Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Sum of Its Parts

This is the breakfast nook in my kitchen. If you look closely you will see nothing in it actually matches perfectly, but somehow, the whole thing works. Actually my whole kitchen is like that. Although the kitchen units and counter tops are bespoke, the sofa, table, chairs and sideboard are all pieces that have a history. They are an amalgamation of things we have collected over the years and of the memories that go with them.

One of my favourite things in the kitchen is the table you see in the photograph above. When I was a kid, I ate almost every meal around that table. We played cards around it, I did my homework on it, we talked around it; I basically grew up around it. I was the second generation to do that actually, as it was the table in the kitchen of the house my Mom grew up in as well.

Every time I look at that table it makes feel grounded. So much has changed in my life but that table has always, on some level, been there. I know its history and it knows mine. Mind you, it has gone through its fair share of changes as well. It was originally mahogany coloured and very dark but my Dad refinished it in the 1970’s and made it quite light - almost pine coloured. Then, when the table came to me it was a bit damaged from years of wear, so I took it to a specialist refinisher, who helped me decide to take it about half way back to its original colour. It was a good decision.

The only problem was the chairs. You see, they were badly damaged. Dad had painstakingly taken them apart to refinish them and they never quite went back together properly. I vividly remember one of them falling apart with me sitting on it in my parents’ kitchen one day not that many years ago. It was funny in retrospect; I grabbed pieces of chair in my hands in a sort of Chaplin-esque film imitation as I slowly sank to the floor, but I have to say my Dad was really not amused. I desperately wanted to have the chairs restored, but the artisan who did the refinishing gently told me that there was just no way he could do it. It would cost too much and they would only fall apart again. I was so disappointed - I kept them anyway, but could not use them with the table as they are far too fragile.

So for a time, we used some other chairs we had but I wasn’t really happy with them. No matter how hard I looked, I could not find anything I liked. Finally, last month, we stumbled on the chairs in the photo above when we visited a new shopping mall in West London. When they arrived they fit right in. Even though they are new, they have a history too, as we chose them on our eighteenth wedding anniversary.

I’ve talked about the painting on the wall in my blog before (in the 4th February entry this year). It’s a huge piece of our history, as is the sideboard which I bought for cash one year after Guy got his bonus from work. I fell in love with the little spice drawers in it. It’s over ten years old now and I still love it.

Finally, my breakfast nook is just how I want it. Over the next little while I show you how it fits in with the rest of the kitchen. I’m trying to create a relaxed ambiance in this room, sort of country style, but interspersed with a few modern twists. So far, it all seems to be working. What I love best about how it is evolving is that there is nothing perfect about it. It’s a whole comprised of some very distinct and different parts - but the sum of those parts is very pleasing indeed.

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