MFH Kitchen Tour

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Kitchen Shelf and Workbench

Come take a tour of my kitchen. It’s hands-down the most colorful and unique space in my home.

We started renovating our kitchen 11 years ago. It still isn’t done, but I’m going to show it to you anyway. This is a frugal living blog, and we do real life here.

Back in 2011 our neighbor’s tree fell on our house, and we suddenly found the kitchen—and every other room in our house—under construction. We had to move out of our house for 17 months, while we worked to make it habitable again. It was a difficult time for us, but we got through it. You can read the full story here.

Since we had no idea we’d be tackling a kitchen renovation, we didn’t have any money saved for one, and the kitchen was a total gut redo. In addition to cabinets, countertops, and flooring, it also needed new walls and a reframed floor.

Having to take everything back to the studs wasn’t all bad. It allowed us to insulate and restore the kitchen ceiling to its original nine-foot height. But you can only get so excited about soaring ceilings, when you’re being crushed by soaring bills. A massive replaster bill. Then, a new stove and a new window over the kitchen sink. Every day brought new expenses, and this wasn’t just happening in our kitchen; it was happening in every room in our house.

After many months, our house finally started to come back together, but we still didn’t have kitchen cabinets or a kitchen floor. And I suddenly decided I didn’t care. Finishing our kitchen would have meant more money and more time out of our house, and we just wanted to come home.

To this day we still haven’t finished our kitchen, and that’s just fine with me. Eventually it’ll make it to the top of our to-do list, but for now it isn’t a priority.

And you know what? What we have is actually pretty nice.

Kitchen Floor

For the first couple years after we moved home, our kitchen floor was just exposed, unfinished sub-floor. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked. Then, we got the idea to stain it, and that’s how it stayed for the next five or six years.

Vintage-Look Peel-and-Stick Floor Tile

In 2020 we decided to give our floor a temporary update with some vintage-look peel-and-stick tiles. I think we spent around $150 on this project. It looks nice and makes the floor easier to clean, but it’s just a stand in, until we get kitchen cabinets. I kind of have a love-hate relationship with these tiles. The adhesive isn’t the best, and the tiles have a background that makes them look dirty, when they aren’t. But it’s definitely better than bare sub-floor.

We plan to put cork tile down eventually, but for now this does the job.

Normally, I show you an overall view of the room before I take you on the tour, but I’m going to save that for the end this time. We have a lot of unique stuff in our kitchen, and I don’t want to spoil any of the surprises—including some improvements we’ve made since my last kitchen tour.

Let’s start with the right side of the kitchen.

Kitchen Sink and Dishwasher

Our dishwasher was a lucky yard sale find. It’s super quiet, and we only paid $75 for it. It replaced a (much noisier) $30 dishwasher that we bought at a Habitat store and used for years.

My Dishwasher Detergent Tab Recipe

The marble countertop over top of the dishwasher was a scrap that we bought from a stone shop.

And that farm sink that you see next to it? I LOVE that sink.

Inside of Deep Kitchen Sink

It has one deep basin, instead of two shallow basins; and it has a long-neck faucet that I can actually get my stockpots under. It’s a work horse.

We used to have a normal, stainless steel sink, but then we bought this …

And we needed a sink with a smaller footprint to make it fit. It’s an antique workbench that we found at the World’s Longest yard sale 12 or 13 years ago. We didn’t have any way to haul it home, but we managed to convince the dealers to deliver it. They drove several hours out of their way to bring it to us.

Before they got here, we ripped out cabinets to make room for it. We thought we’d carved out enough space, but when they brought it in, we discovered we’d miss-measured. Oops! It’s a good thing 30-inch sinks exist. That’s all I can say.

This workbench functions really well for us. It’s a great height, and it offers tons of storage. I think we paid around $1,000 for it, which is a lot less than we would have paid for cabinets and a countertop.

We store cutting boards, Pyrex storage containers and some small appliances on the shelf underneath, which makes them easy to grab.

The vintage double-decker bread box on the right end was a lucky curb find. It houses some of my vintage tea towels.

The workbench has three HUGE drawers for storing kitchen gadgets. I lined them with cork, to keep stuff from shifting around.

Top of Kitchen Workbench

Since we still don’t have any kitchen cabinets, I keep my most-used spices along the back of the workbench. The rest of my open spices live in the pantry. Those are My Frugal Home mixes in the quart jars.

KitchenAid Mixer

My KitchenAid mixer was an anniversary present several years back. I have the 7-quart version. It’s a beast, and gets used often. My husband saved a ton by buying a refurbished model. We’ve never had a bit of trouble out of it. I sewed the bowl cover for it. Here are the instructions, if you’d like to make one.

