What is a cookie cutter kitchen? A new friend named Neal sent me a very nice email in which he attached an article on 1950's kitchens and it made me think back to conversations that my mother and grandmother would have at my grandmother's old farm table when my parents would pack up the car and head down to my mother's parents' farm in West Virginia. We lived in New Jersey at the time because my father had been transferred 'up north' to Philadelphia for his job and it was always a big trip to get all of us in the car and down through the winding mountains of West Virginia to go back home to Mamaw and Bobo's house. I am a child of the '60s and was married in the late '70's but I can remember how proud my mother was of her brand spanking new kitchen in her new development home in South Jersey. My mother and grandmother would 'visit' in my grandmother's farm kitchen, with its big old stove, summer canning kitchen in a separate room, and root cellar in the basement of the house filled with canned fruits and vegetables. My mother would tell her mother about her new matching appliances and beautiful matching kitchen cabinets with all the new gadgets of a late '60s home. She had "country" cabinets in white with the "colonial-style" cabinet pulls (wrought iron) and beautiful laminate countertops with a "breakfast nook" off to the side. I have 2 brothers and 2 sisters (of which I am the oldest child) and we would spend a lot of time in that breakfast nook, eating and doing our homework. My mother was concerned about her mother cooking in her "old" kitchen with the worn linoleum floors and old metal cabinets. She wanted her mother to buy a new kitchen where everything matched and the surfaces were shiny and easy to clean. I can also remember my grandmother shaking her head in wonderment at the idea of a "new" kitchen in her old farmhouse. A kitchen was there to make the food that she fed her husband, 4 sons and 2 daughters. As the wife of a dairy farmer and local postmaster, she saw her kitchen as her workplace not a showplace. My mother also used her kitchen as her workplace, feeding 5 children and her husband every night. She was very proud of her home and I am still amazed at how she was able to raise 5 good kids during the tumultuous time of the late '60s and early '70s. The contrast between the kitchens of my grandparents generation and those of my mother's generation makes me wonder about our changing values and how we view our homes. Watching the multitude of home improvement shows that are on cable today makes me shake my head in wonderment just like my grandmother way back then. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that people shouldn't have what they want in their homes, and lives, but I wonder if maybe we need to go back to a time when your kitchen is a work place; somewhere where good food is prepared and families are fed and we take pride in what we do in the workplace, not what it looks like. Now, I am not advocating that "a woman's place is in the home" - no way! Men cook and raise children and stay home with the kids. I think what I am trying to say is not to try and "keep up with the Joneses".
Over the years, my brothers and sisters, except for my one sister, Cindy, have asked why my husband and I don't move 'up' to a bigger house. Why do we have all of this "old" furniture and why don't we refinish said "old" furniture with shiny surfaces! I have always been the 'funny' one in the family and with every antique purchase and with the quirkyness of my design ideas, I am sure my family thinks I'm nuts! I agree - I am nuts - in the best way possible. We have an old cupboard (without its doors) on our kitchen wall used as an 'upper kitchen cabinet'! I have stayed within the footprint of my old kitchen and did not completely fill my kitchen with brand new kitchen cabinets. I didn't spend $40-50,000 on a new kitchen. We used what we already had and just added cabinets and a great real stone countertop so that my kitchen would stay as it was but with cabinets that weren't falling apart. My soapstone countertops are great for pastry making and clean up so easily it's a crime!
My children have grown up with antiques used as everyday items and respect their age and the history behind the furniture. They have always been exposed to the simpler things and, even though they used to complain about having a little house when their cousins moved into large monster houses, they understand (I hope) that it's not where you live but how you live that is important. I want to congratulate all of those out there who are 'funny' like I am and try to commune with a simpler past by using your antiques, lovingly restoring what you have, finding new ways to use found objects in your home, and not feeling like you have to have every single new gadget that comes down the pike (oops-my southern roots are showing)! A lot of my APP (aprimitiveplace.org) buddies show off their finds on our APP forum and I am always amazed at how beautiful their finished projects look and how they have saved another item from the landfill! I love to go to yard sales and antique flea markets! I believe in repurposing what you can and decorating with things you love - not what is 'in' at the moment. My children, even as adults, will bring their friends to our parties and gatherings to, I think, show off how they were raised with warmth and love and a down home feeling. We still get compliments from their friends and we are the house in the neighborhood where the grandchildren bring their friends - sometimes I think to see their reactions! It's funny - after living here most of her childhood (and saying how she 'hates' the neighborhood), my daughter has moved back in to our neighborhood (three streets away from us!) with her 4 children and new husband. It just goes to show - that you might not think they listen - but they do!
Anyway, enough of my rambles - take a look around your home, you 'funny' people out there and consider yourselves lucky! You know the value of what you have and what you need - spread the word and help others to "back away from the cookie cutter"!
And you 'normal' folks out there - don't fret! Walk your way back from the edge and put down that cookie cutter - we are here to help! LOL!
Thanks again to Neal for giving me a lot to think about and muse upon!