Because kitchens are actually meant to be cooked in!

Oct 10 2016
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Prepare yourselves, this blog post is going to begin with a small rant about kitchen design: Somewhere along the way kitchen designers and cabinet makers realized that people liked symmetry. They started designing kitchens with main elements centered in the middle of cabinet runs. I have cooked in many kitchens and I am at a complete loss as to this design-over-function mentality that seems to be raging through this country like a wild fire. Who in their right mind would choose two counter tops on either side of the stove that are only ten inches wide as opposed to one on one side of the stove that is twenty inches wide? Seriously, you can’t even put a cutting board on ten inches! In a small kitchen especially, breaking up counters simply does not make any sense to me.

Kitchen reveal at the Grandma's House DIY home tour! 15 months of renovation, remodeling a custom country kitchen with a cast iron sink after a full gut.

So now you know why my kitchen is a literal tribute to long runs of counter space. I do not have a very big kitchen but if I want to roll out seven feet of dough or have three people side by side chopping vegetables I can do that easily and comfortably! You can see just at a glance that all of my appliances flank my counter tops. Every counter run I have ends at an appliance and there are no little, ittty-bitty slivers of utterly worthless counter space.

Once I designed an island smack dab in the middle of a shallow “u” shaped kitchen and it was positively awesome. In that old kitchen of mine I could literally turn around from the stove and chop whatever I needed right there on my island. It was so handy and I loved that people could sit in the kitchen with me while I cooked. Building this kitchen I knew I needed a place to sit for two good reasons: First, I wanted to be able to sit in front of my wood stove on a cold winter day. Second, if I didn’t make an island or something I would have no seating in this kitchen and that just wasn’t an option – hanging out in my kitchen is just something we do and would not live without. So, I made an island and I love it because it gives us a place to sit and it also gives me a place for all of my cook books which is, quite literally, a dream come true for me. To see more details about my island you can check that post out here: A radio stand to kitchen island. (Cool side note: That old wooden box that sits beneath my island I pulled out of my 100 year old barn. My grandparents built that box and, if you look close, you can see my Grandma’s hand writing and their last name. It was also once red so I thought it would be the perfect compliment to the bottom of my island. I sealed it and now it houses all of my potatoes and root vegetables!)


Back in the day mothers used to spend the majority of their time in kitchens and a lot of that time was spent washing dishes by hand so a window above the sink made sense. We no longer live in those times so I made the decision to take the window back that I had purchased to put above my sink. Also, plumbing would have been A LOT more complicated (and I did all of my plumbing myself) so the window was returned. With a wall now above my sink I knew exactly what I wanted there and I think the open shelf entirely made up for losing that window. In fact, I would make this choice again in a heart beat, Joe and I use that open shelf EVERY day. I have been asked (especially by my own mom) if it doesn’t get dusty a lot. Yes, it does, but not as bad as you might think. Everything we put on that shelf we touch often so dust never manages to settle too badly.

Kitchen reveal at the Grandma's House DIY home tour! 15 months of renovation, remodeling a custom country kitchen with a cast iron sink after a full gut.

A design element I would never go back to is a knife block. I always had my eye on the magnet strips for knives and finally found one that was really affordable on Amazon. As soon as I got it home I installed it, goodbye knife blocks forever! I would never go back, I hate having clutter on my counters and I love how our new magnetic knife rack looks.

Using one of my grandma's old cabinets and a set of her old cabinet doors in our brand new kitchen with new paint and new hardware! Country kitchen!

I have seen million dollar kitchens that I would never want because of poorly chosen back splashes. I see those rough stone back splashes and I see spaghetti sauce splatters that will be there forever. Back splashes are meant to protect your wall, they are there so you can WIPE THEM DOWN or, at least, that is what they’re supposed to be there for! My back splash is not real tin ceiling tile (as I’m sure you might have already guessed) it was as simple to install as literally just cutting it to size with a pair of scissors and then gluing it to the sheet rock behind it. I think it’s really pretty besides being totally practical and functional, not to mention in keeping with my 100 year old home – click here to check it out on Amazon where I purchased it.

Kitchen reveal at the Grandma's House DIY home tour! 15 months of renovation, remodeling a custom country kitchen with a cast iron sink after a full gut.

Another design flaw that has absolutely driven me crazy in not one but TWO homes that I’ve lived in is the lack of thought put into giving a refrigerator enough space. If you put a refrigerator by a wall you won’t be able to open it very far!! And, with the ton of shelves and stuff on the inside of refrigerator doors these days, that means you can barely even get anything in it! Incredibly annoying. Because this is such a popular design problem people have finally figured out how to fix it with a tall (as tall as the refrigerator at least) and narrow (mine is only 8 inches wide) rolling pantry put in beside the refrigerator and the wall. The depth of the pantry is several inches less then the refrigerator so, when it is fully slid away, the pantry allows the refrigerator to open in front of it fully. I actually wouldn’t live without this pantry again whether I needed it beside a refrigerator or not. This narrow cabinet literally manages to house ALL of my dry goods, pasta, rice, oils, canned goods, its all in there and much more. I have a post about building it here.

