Our cape home was built before 1830, and to this day, the kitchen is where it originally was. At some point, there was a summer kitchen in the ell (a separate shed-type addition to the main house used for farm work and cooking, so the house didn’t get too warm from the heat of the cookstove), but the first kitchen stayed in place. To get there, we enter through the part of the house that was formerly a 14 x 30 ell (now our dining room and a family room), and take a right into the main house.
In the main part of the house, as in all capes, there are 2 larger rooms against the front, (the kitchen and what was called the “hall” -today our living room) and 3 smaller rooms against the back. A large chimney with 3 hearths sits in the center of the home, and a small hall with a set of stairs separates the 2 front rooms. Upstairs, there are 2 bedrooms and a long, low attic. The attic used to have a set of stairs leading to the kitchen, but they have been removed. It was used to store food and hang herbs to dry from the rafters.
The small rooms behind our kitchen today are a laundry/pantry and a bathroom. Most of the very early features of our home have been removed by successive rennovations, but we still have wide board floors and some remaining woodwork.
In the kitchen, the walk-in fireplace is gone, but the smaller hearth formerly set up for a wood-burning cook stove is still there. Our present-day stove and its surrounding space is special to us- the stove was a gift from neighbors, and works very well. When we repaired the room, my son replastered the walls and added a surround to the hearth. He constructed it from parts of an old piano that was left in the barn!
Over the stove, we installed an old barn rail (that once held the big sliding doors on a long-gone barn) to hang the pots and pans. The items on the mantel are important, too. There is a burnt red pitcher, it has a white interior, marked “Germany 57 385/1″. I bought it because it reminds me of a pitcher in the kitchen of my dear Aunt Ellen Ann, now gone. Not a blood relative, but a spiritual one. I dearly loved her.
Beside the pitcher, there is a small Oriental urn with a pair of golden foo dogs ornamenting the mouth, inside of which are 2 tiny Japanese netsuke, a wedding gift from my lovely friend, Caroline, whom I consider a second mother. The netsuke are miniature antique carvings from the Edo period in Japan (1615-1868); ours are of a fish and a mermaid.
Netsuke were button closures for beautiful carved cases called inro that men wore to carry their personal belongings such as pipes, tobacco, medicine, money and seals. The boxes were fastened to the obi sash of a kimono by a long cord, and the netsuke secured the cord at the top of the sash. Netsuke came to be a valued art form, and are made of many materials, including ivory.
I keep these treasures and reminders of love in a place that represents the heart of our home. Over 180 years later we are still cooking where the builders of this home prepared and shared their meals. I cook my mother’s recipes with love for my family; my grandmother’s iron pan hangs over the center of the hearth.
I wanted to tile the area behind the stove, but lacked the funds, so… I came up with a plan for the space that has turned out quite nicely! First, I found a picture of a tile that I liked and downloaded it. Then, I made multiple 4″ x 4″ copies onto sturdy weight paper. After cutting out the “tiles” with a paper cutter, I applied wallpaper glue to the surface of the wall and pressed on each ”tile”. Fortunately, the faux tiles measured well and it all came together without much fuss. After all the paper was up, I applied water-based poly over the wall.
Although it would not ever fool you into thinking it was tile, it is a great look for a great price, and was fun from start to finish!