This is truly where our creative juices can make the profound difference in our most used spaces…our kitchens….and it doesn’t have to break the budget!

Is your kitchen a nurturing space for you or for others? Our latest, best nest, downsized home’s kitchen before photos shows how seriously void of any cheerful, nurturing, or meaningful  elements were added.

Even in a what is called a builders basic kitchen with little to none architectural elements to enhance this space, here is what can be done to add warmth, interest, and meaning to any kitchen:

1. Show off collected treasures along with special accessories

I cannot repeat this concept too often for using what we have and showing off what we treasure. And for goodness sakes, why wouldn’t we do this in our kitchens where most of the gathering happens on a regular basis?

These sconces flanking the TV are Brunschwig and Fils purchased at Designers Only in Kansas City ages ago while I was working on a wonderful high end project in Mission Hills, KS. This was a go to showroom where designers  consistently loved finding only the highest of highest fabric lines, furniture and accessories.

My treasured  lovely blue and white English plates are cira 1850. An entire set was given to me by my special aunt who bought this rare set at a garage sale. 

2. Set a pretty table for every day not only for special occasions.

Collect table runners, placemats, and tablecloths along with having plan of where to store linens and the like.

This is another one of those simple endeavors that really makes a difference. I believe this effort is worth it even if no one comments, it really does matter. 

3. Replace kitchen desk with serving buffet area 

How many of us hated that standard kitchen desk that many used for everything but a desk? The kitchen desk design albatross was used as  the drop spot for piling up tons of irritating clutter as the majority of kitchens and homes were not designed with Design Smarts storage or mud rooms.

Now in our kitchen sans the desk, there is a lovely buffet/serving area, coveted smart storage with drawers to accommodate specific items, adjustable shelves behind the doors where I store tall candlesticks, platters, wooden salad bowls, and extra space for those special  items that just don’t fit in the builders basic kitchen cabinets or basic drawers.

Note, this was one of the pricier upgrades but obviously was a smart spending priority. 

And I absolutely am thrilled with the results!

4. Comfort is king in kitchens for bar stools and chairs

This table and chairs was purchased for the dining area in our first home in Wichita Ks about 1985. This set is Italian made of extremely high quality that is the earmark for chairs with  comfortable pitch, perfect seat depth for most size bodies,  quality seat cushions and fabrics that are as good today, never being reupholstered. 

And the table has two 24 inch leaves so we can easily seat 8 if necessary.

5. Do not be afraid to paint fireplace mantles 

You can see by the before photos how uninteresting this fireplace mantle used to be. 

I did a blog post on painting this fireplace if interested.

Link  https://www.mitzibeach.com/oh-yes-i-painted-our-fireplace-blue/

As I started with post, doing this downsized kitchen on a budget dictated pulling out all the creative ideas to make a dramatic difference without spending a ton doing it. 

Different life stage, different budget priorities.

6. LIGHTING is majorly important

In this eating / hearth area, how many types of lighting can you count?

There are actually 5 different lighting options plus six counting the battery operated candles on the sconces.  All on dimmers of course!

7. Consider having a TV in this area 

Normally, I struggle with TVs above the fireplaces unless there is ample distance to avoid needing a chiropractor for neck issues……:)

But this TV is often viewed by me, the cook, working alone in my kitchen. It was a Design Smart decision as I have enjoyed various programs like cooking, news, or weather channels etc. while doing the cooking which I do almost every day.

Because of having a fireplace in this loved and well used part of our kitchen, more time is spent here so adding the TV is another Design Smart decision. 

Hopefully you all will be inspired to look at your own kitchens for the areas to add your own meaningful touches. This is so easy to do if the time and attention is given to this priority space.

Go for it even if it is just you. After all, don’t you count? I believe that you do!

Loving and Living Life Together, 

P.S.  And again, Please Be sure to follow me on InstagramYoutubePinterest, and like my Facebook page


  1. Mary Ann Benoit

    Great ideas and I LOVE that blue painted fireplace mantle as well as the beautiful new serving buffet area.

    • Mitzi

      You of course being the color guru in your art and recent post would appreciate my blue fireplace…:). I so love it now and do not expect to ever tire of it but it is only paint! And thanks also for mentioning the serving buffet which like the mud rooms, is sadly often not designed well if designed at all.

      • Charmain Bibby

        I just love all the blues! And that fireplace is amazing!