How to build your own rolling pantry, a simple how to that creates tremendous tucked away storage that no one will ever even see!

I think we’ve all lived with the disgusting state that an under the sink cabinet becomes over time and that wasn’t something I was interested in. In fact, early on in the renovation I had already chosen my sink and knew that I would have no choice but to build a sink base to fit it. So I had a kitchen sink base in mind, something made with 4×4 posts because they would match with my kitchen’s huge square beams. You can see more about it here: How I made my own kitchen sink base. I put in a shelf just beneath the drain for all of my kitchen soaps in a wicker basket and under that, in another wicker basket, I keep all of my onions and garlic.

How to build a kitchen sink base out of barn wood, 4x4s and 2x4s.

How do I feel about my butcher block counter tops: I love them. I wanted soapstone but we couldn’t afford it and butcher block was my next choice. (I just could not put in any kind of laminate, granite or engineered stone in a 100 year old farm house.) Oak scraps in the barn provided all the wood we needed to build all of my butcher block counters and you can see my entire post about that HERE. I finished the counter tops with a shellac so, no, we do not cut up anything on them, we still use cutting boards like most people. They are holding up really well now and they still look great. As an inexpensive alternative to counter tops I would highly recommend wood! In the future we are thinking of pouring them with epoxy to get ourselves the butcher block look but with a much smoother and tougher finish. And, honestly, I’m really still holding out hope that one day (maybe even a decade from now…) maybe we could still afford soap stone 🙂

The horror story about our oak kitchen counter tops, how they warped and split and how I fixed them!

I wrote this post about kitchen design because I fielded lots of questions about my kitchen and why I made the choices that I did. I revealed it during my Home Tour and, honestly, my kitchen is not everyone’s design taste but I think its functionality anyone could appreciate. 🙂

our country kitchen design tips and tutorials white painted cabinets country kitchen meant to be cooked in!


  1. October 10, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    I just love your charming and imaginative kitchen. So practical yet so much character. Also I meant to say earlier happy anniversary!

  2. October 16, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    I agree with what you said. We live in a 70’s ranch style house with the L shaped layout, not too bad with counters. I’m a big believer in functionality too. We have a built in computer desk the previous owner put in the kitchen/dining room. We use it as such, but I’d like to tear it out and have a buffet built with a usable counter, as the same height as the regular counter. I don’t know what they were thinking 🙁 I bought and installed the same back splash! Attractive, affordable, easy to install and durable. We’ve had it for over a year now and love it! Here’s my post about that-

    • October 17, 2016 at 2:41 pm

      Nancy that’s so cool you used the same back splash! We’re really still very happy with ours! I love your kitchen and I think I may have to try that easy chicken salad you posted too, it looks great!

  3. October 16, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    I also bought a magnetic knife strip and mounted it under the upper cabinet next to the sink, easy to grab, use and wash!

    • October 17, 2016 at 2:41 pm

      Yup I just love ours! I have a couple more really heavy duty ones for my workshop (whenever I finish it!!) for all of my screw drivers, can’t wait to put them up and use them!

  4. Barb
    October 18, 2016 at 8:57 am

    No doubt your Grandma would be very proud of what you have done with her kitchen and house. So functional and the fact that you did so much of it YOURSELF is so admirable. Good for you!

  5. November 17, 2016 at 1:01 am

    Tarah, your country kitchen is filled with so many beautiful and meaningful features–thank so much for sharing it with us all at Vintage Charm 🙂

  6. December 14, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    Hi Tarah,
    I love the rustic design and feel to it. Your grandma would be so happy! What’s the inspiration?

    • December 14, 2016 at 3:36 pm

      Hi James, I guess my inspiration always ends up being practical, old school and comforting 🙂

  7. May 9, 2017 at 10:45 am


    Kitchen remodels are the worst but totally worth it when you end up with a beautiful kitchen like yours. This is gorgeous and I’m in love.

    By the way, me and my wife also looking for good country kitchen design and luckily we found your post.

    Thank you for sharing with us!


    • May 9, 2017 at 3:49 pm

      Hey Alex, thanks for coming by! Yeah it was a TON of work but SO worth it in the end!

  8. Sharlene
    September 29, 2019 at 8:17 am

    I’m with you on making a kitchen usable. I had an apartment building and remodeled my little u-shaped 1939 kitchen. The carpenter helping me hang cabinets about went nuts when he saw that the sink wasn’t centered on the wall. Center in It would have given me only about 15″ in each side before it turned. My ceilings were 8’4″ so I could stack 3 30″ highwall cabinets to create a pantryat the side of the fridge.

    • September 30, 2019 at 8:09 am

      Hi Sharlene, I totally get it. Its like I agree with things being centered and how that sometimes looks better. But a kitchen needs to be practical first I think lol

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