Welcome to the Urban Cottage kitchen! I thought you might like a peek at the space where good food — and, let’s keep it real, the occasional flop — happens.
I’d been waiting until everything was ‘ready’ to take you on this tour, all the renovation projects completed and the space styled with flowers and fit for a magazine. But then I reminded myself of my hospitality philosophy: things don’t have to be perfect to have friends over. And I don’t know about you, but I like to see a kitchen in action. So I took a few pictures the other day while I was making soup, to share with you.
I’ve never been much of a renovator; the Urban Cottage is the tenth home I’ve owned and until now I’ve pretty much adapted to what each had to offer, with the odd bit of repainting. Having moved a lot, my sense of home comes from the furnishings and mementos I surround myself with, rather than the structure itself.
This move was different; I resolved to put my stamp on the space right away, and I’m glad I did. There wasn’t a lot to do, but the changes I made had a big impact. Yes, there are still some decorating projects on the to-do list, but they’re taking a back seat to practical things like new shingles — not so exciting, but important.
Let’s start with the kitchen space itself. It’s essentially a large square room situated in the middle of the house, open-concept in design. One side is the only eating area in the home, and the workspace occupies a larger portion of the room. Traffic flows through the kitchen from the front of the house to the back so there’s no hiding any messes. Working neatly is more of a priority than ever.
The kitchen is in the original part of the home. Its weathered pine floor conveys a somewhat uneven, creaky charm. The dining area has white bead board wainscoting. Both the floor and the bead board evoke the feeling of a rustic beach cottage, and I left them as is.
The white kitchen cabinetry is both practical and a key design element. Open units on either side of the sink offer plate racks and display shelves. Glass-fronted units in the two corners add character (and require that I keep the contents neat).
A Beachy Palette
My first priority was repainting. Originally almost the entire main floor was painted a mid-tone brown with caramel tones. I liked the colour, but it was too dark and intense for me, especially considering how shaded the house is in summer. I hired The Painting Company to do the extensive amount of painting required. They did a beautiful job, and quickly too, finishing the entire main floor and the upstairs in only two days.
Being at the beach is something that brings me relaxation, tranquility, gratitude and peace, and I wanted to replicate those feelings in my home. With that in mind I based the colour palette on water and sand. There are four shades of turquoise, some more green and others tending to blue, on the main floor, with two used in the kitchen. What can I say, I was seduced by the names: Tahitian Sky, Tidewater, Wave Top and Beachside Drive. (While these are Behr colours, the painter used them in Benjamin Moore paint.) Sand is represented in a custom paint colour in the great room, and by the kitchen backsplash and countertop.
One of my favourite things about the cottage is the way the wall colours change as the light varies, just as the interplay of sun and cloud over water causes a constant dance of hues.
By the way, my objective was to evoke the beach subtly through the paint, backsplash and countertop colours. Apart from a few decor items like a fish-shaped jug and a mermaid painting from Florida that hangs in the mudroom, there are no obvious nautical design elements: no fish nets, seashells or anchors. It’s the spirit of the beach, without the souvenir shop kitsch.
Faucet as Centrepiece
The other changes I made in the kitchen largely centered around the faucet. When I attended the Food Bloggers of Canada conference in 2013, Delta Faucet Canada gave each attendee a Touch20 Technology faucet. In addition to looking sleek and stylish, the touch functionality became indispensable to me and I couldn’t imagine being without it. So, I contacted Delta and they generously agreed to provide a new faucet for the Urban Cottage. I chose the Addison, a single handle, pull-down model. Its slightly fluted design adds just the right touch of whimsy for my rustic kitchen.
It’s not exaggerating to say that I designed the rest of the kitchen around the faucet; it certainly influenced my decisions about the sink and countertop.
The tired double stainless steel sink was small, scratched and dowdy — not at all worthy of the faucet. I replaced it with an undermount double sink, with one very large, deep compartment and the other merely large. An unexpected bonus is that I can set my dish rack in the larger tub for everyday use, keeping drying dishes off the countertop.
The original laminate countertop was not only unattractive to my eye, but worn in places. After much debate, I decided to splurge and chose a manmade stone material called Meganite from Rycor Countertops in London. (Until now I’ve always had laminate counters.) With a 14-foot run plus two small sides, it was important to get it right. I took about a half dozen samples home, and subjected my poor daughters to endless discussion about which one worked best with the natural stone backsplash tiles that I was keeping, while evoking the sense of sand and beach. I’m sure they were relieved when I finally made my decision. Fortunately it only took a minute to choose a simple beveled edge to add interest.
