It’s odd what our brains selectively remember about our childhoods, which in my case includes kitchen decor.  I remember glass liquor decanters in the kitchen filled with blue and yellow-tinted water. Blue and yellow were the decorative colors my mother chose to use in her kitchen. The liquor decanter display was ironic; my mother detested drinking of any kind, hence the colored water.  Apparently, liquor decanters were okay, as long as they didn’t have alcohol in them.

I remember ducks too, lots of duck . . . duck tureens, a duck napkin holder, duck figurines and even a duck-covered butter dish. They all wore little blue or yellow ribbons around their necks. Perhaps somewhere in Asia it was the year of the duck. I wasn’t sure then or now.

I remember the ugly kitchen table my dad bought without permission. That was a “fun” dinner! The pleather chairs with metal legs were comfortable and they swiveled, but otherwise, the dining set was a hot mess.

photo by Anita Joyce

I remember learning to cook amidst that memorable kitchen decor. There was the cake I made with twice the necessary amount of Crisco® because I had misread the recipe. An even more memorable evening was the time my frying pan caught fire. My dad (who could fix anything) put out the fire before there was any real damage. Perhaps that made up for his kitchen table faux pas, but I doubt it.

I remember my brother’s cool kitchen trick. He would open the refrigerator door then throw the lettuce up in the air in front of the refrigerator. As the lettuce began to fall, and it became even with an interior refrigerator shelf, he would slam the door closed knocking the head of lettuce onto the shelf of the refrigerator while closing the door. I found the trick hilarious, but my mother was not amused. She apparently was not a fan of bruised lettuce.

He also thought it was funny to put the lettuce core in my mom’s salad. She took her salad very seriously, so this was an even bigger offense. Come to think of it, she probably didn’t know about the refrigerator door trick, so now I’m just making up things.

On the plus side, the kitchen faced a bucolic pasture. From our table we often watched dairy cattle slowly grazing. These were the years we lived in Hershey, Pennsylvania (and yes, it smelled like chocolate when the wind was just right).

My mom made a forward-thinking decision to buy white dishes. She said they would go with anything. I didn’t like them because I thought they were boring, and the bowls were shaped like dog bowls. Our drinking glasses were an assortment of free ones given away for loyalty to our local service station. Not only did we buy gas there, but my dad worked for the oil company. I’m not sure if he was authorized to bring them home, but I didn’t ask. I liked the curved blue ones until they became etched by the dishwasher.

photo by Anita Joyce

My brother and I listened to many a song blaring from the radio as we washed dishes every evening. I swayed to the likes of “Sister Golden Hair Surprise,” “I’m Not in Love,” “You Sexy Thing,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” all while swinging my Cher-like hair and wearing my favorite bell bottoms or cut-off jeans.

I spent so much of my life in that kitchen, and even now I can visualize the questionable table and chairs, the yellow appliances and the yellow countertop.

Things have changed a bit. Now my daughter dances in the kitchen in her cut-off shorts listening to her iPhone.

And it shouldn’t come as a surprise that my kitchen is different than the one I grew up in. I’ve made peace with white dishes, and I actually use them extensively in my current kitchen. They’re not boring but quietly elegant, which means they work well with other dishes that are patterned. Our kitchen chairs are neither pleather nor metal, but antique and French.

Tips for Incorporating Memorable Kitchen Decor

My approach is to treat the kitchen as much like another room in the house as possible. I like to add beauty and elegance to my home wherever I can.

Light it up. In the kitchen you can add a lovely lamp to your island or counter top. On the countertop you’ll need to make sure it is short enough to fit under any cabinets. I used two crystal chandeliers above my kitchen island.

photo by Anita Joyce

Hide it away. To make your kitchen look more elegant, put away your infrequently used appliances. Can openers and mixers that aren’t used every day don’t have to sit out on the counter. Because we didn’t use our electric can opener often, we switched to a small, manual one. I also replaced my space- hogging blender for an immersion blender that fits in a drawer.  It takes up a lot less space, can be cleaned more easily and works for almost everything. I moved the coffee maker, the toaster and mixer to the pantry where we had a granite shelf installed. The shelf works beautifully forthe toaster and coffee maker, and I set the mixer out when I need to use it.

Display it proudly. You can also display artwork in your kitchen. I also try to keep fresh flowers from my garden (or the grocery store) on my island. It’s a nice touch and makes every day better.

Sit it down. If you have room, put a pretty chair in the kitchen. It’s provides a comfortable place for guests or a family member to sit and chat while you’re cooking.

Spread it out. I opted for a large kitchen, so there is room for everyone. We love making dinner as a family on the weekends. I still love to dance while I cook and look at the cows, but now I’m doing it with my daughter.

On the Porch
Memorable Kitchen Décor
article and photos by Anita Joyce

Read more from Anita: The Family Visit  and Easier Entertaining