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Before & After: DIY'ing a Cowboy Breakfast Nook into a Modern Pantry

Although there were the larger renovations back at the farm - like our primary suite and its bathroom (not to mention its kitchen, which I'll touch upon that mega project's step-by-step transformation in a future post) - the breakfast nook off the kitchen required, in my humble opinion, IMMEDIATE attention.

With a wall that was -so very 1990's sponge-painted in a hideous shades of brown and ecru, topped with large stickers of horses galloping through it, leaking storm windows with greasy blinds that apparently had never been cleaned atop a built-in laminate set of cabinets with imitation 'country oak' (the theme of the house, of course) doors and fake cowboy boot stained glass windows, this was all in addition to the room being closed off with an articulating vinyl 'door' (that, because the seller had never installed a ventilation hood in the kitchen, meant it too was greasy AF).

The day I picked up the keys to the house (solo while husband was still back working in the city), I tore out that nasty vinyl door and tossed it into the car, along with the bags and bags of mauve chiffon curtains the seller had passive-aggressively left behind, not to mention metal mini-blinds, plastic curtain rods, and more. All avoided the landfill, getting donated to either Goodwill or the Rebuilding Center, and within weeks of moving in I had also removed the godawful cowboy boot doors to the cabinets to open up the room (and eliminate the ugly), and miraculously, found a taker in the 'Free' section of Craigslist - proving the point that you should NEVER assume there is shit people won't want if you offer it for free (even in the country if the 'free' sign was big enough folks would stop and load up their trucks with whatever you left curbside, just like they do in the city).

After that it was about that damn parade of galloping horse stickers. This was by far the longest and most annoying part of the project, with scraping and goof-off and any other product I could get my hands on to get it off in bits and pieces. Once that was complete, zero-VOC paint, my BFF in this house, was used aplenty to not only cover up the walls but also the grubby ceiling, and the cabinet shelving. Note: When painting a laminate top, it's a good idea to give it a quick hand-sand to rough up the surface a bit to help the paint stick. Then cover it with a water-based zero-VOC sealer so it won't immediately scratch off when you set something on it (ask me how I know).

With the foundational work done, establishing its function and design was next. Knowing the lower shelves were going to be for my canned goods (the room ideal for it as it was primarily north-facing, which meant it stayed the coolest in summer with the curtains on the west-window closed), I made the easy decision to turn this area into our pantry, not just for canning but for the plethora of dry goods I keep on hand from the co-op's bulk aisle, from flours to beans to spices and more.

And with that, that upper space above the cabinets definitely needed to be used. These shelves were WAY easy to build - I had thick scrap plywood which I painted, then nailed/glued leftover 1x3 along the front to create a 'lip', then painted and repurposed several of my Ikea wood bookshelf brackets to install them, making sure they were high enough so I could hang things on the wall below them and still have room for counter space as needed, using cup hooks screwed directly into the wall for things like muffin tins, cake pans, and colanders.

While the above 'after' photo was what it looked like when we put the farm on the market, below I've included a 'during' photo where you can see how I'd actively utilized up all the space, added art atop the shelves, and was using the counter space for large glass flour storage (and of course, below, in the middle of canning season where I was about halfway through preserving everything from sauces to jams to fruits to pickles to making ACV). I swear if there wasn't a huge window on the other side I could have extended those shelves all the way around and created my own general store...

While we eventually put the table & chairs in there (repurposing our first dining table once I built our awesome farmhouse table), we never ate in there. Like, never. During the first year of the pandemic, it became the jigsaw puzzle table, but for some reason we always liked being in the dining room. The family who bought our farm was happy to take this off our hands, which was nice, so it was good to know it'd be well loved.

Other than that, my husband installed a deco-style ceiling light fixture, and I repurposed some coffee bags I picked up at our local roaster into simple curtains, and that was about it. We used the (not shown) opposite corner for hanging our prosciutto leg and other charcuterie projects since it was out of the direct light. And let me tell you? This is the room I miss the most. Folks, I loves me some pantry much so that here in our city house I've been using the smaller guest bedroom as a makeshift pantry. So this project, for our needs, was a no-brainer...and easy as pie to complete!

As a side note, we also had a tall open cabinet between the kitchen and the pantry which contained the non-bulk items. We eat very little processed foods, so have never needed much 'closed off' space in a kitchen to hide them (besides, we like to be able to quickly find stuff without opening & closing a bunch of doors - so when we put the house on the market I just popped up a quick curtain/apron over the tall cabinet for those who like that option).

Cost? Just the paint & light fixture (and, eventually, the new windows which we DIY replaced with Energy Star ones throughout the farmhouse)...and a wee bit of elbow grease to bring this from 1990s Cowboy Wannabe Nook to a 2018 Modern Pantry.

PS - can you even imagine a yellowing greasy vinyl articulating curtain closing off this room from the kitchen? Dang. Me neither...


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