My dream kitchen has become a reality at long last! Just in time for fall, I am falling in love with this new hearth of my home. Feast your eyes on this pure Michigan, cozy, crazy, cabincore kitchen!
It's too bold and particular a style to be everyone's cup of tea, and that is exactly the point. This isn't a generic, beige box of a house to be flipped into the impersonal sales market, and it's not a rental unit, and it's not an entertainment space designed to be minimally offensive to the maximally judgmental hypothetical guest, it's my family's home, where we personalize our own cups of tea using supplies organized within our giant alien ceramic shelf pod and its smaller companion weird ceramic pod that holds our precious baggie of holy basil given to my husband as a tip at the bike shop he manages.
Most of the ceramics in this room were created by a personal friend, artist Lisa Truax, who used local Michigan earth as one of the components in the piece that hangs on the tea corner wall.
My husband crafted the black cherry open shelves with bark-on live edge from kiln-dried boards he purchased from a hobbyist in the countryside via Facebook Marketplace and a 45-minute drive in our rustbucket vintage pickup truck.
The shelves hold infinitely changeable collections of objects that are both beautiful and useful to us, from brightly glazed pots to jars of sprinkles.
We can be as fancy or as free as we like in here, where the island is sided with birch tree wallpaper that repeats on the inside of the pantry, and where the delicious smells of roasting parking lot meat (a proud Lansing tradition, more appetizingly described as "small farm to table locally sourced ingredients") mingles with the sweetness of apple cider a-pouring into the random bar glasses and mole jars that sparkle in the glow of our imitation Murano glass pendant lights from the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
The Dekton countertops can take the heat of any flaming hot cast iron skillet or baking dish we set down on it, and the earthy, organic, whimsical aesthetic of the decor can embrace both fine arts and humble crafts, professional pieces and kid art, photos of happy memories and certificates of appreciation earned by my daughter in 5th grade and by my husband at his early morning shift at the airport, affixed to the plain black fridge with kitschy magnets.
This is the kind of kitchen that welcomes just about any style of dish towel that might be given as a gift by a loving relative or affectionate colleague, without spoiling the aesthetic.
It's a hardworking kitchen for hardworking people who like to cook and bake and share meals with friends--but it isn't plain. It has an artsy, witchcrafty vibe that makes everything in it look fanciful if not fancy, even the silliest and quirkiest of objects.
It feels like a warm, welcoming retreat that we don't have to go on a road trip to visit. It has that cabin in the woods aesthetic, but with all the convenient city hookups and modern gadgets.
I can cook and bake easily here, where everything has a place but nothing has to be hidden or arranged just so. It's showy, even flamboyant, but in a laid-back, casual way that invites playful banter and culinary experimentation.
Way back in the Before Times, this kitchen was casual in a less cute way. When we bought the house 15 years ago, it was a standard white setup with busted tile countertops, stained and peeling laminate cabinets, and a Tuscan print wallpaper border. We didn't bother about updating it while we were young and rowdy or when we produced an even younger, rowdier family member who reveled in making sweet, sticky, colorful messes and having friends over to join in.
Our old light, bright, worn-out kitchen patched over with elementary school art projects was just perfect for us in those years. We didn't have to worry about kids staining or chipping things because everything was already shabby.
As our daughter reached adolescence and became more interested in keeping things neat and tidy than in making a mess (she even recommends cleaning products for me to buy, as seen in TikTok videos via my Instagram account), our silly old kitchen started to fall apart with haste. The electrical circuits went on the fritz. The shattered tile-pasted-onto-plywood countertops started to emit a sinister stench of mold. The hinges on the stained, peeling cabinets began to sag and break. The old dishwasher whose door a rambunctious little neighbor had busted off in an accident, and the hulking refrigerator with its demonically possessed ice maker, quit allowing us to resuscitate them with repairs just as the pandemic hit. It was time for a redo.
And now we have a peaceful, uniquely designed, but still fun and laid-back space where our whole family can more easily and safely prepare meals, clean up, and enjoy each other's company.
Feast your eyes upon it, and then I hope that you feel inspired to come up with your own creative design for a kitchen that best suits the people who live in your home. Everyone deserves a kitchen that nourishes them, body and soul.
Jean Michelle Miernik is the author of Leirah and the Wild Man: A Tale of Obsession and Survival at the Edges of the Byzantine World, available through your local bookstore on October 23, 2021 and in ebook formats on November 11, 2021.