The Wusthof knives sitting next to my mixer were another anniversary present. It’s a $220 set, but my husband found a new-in-the-box set at a flea market for $50. Such a deal. This is my first really nice set of knives, and they’re a joy to use.

The Blendtec blender sitting on the other side of my mixer stays out on the counter. Like my mixer, it’s a beast, and I use it often. Blendtecs are a bit on the pricey side, but I waited and bought mine when it was deeply discounted.

Every so often, I rub the workbench down with my wood butter to keep the wood conditioned.

Stainless Steel Shelves in Kitchen

We bought this awesome restaurant stainless steel rolling rack from a scrap metal place. We just had to pay the scrap weight for it—$75!

It fits the space perfectly, and holds everything we needed it to.

One thing I’ve learned while living without kitchen cabinets is that open storage really works for us. It’s nice to have everything within reach.

I don’t think it would work if you didn’t cook a lot. Things would get dusty. But we’re constantly cooking, so everything gets used (and washed) regularly.

Fiesta Dishes

This rack holds all of our dishes. We use Fiesta for our everyday dishes. I have a definite soft spot for 50s kitchenware. Vintage Pyrex, refrigerator boxes—I just can’t get enough.

This rack also holds all my mixing bowls. I have a mix of new and old. I lucked into a big stack of antique stoneware bowls at a yard sale one time.

Stainless Steel Shelves With Dishes

Also on this rack: drinking glasses, silverware, liquid measuring cups, food wraps, water bottles, a few appliances and our microwave. Oh, and my tablet stand. I made one our of laminated cotton, so it would be easy to wipe off, if it gets messy when I’m cooking. It gives me a spot to stick my iPad, when I’m following a recipe. Here’s the tutorial, if you’d like to make one.

You may have noticed we store our drinking glasses in a restaurant dishwasher rack. It’s brilliant because you don’t have to worry about whether things are still wet when they come out of the dishwasher. This rack allows them to air dry.

Rolling Storage Drawers

A few years back, we snagged several sturdy unpainted drawers from a curb pile. I painted them Jadeite green, and my husband added casters. They fit perfectly under our stainless rack, and give use a whole extra row of storage. The one next to the microwave holds water bottles. From left to right, the ones under the rack hold our cleaners, our reusable sandwich bags and food covers and our disposable stuff—plastic wrap, wax paper, foil, plastic bags, parchment etc.

We try to keep our kitchen as no-waste as possible, so we use our reusable stuff, whenever we can, and only grab from the disposable bin when it’s absolutely necessary.

Here’s how to make reusable sandwich bags, sandwich wraps, reusable casserole covers, and bowl covers.

Okay, that pretty much covers the right side of the kitchen. Now, let me show you the left side.

Refrigerator and Pantry

We used to have an ugly hollow-core door on our pantry. When we were renovating I set out to find something better. I unearthed this door at a salvage place, and couldn’t snatch it up fast enough.

Closeup of Pantry Door

It’s actually part of a set. I stripped it; gave it a fresh coat of paint; and we replaced the window screen, too. I love the way it turned out. I added the “pantry” sign a few years ago.

Inside of Pantry

There’s a refrigerator-style switch mounted on the door frame. When you open the door, the light turns on. When you close it, the light turns off. This saves us from having to turn off lights behind kids. We have the same kind of switch in our master closet.

Our pantry is pretty small, so we only store opened foods in it. Everything else is stored in our basement stockpile. I’ll do a post soon about how I organize our pantry.

Jadeite Green Big Chill Refrigerator

Did you notice our fridge in those pantry pictures? If not, here it is again. It looks like a vintage fridge, but it’s actually a new fridge that’s dressed up to look that way. There’s a company called Big Chill that makes them, and they’ll paint your fridge whatever color you want. We chose Jadeite green. Very 50s. We’ve had it for about 13 years now, and we love it. It was a splurge, but we have no regrets.

Inside of Refrigerator

See? It’s a completely modern fridge on the inside.

The baskets on the top of the fridge hold plastic grocery bags, my homemade reusable sponges and rags (we rarely use paper towels).

Kitchen Charts

I keep my vegetable blanching and roasting times charts on the side of the fridge, so I can refer to them whenever I need to. A lot of vegetables come through our kitchen during the growing season, so it’s nice to keep these handy. Both are available as free printables.

