Our columnist, Anita Joyce offers this essay for Cedar Hill Farmhouse Summer Inspiration from Tuscany.
It was a glorious summer. My daughter had just graduated from high school, and our gift to her was a trip to Europe. Our first stop was Paris, which was—and is—always delightful, but my most cherished time was spent in Tuscany. We stayed in a little town called Rada in Chianti.
As we were landing in Florence, the plane suddenly jerked back into the air. I was a bit panicked. The pilot was telling the passengers something, but I couldn’t understand a word. I turned to my husband Kevin, but he was sound asleep. No need to wake him. He didn’t understand Italian, so he couldn’t help me any way.
I looked around to see if anyone appeared terrified. If they were, they hid it well. I turned to another passenger and asked what was happening. Apparently the tail winds were so strong that it would take a little extra room to land, and the runway was too short for an extra-long landing, so instead of touching down in Florence we headed to Bologna. After we landed, we were herded to a bus for the short drive to our original destination.
The passengers were tired, and things got a bit heated. Clearly we were not all going to fit on the bus they had brought for us. As we got in line to board the bus, there was a lot of pushing and shoving. A nun frantically exclaimed, “Scusi! Scusi!” as she nearly got trampled. One man behind us tried to push us out of the way. I gave him a steely look (and possibly an elbow). We got one of the last seats.
It was a scenic drive through the countryside, but we were not able to fully enjoy it because were concerned about finding our house before nightfall. The roads were a bit tricky, and our command of the Italian language was nonexistent. Would our car still be waiting for us in Florence?
As we arrived at the Florence airport, we hustled over to the car rental. Soon enough we were on our way, but there was no way we would arrive before nightfall. It was pitch black when we pulled up at the little farmhouse. I audibly exhaled and visibly relaxed as we entered. We were all ready for a meal and a comfortable bed.
The sun peeked through the shutters heralding the arrival of morning. I swung the shutters open to reveal a breathtaking view of the Tuscan countryside. The little cottage, with its thick stone walls that kept the interior remarkably cool, stood at the top of a hill overlooking a grove of olive trees and a vineyard that were all part of the property.
Having just arrived, we needed several staples. While we planned to frequent some of the local restaurants, I also wanted to cook in our Italian kitchen. The table was set up outdoors under a pergola. We grabbed some local tomatoes, garlic, basil and pasta. At the house, our hosts had stocked our cupboard with their own house brand of olive oil. It came from the trees we saw from our window.
As we tackled preparing dinner in our little kitchen, we listened to Italian music and enjoyed a bottle of wine from our hosts’ vineyard. We also sampled some local cheeses as we boiled the pasta and sautéed the tomatoes in olive oil.
Night fell on our first full day in Tuscany, as we brought out our big bowl of pasta, the wine, and a little salad tossed with olive oil and lemon juice. We had the makings of a very humble meal, but it felt more luxurious than the most expensive meal I had ever had. To be there as the sun set, with the fresh ingredients and my family, as we surveyed the hills, the olive trees and the vineyard, was magical.
Six Ideas for a Charming Kitchen The little kitchen in Tuscany that gave birth to that memorable meal was warm and charming. Below you will find six fabulous ideas to bring charm to your own kitchen.
1) Under cabinet lighting: This type of lighting can be added after the fact. It’s great to use as a night light or even as extra task lighting when working. There are many types of bulbs you can use, depending on the type of light you want. Some have more of a blue or yellow cast, so be sure to check out the options ahead of time.
2) White pitchers: You can use inexpensive new pitchers or vintage ironstone pitchers. They look great on a tray or in the cabinets. I love to use them for flowers I cut from the pasture or flowers I find at the grocery store. The pitchers even look great when they’re empty. I love to group five or so of them on a pretty tray on the island.
3) A bowl of fruit: Not only does it look great, it is delicious, too. I love walking by and grabbing a pear or apple when I can. Having fresh fruit encourages healthy snacking. The fruit is so pretty in a vintage mixing bowl or even a wood dough bowl.
4) Bread boards: Bread boards are so lovely and super popular right now. You can usually find some at the antiques show if you look around. You can use them to serve food, but I also enjoy them stacked against the wall or over my stove. Layer them for a rich look. I collect large boards and even the smaller ones.
5) Pot of herbs: If you are looking for a great kitchen accessory, why not turn to something that will provide a ‘two-fer’? Herbs look so pretty in little pots, but you can also use them when you’re cooking. Simply snip off the amount you need. If the plant outgrows the pot, transplant the herb outdoors.
6) Plates on the wall: I love dishes—a lot. I use them as decor throughout my house. In the kitchen they are especially perfect to display in plate racks or hang directly on the wall. I prefer white platters, but you can use whatever color you like. If you are using plates on the wall, I recommend going with a limited color palette so it all looks like it goes together.
Charm is all about creating a cozy kitchen that serves you and your family. Use things you love in traditional or new ways. Don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun.
article and photos by Anita Joyce. Check out her website.
See this article on Refreshing Tired Rooms.