"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: redware

our kitchen: back together again . . .


better kitchen picture

Here’s a photo of our kitchen, taken this afternoon after days of disruption due to construction of our new soapstone countertop. The Grohe faucet was installed last night and our plumber recommended we replace our old Insinkerator with a new one which I purchased at Home Depot around 8 p.m. while he was still here.

a Grohe faucet in brushed nickel finish . . .

a Grohe faucet in brushed nickel finish . . .

This morning, I washed all the soffit pottery (old and new) that I’ve collected over thirty years. The huge New England wooden bowls went back up on the top shelf where they have watched over us for as long as we have been together (>21 years!) One of the bowls was the first thing I ever bought at auction for fifteen dollars when I first moved to New England and became an antique dealer. I’ve sold many collections since that time, not needing to hold on to them as such, but keeping one or two things–okay, maybe three or four (redware) that are my favorites. Actually, I enjoy having a few things that I absolutely love than collections of things. Like this old carved, bleached out breadboard.

shino teapot with carved breadboard and redware. . .

shino teapot with carved breadboard and redware. . .


One of my daughters sent me a quotation about the metaphysical meaning of soapstone too:

Soapstone or Steatite creates a positive energy around itself and exerts a calming influence on the person using it. It is used when undergoing great changes in one’s life and helps to prepare you for anything! It is thought to allow your ideas and inspirations to broaden, open and develop. It is said to open pathways between our physical plane and other planes of existence–for both sending and receiving. It allows you to give up old patterns and pathways and to ‘go with the flow.’

A real bonus: positive energy flowing from a gorgeous soapstone countertop. What else could we ask for? We give thanks to all the Helpers to find the sink and faucet we liked the most at the very last minute; for the soapstone workers who were truly nice people and who cared about their work, selecting the flow of the contrast grain so that the countertop has a natural energy flow rather than merely static wisps of pattern in the rock. It’s all come together with a lot of effort on everyone’s part.

Thanks also to my husband, G. who diligently aided and supported the workmen during the project. I still have so many projects in my head to prioritize and reorganize kitchenware, drawers and the pantry. I like doing it though, even if It takes me awhile. It doesn’t feel like work, especially in light of this wonderful group undertaking that has transformed our home.



kitchens . . .

dahlias and gerbera with knives on the old formica countertop . . .

dahlias and gerbera with knives on the old formica countertop . . .

I love kitchens.

Maybe it’s because I like to cook so much and spend a lot of time in it. Or maybe it’s because the kitchen is the heart of our home where we have our meals together. I’ve had good kitchens and almost-good kitchens in past lives. Ironically, the kitchen that had more storage cabinets than I needed was in a condo that I lived in between marriages. I had enough room but nobody to cook for. Three of my kids were in college or beyond (in more ways than one.) I never had so much storage than when I lived by myself in that glorious condo, having lived in Victorian houses before and afterwards, notorious for lack of closet and storage space.

In my current kitchen, I’ve cooked many meals in its small space. The dishwasher we are replacing was won in a contest at the local grocery by G.’s father decades ago. It still chugs along noisily and gets the dishes clean on the heavy duty setting, but that takes hours of washing! The plumber is coming on Sunday morning to install the new one, not a fancy European model but a sturdy Consumer Reports highest-ranking Sears Kenmore dishwasher with a stainless interior, “turbo jets” in the back and reinforced nylon racks. It was seriously on sale and I hope it works out.

old redware holding utensils next to the stove. . .

old redware holding utensils next to the stove. . .

Preparing for replacing our decades old formica top, I’ve been culling through the utensils I have, stored in old redware crocks near the stove and placement of our kitchen knives on a long knife rack mounted at the base of one of the octagonal windows.

We use an old set of shelves that holds our napkins, potato chips, teabags and supplements. It fits perfectly in the space under the paper towel holder and we’re used to it being there. I had used two pieces of fabric as a make-do curtain but found someone in Michigan who makes custom sized door fronts in a simple Shaker style. I chose one in cherry wood that G. can attach to the shelves when it arrives next week and voila, we’ll have a cupboard finally for minimal cost that will keep our necessities handy and invisible.

