Lovely Limitations :: Day 4 Use What You’ve Got

this is the fourth post in a series: Lovely Limitations, check out all the posts here.

I was obsessed with this kitchen in the July issue of Southern Living.

At first I though the before photo wasn’t that bad, but that’s plywood on the floor to the right there, not a rug.

I still sometimes find myself wrongly assuming that those pretty kitchens that we see in magazines were created from the ground up by architect husbands and funded generously from an unlimited bank account.  Even though I know that’s rarely the case.

Look closely.  The footprint of the room is the same. The appliances are in the same place. And much to my surprise, the homeowner used the old cabinets–they just got a coat of paint and the uppers were raised to touch the ceiling. Which alloted for my favorite part of the kitchen…drumroll please….the undercabinet open shelving.

Homeowner Lindsey Ellis had to come up with a solution to a space problem.  She wanted her cabinets to touch the ceiling but that created way too much space above the counters.  Solution:: open shelves.  We mere mortals just see those shelves and think, WOW, I want to do that too, both doored cabs and open shelves~a perfect combination. But for Lindsey, it was an elegant solution to a problem.  I’m so glad that she didn’t just give in and charge up new, tall upper cabinets, aren’t you?

Thank God for Lovely Limitations.

New to 31 Days? Read what it is here.  Read my other 31 Day posts in this series here.  Check out over 700 other 31 Dayers here.

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  1. I love those shelves! And brilliant! I could so use those! LOve love love!

  2. I’m attempting to do exactly that with some upper cabinets we found on Ebay for $200! For me too it is a solution to a problem – not enough storage space, second hand cabinets that we probably can’t match without spending a fortune, and enormously high ceilings in my kitchen. The open shelving truly is an elegant solution, as you so wisely say. Mine are still a work in progress, since I can’t find the right paint colour, but I hope it will one day look as glamorous as Lindsey’s!

  3. I ALWAYS find myself thinking that everyone else who has lovely homes have tons of money & husbands who help out with all of the construction/deconstruction/decorating projects. I know it’s not the case, but every time I see something CRAZY lovely I tend to think that mine could never look that way. Well, plus I have the limitation of renting, so I actually can’t paint my yucky kitchen cabinets, but I’m still working on making my home a place I can be proud of.

    • Fellow renter here too Sarah, sometimes I’m thankful for a few limits on what I can do, otherwise, I’d have painted my cabs twice already!

  4. That’s an amazing change and an amazing kitchen, it totally makes sense why you were envious!

  5. I love this! I have a nicely laid out kitchen that has the ugliest soffits above the cabinets. If I every get to the point of doing some kitchen changes I will definitely keep this idea as inspiration.

    Here’s my kitchen. We’ve actually painted the kitchen a less screaming yellow/beige and painted the knotty pine woodwork a creamy white . We took down the pottery plates from the soffit. I have the idea to paint the uppers that it might brighten things up. I need to take some more pictures. I think I’ve been waiting for inspiration to knock me on the head about my decorating.

  6. now that we are broke, broke, broke, I use what I have all the time… just a little reinvention and you have a brand new piece to work with. (spray paint is now my best friend!)

  7. OK, this option is out for me – and for anyone under about, oh, say, 6′ tall!!! :)

    • Oh…. good thinking there. Okay, I guess I can stop staring at my kitchen ceiling now! Haha. Thanks for the reminder ;)

    • I’m only 5′ and we are planning on doing the exact same thing. That’s what step stools (or kitchen chairs) are for! :) In our kitchen, the more frequently something is used, the lower it goes in the cabinets. I’d much rather have usable space, even if it means I have to grab a stool from the pantry once in a while.

  8. Raise the cabinets. Brilliant. That might have to happen in our house someday.

  9. Wow! I like that a lot. Now I am staring at my slanted kitchen ceiling and wondering whether it’s do-able… (haha, but I should probably be first asking my husband whether he’d be up for doing more than just painting in the kitchen!)

  10. Using what we have and working with what I have…is they only way I can usually afford a project. It’s always so encouraging to see others do the same! Thanks for pointing that out!…..Great Series!

  11. 31 Dayer #596. Can I change where my linky link goes? I want it to connect to my permalink, but it’s going to the day 1 post? Or, would it be best to change the day 1 post page and make it into the permalink?

  12. Love that kitchen!!! We attempted to do the same thing with our kitchen, same layout, appliances unmoved… but when it came to the cabinetry, 30 years of wear and tear was just too much to save. Keep on going with the 31 days!!!

  13. I’m loving this! Thanks for sharing. What i do want to know though, is what did she do with her microwave? Its not above the oven anymore (so much prettier now!) but where else do you put that stinkin microwave?

  14. I love that kitchen too. Great take on working with what you have.

  15. Awesome! I love your newest term coined “lovely limitations” :)

    Your link up to the other 31 days posts is sending me to the 404 error page…is it just me or is anyone else experiencing this too?

