Marian Parsons had a good problem: The previous owners of her Gettysburg, PA, home had added on a beautiful kitchen. "But the old kitchen space turned into a glorified hallway," says Marian, who sells refurbished furniture on and blogs at . After making do for five years, Marian and her husband, Jeff, a youth pastor and lay carpenter, overhauled the room by building in shelves, cabinets and other hardworking storage to create a zone for everything they need to keep their family going. Now, the room houses it all, from the printer and router to storage space for appliance manuals to a spot to grab or drop bags on the way in or out the door. "It's super-functional!" she says.
Closed storage is a must, says Marian, because the room is visible when guests walk through the front door. The bench opens on a hinge to easily dump lunchboxes and shoes. Desk drawers hide files, electronics and "tons of batteries" for her 3- and 5-year-olds' toys.
A nook between the basement and dining room doors—further cramped by a radiator—became useful and attractive when Marian and Jeff covered the heater with a decorative front and top. The open shelving above it was originally a cabinet, but they removed the doors so it would match the shelves over the desk.
Transforming the space from 1940s kitchen to 21st-century hub required particular attention to detail to fit in with the rest of the home. The couple installed unfinished flooring and stained it themselves to match the oak floors in the adjoining rooms. The beadboard cabinet fronts mimic those in the kitchen, and wainscoting and crown molding—about $10 for 8 feet—give the room some vintage charm.
Marian's Decorating Tricks
Pick paints with purpose
Marian went with three finishes for different results. Satin latex on the woodwork wipes down easily, while matte hides imperfections on walls. Scuffable milk paint ($22 a quart; ) gives the desk chair an antique-y feel.
Get a custom look for less
To craft their built-ins, the couple used Home Depot modular cabinets and discounted plywood from a lumber store that was going out of business. On the desk, oak planks and a bullnose trim disguise a plywood foundation. Hardware is from TrueValue and the hooks were $3 each at Hobby Lobby.
Marian had a less-obvious vision for the long desk. "I plan to clear it off and use it as a buffet for holiday dinners," she says.