Heirloom Kitchen Has Vintage Charm

Generations are linked in this country Christmas kitchen.

Heirloom cottage kitchen

Heirloom Kitchen Has Vintage Charm

The kitchen is the heart of the farmhouse cottage Anita Diaz restored, on land that's been in her family for generations.

Anita Diaz

Anita Diaz

Anita Diaz blogs about home and garden. A minister of music and worship leader, she traveled the world entertaining troops as a vocalist and pianist with the U.S. Air Force Band before settling with her family in Balsam, North Carolina.

Lantern hanging in window

Antique Lantern In Window

A Jewel-Brite angel tree topper and old smokehouse lantern set off the shade Anita made for the window over the sink.

Angel figurines on windowsill

Christmas Angel Figurines

Her grandmother's vintage Holt Howard porcelain angels and a Commodore candy cane—all from Japan post WWII—sit on Anita's windowsill.

Farmhouse sink and skirt

Farmhouse Sink

Anita created the illusion of a farmhouse sink with trim made from salvaged wood. She also made the pretty sink skirt. The handmade wool rug is part of a family collection.

Sachet bag on old scale

Feedsack Sachet Bag

The old-fashioned feed sack sachet bag Anita's grandmother made is filled with still-aromatic balsam needles.

Vintage coffee cups and platter

Antique Coffee Cups And Platter

J & G Meakin "Romantic England" coffee cups hang over a Johnson Brothers "Old Britain Castles" platter, and a tray of old silver.

Antique tray and kitchen utensils

Tole Painted Tray And Kitchen Utensils

Her grandmothers' blue tole painted tray and well-used kitchen utensils add a nostalgic note to Anita's holiday decor.

Vintage dinnerware on Christmasy tray

Currier And Ives Dinnerware

Anita added some Christmas cheer with greenery, cinnamon sticks and Royal China "Currier and Ives" dinnerware from her mother.

Kitchen island with marble cutting board

Kitchen Island

The cutting board atop the kitchen island is from a marble slab once in Anita's grandfather's store.

Burlap stocking hanging on kitchen island

Burlap Christmas Stocking

Cutting boards hang on the side of the island along with a burlap stocking Anita made and filled with greenery from the woods.

Old pots and pans and oranges

Pots And Pans Hanging On Island

Iron skillets and an old colander hang humbly from screws attached to an old piece of trim on the island.

Wooden candlestick and fruit

Citrus Fruit And Vintage Candlestick

A wooden candlestick from her father's boyhood mantel sits beside a display of fresh fruit handy for snacking.

Candy dishes and mini spruce

Candy Dishes And Spruce Tree

Anita displays vintage candy dishes along with a dwarf Alberta spruce which will be planted in the spring.

Screen door on mudroom

Mudroom Screen Door

The mudroom door was replaced with a screen door from the old homestead, restored with burlap and chicken wire.

 

By Anita Diaz

Peeling wallpaper, dusty stacks of beadboard and cobweb-covered window sashes might deter some people. But tucked away in an abandoned cottage at the edge of the woods in western North Carolina were hidden clues to my past. And amazingly, it held everything I needed to make my house a home.

I was always drawn to the old home place, outside tiny Balsam. My great-grandfather bought this mountain property, a former pheasant farm, in the 1920s as a respite from the Florida heat. Childhood visits with my grandparents were magical; I dreamed of one day living here.

Five years ago, that dream became a reality when my husband, Luis, and I moved with our children into one of the two small cottages on the property, which also had a smokehouse with root cellar, a pheasant house and a two-story garage. The three-story Victorian farmhouse, once the centerpiece of the property, had been torn down in the 1960s.

Change of Plan
As our young family settled in, I planned to decorate with things collected from my military travels. But the Mediterranean style I favored didn’t fit the setting.

Knowing that my grandfather had owned a country store nearby inspired me to seek out vintage American farmhouse items. I didn’t have to look far—he’d meticulously saved and stored everything, from book presses and corn grinders to doors, windows and wood flooring. It was almost as if he’d saved it all for me!

I discovered things like old tin coffee cans with pristine feed sacks carefully rolled inside and wooden crates filled with old hinges, doorknobs and iron handles. My parents started to find more things for me—vintage paintings, blue mason jars, old books and china.

As I put it all together, my new style started to emerge—a very personal style that just felt right. Instead of spotting trends, I began looking for clues to what would have been in the old house. I pumped my dad, my only link to the home’s past, for details. What took shape was more than decor. It was a comforting sense of family bridging the gap between generations.

Together, Luis and I started adding architectural elements we found. We attached old beadboard in a bathroom, then matched the old gray paint and painted the trim and French doors. I loved it so much, I painted the kitchen cabinets gray and distressed them with dark stain and wax to look like the old beadboard. I replaced my mudroom door with a screen door from the old house, restored with burlap and the same square chicken wire my grandfather had used.

Out of the Blue
My kitchen, meanwhile, came to life with my grandmother’s Pyrex bowls, cutting boards made of reclaimed marble slabs from the store and ruffled tea towels made from feed sacks. Still, something wasn’t quite right. The open kitchen and dining area had red walls. I wanted a color from the old house. While stripping layers of paint from my grandmother’s antique washstand, I found a shade of blue that I just knew my kitchen needed.

We were adding wormy chestnut molding to our kitchen cabinets when I noticed something strange. On the back of the trim were old drips of paint—the exact same shade we’d just painted the walls. It was then that I felt my grandfather must be smiling down from heaven.

When decorating our kitchen for Christmas, I brought in pinecones and greenery just as my grandmother had done, even using a freshly cut hemlock tree trimmed with paper stars and hand-strung popcorn.

The sweet aroma of balsam needles from a feed sack sachet she made makes me imagine my father as a bright-eyed child on Christmas morning. A wooden candlestick that once perched on the mantel where his stocking hung found its place on my kitchen island, where our three children’s stockings await Santa.

My father’s memories are now part of our children’s memories, all because I uncovered a few old boards.

I found the heart of my home not in granite countertops or French grain sacks, but in an abandoned, vine-covered cottage full of peeling paint and my father’s memories. Money just can’t buy that feeling of family and home, or the certainty that it was all so thoughtfully preserved by my grandfather—just for me.

Photography by Anita Diaz. Find her blog at anita-faraboverubies.blogspot.com.

Diane | An Extraordinary Day 1 November 1, 2013 at 10:47 pm

What a beautiful and heart-warming story! That house is truly a family treasure of the heart.

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Anne Rhymer Schwabland 2 November 2, 2013 at 9:03 am

Dear Anita, I loved the article. Beautiful kitchen! I love all the touches of love. :0)

Congratulations on being featured in the magazine.

All the best,
Anne Schwabland

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Teri 3 November 2, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Loved the article and the wonderful pictures! That family connection cannot be duplicated with custom cabinetry or any of the newest trends. What you have is so much more valuable.

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