Who cooks and eats here: Adam and Alicia Whitely (and a new baby boy)
Where: Montgomery, Alabama
Rent or Own? Own
Leftovers? Nonsense. Do-overs are an option cook Alicia Whitley rarely explores in her culinary adventures. With all the options out there, Alicia thinks diving into something new for daily meals makes perfect sense and is where she finds joy in the kitchen of her home nestled in one of Montgomery, Alabama's oldest neighborhoods.
Adam and Alicia call the neighborhood Cottage Hill home. A small street overlooking downtown offers charming sights, including the couple's 1897 home, which they describe as "Victorian Gingerbread."
Inspiration from an old Domino magazine helped them transform an old yet well-maintained kitchen into an updated space with personal touches and natural, timeless finishes. The do-it-yourself project involved the addition of travertine flooring, butcher block countertops and a farmhouse sink basin. Flea market and salvaged items, like the light fixture, table and chairs, refurbished for their space give personality to this kitchen that belongs to a new family of three (and dog Circles).
The long countertop base was constructed from the doors of an old church. The home's original brick chimney adds texture and contrast to the space. Even the dishes and decor lining the space's open shelving connect to years past. A vase collection is displayed on a high shelf and Alicia keeps an antique bowl nearby for compost since it's not safe for food preparation or serving.
Lower cabinets provide ample storage for additional serving pieces and cookware. The 42-pane window looking out onto the backyard is a bonus for enjoying the space. It lets in an abundance of natural light and allows the couple and guests to easily enjoy the outdoors.
A tasteful pop of color and personality comes from the flea market pendant Alicia found years ago. and painted blue. A piece of knotted rope is used in the place of a traditional chain.
Of course, no Southern kitchen is quite complete without a set of cast iron skillets. Alicia cleverly displays hers by size on a hanging part rack for function and decor.
And food that comes out of this kitchen? Well, the couple's appreciation of the cooking process doesn't come without a sense of humor. It's a good thing! "Neither of us are afraid to make the call when something doesn't turn out great," said Alicia's husband Adam. They're not too bashful to toss a failed attempt in the trash and head out for a quick bite and a good laugh over the experience. They have a high regard for cooks who are willing to try recipes that they admit don't sound appetizing, all for the sake of time together near the stove.
10 Questions for Alicia & Adam (and Their Kitchen)
1. What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
I would say adventure and community. We like trying new things and taking time in the preparation. We have so many cookbooks that I always say, "We'll never eat the same meal twice." Preparing and eating food is one of life's basic activities, but we like to celebrate it. We love entertaining and sharing the experience with others.
2. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
My Philippe Starck lemon juicer. I learned about him as a designer in architecture school. The lemon juicer is a piece of art itself, looking like something from outer space. But it was designed to be functional and a conversation starter.
3. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
We cooked Julia Child's Lobster Thermidor for Valentine's Day of this past year. It took hours, but it was fun. Also, we've begun a tradition in our families of hosting Easter lunch here every year. It's the only holiday the "mothers" will let me take command of! This past Easter is when we told our families that we were expecting. Adam incorporated it into the blessing, so that was pretty memorable.
4. The biggest challenge in your kitchen:
Pantry and storage space. You do what you can with the space you have. I would rather have the space be open and airy though, like it is, than to have cabinets everywhere.
5. Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Maybe the track lighting. It was one of the first things we did, and we just replaced the very outdated track fixtures that were already here with newer, smaller track fixtures. It would have been nice to improve upon that a little more with cans or nice pendants. That might be a project for the future.
6. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:
We were definitely on a budget and were good about sticking to the budget. But one thing we didn't want to compromise on was the floor. Before, we had vinyl tile in a checkerboard pattern. It looked about as good as vinyl tile can look. It began peeling up in places, and our dog took it from there! The floor started the whole project. As soon as you take up the floor, you need to repaint and you might as well update a few things while you're at it. One thing leads to another. So, we invested in a nice, natural travertine stone tile and kept the checkerboard pattern because we liked that before. We love the results. I feel like it makes the whole room.
7. Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
New appliances one day! We like to use things until they die, so we didn't want to replace all the appliances just for the sake of having something new. I look forward to the day when our refrigerator dies so we can replace it with a French-door style that has filtered water and ice.
8. How would you describe your cooking style?
Everyone tells me I like to do things the hard way. I make everything from scratch, zest and juice my own lemons, chop fresh vegetables, mince fresh garlic. Friends and family sometimes give me a hard time for not taking shortcuts, but it's just a process I enjoy. Cooking is a stress-reliever for me.
9. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
Be adventurous! This obviously stuck.
10. What are you cooking this week?
We like a lot of Asian and Thai flavors, so we'll be cooking an Oriental chicken salad with a peanut sauce. And cheese biscuits! Also beef stew and spinach pie.
Resources of Note
- Iron wall hanging: salvaged from yard
- Blue pendant: Eastbrook Antique Mall (painted and rope added)
- Table: Wooden top salvaged and combined with an existing base
- Chairs: Estate sale; reupholstered by Alicia Wall
- Tile: White subway (3x6) tile, Henry Tile, Montgomery, Ala.
- Floor tile: Travertine 18x18, Henry Tile, Montgomery, Ala.
- Wall paint: Sherwin-Williams Custom Color Match
- Shelf paint: Sherwin-Williams Custom Color Match
- Range: Jenn-Air
- Dishwasher: KitchenAid
- Refrigerator: Kenmore White
- Teacups (on shelf): Denby China
- Green bowls (on table): yard sale
- Cast iron skillets: Hand-me-down Lodge skillets from Alicia's mother
Thank you so much Alicia & Adam for letting us peek into your kitchen!
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(Image credits: Erika Tracy)