Who cooks and eats here: Justina Blakeney, her husband, and their 1-year-old daughter Ida.
Location: Los Angeles, California
Type: Rental kitchen
Justina Blakeney is a designer, maker, mother and all-around style maven. She cooks much like she decorates, with a wild sense of color, flavor, freshness and authenticity — and she does it all in a small space with a whole bunch of stylish tips and takeaways for those us in awkward, imperfect kitchens!
As a renter, Justina can't renovate her kitchen, but that hasn't stopped her from making the best with what she's been given. When in doubt, Justina hangs it on the wall. This saves space and highlights eclectic items brought from around the world. Plants, a pretty wall hanging, knives, aprons, spices — they all occupy wall space instead of taking up valuable counter space. By taking what others keep in storage and putting it in plain site, we get a clear view of Justina's personal, worldly style. She's really nailed the cozy greenhouse vibe. The bright walls and vibrant plant collection are so bright and inspiring, aren't they?
Justina lived in Italy for seven years and is very influenced by the casual elegance of Italian food, but as a new mom (little Ida is just a few months past 1!), her cooking is now pretty streamlined. She'll cook a vegetarian meal with what's lingering in the garden or picked up at the farmers market. A bowl full of fresh pasta with seasonal vegetables and cheese is likely to be on this family's table every week.
10 Questions for Justina (and Her Kitchen)
1. What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
The decor of my kitchen was inspired by a greenhouse—-my husband and I wanted the space to feel lush and fresh. We eat a lot of veggies around here, and we like to keep things green! What inspires my cooking is the food my mother cooked for the family growing up. I am half black, half Jewish and I grew up eating a weird but delish mix of traditional Jewish foods like Matzo-ball soup and stuffed cabbage and soul foods like collard greens and fried catfish.
2. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
I love the shelved window—I am always rotating what's on display in the window and the greenhouse look of it has always made me happy.
3. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
Two years ago we had a particularly good harvest in our tiny garden and we made a delicious kale salad with cherry tomatoes, strawberries, and sauteed squash. We added pine-nuts, parmigiano and a balsamic dressing—it was so fresh and so gratifying to eat from the garden after all that hard work!
4. The biggest challenge in your kitchen:
There is very little counter space in the kitchen so we had to use the walls and build upwards. Another quirky issue that we have is that we often have unwanted guests stopping by for midnight snacks coming in through the kitty door. So far, we've spotted possums and raccoons grubbing on the kitty food. Not cool!!
5. Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I'd add a dishwasher. I'm not a huge fan of washing dishes! Also, our kitchen table used to be my desk, but if I could wave my magic wand I'd have a round tulip-based table so that when we eat dinner, we are facing each other as opposed to facing the wall/window.
6. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:
I love pottery and ceramics and I splurge a lot on handmade and vintage dishware, cups, bowls and servingware.
7. Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
The ant issue—that would be nice. Also the critter issue. And if I get a chance I'd love to swap out the gross ceiling light, but since this is a rental I'm not sure how much sense it makes.
8. How would you describe your cooking style?
Wild, eclectic, resourceful, green and concocted — much like my decorating!
9. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
Don't overcook the pasta.
10. What are you cooking this week?
More from Justina → Visit her blog and website
Resources of Note:
- Pots and pans: Le Creuset
- Oven and stove: Frigidaire
- Fridge: Not sure who makes it but we got it for free from the L.A. Department of Water and Power. They have a program to replace refrigerators that are over 10 years old to help reduce wasteful energy consumption.
- Paint color: "Mint Sprig" by Behr
- Pottery and ceramics: Vintage, Talavera, Anthropolgie, R. Wood Studio
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(Images: Leela Cyd)