Easy kitchen art gallery

If you’ve landed here from the It’s a Cinch party, we want to say just a few things before you read any further:

1. Yes, this is a post from December.

2. No, we don’t still have a Christmas tree up in our living room.

3. There’s a reason we decided to go ahead and link to this post (rather than write a new one), even though our house (and blog) are looking better today than they did a few months ago. We’ll get to that in the update.

OK, just had to say that before letting you go any further. Please read on…


Rita and I talk a lot about how we want our house to work and what purposes it should serve. We both really value creativity and want to encourage our kids (and us) to do more creative  work. Because of that we want to make our home a place where that creative work can happen.

If you look around the main living area of our house we have 3 work tables. Each is a bit different. This one is in the kitchen and is our main dining area. Grace likes to do homework here. It’s got good lighting and is near the food and farther away from the TV.

Here's our table in the kitchen. Rita, Will and Grace are about to eat a breakfast Grace recently made for Rita's birthday. Baking has been one of Grace's main creative outlets this fall.

This next table is in what we call the library. Really it’s just a table pushed up against the bookshelf. We are hoping that by putting the table right next to the book shelf that kids might sit there and read something. This is Will’s first-choice place for homework, and Ella’s first-choice place for piano practice.  It’s a nice little space and the table is big. Plenty enough room to spread out and do something creative. It’s the usual place we play games all together, and it doubles as a second dining table on occasion.

You can see the "library" in the background here behind the Christmas tree. It is the room that's meant to be the dining room, but we re-purposed it.

ella playing a table-top piano keyboard

Here's Ella getting in a little piano practice.

This one is a fold down table that mostly stays in the folded down position. It’s a great space if someone wants to set up a project and leave it there for a while. (Like a massively-complicated strategy game, which is Will’s favorite kind of activity.) The other two spaces get used quite a bit and leaving a project hanging around there would not be a good option. In this spot though you could leave something for a few days and it (mostly) wouldn’t bother anyone. It also has a good view of the TV so kids can work on a puzzle, draw a picture etc. while watching the evil box.

You can see the fold down table on the right side here. Usually we just flip out the one side of it, but if we need a really big table we can turn it so that both sides can be flipped up.

We want to be deliberate with how we organize our spaces. We really are enjoying the tiny rooms-within-rooms we’ve created in our main living area, and we are finding that we use them all. Having all the spaces really allows us to all be in the same space and doing separate things without getting too much in each others’ way.

Given the emphasis we want to place on creative activity, Rita and I decided to create a place to display art, poetry, drawings, photos, prints, and anything else creative we want to showcase. However, matting and framing things really is a barrier for us. It’s just a lot of work and expense. It certainly makes the artwork look its best, but it doesn’t allow for much in the way of changing things up often. That flexibility was a priority for us.

Here's the Ikea zip line we installed. Called a Dignitet. No idea what that means?

So, this week we put up a zip line system from Ikea to display art in our kitchen. (It’s meant to be a curtain rod, but you could hang all kinds of things from it.)

We thought it’d be fun to be able to change things out often as more creative work got generated. Sort of like an art gallery with new exhibits rotating in every month.

We’re hoping that our kids will start creating new pieces for the art wall and we’ll all enjoy the process of choosing the new pieces for the next month’s exhibit. We’ll spare you the installation details.  We’ll just say that it was easy, and now we have this, our semi-holiday-themed exhibit, with a piece of two from everyone:

Art wall: Ella's cardinal drawing, Cane's Christmas drawing, photo of Ella as a baby, photo of Rocky and Daisy in their winter sweaters, snow poems from an old children's book, a painting Rita did when she was in high school....


...and in this picture: A cool retro print from a set of school science posters that Rita found in the local flea market, a picture of Will and Grace with Santa, flower thingy that Will made, Grace's self portrait (from a few years back), and another print from the series.

Now that we’ve put the artwork up though, the wallpaper that was barely tolerable (mentioned here) has crossed the line to intolerable; the busy border really detracts from the images we’ve hung.

kitchen table with busy wallpaper

And, as Rita mentioned in our last post, we’ve also begun painting the living area–which makes us really want to change the color behind this wall to something that will better showcase our creative pieces.  Right now they’re a little swallowed up by all that white.

So, even though we have no solid plan for the whole painting project and a party to throw here in two days, this is what we did last night:

peeling wallpaper off kitchen wall

Here's Rita getting down to the third layer of paper. Felt really satisfying to peel that fruit off the wall. And no, we didn't get much further than this, so we've still got lots of stripes going on in there.

This wasn’t our plan for the evening going into it.  It just sort of happened.  I’ve realized that sometimes I just need to start a project.  If I wait until I’m all ready to do it, it’ll never get done.

How about you?

Have you ever started something kind of big without a solid plan in place for finishing it?  How do decide the purpose for the spaces in your house?  Ever re-purpose a whole room?  And do you have any great ideas we haven’t considered for showcasing your family’s creative masterpieces (or cool stuff you just like and want to look at)?

Please drop us a comment and let us know all about it.

UPDATE! (from Rita, March 29, 2012)

We think the zipline is one of the best projects we’ve done since moving in:

It was easy.

It was inexpensive.

It’s done just what we wanted it to.

Right after we painted that wall, we bought some mats to hang the artwork with.  Huge improvement for not a lot of money or time:

zipline art gallery

In February we hung our homemade Valentines from it, and today it’s showing off some of Cane’s art school monoprints and color value exercises he recently did with Ella:

We’ve got plans to make prints of some of the many photos we’ve taken of the kids, so we can get them someplace we can more easily enjoy them.

Why not write a new post?

Well, the theme of the party that prompted this post update is It’s a Cinch. And as I pondered writing a new post (because I kinda hate bringing some of those old photos to anyone’s attention), I realized there’s value in thinking about how to make blogging a cinch, too.

It didn’t take much time to snap a few updated photos and plunk them in to the end of this post. While I’d love to have written a new post, perhaps a little differently than the original, with some much prettier pictures, the bottom line in that this one does what it needs to do. And not rewriting gives me time to enjoy the break I’m supposed to be on!

Even more important? This is a blog about making things better, in small steps over time. There should be no head-hanging or shame about where we started out. Besides, the worse the before, the better the after, right?

Hope you’ll check back next week, when we’ll be sharing some better photos of our living room, now that we’ve finished our one-wall-at-a-time painting project.

And if you want to check out other easy projects, click on over to one of the party hosts:

Karah at The Space Between

Kelly at Eclectically Vintage

Linda at it all started with paint

Andrea at The Cottage Market

Kari at Thistlewood Farm