Kitchen Improvements (My new almost IKEA kitchen)

(Or, How I spent the month of September)  (First in a series of three)


When we first moved to Italy in 2007, the idea was that we would rent the house from John and Richard for one year while we looked around to decide on where we wanted to be.  At the end of the first year our rental turned in to two years more and then when that ended it turned in to one year more and then again in to one year more.   So we were there for five years.  Because I was always thinking that we were going to move I didn’t move furniture, I didn’t change much inside to make things easier for us. 


Last September when we moved here, the idea was that we would be upstairs for one year and that probably, Renata and her daughter, who live downstairs would be moving and then we would move down there.   All winter long, Renata had talked to me about ‘when I move, would you want to buy…’   She had stockpiled boxes in anticipation of the move.  She had told the owners of the property that she was moving.  And then all of the sudden, she didn’t want  move.  Two years ago when we first looked at this place, the chat was that Renata was going to move.  I heard from someone that five years ago, the chat was that Renata was going to move.  When I heard that, I came to the realization that possibly, there was always going to be chat about Renata moving but never any actual moving.  And I realized that it is possible that our ‘one year upstairs’ could easily turn into five or more.   However, this time  I am changing things to make life easier for us.  And the first thing is the kitchen.


The normal practice in Italy is that your kitchen moves with you.  I know how bizarre that sounds.  Yes, when someone moves out of an apartment, even if it is rented unfurnished rather than bought and sold, the kitchen is owned by the renter.  And the kitchen moves.   Fitted cabinets, counter tops and all.  Last winter, that was one of the things that Renata tried to get me to agree to buy…her kitchen, that she had bought and installed.   I am never sure what she thinks about us, but we just don’t have a spare 3 or 4 thousand Euros lying around to buy someone’s used, 7 to 10 year old kitchen.   I was always very vague in my response to her queries about buying her kitchen.  While it is pretty and all, it is also fitted cabinets.  I really don’t like fitted cabinets.  Yeah, I know that is strange too.  But for my height, most of the time I can only reach the first shelf of the cabinets on the top.  The rest requires a step stool.  To me, cabinets close in the room.   In our  first house in Raleigh, the only thing built in and remaining in the kitchen  when we moved was the sink.  The rest of the kitchen was furniture that moved with us to the second house in Wilmington.  After the Wilmington house, the next few houses came with already installed kitchen cabinets.  Which I did not like but tolerated.   John and Richard’s house was a nice mix of cabinets and furniture which is why I think I felt at home there. 


Last year when we moved here,  because we are renting furnished, the kitchen came with a fridge right next to the stove on one wall.  The evil stone sink on another wall.  The washing machine which we bought from the former tenants along the third wall and a collection of painted tables and chairs and 1 low wooden freestanding cabinet along the 4 th wall.  I moved  a lot of things out.  And moved the fridge to the other side of the doorway flip flopping it with the cabinet that was there so that the cabinet is now next to the stove.  Counter space by the stove, what a concept.  Adding open wire shelves from IKEA  made it into a very workable kitchen.  I can reach everything in the kitchen.  No stool needed.   There is great storage for everything.  I don’t have to lift 3 things to get 1.  Just outside the kitchen is a large pantry which I added more shelves to so it is also now a great storage space.  And just outside our door in the hallway is a chest of drawers that has even more things stored in it.  The kitchen is not too big but big enough so that if Ben or the dog come wandering in then no one gets stepped on.  






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Evil stone sink.  You can’t tell from this angle but the faucet was not well placed.  Water only came out in a space  about 2 inches from the back corner of the sink.  It was difficult to fill a big pot with water.  Or to wash a cookie sheet.  And what ever finish that had once sealed the inside of the sink was now gone.  Things grew in that sink if I didn’t soak the sink in bleach once every 10 days or so.  Can you tell,  I didn’t like the sink?????



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Table for counter space with storage underneath.



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Open shelves from IKEA.


After the changes that I made when we moved in and using it for a whole year I realized that I truly loved the kitchen and really did not want to give it up for Renata’s built ins. However, there was the unforgiving stone sink (see a previous post about wine glasses) and the lack of a dishwasher that I was unhappy about. So when the owners of the property were here this summer and it became apparent that Ben and I would be in this apartment for an undefined period of time I knew I should seize the chance to make changes. Ben and I offered to buy a dishwasher  if the owners would change out the sink and have the dishwasher installed.  Work was supposed to start the week the storm hit at the end of July.  Well, getting trees off of buildings was more important.  So work did not start until Labor Day.


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The EVIL sink is GONE!!!! HOORAY!!!!


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The new sink in its cute little cabinet.  (See I already know how to pile dishes up in it)


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The cabinet is actually very functional.  Next to it is the dishwasher.  The dishwasher is an apartment size one rather than a full size one.  I was not happy about that because there were far fewer choices.  It came from IKEA.  And had been living just inside the doorway downstairs since 2 weeks before the storm.  The day of the storm I was worried about my dishwasher so I went down and shut the door.  That was probably a good thing.  It survived the storm with a little water damage to the packaging.    But I was dismayed when it was finally unwrapped to see that it had beautiful stainless steel panels on the sides and basic aluminum on the front, nothing on the top.   Of course, it was designed to be built into a cabinet.  Well, I certainly was not buying a cabinet.  So I hummed and hawed, bitched and moaned for several days before finally hitting on a solution. 



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Remember the paper towels that I wrote about a few weeks ago.  I took inspiration from that design.  Got some wood from OBI and set to work painting.  The center panel is for the front of the dishwasher.


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I also talked the owner of the Chinese Dollar store in to ordering more of these precut wooden squares that are supposed to be coasters.  I set to work painting them too.


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This is how those turned out.



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With the help of some clothes pins and glue, the dishwasher front went on.



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The tiles went up with the same glue.  (It is supposed to be removable)  And the other panels became ‘art’.


And now here is the kitchen with everything moved back in. 


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Just to the right, you can see that I painted the top of the cabinet by the stove to match the other counter tops. 


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On the right, is the corner of the washing machine with a larger top on it.  The new shelving that was created with IKEA shelves as the base.   Now the bad thing is, see how much clearance space there is for the shutters or the window?  I’ll really have to keep that space clean!  And the good thing is, see how much clearance space there is for the shutters or the window? I’ll really have to keep that space clean!

And be sure to note the cool turquoise trash can underneath.


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And the last wall.  I changed out the bottom shelving unit so that now it holds bottles.  (see the beginning to compare)  and moved a few things around.  I might get one more white hanging shelf but I think that is all that I need.


So is this a kitchen ‘to  die for’?  NOPE.  Is it a kitchen that my friends would have?  NOPE.  Do I have granite countertops and open concept and a breakfast bar and all the other buzz words that we hear when watching ‘Property Brothers’?  NOPE.  But am I happy with it?   Well heck yeah!  I am so glad that the owners of the property agreed to help with the changes.  And I am so happy to have a dishwasher again. 


Look for a future post about what we did to the bathroom.



  1. Looks great! Great job, we all know how hard it is to work with what little we have to work with!

  2. You “new” kitchen looks great. This time while we are in Monte, I hope to meet you. We will look for you at the market tomorrow. I used to see you at Cafe La Luna, so I’ll look there. Molly Kellogg

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