Raise your hand if you’ve ever said this statement:

“I’d be able to decorate or change or redo or makeover or fix or rework my dining room or living room or kitchen or bedroom or office or den or patio or closet at the top of my spiral staircase.”

If only.

If only I had more money.

I’m with you.

I get it.

I’m standing here with both hands raised.

But what if we could flip that statement?  What if the answer wasn’t money?  What if the answer was right under our noses?

Today we’re going all Gilligan’s Island.

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale.

Here’s where our tale starts.

Right here in the corner of the dining room with this hutch.

This is the dining room before.

If you are a visual person and need to see the entire room for this story, here’s a post I wrote with more pictures.

Here’s the same angle with a few changes and sunlight.

See that hutch on the back wall?

I found it at a thrift store for less than a night on the town.

It was brown and I painted it white and distressed it and then?


And here’s why:

1. I wish I hadn’t painted it.  I didn’t really like the distressing.

2. The doors have this curved glass that reflects the light and looks blue sometimes when you turn the corner.

3. I couldn’t ever find the right combination of things to display in there because the shelves aren’t too tall and there’s an awkward space in the back.

4. I don’t have any place to put lamps in this room or any flat surfaces for serving or putting a vase of flowers other than the dining table.

And on and on and on.

I tried to love it.

I truly did.

I mean it was so inexpensive and it filled up the wall and looked okay in the space and no one else would ever notice all those flaws unless I brought them up in Sunday dinner conversation.

I thought I didn’t have any money to change the hutch.  Have you seen the price of hutches at the store?  Most of them are over $1000.  I’d shop at thrift stores and the ReStore and apparently, there had been a run on hutches because there’s wasn’t a hutch to be found within a 50-mile radius.

So I settled.

And rolled my eyes at the hutch and wished I lived on millionaire row where hutches are a dime a dozen.

And then?

One day I had the most brilliant idea of most brilliant ideas.  I came in from the mailbox with my hands full of mail and put it down on the dining room table and glanced up at the hutch and noticed something amazing.


What if I took off the top of the hutch?

It might solve all the things I didn’t like about it.

1. It would give me a place to add lamps and flowers and food at Sunday night suppers.

2. It made the room feel bigger because the top was gone so there was more visual space in the room.

3. The curved glass was gone.

4. I didn’t have to find things to style the shelves.

5. I still need to find hardware for the front, but now I only need drawer and door hardware.

6. I’m going to go back and paint all the distressing, but now it’s a little less overwhelming because I only have to paint the bottom of the piece.

I solved the problem.

Without money.

Without buying something new.

Without spending a single dime.

Because here’s the amazing thing.

I didn’t need it.

All I needed was perspective.  All I needed was to press pause.  All I needed was to think outside the box and look at the room in a new light.

Is there a decorating dilemma that you’ve been struggling with?  Is there a piece of furniture that you roll your eyes at?

Is there a space you’ve been settling with?

Why not take a moment and a cup of coffee and look at it again to see if there’s a solution just waiting for you that’s been there all along.  Maybe a piece from another room?  Maybe a new furniture arrangement?  Maybe reworking something that you already have?

You got this.


And take it from my dining room.

Sometimes all you need is perspective….

…and a trip to the mailbox. 🙂

PS  The top of the hutch is at my mother-in-laws living it’s best life.

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    1. Image for KariAnne Wood KariAnne Wood

      Judy, It's like you read my mind. I was going to sand them down like I did the other chairs in the room to soften the look and stain them a lighter color! Great suggestion! ka

  1. Image for Brenda Dribin Brenda Dribin

    Love you story and your spirit! I also have admired that mirror every time I see it. Is it available? Appreciate any lead you can provide! Many thanks1

    1. Image for KariAnne Wood KariAnne Wood

      Brenda, Yes! I got it off the Hobby Lobby website. Here's the link: https://www.hobbylobby.com/Home-Decor-Frames/Mirrors-Wall-Decor/Wall-Mirrors/Gold-Quatrefoil-Wood-Wall-Mirror/p/80645403 It's 50% off this week! Happy day friend! karianne

