How I spent my summer: a story about wasted space

When you have a lot of stuff in a small space, wrangling the stuff can be a time-consuming task, but if you neglect it, the space will soon lose to the stuff. Which is why my summer mission was to un-waste our space!

Right after we got home from Japan (shopping bags in tow), I developed an uneasy feeling that we were out of space.  We had a garage sale, donated several boxes of stuff to goodwill,  built shelves on any available wall space.  I still felt like I was working on top of myself any time I started a new project.  Stuff seemed to be multiplying in the face of my  cleaning efforts.

Cameo took over my sewing table, laptop heat warped my cutting mat. This will not do!

Despite this (and this sounds unrelated but I promise it is not!), we bought a paper cutter. Scratch that – An amazing paper-cutting robot named Silhouette Cameo. My instagram account is testament to how quickly I became addicted to cutting with it, but I also became overwhelmed by the amount of space it took to get work done with this thing.  It took over my sewing room almost instantly. I needed room for my laptop, space for the machine, as well as a clear path in front and behind the Cameo so large projects feed cleanly.

Looking around the house, I thought about moving the Cameo to the kitchen table, but its wobbly legs and small round top just weren’t optimal for the Cameo.

Wait a minute!  When was the last time we used the kitchen table for anything other than piling misplaced clutter or trapping dust bunnies?  The kitchen table had to go. I struggled with the decision for a while, mostly because I am very sentimental about this damn table. My family used to eat dinner around it, I was given my first sewing lesson (a barbie dress!) at it… but it just wasn’t working for us in this house.

A plan went into place. With the help of my very handy dad — who just happened to need a nice little kitchen table — We turned the breakfast nook into a cutting room.  He built  platform to raise three sets of deep, metal drawers to countertop height. They were topped off with a piece of melamine countertop, cut to size. We added foam padding between the countertop and drawers to reduce vibration for undisturbed cuts.

Unexpected benefits revealed themselves, too;  the little window between the workspace and the kitchen lets me spy on what Paul is cooking, the wifi signal is perfect here, and the two sunny but shaded windows have made this the perfect space to work in, since this is usually the coolest part of the house on hot days. In fact, I’ve barely left since it’s been “finished.”

When we have company or need the space, everything on the countertop stashes into the drawers so it can be used as a buffet in a pinch. Oh, and it’s totally modular so it’s ready to take apart if we move.

finished cutting room. Craigslisted drawers, Vintage industrial light, IKEA bins, napkin holder laptop stand and task lamp

Utilizing the wasted kitchen space has already helped clear up congestion in my sewing room, and is another example of how it can take years to find a spaceplan that works with you. It seems like working space is always the thing that takes the longest for me to sort out, even though it is the most critical. If we ever move again, I think I may “audition” every potential space before settling on my office configuration. If you work from home (which I do about half the day), Finding a perfect spot seems like the key to getting real, productive work done.


Added Benefits: My sewing room is clean and ready to sew!

Anyway, I know I am so lucky to have the flexibility to use the space this way. It’s a luxury to be able to have a collection and still have space left over to work.

I’ll write a separate post about how amazing the Silhouette Cameo is, soon!



  1. wow! i got completely distracted there looking at the cutter! when i found out it did fabric (yes i hadn’t even read that far into your post yet!) i became really intrigued! cutting doll patterns and then defraying them is my nightmare! doll clothes need to be cut within an inch of their life so the idea of having something do it for me is awesome! but i dont have room for a printer let alone a cutter!

    I know exactly what you mean about having the space. I’ve recently moved and it’s my music studio that i have to set up perfectly. I still haven’t plugged most of the stuff in two months later because i can’t commit to it’s current position yet! Unless it’s a comfortable well it, not too cold space i simply wont sit there and create. and if an instrument has to be dragged out of storage and plugged in and a space found for it just to use it for a day, i simply wont do it, the instrument will stay hidden.

    Right now it’s my guitars that are suffering because my sewing table is in the wrong place. I can’t use the bedroom of my new flat due to mould (long fight there) the sewing table had a lovely spot in the bedroom all marked out. it was the first time i’d have the machine out permanently ready to sew whenever I needed! but now it sits where I needed my guitars to be in the studio half of the living room… oh and the sewing table is covered in instruments i’m realising i don’t use… debating selling them off! so still no sewing table!

  2. I have to agree, the working space is usually one of the most difficult to sort out! I have so much stuff in my sewing dungeon that they can completely take over when the space is in a mess 😛 After the space is cleared out it usually feels less stuffy and easier to work in… reminds me it’s way due for some cleaning up (groan) lol

  3. melissa

    August 21, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    louisa – the cameo is awesome, I still don’t get why they ONLY market it to scrapbookers. I’m loving it for decals, business cards, household stuff, miniatures… For fabric it’s a little tricky – they recommend the fabric be fused to an interface (I use heat n’ bond), which of course stiffens the fabric, so it’s really best for appliques or things that don’t need to be soft. I suppose you could adhere the fabric to something that could be peeled or washed off, but I think that would still cause the edges to fray when weeding the backing off the fabric. I still need to experiment. I really want to try some heat transfer vinyl or flocking for dolly t-shirts.

    Chun – ugh! I feel like as soon as I figure out where to put my “office,” I’m ready to move again! This spot is good though, I am sitting here now! (and hey, did you notice my puppy sticker on my laptoppy?)

  4. I love that second last photo. Seeing it made my day.

  5. Guh, this is kinda like my excuse for why I really wasn’t more productive in any manner for the last 6, erm, 7, ummmm, years… too much project gear, not well organized, all the time spent shifting piles instead of working, or working once in a blue moon when motivated enough to fully clear a space but then the avalanche comes again.

    It’s still like this but less so in the apartment we finally moved to after 4 years in a dark tiny cave of a place… I really need to pare down. But at least right now I’m productive in an activity that doesn’t take up more space than a laptop, thank goodness for that.

    Anyway your space looks AWESOME, both spaces, and can’t wait to see what this Cameo is about (must peep into Instagram, been not TOO inter-webby lately barring programming resources…)

  6. My les paul is the world to me. That’s all i have to say.

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