The pattern I chose reminds me of standing at the edge of Lake Huron, looking at the dark, wet sand between my toes, with tiny pebbles of cream, white, dark brown and black like the slate we skip on the water glimmering in the sun. There are even subtle flecks of pale blue that bring a sense of water into the design. Yes, this is a lot to read into a countertop, but I’m delighted with how it satisfies my vision of bringing the beach into the kitchen.
Appliances and Furnishings
I brought both the white fridge and gas stove from my previous home. While the fridge doesn’t excite me, I’m enamoured of the stove. Fortunately there was a pre-existing gas hook-up.
The existing range hood was old, ugly and ineffective, since it vented to the interior. It was a great relief to discover space in the bulkhead above the stove to run an exterior vent, functionality that’s very important to me, especially during canning season. My new range hood is so powerful that when I turn it on ‘high,’ my hair moves. Hopefully that means I’ll be tantalizing the neighbours with the aromas of Urban Cottage cooking.
The centre of the kitchen is big and open, so I placed a small white kitchen cart with open shelving and a marble top there. It’s a handy place for the fruit bowl and functions both as a sideboard and a cocktail table. Pine stools on either side of the cart welcome guests to perch with a glass of wine and chat while I’m finishing dinner. Down the road I’d like to replace the cart with a longer workstation for more functionality.
Twenty-one years ago I bought a “pre-battered” kitchen set at an outlet store; with three young kids and various pets, I thought I’d wait until they were grown to get a better set. That plan didn’t quite pan out: the kids and pets left years ago, but the furniture stayed. Until I moved here, that is.
I found a dark-stained solid pine table with a rustic finish. It echoes the dark knots in the pine flooring and complements the white bead board. And did I mention it happened to be on sale for 40 percent off? The 48-inch round table seats four comfortably, but two leaves and two more chairs mean I can accommodate a crowd (well, a small one).
Decorative touches make the kitchen even more pleasant. Two large prints on the side walls of the dining area draw the eye; one is a calm and soothing floral in tones of blue and grey and the other is a high-energy floral with lots of yellow and orange. I like the contrast in vibe.
I purchased a large serving plate for the table and a bowl for one of the display shelves in turquoise Portuguese pottery, and they help tie the two halves of the room together. Having some colourful plates and other pieces on display adds pops of vitality that keep the room from being too tranquil — after all, it’s a space for working and socializing, not necessarily relaxing. Perhaps my favourite piece is the large Le Crueset (pardon the name dropping) roaster I already owned in the colour “Caribbean”; it’s on the bottom shelf of the kitchen cart and anchors the beachy feel of the room. The only other purchases were a few tea towels and the whimsical bird cage that hangs over the kitchen sink. And since one of my granddaughters asked, no, I don’t keep the cat in it.
In the dining area, I’m still pondering what to do with the hanging light. It’s antleresque in design and dark grey; I didn’t care for it at first, but it’s growing on me. Do I leave it as is? Spray it with white enamel? For certain, the fluted beige lampshades have to go; I envision a sleeker white replacement.
The shutters over the kitchen sink need to be replaced with blinds so I can actually open the window, and the window and some other trim work needs to be painted. This project is dependent on installing new windows and blinds elsewhere in the house.
The kitchen isn’t always bright enough (evident in the photos), so task lighting under the upper cabinets is on the list.
There may be a few too many small appliances and tools sitting on the countertop, but it is primarily a workroom, not a showroom, and there’s not much spare storage space. I’m going to let functionality win over form, at least for now.
Other than that, the kitchen is done. Until I decide it’s not …
The Tour Concludes
Thank you for coming on this tour of the Urban Cottage kitchen with me. Not only is it a pleasant place to work, but also it’s one where guests feel welcome, comfortable and at home. I hope you did, too.
DISCLAIMER: Delta Faucet Canada generously provided me with the Addison Touch20 Technology faucet, in exchange for writing about it here and on social media. I was financially compensated for writing this post and, as always, all opinions are my own. I mentioned The Painting Company and Rycor Countertops because I was pleased with their work and want to support local businesses; they didn’t know I would be writing about them here and have provided no incentive or compensation for me to do so.