Before & After, Rental Remedies, Small-Space Solution

Melissa’s Tiny Kitchen {Semi Before & After}

Today’s post is one I’ve been procrastinating on for way too long.


Because I totally freaked out!  I loved the enthusiasm in your comments about the “befores” of Melissa’s 350-sq-ft studio apartment, but then I totally got stage fright.  The pressure was on – when everyone started saying “I can’t wait to see what you did with the place!”  Though I can most certainly transform spaces completely, we just didn’t have enough time to completely flip the place during my all-t0o-short visit.  The bulk of the time was spent simply wrangling her piles of stuff into place so that she could actually move around the apartment. 🙂  But silly me for holding out on you simply because I worried I wouldn’t live up to your expectations!

The place may not be mag-worthy yet, but we did make progress.  The better news is, I’m actually headed back for another visit between now and September, so I’ll be able to help Melissa pimp the pad out then!

So please, consider this a “before and during” post – not necessarily a real “after.”  More like a “what can realistically be accomplished in 4 days when you help your friend move into a tiny studio.”

The Kitchen

Melissa loved it because of the large, light-filled window above the sink, and the fact that the space was “usable” – unlike many of the other studios she looked at.  Though it’s hard for me to believe, this kitchen is apparently larger than others in Beacon Hill.

That’s apparently the only “before” photo I took.  It doesn’t really show the other side.

But I did get a shot of the other side when we removed the ugly, stained, old countertop that was attached to the wall by the stove.

Once the counter was removed and stowed away, we replaced it with Melissa’s fabulous butcher block table.  The butcher block fits the space perfectly.  In fact, I’m slightly suspicious that she chose the apartment for the sole reason of being able to fit her beloved butcher block table in the kitchen.  Also, feel free to note that one of my flour sack towels from Janery worked perfectly as a quick, on-the-spot table skirt.

During the unpacking

Over the stove, an awkward set of shelves was built onto the wall. What I don’t understand is why they didn’t make the shelves stretch all the way across that part of the wall.  The lack of symmetry bugs me.

Regardless, we wanted to make this much-needed storage space a bit prettier – if that was possible.  I used some pretty and fresh contact paper to “wallpaper” the area behind the shelves, and covered the shelves too, of course.  This is one of my favorite rental decorating tricks so far!  The contact paper can really dress up a wall, while allowing you to peel it off, damage-free, when it’s time to move out.

During the "wallpapering" process

The “wallpaper” dressed up the awkward shelves just as we’d hoped it would – and then, after I left, Melissa added some framed art to balance out the space.  The combo of my tricks and her art placement really make a huge difference to that otherwise unbalanced and drab space!

After: Butcher block & shelving area

To the right of the stove and the fridge is the sloped ceiling, which came to rest atop a weird, built-in drawer unit.

Look below.

Do you see the fridge?  There’s a second set behind the fridge, next to the visible set of drawers.  Needless to say, the back drawers are utterly useless because the fridge keeps you from really opening them.

If I were the landlord, I’d rip out the drawers and just have open shelving there.

But nobody asks me, do they? 🙂


Weird drawers or not, Melissa made the most of the space, storing baking dishes and snack foods in the front-most drawers.  A few storage baskets of teas and nuts and granola fit perfectly atop the skinny shelf.  It’s a tight fit, but in a space this tiny, every inch counts!

Once again, Melissa found a way to work with the awkward wall space, adding more framed art to the sloping wall.

After: Making the most of every inch

Opposite the fridge is the best part of the kitchen:  the peg-board storage wall.

When Melissa first told me about this feature, I was unable to muster enthusiasm for the idea.  I didn’t really get why she thought it was so ab-fab.

A few hours later, I was sold on peg-board as a great storage option for small spaces. For an avid cooker like Melissa, it’s a really easy way for her to keep all her go-to kitchen tools close at hand.  (Not that they could wander too far in this tiny kitchen!)

After: Peg board storage rocks!

