Who cooks and eats here: Jeanee Ledoux, owner of Finely Crafted Boutique
Where: Decatur, Georgia
Rent or Own? Own
Jeanee Ledoux is an Atlanta boutique owner who found herself the guardian angel of one of the most unique homes we have seen in a long time: a vintage Lustron prefabricated home in the heart of Decatur, one of Atlanta's prettiest suburbs. The uniqueness of the house (and by extension the kitchen) inspired her to begin decorating in mid-century styles, resulting in a look that is equal parts modern and vintage, with an injection of Southern Hospitality courtesy of Jeanee's Louisiana upbringing.
On her blog, Jeanee talks about the uniqueness of the house: "I live in a prefabricated, all-steel home called a Lustron, assembled in 1949. It’s a humble ranch built in a Columbus, Ohio, airplane factory and delivered by truck, yet its design was celebrated at the MoMA in 2008. Only 2,500 were made over two years, and very few stand today. I feel like the home’s curator and bodyguard as well as its owner. I give impromptu tours to curious passersby, and I fend off developers who want to build something new on my lot."
Old meets new on the menu as well. A typical week includes a box from a local CSA, accented by red beans and rice (husband Andrea's favorite) cooked in a cast iron skillet, and served with homemade sodas. "We make our own sodas and syrups — right now I have a great blackberry syrup that I'm using a lot." She prefers her cast iron cookware because of it's versatility: "It can go from stovetop to oven. One less pan to wash! And I've had them forever."
Jeanee says she likes to have a plan, but values improvising as well. "When we're in a good flow, I'll shop for the week and incorporate the CSA things. But you should never be afraid to improvise. I look at a lot of cooking blogs, and often copy what I like but adjust the ingredients to what I have." Because all of the storage in the kitchen part of the pre-fab design, she has to judge carefully what will fit in the limited space. But she wouldn't trade for an expansive modern kitchen. "...the footprint has really influenced my view on how much space I need... After seven years, this 'nest is still best'."
10 Questions for Jeanee (And Her Kitchen)
1. What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
Aesthetically, midcentury and vintage-style kitchen accessories make me gleam. And when I get down to business in my '49 kitchen, I like new recipes for accessible, unfussy meals. I'm a California dreamer, so I gobble up food and lifestyle inspiration from Sunset magazine, which focuses on fresh, progressive Western cuisine. My favorite spot for East Coast inspiration is the Smitten Kitchen blog — I love the casual voice of home cook Deb Perelman, and that she's not afraid of butter!
2. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
I don't know how I ever cooked without a seasoned cast-iron skillet! It's perfect for one-pot meals that you start on the stove and finish in the oven, like frittatas and tamale pies.
3. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
A few years ago I was in a good rhythm of making large meals and freezing the leftovers. I was plating a pork loin roasted with potatoes and carrots when my husband called, saying he was bringing home a few friends from work, but they had already eaten. The dinner looked and smelled so good when they arrived that they all ate again! One of the guys, a vegetarian, couldn't resist eating some pork jus on rice. We don't host often, and I frankly have a lot of nervousness about entertaining. I often feel so concerned about putting on the perfect event that I don't have fun myself! The spontaneity of the gathering, and the fact that a holiday-size meal was already cooked, made it possible for me to relax and focus on our friends.
4. The biggest challenge in your kitchen:
We're a bit low on built-in storage. The baker's rack takes some pressure off the cabinets, but I'd like more hidden shelving for little things that pile up, like leftover bins and spices.
5. Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I wish the cabinets were wood instead of steel. The doors have lots of rusty specks, and the basin below the sink is totally rusted from the moisture. [Note: this is all part of the built-in aspect of the house]
6. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:
My vintage cherry and white Cathrineholm teapot. It was stupid expensive, but we use it every night before bed for chamomile-mint tea, and it looks so dang good!
7. Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
I'd love cabinets custom-made to fill the available space! Ceiling-height storage for items we rarely use, like the fondue pot, would be wonderful.
8. How would you describe your cooking style?
I'm Cajun and my husband, Andrea, is Italian. I like to cook meals from both our backgrounds, but with a healthy twist. For example, I just made a soup that's a take on Louisiana red beans and rice. The traditional dish is a thick stew with just kidney beans and andouille sausage. My brothy version adds onion, bell pepper, celery, and carrots. I consult lots of cookbooks, magazines, and blogs and like to try new things, especially simple retakes on classics. I want meals to be fun and pretty, but done in 1.5 hours and without using every tool in the kitchen.
9. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
A salesman at the Cook's Warehouse persuaded me to buy a set of ring cutters ranging in size from 3/4 to 4 inches. I was looking for one mini cutter to make brownie bites and was annoyed at first that I had to make a larger purchase. But he was right that I'd get my money's worth — I use all the sizes for various desserts and especially for cutting out a circle of bread to fry an "egg in a nest."
10. What are you cooking this week?
I have a cold, so I want simple, warming meals that last a few days. We're on our last helpings of the bean and andouille soup I mentioned earlier. Tonight I'm trying a kale and ricotta pasta from the Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home. You make the sauce in the blender while the pasta's boiling. I know you're supposed to avoid dairy when you're already [congested], but I can't ever say no to cheese! Tomorrow morning I'll griddle some banana-oat pancakes that I froze a few weeks ago.
Resources of Note:
Because Jeanee's decorating style leans heavily towards mid-century, one-of-a-kind items (she does run a vintage boutique, after all!) we've tried to list as many of her sources for her distinct decorating style, as well as more easily found items.
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(Image credits: Amy Herr)