        • Mitzi

          thank you Charmain! Being a blue and white lady forever gives me continue joy if others enjoy it also…:)

  2. Janet Lorusso

    Wonderful tips, Mitzi! I love incorporating the personal, special details that make a house into a home! Those blue plates and sconces of yours are a treasure for sure! And don’t get me started on the kitchen desks…a holdover from a different era that has never worked for much more than a clutter collector – great solution with yours and money well spent!

    • Mitzi

      Thanks so much Janet for recognizing the “heart” of my post as you named them all. Love your comment on the kitchen desks! As I commented to Lisa, regardless of the level of the home or the kitchen, giving effort to making our spaces be unique and inviting where we can truly unwind and enjoy each other has no mometary bar. It is all about what we do with our spaces as you expertly know and do.

  3. Lisa Peck

    The way you used thoughtful design and personal touches to create a warm cozy kitchen and eating area is really impressive. I appreciate your insight on how to add heart to a kitchen.

    • Mitzi

      thank you so much Lisa! Since most of the designers on Leslie’s Facebook group do or live in high end kitchens, I must admist that it is a humbling experience to showcase a kitchen level where most of Americans live and now us. But this is my purpose and my passion to encourage, enlighten, and equip all levels of homeowners that they can absolutely upgraade their homes especially for Aging Gracefully, it truly does make a difference.

  4. Pam

    Loved this blog post, Mitzi! This text especially spoke to my heart- “I believe this effort is worth it even if no one comments, it really does matter”. Through these months of no family or friends gathering in our home, I continue to change out my seasonal decor. Though very few will see it, it keeps me busy & creative! And when Jim comes home after I’ve done something new, I can tell by his demeanor that his heart is happily at home- even if he actually makes no comment.
    I might just have to cross stitch that into a sampler!!

    • Mitzi

      Thank you Pam! You are a woman after my own heart knnowing that it truly does matter to those most dear to us even if noone else ever sees the heart and soul that we invest in our homes. And personally, upgrading or perhaps I should say, uplifting our home’s “message” makes a difference to you and I and to others who do this love effort….especially being home for so long as you say. This ids one of my passions, my home’s image that says this is an alive home, one of beauty, peace, and joy. Thank you for commenting!

  5. Jason Williams

    Such great advice! Lighting is key.

    • Mitzi

      Thank you! Lighting can make or break any space or any photography too.

  6. Leslie+Carothers

    Dear Mitzi: I’ve read through all of these comments, and it’s clear you’ve struck a chord with your readers on how to turn a house into a home – with heart. I loved seeing every meaningful detail and have enjoyed watching you transform your new kitchen into a place of beauty and functionality for you and Bob.

    No matter the size or budget, you’ve shown how to do it – just right. Your new space looks so inviting and I love the blue fireplace, too, and the TV above it so you can watch your TV programs while cooking.

    You’ve shown that no matter the space, it’s the details that not only make a difference, but define a *home*.

    • Mitzi

      As always, Leslie, your remarkable writing skills hit the mark exactly on the point of my post. Your last sentence nails it!
      And I truly appreciate you reading between the lines so to speak on another major point of my post which is our budgets do not have to define what or how our spaces work for us in both beauty and function. Of course there are costs involved but identifuing what will actually give us that ROI as Adam Japko’s motto asks, is where so many homeowners mistakenly miss the potential for what a home can and should do for us.
      More than you could imagine, your comment encourages me to keep on keeping on. Thank you!

  7. Carol Straub

    It’s beautiful, Mitzi! I too have the buffet and storage- love it!

    • Mitzi

      thanks so much Carol! And yes, your buffet/storage is also wonderful for so many functions. Hopefully, these Design Smart ideas will resonate with our 50+ers to make their own lives easier. I appreciate your commenting!

  8. Sheri Bruneau

    Really great idea, Mitzi. I’m such a huge believer in having items you love to be out and on display (whatever that looks like for people). I also love your tip about the pretty table (daily). I’ve changed out my decor in the house for fall and our kitchen table always receives some love.

    Great tips!

    • Mitzi

      I can just see all these loving touches down in your own home Sheri! As a top designer, you would know and then implement your knowledge in your own home.
      Really appreciate your commenting!

  9. Tiffany

    Love the blue and white color scheme! I totally agree about the importance of lighting in every room but especially the kitchen!

    • Mitzi

      Thank you for your lovely comment. And yes, you are spot on regarding lightinhg in our kitchens! Is is so astounding to me that contractors and builders often under serve their homeowners by not understanding kitchen lighting or not providing appropriate lighting. So is the need for designers!