December 3, 2010

My Old House: The Kitchen

When you walk into the main part of my house from the mudroom, you enter the room that I think of as its heart, the kitchen/dining room. Here is where I cook my meals (the prep is done in the pantry, which I'll show in the next post) and eat them, where I sit with my cup of tea or coffee, reading. I don't know if I spend more hours here, in that gray chair, than I do at my desk or in my studio/tv room, but it feels as if I do. I had mentioned in a comment on the mudroom that it was the spiffiest room in the house, and here you can see the old painted fake wood paneling on walls, the composite ceiling, the almost-ancient linoleum tiles on the floor. But it has its charm and I love it.

Where you see the gas range is a large alcove where there used to be a huge chimney with 3 fireplaces––for kitchen, living room and back room––that heated the house in years past. Now the woodstove, which I wrote about here, sends its smoke up a new chimney.

Turning toward the right, you can see my drop leaf dining table, with another between the two front windows. You'll notice that I don't have any matching chairs in the house; I bought them one by one in the days when you could get nice old wooden chairs for 5 or 10 dollars. I'd like to point out the wainscoting under the windows: it runs across the entire room, which is about 13 feet wide, and is 2 feet high, all one board! The wonderful thing about this house is that very little had been done to it, so all the original woodwork, hand planed, probably from first growth forest, is still here. I spent several years stripping the woodwork (using non-toxic stripper) throughout the house of generations of paint. What remains is a mottled array of color.

On the right, the artwork is firstly one of my hooked ruglets, then a painting by Tom Leddy, with two paintings by G. Roy Levin under that.

This next view shows the old hutch which I had bought while still living in New York City; it works perfectly in this house. The refrigerator is on the west facing wall alongside the door to the mudroom. This kitchen arrangement, with the stove on one side of the room, the fridge on the other, and the sink in the pantry, is not the most efficient, but I'm certainly used to it.

Artwork seen here to the right of the window: Leonard Dufresne, Gwen Fabricant, the shoes by Susan Jane Walp, then the small abstraction by Jim Long, G. Roy Levin's painted clothespins, and along the railing, cows by Helen Rabin. To the right of the hutch are some of my works, a small sculpted Sacred Heart by a student at LSU, where I taught some years ago, and a tiny cityscape by Dag Fyri.

As winter approaches and the sun lowers in the sky, light enters further into the room. The house faces south, so I receive some passive solar heating on nice days.

An old ladder back chair is usually my clothes tree for sweaters worn around the house, as it's a bit too fragile to use often for seating.

Here are two still life arrangements, of pottery on the hutch, and metal objects atop the woodstove, punctuated by a digital kitchen timer, which I cannot do without.

I wanted to show this picture of the door to the mudroom because of the history in its surface, evidence of the past that I find very touching. There are deep vertical grooves in the wood one or two feet above the floor, which must have been made by a dog, or generations of dogs, scratching at the door to get out.

And below are two details of the variegated colors showing on the woodwork, remnants of different layers of paint laid down over nearly 200 years, with dark red as the base color. The details make beautiful little abstract paintings, enlivening my funky little house.


  1. I love these spare spaces. Only my floors look like this -- many layers of paint over ancient boards. I remember this is a plank house -- is there insulation?

  2. hi Susan, it's funny that I don't think of my rooms as spare, but I suppose they are.
    When I bought the house, it had very ugly aluminum siding on it; later, when I decided to sell my nyc loft, I had the house insulated with pressed board insulation on the outside, and resided with clapboards. I also got new wood windows, so the house is moderately tight.

  3. I love the connection between this post and the stone walls post. Layers of time and the history of living leaving its mark.

  4. thanks A. for making that interesting connection; I do love the history evident around us, even though it's such a brief amount of time in relation to Europe or the Mid East.

  5. Glad you have some insulation! I lived 2 winters in this house before we got any, 71 and 72. It was really cold. We had clapboards, so we got blown-in cellulose. And "spare" is only in contrast to my own clutter. Your tables aren't covered with papers! All the art and objects are wonderful to see.

  6. A touching post, Altoon; a wonderful inviting sharing. Your kitchen looks so well loved, well loved for generations. I fancy the individual chair look myself, the individual plate and cup. Choose which one calls to you.

  7. hi Maggie. I imagine this house was well loved; I know that the previous owners loved it a great deal.
    and Susan, sometimes my kitchen table is covered with various items––books and papers and magazines, cups and containers of cookies––but I cleaned up for the photos. (I'm essentially pretty neat, though.)

  8. I love the photos. The subtle colors remind me of Morandi. I especially love the strikes of light allowing the outside in.

  9. thanks so much, deesha. I waited for a sunny day to photograph the room, so that I would have those beautiful rays of light; I'm glad you appreciate them.

  10. Oh, my. I'm at a loss for words. Just enjoying sitting at my computer feeling the warmth of your sun.

  11. what a lovely cool house! I can tell you love it. I do too.

  12. The sun's warmth and the cool house; wonderful comments. Thank you Linda and Mary.