Black and white checkered floors? Check. Funky old stove? Check. Soft light streaming through an open window? Double check.
Clara's sweet apartment kitchen in Portland, Oregon, shows us we can doll up any space (even a rental!) with a few family heirlooms and great style.
Being in Clara's kitchen is like stepping into a world equal parts Hogwart's Wizard School, Grannie's cozy den, fabulous coquettish boudoir, modern art gallery, and professional test kitchen. I know that's a whole lot of description, but honestly Clara and her kitchen space are all of those things and much more.
To see what this woman can do with aTtupperware full of odds and ends she buys almost exclusively from the farmer's market is to encounter a miracle. For breakfast the other day at Clara's apartment, I dined on sweet potato and Yukon hash with kale, shallot and oyster mushrooms, served with two perfectly soft boiled eggs, steaming coffee and cream, a little wedge of Brie cheese, plum jam and a slice of banana bread. It was a meal fit for a queen!
And Clara eats this way on a daily basis. She shows us it isn't a perfect gas stove or efficient dishwasher (she has neither of these coveted kitchen appliances) that make a kitchen great; it is the creativity and culinary curiosity of those who breathe life into cooking every day that have so much to offer us aspiring cooks.
Clara has lived in this apartment for several years, tweaking the decor of the kitchen often, decorating with her own art work, family paintings and her grandmother's spoon and recipe collection. The current palette of brownish mauve offsets the bright cookware and complements the natural tones of the artwork. The space is small and is proof of the saying, "Good things come in small packages." Clara, I'll be at your breakfast table any day you'll have me!
10 Questions for Clara (and Her Kitchen)
1. What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
I am most often inspired by ingredients. To lay in bed in the morning and picture the items in the fridge, the pantry, then try to concoct a mixture or combination I have yet to try — this excites me! I began a breakfast project almost two years ago. The project has me enjoying one of these morning inspirations, seated, listening to the news and enjoying my ease into the day 3–5 times a week. My love for this tiny space is a partnership of the time I allow myself to spend in there and the light that pours in.
2. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
Go to tools: Wooden utensils, trusty skillet, and a few good knives.
3. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
Hands down the coq au vin I made my first winter in the apartment. The dish cracked and I cleaned up chicken stock and red wine from every nook and cranny for two weeks.
4. The biggest challenge in your kitchen?
The size makes it tough for more than two guests. I have been known to drag the gate–leg table passed down to me into the living room and spreading out for 8.
5. Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
As a renter, renovations aren't in the cards, but I frequently redecorate and fine tune the placement of things for functionality. After this kitchen I will always insist on a window.
6. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:
My knives — Wüsthof and Henckels — and the three different colors I have painted it with fancy moisture sensitive matte paint. Current color, Pismo Dunes from Benjamin Moore.
7. Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
I would love a gas stove.
8. How would you describe your cooking style?
Much like the rest of me I suppose, controlled experimentation. Methodical in preparation and the whimsy comes in when the heat goes up! Ha!
9. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
Mom. "Don't worry about the recipe so much. What do you have in the fridge? Just use that!"
10. What are you cooking this week?
Turkey soup on Sunday, daily breakfasts, apple pie or an apple German pancake this weekend.
Clara's Favorite Kitchen Resources
• Stove/range: KitchenAid
• Pots and pans: Le Creuset, Pyrex, hand–me–downs
• Dishes: mis–match from various thrift stores and hand–me–downs
• My very good friends that love to appreciate all that cooking and eating together can be whether it me at home or at all the wonderful restaurants in the world.
• My mother taught me the foundations, and I am forever grateful!
We're always looking for great renovation stories and before & after photos of what you've done in your own kitchen.
Submit your kitchen here.
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)