I’m excited, to be sure, about this renewal for our kitchen space because we have a six foot curly maple tavern table that we use, set diagonally in the kitchen when there are two to four of us, and moved perpendicular to the kitchen when we have six or more during the holidays. It was custom made for us according to a antique table I found in Wallace Nutting’s “Pilgrim Century furniture” book by a craftsman out in the Western part of Massachusetts. Years ago, G. had bought a stock of curly maple boards that were stored in the eaves of the barn which were used in making the table turnings and breadboard top. It has a center stile down the middle and vase-and-ring turnings. A gorgeous table that required taking our door off the hinges to get it into the house!

I can cook anywhere, as I have in the miniscule kitchen of our winter rental cottage on the ocean in Rockport, a few years back. We had to get the oven fixed because the temperature sensor was off and fluctuated wildly. In spite of not having a disposer or a dishwasher, and about two and half feet of counter working space, many meals were cooked in that kitchen for Thanksgiving and Christmas, including our traditional homemade cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. The experience cooking there was kind of like playing an old upright piano, slightly out of tune, rather than a regulated and finely tuned Steinway grand piano.

Well, it looks like I’m finally going to get my Steinway kitchen. It’s going to be ebony and off white, just like piano keys, only the material will be soapstone, a dark background with some bold graining once it is waxed. Instead of a double sink in which you can’t really fit anything to wash which we’ve struggled with, there will be a single sink with plenty of space. Once we figured out how “pull out” faucet heads work, we ordered a Kohler kitchen faucet with adjustable temperature lever with just one hole required for installment.

The job is scheduled for next week. And even though we’ve had the countertop detached from the cabinets and the backsplash loosened in preparation, it’s still hard for me to believe that this is actually going to happen. You know how it is when you’ve dreamed about something for a long time and after a certain number of false starts over a number of years, it hardly seems like your vision will ever come true. But I believe it will this time, simply because this is the right timing for it to happen.

Culling things out in preparation for the soapstone fabrication has been an useful exercise. As usual, we’re finding we need half of what we had out before. The challenge now is not letting it all creep back in again.



a handful of things that I love. . .

As some of you may know, I began antiquing in the ’70s when we first moved up to New England and lived in a Victorian house in Lexington. I met a dealer who specialized in early (17th and early 18th century) furniture and Caucasian oriental rugs. Beverly lived down the road from me on Marrett Road and kindly guided me through the vagaries of the antiques business and early furniture construction. By chance, she and I had the same surname at the time. She left her husband and daughters to be with the love of her life and they had a brief time together with a very sad ending.

From that time forward, the handful of things I loved and collected included early tables, redware, baskets and hand-turned wooden bowls. Through the years, I bought and sold, mostly sold, collections of things that I thought I would never part with, but then found that I needed to when moving from place to place, both in terms of living spaces and as my life unfolded. Over the past forty years, I had pared down to very few things–not exactly a handful, but just about. I had bought and sold early gate-leg tables, a style that was in its prime in the early 18th century, hand-turned vase and ring balusters, painted dark red or black, the gates folding out to support the table leaves. In my zeal to clean things out with each wave of life that I entered, the gate-leg tables came and went. One was small and curly maple that later appeared in “Early American” magazine. One was cherry that was sold to me as maple. And so, life moved on.

Yesterday, I was at an antique show in Marlborough, MA. A dealer there from whom I had bought a few choice things in the past was there with a table that I had looked at more than ayear ago at a show he was set up at in Concord, MA. This time, I asked him how much it was. He looked at me and gave me a very good price. I took it home, a yearning I didn’t think was there anymore was replete–like a puzzle piece clicking into place. I’m going to keep this one.

In the photo above, the rocking chair beside it is as early as the table base (about 1720) and was the first serious piece of furniture that I discovered from a picker in the ’70s. It got lost in the shuffle of the divorce from my ex-husband and he took it to Arizona where he settled with his new wife, 20 years ago. Due to a suggestion my daughter made on my behalf to him, the chair made its way back to me a couple of years ago. That’s how sentimental I was about it, I guess. And I’m lucky that he understood.

The photo below is one of the huge wooden bowls that I have collected over the years. The one on the left in black paint was the first thing I ever bought at Skinner’s, our local auction house. I paid $15 for it and remembered I thought it was the biggest bowl I had ever seen at the time. The one in the middle, in pale green-grey paint, graces our kitchen with its majesty.

Note: If you click on the photos, you’ll be able to see things up close! The piece of redware with the ruffled edge and splotches came from the same dealer as the little early gateleg table in the photo above.