  2. Image for Lyn Lyn

    I did the same thing this spring - I had a very large (high) old Ethan Allen dark pine hutch from the mid-70's in my kitchen. I have a very large kitchen, but I felt it still overpowered the space. We have recently been doing some more transitional style updates and this felt old - and tired. Kind of like us!! I removed the top and did some new wall accessories and wire baskets for cookbooks. I painted the bottom and installed new hardware. It brightened the whole room, and made it look cleaner. I mulled this over for a couple of years before taking action, and I do not miss that old hulking top one little bit.

  3. Image for Charlotte S Snodgrass Charlotte S Snodgrass

    It's beautiful!! I love what you've done with your dining room, the red accent flowers with the blue and white are elegantly beautiful! Love the hutch with the top off!

  4. Image for carrie carrie

    Love the room~ with or without the hutch~ but being vertically challenged, I personally like things that I don't have to get on TIPTOES to reach into. :) What color is the stain on your wood floors?? I love the richness of that color! Thanks!

    1. Image for KariAnne Wood KariAnne Wood

      Bethany, They are SO AWESOME! Such high quality for the price. I bought them here: https://www.halfpricedrapes.com/ellis-blue-printed-cotton-twill-curtain.html Happy day friend! karianne

      1. Image for Bethany Bethany

        Thank you so much. They remind me of a china patter i have been loving. See the link if you need to get matchy matchy....https://www.vietri.com/collections/net-stripe

  5. Image for Lin Lin

    Love it! That was a very smart idea! Thank you for planting the idea of using what we have sometimes and rethinking it! I received your beautiful Look Book with Jeffrey Court tile and I love it!! Y'all have been very inventive in using tiles where most of us would never thing too! Thank you so much for sharing your book and ideas with all of us!!

  6. Image for Alice Genzlinger Alice Genzlinger

    Karianne, I have just gone through the painting of the entire second floor of our home. All of the woodwork was dark so all doors were removed, sanded, primed and three coats of white oil based paint used. We took up the ugly thin baseboards and now have nice wide white ones. All rooms were painted Gardenia by Benjamin Moore. I am in love with it. Why? When everything was taken out of the rooms, four bedrooms three baths, the rooms looked huge. So I've just finished washing the textiles (and ironing them) and putting the furniture back in but I too found I could use pieces differently. So now I have rooms I love and the textiles form the base of the color used in each room. For many years t didn't love my house. It was too dark. It's beautiful to me because it is lighter and has less clutter. Having DAV pick up everything not needed or wanted. Happy and now loving my home.

  7. Image for Sharon Smith Sharon Smith

    Perfect. Great idea. I am going out to my mailbox today to see what I can change when I come back in. HA! Seriously, you are so smart and creative!

  8. Image for Nancy Nancy

    What a great idea. It looks great and thank you for bringing color into the room. I am tired of all white but that is me. Color just makes me smile.

  9. Image for Marty Oravetz Marty Oravetz

    How perfect. I am looking at my living room with the same idea of What If. I need to make some changes, just can't figure out what. Great post.

  10. Image for Pinky Pinky

    I wish SO much I could take my hutch apart but it is one big, darn piece....which I hate in this tiny dining room we now have. I have to start thinking of a solution for this room cause I have been rolling MY eyes for almost 6 years now and I am getting a bad headache, LOL!!!!!! LOVE your solution!

    1. Image for Ann C Ann C

      You might be able to find a wood worker/furniture restorer who could remove the top. It’d be worth a search in your area, unless of course you are handy that way.

  11. Image for Ann C Ann C

    As I started to read this post I started mentally saying “take the top off!” I was so glad it came to you too! I’ve been trying to get ready to paint my master bedroom but other things keep taking up my time. But I got everything (22) off the walls, holes patched, and walls washed! And I’m amazed at how calming the room is without all the photos and art that I loved-gone! I will be slow and deliberate with what I put back. Thanks for another great post.

