Why my Kitchen is my favorite space and lessons learned from my Dad

I lived with this kitchen for nine years. I look back and wonder what I was thinking. Really, I wasn’t. I was switching careers, building a business, dealing with aging parents, and basically trying to have a life. So, my kitchen kind of languished. And I was embarrassed about it. Decorator’s are expected to live glamorous, well-appointed lives. Well, self-employed decorator’s have to pay the mortgage and their health insurance too.

Of course, many of you followed my blog posts about my kitchen redo last year.  I was just done with the clutter and lack of anything pretty in my kitchen and it was time to roll up my sleeves. Budget was still a big issue (a never ending constraint that the downturn in the economy did not help!) but I was determined to finally create a pretty space that I could be proud to show off. What I ended up with was so much more than that.

First and foremost, I realized how kind other people can be and how truly lucky I am to have them in my life. My dear friend of over twenty years Rob O’Connell (cute guy below) spent nearly every Sunday afternoon at my house working on my kitchen from August through mid-January. Seriously. He gave up half of nearly every weekend for almost six months. For me.  And he got to do all the heavy lifting and tall work.

I was incredibly lucky to have forged a relationship with New England Home magazine and Ferguson appliances, which resulted in the delivery of an entirely new set of kitchen appliances. Whew! Beyond that, I challenged myself to spend no more than $300 on everything else. Okay, it ended up being closer to $500 – because all design projects cost more than expected, let’s face it.

The big task that I did do myself in my kitchen was to repaint my kitchen cabinets. I’ve never done this kind of thing before and I pretty much made it up as I went along. I knew what I wanted them to look like and I got there. And all the while, I had my dear Daddy (cute guy above) whispering in my ear from above to do it right. So, when I considered not even removing the hardware and painting around it – whisper – and when I thought about not sanding between coats of paint – whisper whisper.

My father was the quintessential DIY guy. He built, sanded, sawed, painted, papered, upholstered, electrified and even hung window treatments. He built the kitchen in their house – by himself.  I know, beyond a doubt, that he would have been very proud of the end result of all the work on my kitchen. And he would have been prouder still of my friend Rob and his dedication to me and the project.

You see, for my Dad, family, friendships, loyalty and gratitude were everything. He was a kind and giving person and never took kindnesses offered to him for granted. I try to live up to his example, although I am sure I fall short.

The final player in my little kitchen story is my photographer Michael J. Lee (cute guy with me below at an event just last night!) who gave of his time and talent to provide me with the most beautiful final images of this small yet really very big project. Michael is not just an excellent photographer, he’s become something of a business mentor. (And, he’s a doting father to two adorable little girls as well).

And so, the reason why my kitchen is my favorite room in my home is not only because I simply enjoy how it looks (and I do), it’s really because of all it represents. Hard, hands-on, nail breaking work mixed with collaboration and friendship. I miss my Daddy every day. But I try never to forget to be grateful for all I have been given.

If your father is still with you, spend time with him and make the most of the time you are given together. Because when that time is done, you will only have your memories and the lessons learned.

If you’re in the Boston area, I will be giving a lecture called “Strategic Splurges” on Wednesday, June 23rd at the Boston Design Center. This is part of the Jr. League of Boston‘s kitchen lecture series.  I hope you’ll join me as I share two very distinct projects – my kitchen and a living room project – and how creative and strategic choices led to a big look on a strict budget.

Happy Father’s Day everyone. And Happy Friend’s Day too.

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xoxo Linda

30 thoughts on “Why my Kitchen is my favorite space and lessons learned from my Dad”

  1. You are a lucky woman to have such giving friends however I think it actually is more then luck, as you must give first and I know you do! Loved seeing the eating area finished too.

  2. Dear Linda, A beautiful tribute to your Dad. So glad that you kept your black and white floor, goes so well with the "aged" kitchen cabinets.
    What's behind the curtain? I have used a similar arrangement in my kitchen (so European) it hides my washer and dryer. I love the total makeover of your kitchen, Didn't expect anything less and all for only $500. What a talent!

  3. Hi Linda….I love this post…love your kitchen. Often wish my father was still here to sit in my kitchen, walk through my garden, tell his stories at my table. It is wonderful, though, that our fathers are only a "whisper" away. And what wonderful friends you have. Great photos. XO Trish

  4. A very touching tribute, not only to all that helped with your kitchen remodel but to your Dad. It makes your Surroundings all the more meaningful.

    Now, when are we going to see your entire kitchen? I can't wait for that day!

