A children's book illustrator creates a modern farmhouse kitchen full of charming do-it-yourself ideas.
Text: Susan Heeger
September 30, 2013
1 of 10Photo: Deborah Jaffe
In a Cook's Kitchen
In an illustration for a children's book titled Incredible You, artist Melanie Siegel depicts a girl in a chef's hat and loud, checked mitts flipping cookies off a turquoise-and-purple stove. Melanie's own kitchen, in Conway, Arkansas, may be a quieter place, but it's plenty playful. Walls are partly clad in barn-style planking; pantry access is through an old-fashioned screen door; and storage drawers bear cryptic letters. ("Where are your dish towels?" you might ask. Answer? "Try looking under D.")
In light of her profession, Melanie's explanation—"I find it hard to be serious"—makes sense, and so does the kitchen that she and her husband, Bill, a psychologist, built in 2011. Although architects designed the kitchen and contractors installed most of it, many details flowed from Melanie's imagination, resulting in the Siegels getting exactly what they wanted—a kitchen that's playfully styled yet highly functional.
2 of 10Photo: Deborah Jaffe
Pretty and Practical
Overseeing the project at every stage, Melanie made sure there was order amid the fun, a well-considered scheme that puts tools where a cook needs them and shines light in key spots. Brushed-metal appliances and Caesarstone counters lend efficiency to the folksiness, while an oversized island invites guests (and the couple's children, Sam and Rachel) to pull up stools and help—all in a space that's less than 300 square feet.
The huge prep island creates extra workspace. Storage faces the sink and stove; seating and a recessed shelf for books inhabit the other side.
3 of 10Photo: Deborah Jaffe
Show It Off
Glass-front cabinets help make the room feel more open and spacious and show off fancy serving pieces. For a down-home accent, Melanie originally wanted to use vintage chicken-wire glass but instead opted for commercial safety glass, which looks similar and saved hundreds of dollars.
4 of 10Photo: Deborah Jaffe
Prep and Wash
Caesarstone countertops in Organic White strike a modern counterpoint to the cabinets' Shaker-style detailing. The quartz-composite material is practically indestructible—it mimics natural stone's look and feel but is a cinch to maintain.
A farm-style sink by Whitehaus holds bushels of salad greens or stacks of soaking dishes.
5 of 10Photo: Deborah Jaffe
Details like this pendant light from rejuvenation.com, which hangs over the sink, provide a nod to the kitchen's vintage farmhouse vibe.
Melanie trimmed the window valance in ribbon (from ribbonjar.com) that mimics measuring tape.
6 of 10Photo: Deborah Jaffe
Once Melanie had settled on cabinets in Sherwin-Williams' Mindful Gray and walls in White Duck, she spied the colorful subway-inspired tile on modwalls.com. Handcrafted by a company called Clayhaus, it ran about $30 per square foot. So she and Bill, experienced tilers, laid it themselves to make room in the budget.
A modestly sized hood from Kobe helps keep the kitchen in scale; larger hoods can become outsized focal points. This one protrudes from surrounding cabinets, which keeps them cleaner. A cupboard conceals the exhaust pipe and provides storage.
7 of 10Photo: Deborah Jaffe
File Under C for Clever
For cabinet hardware, Melanie took a whimsical approach, rejecting plain, practical knobs and pulls for a "theme" of letters and numbers. Via Etsy, she found VintageSkye, a source for custom, stamped-clay hardware. The upshot of choosing fun over function? "It's actually helped me get organized," she says. "The symbols don't strictly relate to what's inside, but they serve as memory cues." Cabinet 2? Plates, pitchers, and bowls. Drawer L? Skillets, along with other pots and pans.
Also, installing cabinet and drawer pulls yourself is an easy money-saving project.
8 of 10Photo: Deborah Jaffe
A walk-in pantry was high on the Siegels' wish list. This 3 × 5--foot pantry divides the kitchen and mudroom zones and is lined with plank-style cladding. Melanie went a step further, adding the custom-made screen door from Coppa Woodworking, which strikes a carefree note and lets air circulate. Thanks to a jamb switch, a light turns on whenever the door is opened. Inside, there's room for appliances, as well as food staples. There's a microwave and even a station for brewing tea. ("I'm a Southerner," Melanie says. "I've got to have my tea!")
9 of 10Photo: Deborah Jaffe
For the orange mudroom, located right off the kitchen, Melanie crafted "wallpaper" from yards of thick jute chair webbing and wove it herself, tacking it with small nails, a creative move that cost her a whopping $6.
10 of 10Photo: Deborah Jaffe
So What Makes This a Cook's Kitchen?
The Siegels saved money on appliances at Best Buy. They chose Frigidaire models that matched the refrigerator they already owned yet had the features and Energy Star ratings they wanted. Though the open floor plan and tight space dictated a slightly odd appliance layout (with the sink, stove, and dishwasher lined up along one wall and the refrigerator tucked against a second, freestanding one), all lie just a few feet apart, easily within reach for busy mealtimes.
Spacious counters allow the Siegels to cook together, and tools and supplies are conveniently close to where they're needed: Pots and pans nestle in stove-side drawers, and baking sheets slide into skinny cabinets in the island.