Shauna’s French–Inspired Renovation
Shauna and her family are inspired by daily rituals such as great coffee and a classic cocktail, so when they were forced to renovate their kitchen after an unfortunate flooding, they made sure to create places for the accoutrements required for these pleasures. This nook was just one of my favorite features in this French‐inspired beautiful kitchen.
Shauna works as a coffee consultant in Portland, Oregon — primarily in the sustainability side of things. She and her husband Peter enjoy a cup in their new kitchen each morning, with the light pouring in from their original bay window nook. As busy parents, they cook often with a menu of rotating, simple dishes that everyone, including their daughters Ingrid and Carlyle (ages 4 and 7) can enjoy. Hearty frittatas, pancakes, oatmeal cookies with half the sugar in place of storebought granola bars, and raw kale salads are all on frequent rotation (can I come for dinner please?! It all sounds so good).
Food is clearly apart of the rhythm of this family’s day and their kitchen is truly the hearth of the home. The stove is even in the former chimney location; what a neat idea!
This kitchen was renovated after a terrible flooding where extensive damage was done a little over a year ago. But fear not, Shauna took this accident in stride and decided to do the remodel they’d been imagining since moving into the old home several years prior. They didn’t change the footprint of the space, but they did add about a foot in height to the ceiling, which made it lofty and full of light.
By sourcing the marble countertops at a local salvage center, they saved significantly and incorporated a little butcher block to cut bread on. The effect of the mixed counter tops is homey, unpretentious and still very glamorous. Shauna has spent time living all over the world and the French kitchens she cooked in during college made a lasting impression on her. So she kept things as spacious and light as possible, with open shelving to display stunning dishware, a casual breakfast nook for family to gather around, barely yellow walls, an island with stools to relax or work on and of course, the special area devoted to life’s liquid pleasures: coffee and booze.
This was a personal favorite kitchen of mine and there are many ideas to adapt for any kitchen. I for one am setting up a tea and coffee bar, along with my favorite spirits in a cozy corner of my kitchen. I’m also contemplating painting my space light yellow, a color that seems to fit with the spirit of a French country kitchen.
10 Questions for Shauna (and Her Kitchen)
1. What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
I like the ritual of cooking for special occasions, and the ritual of every day simple pleasures. I make coffee every morning, and love that ritual — so does my husband. I like to make drinks at night, too. I love the little moments that ground a routine, mark the time, give a moment of celebration.
2. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
A Hario Skerton hand–crank coffee mill. It’s the coolest, simplest tool. My youngest daughter grinds coffee at preschool. We went into a cafe on NE Alberta and she saw this Hario mill that I’d been thinking about buying. She said, “Mommy, that’s MY coffee grinder I use at school!” So I bought it. That way, she helps with the most important drink of the day. And we’re all set if the electricity goes out.
3. What’s the most memorable meal you’ve ever cooked in this kitchen?
Our kitchen was completed in late fall, and for Christmas, I made my first standing rib roast, and it actually turned out well. I was nervous because it ups the ante, those are pricey cuts of meat and I’ve been known to get a little distracted and overcook things. But the rib roast didn’t compare to the soup made with stock from those roasted bones. I used a recipe from the Silver Palate cookbook, with the fresh beef stock, red wine, winter veggies — parsnips, carrots, onions — and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Talk about umami. We served it with grilled bread and more red wine and shared it with dear friends who were in town between Christmas and New Year’s — the whole thing was such a treat.
4. The biggest challenge in your kitchen:
We love lots of light and windows, and for that reason, tend to steer clear of window coverings. But at night, sometimes it feels like I’m working in a fishbowl.
5. Is there anything you wish you had done differently? [if renovated]
Ours was a long contemplated but ultimately spontaneous renovation. One day in mid–July, the upstairs bathroom sink was left on and overflowed, so I came home to a waterfall coming out of our kitchen ceiling. Luckily, our neighbor Hans Nielsen of BauHans Construction is a friend and a contractor, and had experience with flood-damaged properties, so he came to the rescue. But because it was unplanned, the decision-making was rushed. Nevertheless, there’s really not much I would change. Little details, perhaps. For example, I love the look of our island, which is more like a table, but would have invested in adding a shallow knife drawer with one of those magnetic strips…. maybe I can still do that.
6. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:
Custom cabinets, worth every penny. My favorite is the corner coffee bar/cocktail bar cabinet. Some friends put in a tiny bar in their kitchen and it was the coolest detail, so we mimicked that idea and now all my coffee paraphernalia and our stemware, barware, etc. has a home.
7. Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
Well, now I’m thinking about those window coverings I mentioned above…
8. How would you describe your cooking style?
Well, I’m busy and don’t love to be obligated to cook something every night… so a couple times a week I make something hearty and enjoyable: soups, frittatas (pretty much weekly, with fresh eggs from our chickens), roasts, salads, a big batch of oatmeal cookies. I like to center these things on what’s fresh and seasonal, it all centers on the ingredients.
My husband reigns on Saturday mornings. That guy can cook eggs and pancakes like it’s nobody’s business.
9. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
My stepfather, John, owned a restaurant when I was growing up, and he’s a wonderful cook. He always said that good cooking is about “the yin and the yang.” Balance the sweet with sour, or sweet and spicy or sweet and salty. If you think about it, it’s what makes everything awesome – from French Onion soup to Pad Thai. So, his advice guides everything I do – from tasting coffees to making cocktails or salad dressings or soups – looking for that balance, that blend, the yin and the yang.
10. What are you cooking this week?
The girls and I will be baking a coconut cake for my husband’s birthday. And the weekly frittata, of course.
• Oven: It’s unbranded – there’s not a name to be found on it, but it’s a dual–fuel, convection, 5 burner stove made in Italy and sold by IKEA.
• Pots and pans: Le Creuset, Emile Henry, Calphalon, plus some department store deals and cherished gifts from my grandmothers’ kitchens. Grandma Helen’s cast iron skillet is a favorite.
• Dishes: BIA “Cordon Bleu”
• Simple white marble countertops: The Calcutta marble countertops were both a splurge and a huge coup because we used remnants (my husband’s idea) and saved a ton. If you don’t want huge slabs, you can intermix countertop materials and use stone remnants — most stone yards have them. We mixed the Calcutta marble with butcher block, which I wanted anyway, so I was really happy with how that turned out.
• Inspiring book on French kitchens: French Country Kitchens: Authentic French Kitchen Design from Simple to Spectacular by Linda Dannenberg
We’re always looking for real kitchens from real cooks.
Show us your kitchen here!
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)