  16. We actually DID THIS! :) Our cabinets were too low to fit a microwave above the stove. We AREN”T especially handy. We raised the cabinets up about 6 inches. Had I thought of the open shelving under neither, I would’ve gone higher and added the shelf!

    I was afraid that raising the cabinets would be really difficult and we’d ruin the whole thing. My mom said “Don’t do it.” Once the prep work was done, it took us about 10 minutes to unscrew the cabinets, slide them up and drill the screws back in. 2 years later – cabinets still secure on the wall. Take the chance!

  17. tiffany day says:

    I am confused – the cabinets in the before picture already go to the ceiling, right? or am I totally missing something.

    love the after — and the open cabinets/shelves.

    • nope, the before is the second photo with the white cabs–look over where they meet the window, see how the tops don’t touch the ceiling? it’s a small change, probalby only 12 inches or so but makes a big difference in the room

  18. It is really easy to assume that everyone else makes their home beautiful with a limitless supply of handiness and money. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. I love seeing transformations like this that are realistic and practical. Nice inspiration.

    • yes, it’s much more difficult for me to admit that maybe someone did a much better job with the same resources that I have~we’d rather assume they had alot more to work with!!

  19. I really like this idea of open shelves underneath her cabinets. In most pictures, open shelves are usually all the storage that the homeowner has on top and I’m always afraid that if it were me, it would get junky. This Is the best of both worlds – closed to hide the clutter and open to showcase the pretty! Great post, I am loving this series…check out my 31 days of truth at



  20. Nicole W. says:

    Brilliant! I totally missed the added open shelving – so glad you pointed that out!

  21. Raising the cupboards and adding shelves…that is the most freakin’ fantastic frugal idea I’ve seen in a while!!! I have a kitchen with a stupidly small amount of cupboard space, a giant dumb drywall thingy at the top where there could be more cupboards and a very limited budget. Saving pic to show hubby. lol I’m sure he will be thrilled..more work! :)

  22. In fact, I’m going to use it as a desktop background so he can’t miss it!

  23. Melissa,
    First I want to say thank you to you and the other gals for hosting the 31 days series. It is such an awesome idea and I’m having a great time (a.k.a., 31 days to a more creative life).

    Love the kitchen idea you posted. My hubby and I bought a “REAL” fixer upper (it’s all we could afford), and our “on a budget” kitchen renovation has been going slow but steady. I’m always on the look out for new kitchen ideas and I love the shelf under the cabinets. Thanks again!

  24. That’s a great kitchen! What a perfect idea to add the shelves & who doesn’t need the extra storage! When we did our kitchen we used the same footprint since there was nothing wrong with it – it was just ugly. :) Painted to cabinets white and got new countertops – it was perfect for our budget but I feel like I got a new kitchen.

    Thanks for hosting this series with the other bloggers. It’s fun and challenging to post everyday. And there’s so much to read!

  25. I would never have thought to do this or looked closely enough at the photos to realize what she did. This will totally work in my kitchen!! I’m doing it!

  26. oh this is brilliant! sometimes the most creative solutions are from challenges.

  27. I really like this idea (esp because I’m tall anyway). I don’t love the way the shelf looks around the stove with those lower brackets. Corbels would be much prettier, but I guess also much more expensive!

  28. When we re-did our kitchen we raised the cabinets for that same reason. I have a great under cabinet shelf with vintage iron brackets. And it makes our small kitchen feel larger as well. Only downfall, I have to use a stool to reach the top two shelves. :)

  29. ooh i like this one too! i’m really enjoying this series!!! thank YOU!

  30. I saw this kitchen on Pinterest a while back and studied it. But somehow I missed that they moved the cabinets. That WAS really creative. You, Nester, do a great ‘job’ of encouraging all of us to look at what we have with new eyes. Yay!!!

  31. Catherine Rhoden says:

    We did this!! I, likewise, was obsessed with this article while we were house hunting. When we found a house that we loved and was in our price-range, but with a less than desirable kitchen, we didn’t bat an eye…because of THIS kitchen! We raised the cabinets, (open shelving hasn’t been added yet, but is on the way), added crown molding around the top of the cabs (as well as the rest of the kitchen), and stole an idea from your blog and put up bead-board for the backsplash. We painted everything in varying shades of white (including the floor) and couldn’t be more pleased. HUGE transformation for very little money.
    Love your blog and all the inspiration I find here…thanks!

  32. I have seen photos of a LOT of kitchen remodel before and afters, but never have seen that solution! It is pure genius with such a cool result. Thanks for showing it!

  33. I would LOVE to have under-cabinet open shelving!!! (Will have to do that once I own a home).One of my cabinets I’ve actually taken the doors off, because my plates would not fit inside and allow the door to close. Perfect solution!!

  34. That kitchen is full of brilliance. I want to go downstairs right now and start raising cabinets. I’m totally pinning this post for later!

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