Vintage Westinghouse Stove

Here’s our stove. Unlike our fridge, it’s the real deal. It’s a 1957 Westinghouse that we had restored and painted to match the fridge. It’s 36-inches wide, while most modern stoves are 30-inches wide. I love having the extra oven space.

Vintage Stovetop

And since it pre-dates the age of computerized stoves, it’s really easy (and cheap) to work on. The thermostat has gone out twice, but both times it was an easy repair that my husband could tackle himself.

Stainless Steel Cart With Pots and Pans

This stainless steel cart happened to fit the space between the fridge and stove perfectly, so we pulled it out of the basement and put it into service. It gives us a spot for our toaster oven and our collection of enameled cast iron pots and pans. All of these have come from thrift stores and yard sales. We’ve never paid more than $7 for any of them.

We keep our most-used cooking utensils and gadgets on the wall by the stove. This makes it easy to grab what you need while you’re working. As you can see, I collect red KitchenAid. It’s amazing how many pieces I’ve found at thrift stores and yard sales over the years.

Shelf Next to Stove

The shelf under our utensil rack holds some of our most-used mixes (buttermilk pancake and mocha hot cocoa), a crock full of wooden spoons, another full of metal utensils and our hot beverage supplies …

Keurig and SodaStream

including my husband’s Keurig (I don’t drink coffee). Someone put it on the curb because it wasn’t working well. It just needed to be cleaned. After running vinegar through it, it was as good as new. We also keep a SodaStream on this shelf.

As you can see, living without kitchen cabinets hasn’t been a major hardship by any means, but it has limited how much we can store in the kitchen. For the past 11 years, we’ve been storing our less-frequently-used kitchen stuff in the basement. It’s just off the kitchen, so it wasn’t the end of the world, but it was still kind of a hassle to have to run down one and a half flights of stairs every time I needed a pan or appliance.

We recently solved the issue by adding a butler’s pantry to our kitchen. This was a construction-free project, since we already had the perfect space we could convert to the purpose.

Old Bathroom

Just off our kitchen there’s a half flight of stairs that takes you down to a landing with the side door and basement door. On that landing there’s also a little closet-size space. It was originally a half bath, but a previous owner ripped out the fixtures and installed a shower stall in their place, so he’d have a place to shower while he was renovating the upstairs bathroom. That’s how it was when we bought the house. We referred to it as “the shower closet.”

Several years into owning our home, we converted the space back to a half bath, and it was primarily used by guests, when we had outdoor parties.

When we bought the little cottage behind our house we gained a bathroom that worked even better for outdoor parties, so this bathroom wasn’t really getting used any more. I’d always dreamed of turning the space into a butler’s pantry, so we finally did it.

Stairs Down to Butlers Pantry

We measured carefully an ordered two stainless steel shelves that would make use of every inch of available space, including the eight-foot ceiling height.

Butler's Pantry Closeup

Then, we put them together, and I brought all my kitchen stuff up from the basement.

Shelves in Butler's Pantry

I tried to put my most-used stuff at eye level, and my less-used stuff up top.

Baking Pan Storage

Now, it’s a lot easier to grab things when I’m cooking, and just as easy to put them away, when I’m done.

Tiny Sink in Butler's Pantry

I decided to leave the tiny sink because I thought it would still be useful. I’ve always loved this sink. We found it at a Habitat ReStore years ago for $3.

Kitchen Light Fixtures

If you’re curious about some of the decorative choices I made for the kitchen, these are the light fixtures that I chose. They’re from Schoolhouse Electric, and they were made using vintage molds. We have four of them.

Sherwin Williams Tea Chest

And here’s the color that I picked for the walls. It’s Tea Chest by Sherwin Williams. If you’ve been around here for any time, you already know brown is my favorite color.

Curious about something you saw in my kitchen? I have a post that lists some of my favorite kitchen appliances and gadgets. I’m also happy to answer any questions you have about the way I organize things in my kitchen. Just leave your question in the comments.

In the meantime, here are a couple final pictures of my kitchen.

Kitchen Looking Into Dining Room

Here’s my kitchen, looking into the dining room …

Kitchen Looking From Dining Room

and here’s my kitchen, looking in from the dining room.

Want to see the rest of my home? You can check out my home tour here.

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26 Comments

  1. Love it! I’m just wondering where you kept all those dishes before you found the industrial rack! The retro style is awesome- I wish I had an ounce of your creativity!!

    1. We had a black plastic shelf there before we found the stainless steel rack. It was just something we had brought up from the basement. Very glad to see it gone. This is much more attractive and it holds a lot more stuff. Getting the microwave off the workbench has been awesome.