  5. I love the concept of Strategic Splurges!! I have followed the kitchen remodel for it's entirety. This is a great summation. Your lecture will be just what this economy needs!

  6. I love your kitchen, Linda, but I think I love your dining room just as much. That Frenchy cane back setee is killing me!!! Beautiful pics and a great story behind every detail. Especially the whispers from your dad. Lucky you to have learned such wonderful lessons from him.

  7. What a great tribute to your Dad. You are very lucky to have such wonderful friends……I'm also considering doing bead board wainscoting as a backsplash. How is yours holding up behind the range and sink?

  8. Thanks everyone – Happy Father's Day!

    Angie – the beadboard is actually embossed wallpaper. I do need to install a glass backsplash around the stove, although I used a glossy paint to paint it, so it's washable. As for the sink – it's not directly behind the sink as I figured it was such a tiny space and would likely get water logged!

  9. What a wonderful and heartfelt post, Linda. And no, you don't fall short. You are as loyal, generous, creative, giving and kind as your father was.

    You inspire thousands if not millions of us. And had Boston just been a little closer to Seattle, then I would have joined your lecture in a heart beat! (One of these days I will).

    Much fondness, Mon

  10. Beautiful spaces and sentiments! Thank you for sharing these very personal thoughts and fabulous photos. Wish I could attend on the 23rd (I could use the kitchen inspiration for our current remodel) but will be home entertaining my 4 boys as we kick off the start of summer vacation.
    Best wishes-

  11. Linda,
    I miss my Dad too, he passed away in 1998. Some of my most fond memories are of him in the kitchen, so your post was a beautiful opportunity to reminisce.

    And, may I say again how much I love your kitchen and what a clever gal you are to "surround" yourself with such adorable and talented men!!!

  12. Linda, your dad would surely be proud of you! You did an excellent job on the cabinetry. I can appreciate having to do some of my own labor when it comes to doing projects around my own house. Right now I need to replace the roof on my quintessential money pit of an antique farm house which I obviously cannot do my self… Hmmm… I need to find some of those cute guys like yours!

  13. A beautiful post Linda and I highly doubt – actually I know – that there is not a chance you would fall short in your Dads' eyes. I remember your last post in tribute to him and it is clear that he instilled in you all the lessons he intended to pass on to you.

    A touching tribute to your Dad and your dear friends!!

  14. A whole lot of cute guys involved in that kitchen, lucky you!! Besides that bonus benefit, the kitchen is absolutely, seriously, wonderful. I feel privileged to have chatted with you about it at the beginning, which was a lot of fun. Your creative and innovative ideas made this space sing and sing loud. Congratulations for a job beautifully done!!

  15. Your kitchen is beautiful!!! But even more touching is that this post is such a beautiful tribute to your Dad!

    I thought it was about time I commented since I have been following for a while now. I found your blog several months ago through a Google search I did about a cottage in a movie. I was excited to see you are a fellow MA resident, too! I have been enjoying your posts! 🙂

  16. Oh Linda: it's gorgeous. What a lot of work, so many months! And…the cabinets look beautiful: you distressed them?
    Wish I could join you this Wed. (have to be on the Cape on Thurs. for a meeting) but I'm just too busy here.
    We can certainly see why it's your favorite room!

  17. Wonderful posting! And your kitchen transformation is magazine-worthy indeed! Many thanks for staying on a strict budget — too often the kitchens on blogs are simply so very expensive and so Out-of-My-League! Your kitchen is charming, elegant and very welcoming! Well done indeed!

    Jan at Rosemary Cottage

  18. What a great story and oh. so. true. I came to your blog today via my friend Blayne's blog. I can complete see why your kitchen is your favorite room in your house-and for <$500. WOW!

    Oh and if you are single, you should marry Rob. I cannot imagine a more generous gift from a friend than a multitude of Sunday afternoons doing hard labor.

  19. Linda, this post is so poignant and moving.Your friendships and bonds and thoughts of your Father are so inspiring. You look great & very happy by the way!

    I wish I could be at your lecture.

    Art by Karena

  20. What a beautiful post, Linda. It brought tears to my eyes! Very inspiring the story of this kitchen remodeling! Thanks for sharing.

  21. What a great post. I was pulled in immediately by those black and white floors. I thought about doing them in our kitchen but then opted to put them in my office instead which is a lot further from the outside entrances ( I hate to mop) 🙂
    After the floor, though, I was drawn in by your inspiring story. You did a great job on those cupboards and that skirted island or base cabinet is just so wonderfully unique and softens the space so well. Nicely done. I can see why it is a favorite space.

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