  12. Image for beverlee lyons beverlee lyons

    I did that a couple of years on my desk, my husband wasn't sure...……….until he saw it without the top, which only collected little bits of this and that, and was messy! Goodie, I love the top, but you hit this just right. And, your mother in law loves you just a little bit more! Beautiful. Just wondering how you keep all this sparkling with 4 kids! That, in itself is amazing!

  13. Image for Michelle Michelle

    Wow, I just amazed myself! I thought about taking the top off your hutch before I even finished reading the post. Maybe I'm brilliant and didn't know it LOL I inherited a dresser from my mom that had good bones and it lived in our Master. But I didn't like the mirror on top and it didn't fit well in the room. Our home was built in '69 so the windows in the bedroom were wide and high. Then it dawned on me...what if I took the mirror off and positioned it under one of those windows? So that's exactly what I did. It suddenly took on a whole new brilliance and balanced the room perfectly. P.S. I've been debating (for 2.5 years now) whether or not to paint my antique bed and small antique nightstand white and also cover my couch using a drop cloth. Different rooms and both brilliant ideas (I think) but sometimes brilliance is slow-moving. ;-) I did finally chalk paint my ugly beat up trunk/coffee table and those that have seen it love it and think I bought a new one. So that's given me a 'little' more courage to move forward with my other ideas. Oh, and by the way, two other things: (1) I decorated for Fall yesterday, thanks to you and your last piece of great advice, and (2) I got my Look Book (yay!!!) and I love it!

  14. Image for Loryl Loryl

    I took the top heavy tri mirror off my bedroom dresser a few years ago. What a transformation! It made the room more modern and with greige walls and a blue ceiling made it airier. It also was calming. Everything you wish for in a bedroom. The room before was in colors picked by a designer at the local SW store. I HATED IT! Now I love it and still do years later. Just like your dining room it breaths. The first thing I thought was take the top off and you did. So glad it got a new home!

  15. Image for Leslie Watkins Leslie Watkins

    Brilliant! And so perfect. I’m scouting my house for new ways to make my furniture feel happiest. Thanks for the inspiration! Happy Monday!

  16. Image for Renae Renae

    As I was reading what you didn't like about it, I said out loud, to no one in particular (or maybe to Lucy the golden doodle), "So just take the top off." Like you weren't already going to have done that...it looks beautiful!

  17. Image for Sandy Sandy

    Yes! Raising my hand. I'm always saying I just need more money to be able to decorate the way I want to. Although I must admit my husband and I are always coming up with ways to get projects done with less money.

  18. Image for Linda Linda

    If only it didn't take money to make an 80's bathroom look good😩. Love your hutch without the top, just beautiful!

  19. Image for Lynn W Lynn W

    You are so right! Throwing money at something isn’t always the answer. Trying to get that lesson through to my kids :) Your dining room looks amazing!

  20. Image for jillian jillian

    It looks great. I am a big fan of lamps, have them everywhere including on the kitchen counters, island, and powder room etc. How do you think it would look to use a bit of aging wax on the remaining piece? It would stand out a bit from the wall then, It probably looks a little different in person though.

  21. Image for Jan Jan

    Looks great! Think out of the box and perhaps paint the hutch bottom a rich navy. Always good to have an unexpected color. I get tired of the distressed.

  22. Image for Jeannie Jeannie

    I did a whole kitchen update & only bought a wall cabinet at a garage sale for $5 that matched mine perfectly and a $10 "junk" countertop at Lowe's. I had very little money but the TINY kitchen did NOT work. NO work space. I stood in the kitchen doorway one morning thinking: I'm a carpenter's daughter. I should be able to fix this. So I told my Dad what I'd come up with & he made one suggestion. It was perfect. Aside from no dishwasher, I LOVED that kitchen! It just takes imagination.

