I hate to love it.

I have a $40 Kmart kitchen table in our family room.  It’s a mere 10 feet from the real kitchen table.

See? Over there on the right is the table where we eat our meals.  Why another table so close?   Because we use it.  As much as it pains me to say it, we use it every day.  This table and I, we have a love hate relationship.  Ideally I’d love to have a little sitting area something pretty in front of that window. You know, something Nate Berkus would compliment.  I would have never gone out shopping looking for a lanky bird legged kitchen table to fill that space.

But we had the table and one day I tried it out over there and before I could wipe the sweat from my brow from moving it, my boys had claimed it and covered it with Lego’s and projects and homework and Ritz crackers.  And something magical happened. Our big dining room table over there was empty more often.  Which meant at diner time I didn’t have to beg and plead and bribe to get the table cleaned off just so we could eat a meal.  And let’s face it, many times I just gave up and we’d eat in the living room~who wants to make the kids clear all their homework when they have such momentum going?

I’ve learned that there’s no such thing as too many empty surfaces in a house.  Because an empty surface is like a blank canvas, just waiting for creativity.

When you have some empty space, you have one less excuse for why you can’t get started.

So just like I provide pencils and fresh socks and a bottomless carton of Goldfish crackers, I also make it a point to provide lots of empty surfaces.  What they do with it is up to them.

Do you have a back to school secret weapon?

  • http://donnagiftnew.wordpress.com Donna

    I need all the secret weapons for school I can get. I struggle with discipline in studying. I need a clean surface and I’ve got a place i can make one. Thank you.

  • http://www.arock4him.blogspot.com Amy Hunt

    “Empty surfaces” provide Freedom to live…no rules–just. enjoy.

    I love this idea, and I’ve felt a tug to provide that space in my own abode…if only I can *find* (or open up) the space!

  • http://itwasbroughtonbylove.blogspot.com Southern Gal

    And now I feel guilty for fussing at my 9yo to clean off the table before EVERY meal. ;)
    I wish I had space to add another table like that.

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  • http://amyallinaday.blogspot.com Amy @ All In A Day

    I love this!! I think it’s perfect!!! You know, so many times we are so worried about our homes looking “perfect” and worried that our house doesn’t look like “so & so’s”. I am so guilty of this. But at the end of the day, it’s your family that lives there and you just have to do what’s best for your family! I think it’s great that your kids have a space that is theirs. I love it and I think it looks great!

  • http://refreshrestyle.com/ refresh restyle

    What a great idea. I agree. This presents so many opportunities to get homework done, be creative and just a play area. Well done!

    • http://thenester.com the nester

      thanks debbie!

  • http://www.heathergemmen.com Heather Gemmen Wilson

    Love the idea of an open space. It’s like a blank page—full of exciting promise. Your home is beautiful, by the way, and your kids adorable.

  • http://ordinarysarah.com Ordinary Sarah

    Love this. This is part of the reason we don’t have a coffee table. I want the kids to have the floor to spread out on for reading books, playing with K’Nex, setting up forts, wrestling, etc.

    And $40? I might just have to stop by Kmart soon!

  • http://holley.dayspring.com Holley Gerth

    Oh, that table of yours…it’s a happy, happy place. {miss you}

  • Tamar

    I love that this space of “theirs” is right in your family room where all of you can be together. Many times “their” area is in a basement or playroom or in some other area in the home away from the pretty “public” space. Your boys won’t remember that there wasn’t a “Nate Berkus” sitting area there, they will remember what great times they shared there!! Good for you & thanks for sharing! I love your home, love your ideas, love your blog!

  • http://www.ellivenstudio.blogspot.com Julie

    you know, I actually really love that idea….for all the reasons you mentioned! going to have to remember this for our next house!

    • http://thenester.com the nester

      maybe we’ll start a new trend and in a few years people will be all…where’s your kitchen table in your family room? everyone has one…

  • http://www.buraellen.blogspot.com Amy

    I love this idea! And $40! What a deal!

  • http://www.queenieslittlekingdom.com Wanda

    Holy shmoly! I’m in love with this.
    My family would totally cover an extra table too!
    Wish I had the space for an “extra” table!