      1. Yes, I do really like the open shelving. Dust is horrible in our house so this setup would not work for me. I love that you are able to see all of your fantastic finds and theyre not hidden in a cabinet! Such a functional kitchen setup!

  2. Love it! Thanks for sharing. This looks very functional (I am a function over form gal myself). I can hardly wait to see it finished. That restaurant shelving unit – awesome…that workbench – AWESOME! Will it move into the garage when you get to that part of the reno?

  3. It looks great!! We did the remodel of our kitchen while living in the house and we only had the subfloor but it wasn’t nice plywood like yours but diagonal slats across the floor and you could see straight to the basement. Friends came to visit and were afraid to walk across it. I told them it was sturdy. I had a stove from 1950 and we had to pull it out from the wall periodically to put the new drywall in so it was frequently in the middle of the room. Hope you get your new cork floors in but I like the strained subfloor!! Pretty and functional 🙂

  4. Very charming kitchen, Erin!

    I love all of your vintage finds and particularly your stove. You are so right that simpler, non-computerized appliances are easier to repair.

    What I love most is that your kitchen isn’t one of the “perfect” kitchens that are so common in blogland.

  5. Erin, I have been enjoying the tour of your beautiful frugal home. Love the appliances and fixtures in your kitchen. So much character! I think your cork floor will look great with everything else.

  6. Love the pantry,farm sink, cool dishes and especially that awesome fridge-how COOL is that! I do NOT like MY stainless steel fridge- not a good thing with a big family bc everyone’s fingerprints manage to get on the door just five minutes after you clean it!

    1. LOL-oh good it posted in a bigger font but just to let you know as soon as I was complaining that I could NOT see, a poor vision AD pops up-hilarious! LOL-I am easily amused!;)

        1. Oh good- thank you! Just wanted to also mention, I don’t know if you have Asian kitchen/bath and granite/quartz counter stores in your area? I spent about 1000. on my quartz countertops and it looks much m ore countertop area than you have in your pictures so you would probably pay less-mine is a beautiful sandy looking one like a beach with mirrored flecks so it looks like a beach with glass/starry look. And my cabinets were much cheaper-the whole kitchen I did for 1/4(including tear out and install and cabinets/countertops/backsplash) of what Lowe’s,Home Depot and others charged-and they did it in one day vs few weeks! I wish I did it long ago! Same cabinet makes as the ones in the big box stores too. So try to look for Asian kitchen/bath stores. I LOVE my kitchen and have many compliments!

  7. Love that fridge and that huge oven …..awesome!
    Seems like you’ve got a very functional, sturdy kitchen.
    I really love your creative ideas.
    There’s only one thing and that is the kitchen seems a bit dark.
    Perhaps it’s the photo lighting.

  8. Wow! I have so much admiration for your decision to make do with what you had to work with and what an AMAZING job you have done. It isn’t at all a compromise in style and function. Your kitchen is full of personality and beauty. I love it!

  9. Hi!
    Do you have a suggestion for keeping a porcelain sink white? I have had my farm sink about 3 years now and it looks dingy. I bought the cleaning product from the manufacturer and it did nothing. Any suggestions would be great! Thanks for all you do!

    1. That’s a bummer that your sink has been so hard to keep clean. I haven’t had that experience with ours. I save the mesh produce bags that we get from the grocery store, and that’s usually what we use to clean ours. It gives you some scrubbing power, without being abrasive. That might be worth a shot — especially since it’s free.

  10. Funny…I was just looking @ your website and wanted to look @ your kitchen pics to see if you had a microwave ( I know some people don’t…though few) because mine just went out this morning and if you didn’t, I was going to try to get creative to live without one (you are my go to creative “do without” goddess;) and I see that you do AND what I find interesting is that you TOO store your silverware in a tray on top of it as I do too as there is no drawer (3 bread drawers?:) wide enough to fit it.

  11. I love the kitchen! I went for 15 years without kitchen cabinets when we were first married (hubs built our house himself) I used a variety of things over the years for shelves to include discarded entertainment stands! He eventually found oak cabinets that were being discarded from a local air force base as they tore down the older housing units. I had so many cabinets I couldn’t imagine how I would ever fill them. As mentioned before that home burned. Our new home is very modern and has cabinets already. It is different to have a home in the same spot as the last one and have it be so “new” but I will get used to it! I love every aspect of your kitchen right down to the stained plywood floor, brings back wonderful memories! Keep up the wonderful work you do!

  12. I would give my eye teeth for that refrigerator and stove (only in gas though). And the Fiesta ware also. I love anything from the 50’s. My kitchen is partially 50’s

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