"People I don't know call me to say they were told to come see my kitchen to learn what countertop NOT to buy." While Danae has enjoyed her kitchen over the past eight years, she has learned how and what to change if there were to be a 'next time.'
The counter is made of limestone and requires a level of maintenance that Danae is not willing or able to provide it. As a result, over time it has taken on a variety of shades of color and wear. At this point, she pines for a creative formica installation.
Danae loves the grand space that appears to be her kitchen, but in reality most of the action takes place along the main wall. In effect, it's a highly functional galley kitchen. The island is spacious but there is a limit to how much of it is usable at any given time. Danae's kids grew attached to sitting at an extra dining table in the kitchen rather than at the counter, so the breakfast bar idea never took root.
On a positive note, the cabinets are Quaker style inspired and Danae enjoys their simplicity. She loves, as well, her Viking stove and how well it accommodates four large pots simultaneously. The floor does a very good impression of poured concrete. In reality, it's linoleum. Small sections are easily replaced if they get stained or damaged.
Danae is very organized and keeps on top of the food needs of her family. In order to ensure that her two girls have her full attention when they get home from school, Danae takes advantage of her 'work from home' status and prepares dinner ahead of time. It's usually something that needs only to be reheated or tossed together just before sitting down to eat.
Objectively, Danae has the fortune of a beautiful kitchen with rear garden access, Danae loves to cook and spend time here. Her wishlist is minimal, arising after years of learning from her kitchen.
10 Questions for Danae (and Her Kitchen)
What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
I come from a family of outstanding cooks and my grandparents had a small farm when I was growing up so I was lucky enough to grow up eating delicious, home cooked meals - often from things we grew in the garden. I also remember the words of the mother of one of my friends, an accomplished French cook, who told me that as a young woman in New York city who loved French food she knew that if she wanted to eat well, she was going to have to learn to cook on her own. She ended up winning over a Frenchman with her soufflés.
What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
Memories of "baking day" with my Mum. Metal tongs. Everyone should have several in different sizes - I use them for sautéing, tossing vegetable with olive oil before they go into the oven to be roasted, and reaming lemons.
What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
The first meal we ever cooked after our renovation: a rehearsal dinner for 50 the night before friends' wedding. Some of the paint was still drying and the faucet was jerry-rigged. I cooked it with the very funny friend of the groom, who had just flown in from New Zealand and whom I barely knew. And we were both happy that we could do something personal for our friends.
Biggest challenge in your kitchen?
Storing baking sheets and pans. Do you stack them or place them on their sides? I don't seem to have the right size cabinet for them.
Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:
The Viking six burner - expensive and a pain to install - but I use it all the time and sometimes even wish for one with a second oven.
Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
The gate-leg kitchen table is awkward to sit at and is crammed into a space that wasn't designed for it. We actually have a larger dining table on the other side of the island in the dining room. I'm hoping to replace the table with a smaller round one and add some stools to the island, like the one's in Ina Garten's kitchen (expensive) or of simple painted wood.
How would you describe your cooking style?
Unfussy, fresh and mostly Italian. I aspire to be a Tuscan grandmother. I'm great at following recipes, but not so good at improvising and can be a bit obsessive. I'll get a new cookbook and cook mostly everything out of the one book for about a month. When my family gets sick of this, they go out for sushi.
Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
Always reserve a cup of pasta water.
What is your favorite cookbook?
Urban Italian by Andrew Carmellini. I also love the first Barefoot Contessa - a classic.
What are you cooking this week?
I made a Senegalese Stew on Sunday to feed my family a couple times because I have two shoots this week.
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(Images: Jill Slater)