous numbers of babies.

You can contain them in a number of ways, but the best one is by setting glue traps along the edges of your basement wall.  These crickets love to eat glue-based products and will naturally scurry along the floor near your basement wall.  And if you can’t purchase a bundle of them from a hardware store, you can always get creative with medium-sized wood slabs and a roll of duct tape.  Just wrap the wood with duct tape facing outward, place them around the edges and watch the crickets jump on board in a matter of days.  Tear off the duct tape strips, apply fresh ones and get ready for round two.

2.  Inspect the Outside of Your Home

Giving the exterior of your home a once-over can help in locating possible cracks and entry points for water and critters.  Make sure the siding is up to par around window sills and doorways and if need be, caulk and plug up any holes.  Invest in weather strips for the air drafts under your basement doorway, a trick that helps block out rodents and insects while helping to insulate your home even more.  And if your basement leads up to your garage, inspect any possible openings that may lead down.  This one’s especially true for cables and other wires that flow towards any electronics in your basement.  If you can’t completely seal the holes, just do your best to make it as tiny as possible via old rags stuffed inside.

3.  Invest in a Dehumidifier

Water leaks are one of the many common snags for basements.  And water is a great attractor for insects such as the aforementioned camel crickets.  Remedy that problem with a dehumidifier to collect the moisture and hopefully repel insects elsewhere.  Dehumidifiers also work to rid the basement of mildew and bacteria growth, giving your basement some added freshness for you and your family to enjoy.

4.  Cleaning Up Around The House

One of the easiest ways to repel insects from your home is simple:  staying on top of house cleaning.  This means vacuuming up loose dirt, food crumbs, syrup-based spills and so on.  I sometimes forget to check back to the basement, because hey, not everyone spends most of their time there.  But when food piles up, the scent trail lingers for insects and rodents to pick up.  Since cleaning up around the house is considered a constant home improvement, it would be wise to follow up and make every area of your home, including your basement, shiny from beginning to end.

Outside of incidents such as hidden foundation smudges and general human error (i.e., leaving the basement door open), there are a variety of ways to make sure your basement is up to par and ready to keep insects out for the foreseeable future.  In the end, patching up your basement and keeping out Cave crickets can be a match made in home renovation heaven. 

Written by Kyle O’Brien