  • http://www.embracethejoy.blogspot.com michelle @ this little light

    I LOVE that you have that there…not nagging to clean off the kitchen table at dinner sounds so relaxing to me. My back-to-school secret weapon?! The bran-breakfast cookie…perfect for when you’re scooting your “I-couldn’t-possibly-eat-before-9:30 am” kid out the door. Happy New School Year!

  • Meredith

    What a great post! That is why I love your decorating philosophy so much. It is REAL for families, not just photoshoots.

  • http://riverintowords.blogspot.com karen

    Ooh, really good. Now that the girl starts pre-K 3 full days a week, we’ll have two kiddos in school and more need for open spaces for homework and legos and colouring and climbing (for the baby, that is). I secretly want to steal your secret weapon, for myself! They can have the dining room table! :)

  • http://www.thegypsymama.com Lisa-Jo @thegypsymama

    Did you paint that table? We have one similar that’s looking rather worse for the wear. Maybe we need to take some paint to it (gulp).


    • http://thenester.com the nester

      Yes I did here’s the before http://www.thenester.com/2009/09/creating-a-calming-office-space.html

      it’s been about 3 years and it desperately needs a fresh coat, this time, I’m sanding the blue off and repainting in Annie Sloan’s chalk paint, the table get’s abused and chalk paint is EASY and forgiving and you don’t have to strip the wood or anything. the only reason I’m sanding the table top is because the paint is starting to kind of peel off.

      Plus, you can mix chalk paint together and make your own color and I LOVE the color that’s on there now so I can have fun creating the perfect hue!

  • http://www.anestforallseasons.blogspot.com amy

    I think Nate would compliment that space!?! We have a similiar setup, but with a smaller round table for my smaller kiddos. We found an old school table ($2) and later 4 wooden chairs (few bucks each) and it is the kid’s breakfast and lunch table, art table, etc. etc. I keep a tablecloth for it to cover it up once in awhile, but the tabletop itself is trashed even though it gets painted about once a year. It works perfectly! I agree that the “blank table” is the 2012 trend :)

    Here is a pic of my setup towards the bottom: http://anestforallseasons.blogspot.com/2011/01/what-exactly-is-tapestry.html

  • http://pollywogcreek.blogspot.com Patricia (Pollywog Creek)

    Banana chocolate-chip muffins. They will draw them in every time. =)

    Lovely, lovely post…and table.

  • Patty

    Love the idea and love the table. Don’t think Nat would reject what you did. He’d love it.

  • Lori

    So obvious yet it never occurred to me to provide an alternate table for kids work/ fun because there is no obvious place for it. Wow! This could be life changing. Thinking about how to rearrange my living room today. Thanks so much nester!

  • http://sagebrushridge.blogspot.com/ Teresa

    We do this too! I call it our cluster room, but the kids call it theirs! It has a table, a tv with dvd/vcr, the musical instruments, and a setee. Its supposed to be the formal dining room, but it doesn’t have any windows. Arggh. It never felt right, so it gets the unused pieces that don’t work for the current arrangements in the rest of the house. I hate that room, but the kids love it. And we all know its all about them. :) Glad to know I’m not the only one that gives up space.

  • http://mooseandbug.blogspot.com/ Sarah

    I can so agree on a need for this, although, not having kids myself yet, I have the table for my projects and crafts. Our kitchen table would taken over far too often if I did not.
    BTW, I noticed the architectural piece above your fireplace changed! Very cute!

  • http://mylifemystyles.wordpress.com Trish S

    I love that idea! You’ve heard the quote “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” ~by William Morris, you’ve found that to be useful so I’m sure Nate would approve!

  • http://aninchofgray.blogspot.com Anna See

    LOVE THIS! Your home is so beautiful.

  • http://www.thehandmadehome.net ashley @ the handmade home

    Brillz, I say. Brillz ;)

  • http://makeroomfor.blogspot.com/ Tracey

    I love it! I am working to create more empty spaces in our home. It started with my kitchen counters, I cleared them of lots of junk and small appliances and suddenly cooking wasn’t such a chore because I HAD ROOM TO MOVE!

    Secret back to school weapon? Easy does it.

  • http://www.sochickhandbags.com Melissa S., SoChick!

