Kitchen Tour: Sarah Rae's Open, Art-Filled Kitchen

Kitchen Tour: Sarah Rae's Open, Art-Filled Kitchen

Sarah Rae Smith
Jun 9, 2010

11 months ago my husband Zach and I were living in a 3,000 square foot loft in an industrial part of Kansas City. Our space had a 35 square foot kitchen and a 12-foot island for a prep space. We held huge parties and fed hundreds of people. Then, one day, the roof lifted off our top floor loft and the rains came in. We had one week to find a space and we took the first one we found — which happened to have a small, dark kitchen!

Wanting to stay in the area to stay close to work and other previous commitments, we moved a whole 10 blocks up the hill into downtown Kansas City and into a small (1,000 square foot) basement loft. It had been previously decorated by an Apartment Therapy reader, so all we had to do was unpack. Even though we found ourselves itching to make over other rooms in the house, we really enjoyed this small kitchen space. Its dark walls made it feel a little bit like a cave and the dim lighting wasn't much help, but we brought in our own artwork and tried to liven the place up a little.

All of our food is kept on the backside of the wall that the stove is located on. There's a small 4-foot closet that holds one metal metro rack where we organize all of our can and boxes. It's technically in our office, and since we've been trying to eat down all of our food before we move it wasn't really glamorous for a photo shoot. Think 4 cans of tuna and a box of crackers from who knows when!

This kitchen has seen everything from wedding cakes to pretzels made in it. Although it's all out on display, this has made for a great work space, even if there's really only room for one person to work efficiently in it.

Next month we're moving to a new home (goodbye landlords, hello mortgage) and the kitchen is well... a little bigger. It has 30-foot ceilings and the only thing in it is a refrigerator and a sink that doesn't work. Although it doesn't sound normal, most aren't purchasing a Russian Orthodox church that's almost 100 years old. Stay tuned for those photos as we're sure there will be plenty!

The Kitchn Questionnaire

1. What's your cooking style?
We cook anything and everything. There isn't any dish we won't tackle given the opportunity, though I tend to do most the baking and Zach does most of the protein prep. We love fresh, simple ingredients that although can be made fussy, are perfect with just a little salt and pepper.

2. What inspires your kitchen?
Although the layout and prep surfaces were already installed upon moving in (along with the paint color), we tried to personalize the space by adding our own artwork and papering the drawers to bring in a little more color to an otherwise dark and cave-like space.

3. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
Zach will tell you that he can't live without his fish spatula and long handled tongs. Personally, I have a mad crush on my bench scraper. It scrapes off even the crustiest stuck on foods from our counters and tidies up crumbs without having to dirty a towel. We both rely heavily on our bulk parchment paper, which we keep on a rack under the island on the floor. It comes in single sheets from our local restaurant supply store and is the size of a full sheet pan (which means on the floor and under something is the only place it would fit!). It's become our right hand man when it comes to almost any sort of food prep that involves the oven!

4. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
"Clean as you go!" Although we don't always remember to do so, it makes the biggest difference in being able to find something you need, even if it's dirty. We try hard to stack like items together to keep the clutter down when prepping, especially when it's for a crowd!

5. Biggest challenge in your kitchen:
Although our kitchen has a great deal of prep space, it's really a "one-butt kitchen." Even though it's possible for several people to stand in the area at once, everyone has to shuffle if someone needs something out of the fridge or from the dishwasher. The lighting has also been a challenge. Remember kids, eco-friendly lighting isn't always the best option, even if it's the greenest!

6. Biggest indulgence:
When we were first married our registry was full of all the things we thought we needed. Over the last several years, we've slowly been purging our kitchen of items that don't multi-task or have the longevity or durability we need. Our kitchen sees a great deal of use and we've slowly been buying knives (piece by piece) and investing in better pans.

7. Dream tool or splurge:
Since this space is small, we've done our best to not splurge. In fact, we cut our kitchen supplies down by over half before moving in, so the only things that were purchased for the space were replacements if something broke. Our new space will see a Little Snowie, a Cuisinart IBCE-50BC Ice Cream Maker and a Vitamix Blender. We're pretty much ok with eating ramen noodles until we acquire such things, so here's to hoping all of our dreams come true!

8. What are you cooking this week?
This week our kitchen has already seen Moroccan chicken wings, a tray of coconut brownies and several salads. Not bad since it's only Tuesday.

9. What cookbook has inspired you the most?
I'm a complete sucker for the science behind why food reacts in certain ways when it's used in recipes. So my nerd brain loves The New Best Recipe Cookbook (before each recipe they list the trial and errors they tried before landing on the perfect results), Cook With Jamie (we read it cover to cover every night before bed last year!) and Cake Love (although we've never been to the bakery, we love the science within the pages).

10. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
There was the time Zach exploded chicken wings in the fryer, but I've tried very hard to block that from my mind. This kitchen saw 20 handmade pizzas in one night, killer curry and super fresh spring rolls (the sink is just the right size to hold a half sheet pan full of water to soften the wrappers). It might be small, but there wasn't anything we didn't attempt.


• Cabinets/Islands: IKEA. The previous owners went IKEA crazy and all the cabinets, refrigerator surround and islands (along with the sink) are all IKEA. They've held up quite well and we've appreciated their deep storage.

• Dishes/Glassware: Our plates are all IKEA (we've talked about owning a ridiculous amount of them previously) and our glasses are few in number, but serve their purpose well.

• Chandelier: The chandelier is from Urban Outfitters and although it looks great, it lights everything but the work space. If it wasn't hard wired in, it would have been the first thing to go had we of been keen on investing any money in the space.

• Artwork: The large painting above the pink scale is done by Zach and the "old people praying" were in both his grandparents kitchen as well as my own — so we had to have them in ours. We love the nostalgia that they bring, though they almost bit the dust during the great chicken frying explosion of '09!

Thanks for taking a look inside our kitchen. 11 months have brought many dishes and recipes and although we've enjoyed our time, we're ready for greener pastures! You can see the rest of our home over at Apartment Therapy where you can take the full tour.

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Related: Before And After: Papering Drawers For Pennies

(Images: Sarah Rae Trover)

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