Penelope and her husband Nathan transformed a bare bones, down–on–its–luck home in North East Portland into a vintage style palace to showcase their miraculous second–hand treasures. The crown jewel of this special home is their savvy kitchen, wherein Nathan traded contracting for poured concrete counters and Penelope sourced major appliances via Craigslist. This space is an inspiring example of creative, purposeful design and a whole lot of imagination.
Penelope spends quite a bit of time in her open kitchen, with one eye on her 20-month–old daughter Bell, who is just starting to explore every nook and cranny of the adjacent living room and sun room. She is an accomplished, free-styling cook too, and I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon exploring the space while she busily chopped ingredients for a hearty stew.
Penelope's travels abroad inform her fresh ingredient approach to cooking and she takes pleasure in multiple farmers' market trips every week, one of which occurs about two blocks from her home. She prefers to let the organic produce shine with simple preparation instead of in complex, fussy recipes.
The pieces which stand out most in this darling kitchen are the vintage white stove (works perfectly!) and farmhouse sink, installed beneath a lovely stained glass window. These vintage staples add a lived-in feel even though they were renovating this very space (from an extremely dilapidated state) only two years ago. Penelope managed to keep the kitchen graceful and cozy. The mix of disparate elements come together beautifully. Never before have I seen Mexican (very folk) style tile co-exist with tall, wooden cabinets (very regular), poured concrete counters (very industrial) and a white stove.
Somehow, these features complement each other, creating a hearth that is greater than the sum of its parts. My favorite detail is the compost hole and hidden bin Penelope designed when their friend was creating the counters — no mess!
10 Questions for Penelope (and Her Kitchen)
1. What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
The weather... When it is grey and cozy here in Portland I love chopping and prepping in the morning and throwing it into a pot all day. When it is bright and sunny I love sipping Prosecco and making fish and salad. Always with NPR on in the background!
2. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
The compost hole on the countertop. So easy to chop and throw in bits and pieces. As well as my champion juicer which is a family heirloom as my mom bought it in 1970 and used it until her and my dad turned orange.
3. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
In all honesty it was made for me by my midwife and I am prepared for the reaction it might incite. It was my placenta with onions and garlic and lightly salted. And it tasted just like liver and I was a happy camper and felt quite good about the whole process.
4. The biggest challenge in your kitchen:
The sink drain. Love the actual sink but the drain is a pain to empty as it takes a few times each time we do dishes.
5. Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Bigger dishwasher, heated floors, and in my fantasy kitchen a fireplace.
6. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:
Every week it is an ongoing splurge as I buy the best groceries and love to shop at the local farmers markets and our fabulous New Seasons here in Portland.
7. Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
More pantry space in the basement door entrance.
8. How would you describe your cooking style?
Resourceful. I came from a long line of no recipe cooking.
9. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
To take the skin off of garlic you smash it with the butt of a knife. Voila! As well as having fresh flowers always in the kitchen.
10. What are you cooking this week?
Lentil and potato stew, chicken fried rice, flank steak with soba noodles over salad, tofu scramble.
• Oven: Okeefe and Merit, found on Craigslist
• Counters: poured concrete
• Sink: cast iron country kitchen sink, found on Craigslist
• Fridge: Amana bottom freezer
We're always looking for real kitchens from real cooks.
Submit your kitchen here.
Related: Lilian's Sunlit Family Kitchen
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)