    I love this! I, too, war with keeping our kitchen table clean… hmmm… now the wheels are turning in my head. :-)

  • http://www.16ballsintheair.com Liberty

    perfect! i had a drop leaf table I’ve been wanting to incorporate into everyday use, but keep waiting for the RIGHT moment…it is now!

  • http://yeoldcollegetry.wordpress.com Katherine

    Huh. I never thought about that. Maybe a little table like this one would keep my kitchen island and dining room table clear. So simple! Art projects could stay out to dry and not have to be moved before dinner… Puzzles could linger… Oh my wheels are turning now…

  • http://www.andersonfamilycrew.blogspot.com emily anderson

    that lanky bird legged table is the exact table we have for our kitchen table and i love the look of it. and i think yours looks great in front of your window like that.

  • julie

    love this idea! My dining room table becomes the catch all surface, hubs drops his briefcase and laptop on it, the boys use it for all their various activities…will have to look around and see where i can insert a table!

  • Virginia Mom

    Our 1960s Colonial in the leafy ‘burbs was designed to compel the Donna Reeds and Margaret Andersons of the day to conform to standards dictated by those who thought owning a black-and-white televison set was the Ultimate Status Symbol. Living rooms were configured to admonish guests to sit down on the tweedy sofa and sip their Chock Full O’ Nuts coffee while exchanging tuna casserole recipes while the children lay prone, mesmerized by Captain Kangaroo.

    Donna and Margaret would be shocked to see the large table covered in construction paper, paint bottles, fabric scraps, school books and tortilla chip crumbs right smack dab in the center of my front parlor. It’s the largest, brightest room in the house. Why should I fill it with untouchable furniture and a big, ugly “television machine?”

    Besides, my pearl necklace doesn’t go with sweats and I have no idea what goes into a tuna casserole.

  • http://snapshots-morgan.blogspot.com/ Morgan

    That’s great! We have something like it, only it’s the other way around. A kitchen table where we eat and the dining room where the rest of life happens. :)

  • Melanie

    My secret weapon is our designated school supplies area. At one time, I stored all the supplies (extra spiral notebooks, pencils, glue sticks, etc.) in those clear under bed storage boxes only they were not under a bed but under a specific sofa. Now that sofa is gone, and these supplies are stored on a specific bookcase. There is no confusion for anyone…If, at any time, you need something, you know right where to look.

  • http://songskatesang.typepad.com/ Kate @ Songs Kate Sang

    I love this idea… I may have to kidnap it :)

  • http://soulstops.com Soul Stops

    I love that you are giving your kids the gift of space to be creative! We all need some blank space in our lives for creativity. Your house looks lovely!

  • http://spring.gouette.com Spring

    sigh…. I have “extra table” envy! Currently my DR table is IN my living room (it’s a loooong LR). It’s great for schoolwork etc (we homeschool) and crafting… but it’s the only table I have. I am pining for a spot to put another table- my kitchen is too teeny to seat all 5 of us. (The teeny DR holds my piano and is my private teaching studio) I need some creativity!

  • http://www.jumpingtandem.com Deidra

    When we downsized, I kept a $20 table I bought at IKEA. It’s in our guest room. This morning, I passed by that room and saw that table and it made me smile. I don’t have back-to-school days anymore, but I do have projects. And magazines to read. And cards to write. And nails to paint. And laundry to fold. And recipes to sort. And bills to pay. And…well…you get the point. So glad I saved that table!

  • kelly in georgia

    Okay…so we have the table in the family room already (4 feet from the dining room one) and it gets covered with everybody’s stuff…and so does the dining room table too…and the kitchen island…and daughter’s floor…and my desk….! Now what?? It’s not just kiddo stuff..it is husband’s and mine too…and it all gets piled up during the week until I/we can find the time to dismantle it on the weekend. Guess I should feel blessed that we have such a full life!

  • http://www.PurposefulHomemaker.com PurposefulHomemaker

    I love this idea for our family room which is separated from the kitchen with a big wall. Can you believe that? I miss my open floor plan! But a table in the room we are in most sounds like a fantastic idea!

