The butter yellow kitchen in our house was inspired by Swedish tile stoves and English backsplashes.
The kitchen in our house has a back story that led me to create this blog. It began when we purchased our house as a weekend home and eventual place to retire from city life. Situated on a wooded lot Mr. AM loved, the house was a gut job. The first task was to tackle the look of the kitchen. My original idea came from a book excerpt I saw on Swedish country interiors — the look was part vintage and part cottage. I also have modern décor gene to satisfy which let me to the cool look of stainless steel counters and appliances plus a statement-making high arc Dornbracht kitchen faucet and sprayer. At the time, I had just seen Spielberg’s futuristic film AI and I loved the look of those homes. But our house in the woods really wasn’t suited to anything ultra modern, especially in the kitchen which has no unbroken walls and is the hub leading to four different rooms, the basement and the front hallway. It had to be soft. Plus, the views out our windows looked so much like the woods in the book on Sweden. While the basic floor plan was not changed (in retrospect this may have been an error), the peninsula was widened from 24″ to 36″ to create storage on both sides. Walls painted in Farrow & Ball’s House White are an excellent match to the cabinets. A wicker sofa occupies part of an open hallway and enjoys everyday use. The story of how I came to place the sofa here is detailed in my Suddenly Social Kitchen post.
That style was new to me but I immediately connected with the pale, light-reflecting blues, yellows and grays, the painted furniture and — most importantly for the kitchen — the glazed tile used on old-fashioned Swedish heating stoves. Ann Sacks happened to have all those colors in a glazed tile range called “Sur la Mer” and the combination of four colors — white, oche, blue and steel gray — became the color scheme for the kitchen and the rest of the house as well. Using the tile in a pattern that shows off the colors, I patterned it after English kitchen tile backsplash that tile the working walls of a kitchen from the top of the counter to the ceiling. I also coined the term “eurosplash” to describe that tile wall style. The combination of the imposing backsplash and butter yellow Plain & Fancy cabinets they call “lemon chiffon” led to the name of this post. I’d already had a white kitchen during the 1980s and I wanted painted cabinets, a whiff of color and the simplicity of Shaker-style doors and matching painted knobs.
Our kitchen faces east so, except for early morning, it is in shadow most of the day. We enlarged the window over the sink to let in more light and give us a better view. A Shaw’s 30” fireclay farm sink is a focal point. The sink cabinet was pulled forward by 4-inches for emphasis and fitted with bracket or “furniture” feet. The basin was then dropped into the base so it sits 3/8-inch above the stainless steel counter top– with the rim fully exposed. Because the sink is handmade, the bottom front edges are curved — so we also pulled it forward in the sink cabinet by 2-inches to let those show. Additional details are shown on the Upmounted Farm Sink post which explains the fine points of showing off a sink with this difficult installation style. The Dornbracht Profi faucet and sprayer are an unconventional choice but add that contemporary edginess I like. A pullout garbage bin flanks the sink (left) and a cabinet conceals a Miele dishwasher.
I also decided not to add upper cabinet clutter. I don’t like the way upper cabinets close up space, especially around a sink or a range. Instead, I customized a plate rack and had it installed where the uppers were before. It’s directly over the dishwasher and easy to use.
Whitewashed shelves on the other side of the sink hold coffee equipment and preserve the open look.
The kitchen originally had a built-in Viking 36-inch refrigerator with bottom freezer. After repeated problems, that was replaced after 8 years by the same style from Miele which a friend aptly described as “the vault” because it is so solid. Also built in, the Miele sit nearly flush with pantry cabinets on each side. (The fridge replaced a kitchen desk in the original kitchen.)
Due to a measuring error, the pantries were too narrow to fill out the soffit space. In retrospect, the soffit should have been completely removed and replaced by soffit cabinets. But this was to be a weekend house — not a primary residence. My only regrets are things I decided not to do. To remedy the design problem, the creative cabinet installer and I designed shallow, adjustable custom shelving on each end to balance out the wall. On the stove end there is a convenient spot for oils, vinegars, herbs, spices plus a dowel for a dishtowel. I keep a large amount of herbs and spices on hand and like them near the cooktop. Here they are steps away and it’s easy for me to see everything at a glance rather than take up valuable drawer space. Since the shelves are not near the window, I can also store loose tea in airtight decanters on those shelves. One day, I’ll add another shelf just above the towel rack — it’s surprising how quickly they fill up.
The adjustable shelves on the hallway side house platters, magazines, cups, salt & peppers shakers and other small items things that often get lost in drawers or in the backs of cabinets. While the dowels help hold platters in and allow them to be doubled up, they also are handy for hanging herbs out to dry at the end of the growing season. I also like having this space to display some of the decorative commemorative plates that were souvenirs of special food events I attended over the years. When the shelves were installed, the baseboard was changed from a toe kick style to a more refined solid furniture plinth. While the shelves were an after thought, they have become indispensable both from the standpoint of display and function.
My kitchen also has a picture wall. When we moved from our apartment I needed a space to hang a set of antique fruit prints I’d purchased at an auction. The Bivort suite of apples and pears found a home on a lone stretch of wall that leads to the powder room, mudroom and garage. Old fashioned and hand-colored, the prints are very much in the cottage spirit together with a foodie theme.
Nearly half the real estate in the kitchen was originally designed as a breakfast area. But the lack of an unbroken wall let me short of storage space. From my research on Swedish homes, I fell in love with painted furniture and particularly tall kitchen dressers or hutches with plate racks on top. The first one I ever saw was what I’ve come to call the Mother of All Plateracks — a marbleized beauty in a Swedish manor house. When I found this 19th century Swedish dresser at auction it was clear that the size was perfect for the wall in my kitchen between the dining room and tv room doors. The paint was ugly but I had it stripped and repainted a pale blue. The open plate-rack shelves are each designed to hold multiple porcelain dishes and serve ware. Drawers hold serving utensils, and the hand-carved doors on the base conceal dozens of platters and dishes. In a way, the hutch has become as emblematic of my kitchen as the big tile backsplash. If only I had thought to also tile that space in advance.
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