Earlier this week I toured the Park Slope, Brooklyn kitchen of Elizabeth Crowell and Robert Wilson, the owners of the Sterling Place fine home décor and specialty gift stores. Robert and Elizabeth live in a beautiful four-story 1897 brownstone that they bought four years ago and live in with their two small children and two cats.
The current kitchen is in the back of the first floor (the former "men's smoking room") and features a large, sunny bay window overlooking the back yard. The kitchen is a generous size and is fully utilized by Robert and Elizabeth, who cook and eat in regularly. Robert grew up having dinner with his parents by candlelight every night - a tradition that was at times burdensome to a teen, but one that he now sees great value in and shares with his own children.
Their four-year-old already knows how to set a table properly, and despite the difficulty of keeping two little ones seated at the table, the couple nevertheless manages to have a candlelight dinner with their children every night.
Robert and Elizabeth were looking for a brownstone that still had much of its original detail and character intact, and found just what they were looking for in their turn-of-the-century home. They were also lucky in that a former owner stripped much of the interior woodwork of years of paint and lovingly restored many interior details.
Perhaps not unexpectedly, given their love of housewares and antiques, the kitchen and adjacent dining room are filled with treasures - many of which are as functional as they are beautiful. Robert has many kitchen items of sentimental value given to him from his grandparents, including a wooden tray used for "cocktail hour" (with tortilla chips, melted cheese and carefully sliced Jalapeno), a number of pots and pans, assorted tableware and glassware, a rolling pin, and some heart-shaped baking pans.
Other items are from Elizabeth's family, including a beautiful blue and white tea set formerly owned by her grandfather's aunt and a wedding present. Robert and Elizabeth's parents have added to the collection, handing down items they used as children like a wooden high chair that converts to a rocker, or picking things up at antique stores and flea markets that they know will be appreciated, like an antique sausage stuffer that adorns a wall.
Other items purchased by Elizabeth and Robert and used every day include a vintage kitchen canister set, a number of large, old glass containers that add to storage, an antique corkscrew that Robert swears works much better than modern ones (sold in the store), a kitchen scale that holds their fruit, and a pendant lamp that lights the kitchen table (from the old 26th Street flea market).
Often times, an item purchased to sell in the store doesn't quite make it out of their house or has brief stint in the store before they reconsider and reclaim it. Among these are an old barber's table that was in the store for ten days and now serves as the bar, and an old postal table that is used as a changing table (complete with an antique still on the top). Their favorite antique market is the short-lived annual outdoor market in Brimfield, MA; they drive a 26-foot truck there to haul back their finds.
Future plans for the kitchen? Converting the two closets (formerly dumb-waiters) which currently hold a washer and dryer to pantries, changing the kitchen cabinetry to something more of the period of the house, and changing the stove to a larger one better suited to entertaining.
Otherwise, the kitchen simply delights them. The kitchen's antiques and attached stories fill this kitchen with soul.