  • http://juliesunne.com Julie Sunne

    I love it! Creativity, creativity, creativity! Anything that encourages creativity in our children is a keeper in my book!

  • Janis

    My daughter has 2 boys, ages 3 & 6. This year she has decided to move them into one bedroom, which they LOVE! She made the extra bedroom into a homework/craft room. They took an old dining table and moved it in there, and she is creating storage for all of their craft and school supplies. She also hung a clothesline to use to display their precious school/artwork. I think it is going to work out great for their family!

  • http://www.theboldabode.com Gwen@theboldabode

    There truly is never enough surface space! I’ve been contemplating moving the T.V. out and a large surface (table-type structure) in. I am so tempted after seeing how it works in with your family. The dining room, breakfast room and school room surfaces are always covered! Is that a dog bed I spy underneath?

  • http://www.missalamode.blogspot.com Scooper

    Love it. I’m totally with you on this one. Last year I got 2 desks from Ikea and pushed them together. They are parallel to my kitchen table, a mere 4 feet away. But they are the school desks and mama is so much happier when leftover breakfast juice does not spill all over math books. And yes, it makes the dinner hour a lot easier. But you’ve got me thinking…how many more blank surfaces can I create?

  • http://www.ventigrace.com Amy

    I loved this post! You’re words about blank surfaces being a canvas for creativity is simply inspiring – and I love your solution to keeping the meal table clear & ready!

  • http://www.ismsbyali.blogspot.com Ali

    So true! I have recently accepted the fact that before too long, my chillins (14, 12 & 4) will be grown and leaving the nest. All of my spaces will be empty, unless I fill them w/ creativity by myself, b/c they will no longer be around to fill them w/ legos and scraps. And even though the day to day messes of life w/ kids is very often frustrating, I realize also how sad that will be when it’s gone. Maybe then Nate Berkus will have heart and come to visit me and compliment my perfectly staged, perfectly cleaned room. Until then, I think we would all be wise women to provide more empty spaces for our children to create. And may we also remember to take the time to admire those imperfectly beautiful tissue paper roses and other works of art. Can I get an Amen?

  • http://homeschooljournal-bergblog.blogspot.com/ Phyllis at All Things Beautiful

    l love the cushion underneath.

  • http://omega57.wordpress.com Linda @ bushel and a pickle

    We still miss our all purpose table that was in our main room in our last 2 apartments. (We are back in the states now.) It was a place for the girls and I to “do”; no super clean up for a meal was a huge stress relief. I’d take it over a stylish sitting area any day. Style is a contented family and we all know our homes play a part in that. PS how about a mom chair?

  • http://www.toodarnhappy.com Kim

    What a terrific idea and such a simple solution to clutter that was always all over the dining room table!
    Our back to school secret weapon was a “cousins breakfast”. My family all lived in the same neighborhood, so we would get the kids together for breakfast on the first day. It was a wonderfully fun and engaging way to begin the year.

  • http://melissadiskin.com Melissa D

    Lovely table. But really I’m smiling because it’s so cute to see your boys at that age when they’re all skinny and their hair is just a bit too big for their heads… we have tons of photos of my brother looking just like that!

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  • Ginny York

    I have loved this idea for a long time I first saw it on your other blog a long time ago and have wanted one ever since! Great idea! I have 3 boys too :)

  • Hillary

    I love the striped curtains in the background of all the photos. Would you mind passing along where you got them? I’m looking for something similar for my living room.

  • Penny Holbrook

    For those of you who don’t have room for a permanent table, there are alternative solutions. We bought three inexpensive folding 4’x2′ tables from Wal-Mart to use for parties, etc. We hide one of the tables behind our TV and bring it out whenever we need to use it for projects. I use it to sort paperwork or various art projects. My daughter uses it to to homework or any of her school projects. It may be left out for weeks at a time, or for a few hours, then put away again. They are lightweight so you can move them to any room of the house. They’re not stylish by any stretch of the imagination, but we find we use them quite frequently. I have noticed when we have the table out, papers will accumulate on that table versus the dining room table. I can so relate to the mad rush to clean off the dining room table, so you have somewhere you can sit down to eat dinner and can attest to the fact that sticky foods don’t mix too well with any type of paperwork.

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