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You guys. Before our very first renovation — before Pinterest! — I collected images for kitchen inspiration that I tore out of magazines and put into a binder. Hi, I’m 100. But. Here they are.

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I’m pleased that, 15 years later, most of these kitchens don’t look particularly dated. Classic basics are key in a long-term project like a kitchen renovation.

Kitchen inspiration

Remember how we gutted half our not-so-big house in New Jersey, made it our favorite place in the world, and then moved to London six months later? How we became renters again for the first time in this millennium? Right. I’ve been feeling a little hives-y about that recently. There are some buggy things about renting in the U.K., like the clause in the standard lease that says we can’t hang pictures on the wall without asking the (extremely nice — hi, Lisa!) landlord. (And, you know, the clause in the standard lease that designates us as the tenants and not the landlord, and other various and sundry clauses such as those.) I wonder if no one here got the memo that I’m a little on the controlly side? You’d think it would be obvious from my immigration status, since I — and this is not a joke — am present in the country as my husband’s hardship. But most people don’t read the fine print. I know that.

Kitchen Inspiration | Umami Girl 12

The meager benefits of renting

We love our new home in London, truly. And there are some benefits to renting, like the other day when we noticed that there’s a drain pipe outside that always, always has water trickling down inside it, and our curiosity about it was purely academic. (Okay, let’s be honest. It wasn’t purely academic. We had to physically restrain each other from climbing onto the five-story roof to investigate. But there is something reassuring about knowing that for once we aren’t the roof’s emergency contacts in a rainstorm.)

Kitchen Inspiration | Umami Girl 12
Kitchen Inspiration | Umami Girl 12
Kitchen Inspiration | Umami Girl 12
Kitchen Inspiration | Umami Girl 12

Overseas shipment purgatory

At the moment we’re in overseas shipment purgatory, and man, we must have been total dipshits in our former lives. The contents of our house are in a 40-foot container. That’s like 12.192 meters of containage, people! We’ve been notified that the container arrived in England several days ago. And guess what? With any luck, we’ll get to have an initial look at about half of the contents in 15 to 16 days. I am trying to restrain myself from being super-duper American about the inefficiency of this system — from letting my AMERICAN explode all over this situation like so much Coca-Cola. See how well I’m doing with that? 

Kitchen Inspiration | Umami Girl 12
Kitchen Inspiration | Umami Girl 12

A fount of newfound self-awareness

Once our stuff arrives, and once I clean up all the stickiness from the soda, I’ll post some photos of the new flat for any of you who would like a peek. I’ve learned I’m too vain to give you a look at our crappy rental furniture, even though half of it is better constructed than our crappy “real” furniture from IKEA and West Elm. We’ve only been expats for a month, and I’m already a fount of newfound self-awareness, see?

Kitchen Inspiration | Umami Girl 12
Kitchen Inspiration | Umami Girl 12
Kitchen Inspiration | Umami Girl 13
Kitchen Inspiration | Umami Girl 12
Kitchen Inspiration | Umami Girl 12

My new(!) BFF, Pinterest

In the meantime — in direct, shameless backlash to the whole lack of control state of affairs — I dug up the remaining gems from the photos that helped inspire our kitchen renovation in NJ. It’s not my usual thing to post other people’s photos here, but I really want you to have these all in one place. I’ve managed to lose track of quite a few of the sources, which is why I’m not handing these over directly to my new BFF Pinterest. Next week I’m going to take this side street a few steps farther and post some bathroom and living space inspiration as well. Then back to the usual (spice) grind(er).

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About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

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  1. As our roof that was supposedly “fixed” started leaking thanks to the heavy pounding rain of Irene, I am slightly jealous of the tenant bit. When I saw all those kitchens from Something’s Gotta Give I confused it with “It’s Complicated”–and remember how she had my dream kitchen but she had Steve Martin in to completely re-do it. Ha! Love all these beautiful white photos. I have always worried that’s it’s hard to keep looking nice, especially in a kitchen?

    1. Hi, Sara! Sorry to hear about the roof leak. I also adored that original kitchen in It’s Complicated and thought it was pretty hilarious when they remodeled it. Her garden was nuts, too. I am hoarding a photo of it.

      So admittedly we only lived in our white kitchen for six months, but it didn’t seem any harder to keep clean than any other kitchen. Which is, like, pretty hard when you come right down to it. 🙂

  2. Musing my thoughts after reading this segment.

    Just dropped off friends at JFK, who are headed back to L.A., after a week of living the Hamptons’ life; compliments of a friend of theirs who has a place on the shores of Sag Harbor. When I arrived earlier this week to spend a night with them, I knew I was in Hampton-land: gardeners trimming perfect 12′ high privet, white gravel driveway, perfect clay pots with a perfect mix of annual colors.

    Which leads me to the interior, all white, with accents and shades of Delft Blue throughout – just enough to accent, yet not overshadow the predominant/requisite ‘Clean Hampton White’ theme.

    I told them this place has the definitive, ‘Martha Approved’, stamp of approval all over it.

    I welcomed them and the perfect southern CA weather they brought with them for most of the time they were here, but when they brought an earthquake, it was time to send them home!

    When I was still in HS, and continuing into my early twenties, I started clipping photos from magazines that had architectural/landscape/interior design elements of how I wanted my future home environment to look. I had folders – paper – of each space function, that illustrated design elements, …all little details of my mind’s-eye expression of perfection.

    Also while reading this, David Bouchier, comes to mind.

    Are you familiar with him?

    David’s a local expat Britt, who presents essays on NPR about living the US, and in particular, LI – and observations in general. He’s decidedly Britt; dry, witty, and great command of the (original) language.

    I think you possess the same elements and gifts – with a decidedly American (and NY Metro) style to launch a similar project from your new perspective of the world.

    Looking forward to your continued reflections from across the pond.

    1. Henry, thanks for sharing all that, and for the incredibly complimentary comparison to David Bouchier. Despite what I would have thought was a fairly exhaustive WNYC listening schedule, I don’t really know his work, to be honest — though it sounds right up my alley. Started exploring his website and look forward to continuing.

      I am (obviously!) a total sucker for the Martha-approved Hamptons style home. I remember travelling to the Vineyard, Block Island, etc. as a kid with my family and absolutely coveting those weathered cedar capes with blue and purple hydrangeas out front. Like, LONG before it’s normal for kids to give a crap about capes and hydrangeas. Plus ça change….

    1. Hi, Madhu. Yup, I knew I wanted white cabinets on the perimeter of our kitchen (the island has brown-black). That’s why all the white.