Erin Bennett-Jenkins, a prop stylist, and her husband, Matt, an animation director, moved into their 1926 Craftsman home in August of 2012 with their son and immediately tore into the renovation of their kitchen — or rather what had been a kitchen.
"It was horrible!" says Erin, who can laugh about it now. "It was tiny and dark, and there were huge holes in the floor where the subfloor had rotted and the tile broken through. The doors to the deck [in the dining area] were interior, hollow-core doors. There was no pantry, and there was a door where the kitchen window is now." The young family camped out in the living room during the construction. "Coffeepot, electric skillet, toaster oven. That was our kitchen."
The entire renovation took about four months, squeaking in under the wire just before Thanksgiving. A wall between the cooking and dining area came down, a peninsula was added, and the infamous doors to the deck were removed and replaced with airy French doors. There's still some work to be done – "I just painted the crown molding last week," says Erin – but she, Matt, and bouncy two-year-old James can now sit at the large dining table (made by Erin's dad from reclaimed barn wood) and enjoy the view out to the backyard, which was the original reason they bought the house. "We wanted a yard for James, so we decided to make it work," she says, even with the need for renovation. "I think we got everything we hoped for."
10 Questions for Erin (and Her Kitchen)
1. What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
I would say just food that makes you feel good. I've been a vegetarian since 1998, and my husband Matt is vegetarian as well, so I love beans, love grains, love vegetables. I just want us to feel healthy and good.
2. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
My hand-held immersion blender. I make a ton of soups, so I use it all the time. When my last one burned out my sister-in-law bought me a new one for my birthday!
3. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
Probably the first one, when we could finally use it!
4. The biggest challenge in your kitchen:
Well, for the first few months it was that it didn't exist! But now I'd say that it's that the cabinets are kind of small. We had to configure them to fit the small footprint of the kitchen.
5. Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I think I let too many decisions be made by the contractor — the types of hardware on the cabinets, the choice of doors on the pantry. I sometimes wish I'd been more involved in those details. But at a certain point in renovation you have to let things go.
6. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:
Definitely the flooring. I found this beautiful dark tile and fell in love with it — it reminds me of raku pottery. It was really expensive at the showroom, so I had to hunt and search to find it at a retailer (Floor & Décor) that had it at a price [that would fit our budget].
7. Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
I need to finish painting the trim! And we'd like to install a row of pendant lights over the bar.
8. How would you describe your cooking style?
Healthy homestyle cooking.
9. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
I don't know if I have a best bit I've received, but I can tell you the advice I give out: 'Never throw anything away.' Even if it's just a few bites of mac'n'cheese or four greenbeans. Especially with a two-year-old in the house, pretty soon somebody will want a little yummy bite of something and you'll have it.
10. What are you cooking this week?
Italian basil and white bean soup, which is my own recipe and something I've been tweaking for a long time. I'm still adjusting the recipe. Also kasha veggie burgers and amaranth veggie casserole.
Resources of Note:
Flooring: Floor & Décor tile
Appliances: Fridge, gas stove, microwave and dishwasher are all Whirlpool, provided by the contractor. Erin loves her stovetop, which has 5 burners and one large cast iron grate, which she feels is easier to clean.
Paint: Valspar. The white trim is Winter Calm, and the light gray is White Pepper. Sold at Lowe's.
Sink hardware: Delta Debonair faucet. Sink via contractor. Erin wanted an extra-deep, single sink, since she makes so many soups and stews, and wanted to be able to get her pots completely in the sink.
Pots: Erin's favorite is a Revere Ware 6 quart pot that she received as a gift. She got it some time ago, and we weren't able to find a link to it, but the one listed below is the most similar in style:
Countertops: Kashmir white granite. Erin's was sourced thru her contractor, but it can also be found here.
Immersion Blender: Procter Silex
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(Images: Amy Herr and Tracey Brower)