If you rent, and have a large wall space, I’d consider installing some peg board.  Sure, it’s not the most attractive wall covering – but it’s definitely functional!  And imagine if you wrapped the pegboard with pretty fabric or paper before installing it.  Then you’d have a focal point in addition to all that storage.

Right below the pegboard wall is another small shelving unit.  Once again, I whipped out the trusty contact paper to dress the space up.   You might as well see some pretty colors when you’re reaching down to grab your baking supplies!

During the organization

Alas, I only have a “during” photo of the shelves.  But see the crate of mason jars to the right?  When I left, Melissa was fixing to transfer all her bulk food / baking ingredients to the large mason jars for storage.

Finally, Melissa’s kitchen table fit perfectly on the sliver of wall outside the kitchen entrance.  That was a sweet secondhand score for her, because the sides fold out for extra seating in the event that she has guests over for dinner.

Yes, that is a hat sitting atop a candle holder.  Don’t ask, because I don’t even know.  Sometimes my dear friend has a very unique approach to decorating.  That’s part of what I love about her. 🙂

So that’s it for Melissa’s kitchen, at least for the time being.  I’ll share the rest of the before-and-afters next week, along with another embarassingly silly video.


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  • Reply Stephanie at 12:54 pm

    You’ve really made the most with a tiny space!  Looks great!  I think that her open storage of baking supplies will look great with the mason jar.

  • Reply Anonymous at 12:55 pm

    Jane, this is a great improvement!  I especially like the fabric backed walls.  I have to say, I am a big fan of pegboards.  I know, people look at me all weird and tell me peg boards belong in the garage.  Well, I love them!  I have one in my office, and I hang my craft supplies on it.  You could dress it up with paint, maybe painting stripes, or – my favorite – a chevron 🙂

  • Reply JoDi at 1:52 pm

    You ladies did an awesome job! No more performance anxiety holding up posts from now on, OK? We didn’t expect you to gut it and renovate it. LOL You definitely made the most of the space and made it pretty! Nice job!

  • Reply Liz at 3:30 pm

    Looks great for such a small space.
    And I believe Julia Child had a pegboard in her kitchen, so it must be legit!

  • Reply Jenn @ Peas and Crayons at 4:48 pm

    bahahaha I LOVE the hat there! and the lack of symmetry actual appeals to me graphically… I think I adore it like that! esp with the makeover and the gorgeous pop of GREEN!

  • Reply Anna Hull at 8:37 pm

    It looks great!  And the hat makes me laugh… it is exactly like Melissa, which I love.  =)  I’m looking forward to seeing it in person.

  • Reply Kelly at 12:40 am

    Jane!  No stage fright!  The reason you are so popular is that yes, you give some great ideas and have made over some really awesome spaces, but also because you are always refreshingly real and accessible.  Besides, you were over there helping her for what — 10 minutes?!  What are we supposed to expect?!

  • Reply Jessica at 3:27 am

    Great job, Jane!  And you know my fondness for hats, so please pass along a Bravo to your friend for the hat decorating! 

  • Reply Leigh at 5:43 pm

    Wow- what a big difference the art, storage and colored contact paper made.  Nice work.

  • Reply Mikalah at 2:46 pm

    Wow, that is a verrry tiny kitchen! I love what you did though. The contact paper made such a huge difference! I love that you really made the most of the space. It really is adorable!

  • Reply Ruth at 12:36 pm

    I was finally looking at these pictures.  They look great, even if it is just ‘during.”  I’m impressed with anything you worked out in that tiny space, and I’m sure Melissa is grateful as well.  Any time you want, you are welcome to pop over to China and help us move into our new apartment. 🙂

  • Reply Ruth at 12:36 pm

    I was finally looking at these pictures.  They look great, even if it is just ‘during.”  I’m impressed with anything you worked out in that tiny space, and I’m sure Melissa is grateful as well.  Any time you want, you are welcome to pop over to China and help us move into our new apartment. 🙂

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