The cosy welcoming kitchen had been lovingly created by a father’s hands. A builder by trade, he had spotted the property’s potential and spent two years of his spare time carefully renovating the Edwardian semi-detached house in order to turn it into a home for his family.
When they got the keys, the only improvement to the kitchen since the 1940s had been the addition of a new hot water tank above the deep ceramic sink. The walls were painted a glossy sunshine yellow, straight onto brick, and the woodwork had been given a thick coat of vibrant turquoise. A freestanding cooker featuring a very small oven was the only thing which stood on the bare concrete floor. The white enamelled appliance looked more like an old cupboard that’s been repurposed for a kitchen set in a theatre production rather than something that anyone could conceivably cook food in.
In order to make the room functional while work on the rest of the house was taking place, the father had brought some of the old kitchen cupboards he’d saved after a refit in their last home. So, for a couple of years, 1970s met 1940s in that strange bright coloured place. He built wooden shelves alongside the old fashioned sink, and his wife made a pair of yellow gingham curtains to hang at the window. She managed to cook Christmas dinner for eight people in that anachronistic room once, but still can’t recall how.
A decade later, dappled sunlight trickles onto the cream-coloured work surface from between the leaves of lovingly tended plants sitting along the length of the windowsill in their decorative ceramic pots. The gleaming stainless steel sink below reflects the summer light into the room, despite being somewhat smaller than the ceramic one it replaced – a beloved remnant of the past which now sits proudly in the garden, being used as a planter.
Squashed into the corner by the door is a small rectangular table bordered by bench seating, resembling a booth at the type of café where you can get a really good fried breakfast. As well as being the location of the family’s first meal of the day, it is also a place for sharing news, somewhere to drink a mid-morning weekend coffee while reading the paper, and a space for teenagers to gather before a night out so as not to disturb the grown ups watching telly in the front room. Underneath the table sits the family dog’s blanket-lined bed, pushed against the wall, away from the human feet which dangle near it whenever the kitchen is buzzing with life.
Large pale floor tiles and dark brown wooden cupboards, with handles designed to look like old-fashioned brass keys in ornate locks, create the perfect country-style kitchen especially now the wood is slightly worn in places. Along the back wall a washing machine and dishwasher are tidily hidden from view behind matching wooden cupboard doors. Opposite the window is a large gas cooker, at least twice the size of its predecessor, with an oven more than big enough to cook a roast dinner for the family and their friends.
When it was first finished, this room looked like something straight out of Country Homes & Interiors magazine, but now – with its dog bowls, muddy boots, fridge magnets, shopping lists and crumb-filled toaster – it has become something much more perfect.
This is the second in a series of creative writing blog posts, written during or inspired by a creative writing short course I took at Central Saint Martins in 2017. The image is from Soikkoratamo‘s Flickr photostream and is used under Creative Commons licence.