When I saw Daria and Ben's minimal, elegant white kitchen splashed across the pages of a design magazine, I was envious. After tracking them down (and realizing they lived only blocks away from me!) and actually spending time with Daria in said kitchen, I was left happy and inspired at the balance between gorgeousness and functionality.
Some white minimal kitchens can feel austere, cold, and unfriendly. While this kitchen is white and stream-lined, it's also comfortable and relaxed. The white sets the perfect stage for beautiful bowls, pots and vessels, sumptuous bowls of fruit and the natural light that pours in through large windows. The space is so beautiful, it is the artwork — it needs no adornment. The kitchen is also relatively modest in size, so the cooks and the kids all keep each other company.
Daria is a recently gluten-free cook with a real taste for honest, wholesome Italian food (after many years spent living in Italy and Switzerland). While I was visiting she was sprouting almonds, cooking up bone marrow and chopping fresh vegetables for stew — what mix of techniques!
Her grandmother handed down her Mason jar collection, which makes for lovely pantry storage. The gorgeous plates and pots I mentioned earlier, most are gifts from friends, picked up abroad or, my favorite response, "one fabulous estate sale per year." It's obvious that yes this kitchen is absolutely stunning, but it's also very well used and well loved. It was a joy to spend time in this remarkable home, designed by Ben with lots of input from Daria and the kids.
10 Questions for Daria (and Her Kitchen)
1. What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
Simplicity, in my surroundings, my utensils, the ingredients. That is something I learned from our friend Tina Pastorelli when living in Italy, there are rarely very many ingredients in Italian cuisine. The food relies on freshness and the mindfulness of the cook to let the food stand on its own.
My mom also inspires me in her industriousness in the kitchen. Something people are writing more about these days my mom has done for decades, meal planning that is not only thrifty but conducive to quick, healthy meals. For example, roasting a chicken on Monday offers meat for sandwiches for lunches the next day and enchiladas for dinner. The carcass can be simmered for 24 hours to make a most nutritious 'Bone Broth' that can provide another meal and have some to spare for the freezer.
2. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
As for a tool, it would be a toss up between the hand blender, which I use A LOT, and a zester, which I do not, but it is fun! My favorite element is the vintage canning jars with the glass lids which passed through the hands of my great-grandmother, my grandmother, my mother and now they are mine. They contain our bulk foods and fill one of the pull-out pantries.
3. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
Sometime in the first few weeks we were here (it has been 1 1/2 years now) we made a delicious Indian spread for a friend's birthday. The food was amazing. What was memorable though, was the fact that the vent/fan actually WORKED! Instead of our former charming,1950s chrome fan that was 5 feet above the stove and didn't really accomplish more than the noisy illusion that the smoke and grease were going somewhere (as evidenced by the decades of grime on the uppers), we now have a pretty powerful and efficient Vent-a-Hood which made every meal memorable for the first several months!
4. The biggest challenge in your kitchen:
Keeping it clean. (Did we miss some kind of appliance when we designed it that would take care of this!?)
5. Is there anything you wish you had done differently? [if renovated]
No, we are even happier than we thought we would be!
6. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:
7. Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
Right now we have a couch and coffee table next to our dining room table. We would like to get a really long 'country style' dining table that extends the length of the room, one where we can have large groups of friends and family gather and hang out for long, multi-course meals.
8. How would you describe your cooking style?
I like minimalistic cooking. This is not to say that I am going to be serving the likes of Philip Glass, but in the traditional Italian sense of minimal — fresh produce, few ingredients, kind of 'naked' food. This is in alignment with the fact that we are a gluten-free, dairy-free household so fresh, complete, and simple food without fillers and additives.
Because of the relatively recent diagnosis of celiac disease, I am now exploring the world of meat for the first time in my adult life (I was vegetarian for over 20 years) so my 'style' is recreating itself in a big way and, once I got used to eating meat (which took a year), I am having a lot of fun! (I do miss cheese quite a lot though.)
9. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
This is kind of random but, when I was 23 I worked for the Forest Service on the Olympic Peninsula. We made pancakes a lot and a friend of mine, Conrad Hamilton, shed light on a very basic technique in making pancakes — when the bubbles pop, you can flip it. I think of that instance every time I make pancakes, and we make them several times a week!
10. What are you cooking this week?
We are going on a road trip to California for a week so we will be preparing food to take; soaked and roasted nuts with herbs and spices, sauerkraut, hummus, dried kale in a yummy tahini, garlic, brewer's yeast sauce, and beef jerky. For the few meals we will have before we leave I'll be making my favorite White Bean Soup with Basil Oil and Celery Salt from my also favorite cookbook by John Pawson and Annie Bell.
We will also have another favorite recipe for enchiladas from the Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook, another cookbook we use a lot as it almost entirely avoids ingredients that are commonly allergenic/inflammatory and has delicious recipes that, albeit, sometimes have too many ingredients for my liking but are entirely worth it!
• Visit Ben's Architecture Atelier: Atelier Waechter
• Glass bowl from Italy
• Fridge: Asco
• Dishwasher: Asco
• Coffee vessel: Chemex
• Mason jars: from grandmother
• Dishes/plates: gifts or purchased at estate sales
We're always looking for real kitchens from real cooks.
Submit your kitchen here.
Related: Jennifer and Jason's Earthy Kitchen
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)