  23. Image for Patricia Patricia

    It does look better w/o the hutch; but also adding blue rug and curtains really made the room pop. Proof that rooms never stop evolving! I'm proof that solving a problem also starts with MEASURING STUFF and not assuming it's the same size as the other thingy (stands for assorted objects). Made this mistake more than once. Put up room darkening curtains in my bedroom and they look great and work. Decided to hang white curtains for the smaller bedroom. We're putting up the curtain rod and find the rod isn't long enough. By a lot. Did not measure the second window. The rod doesn't come in a longer size. Order a new rod that will be long enough. Dawns on husband that maybe the curtains won't be long enough either. They won't. And Target no longer has those curtains. Original curtains are white linen look; rather than trying to match (and failing) the whites, I'm picking up a narrower panel in blue print that will add pizzazz to the room. I hope. Decorating ain't easy.

  24. Image for Teresa Teresa

    Wow...what a gorgeous transformation. Going top-less in this case certainly was the answer. The space looks so much more open and cleaner and that beautiful mirror makes the space look bigger. For some reason, I have never been a big fan of hutches. They always seem too heavy and bulky in a room and I prefer built-ins for displaying décor and pieces instead.

  25. Image for Char Char

    I immediately thought "take the top off" and almost as quickly thought "paint it navy". Or maybe a fun pop of color.

  26. Image for Karen Karen

    Love it! This looks so good. I mean, we're always saying it looks so good and then you change something and it always looks even better! This is a wonderful example of how you sometimes need to live with a piece for a while before you figure out how it will work best. I really like the piece as a Sideboard much more than a China Cabinet. It just seems more useful. I've never had a China Cabinet, but I know a lot of people do and choose them as a way to display their "Good China" a.k.a. Formal/Wedding China & Collectibles. This post is so encouraging! I mean how many blogs actually show us great ideas without promoting perfectionism and spending a fortune?

  27. Image for Jane Jane

    I love this, KariAnne. You really have "good eyes", and I've always thought that you think outside of the box...and that's so important to us! I love that you switched out the one wall next to the window to plates...that really looks more dining roomish! Everything looks perfect. I love the blues! You are inspiring so many of us who don't have or want neutrals up and down and all over our homes. ;-D Jane

  28. Image for Joan Joan

    Hello! This post truly speaks to me as I am in the final stages of a very minimal cost Kitchen Refresh! I too had a hutch that was removed as well as a very large ugly dark brown 70's spindle on a half wall. With just the cost of paint, I completely transformed the dark brown window trim, dark brown soffits, and dark beige walls to all white! It made a massive difference and I would love for you to check it out! Thank you for the inspiring and encouraging post proving that restyling, refreshing, and redesigning does NOT have to cost a fortune!

  29. Image for Cecilia Cecilia

    Love it! Yes, sometimes something you already have works - you just need a fresh perspective. Or a sweet friend who gives you some awesome ideas to jump off of. 😉 Love the mirror too. Amazing how one simple thing such as removing the hutch top can change a room!

  30. Image for PJ PJ

    KariAnne, I so appreciate your creativity combined with frugality. The dining room looks lovely! May I second the suggestion that you paint the remaining piece a color other than white?

  31. Image for Hope Ettinger Hope Ettinger

    Looks awesome! did you ever think to just give the piece as is a wash of stain overtop the white paint. it will take some of the starkness out..

  32. Image for Susan Susan

    I saw a cute hutch makeover on Pinterest - they added legs and sprayed the glass with looking glass paint. The finished piece became a child sized wardrobe. I've also seen repurposed into a display or bookshelf. I'm separating my dining hutch because it is soon imposing in my dining room. Great job MariAnne!

  33. Image for Linda Linda

    I love, love, love the dough bowl on your table and you may have answered this question before and I missed it, but, where did you find it? Thanks!

  34. Image for Jill Jill

    Have you thought about painting your dining room cabinet navy blue or kelly green instead of white—or even red?

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