Designer's DIY Tuscan kitchen includes custom touches throughout.
By Patty Dzbynski
Someday, I’ll visit the lovely countryside of northern Italy, the farmlands so vividly described in Under the Tuscan Sun. Until then, though, I enjoy a little bit of Tuscany right here in my kitchen.
My husband, John, and I live in a rural area about 35 miles southeast of Washington, D.C. The Patuxent River is visible from our back windows. Our home sits on a former tobacco farm, and there’s a small, family-run winery juswt down the road. So my kitchen’s grape and grapevine theme is fitting.
As a retired interior designer, I took real satisfaction in doing my own design, sewing and painting in this project. I even painted the island’s grape-bedecked corbels and other purchased “custom” touches on my cabinets.
John and I settled here 9 years ago, after a series of job-related moves. He’d worked in the automotive industry, but is now vice president of a local engineering and surveying company. Our two daughters are grown, and I’m able to be a little more adventurous in my cooking, putting together new recipes, especially Mediterranean ones, or adapting old ones.
It’s such a pleasure spending time in my kitchen, even just watching the colors of the walls shift with the sun’s position. The secret behind their seemingly aged patina? I thinned latex paint with water and mixed in some pearl glaze, layering on five colors (terra cotta, lavender, gold, lime green and silver) and swirling each on with a paintbrush. I worked a section at a time, in circular motions to add depth. Sometimes painting a room can be boring…but not this one!
I then painted grapevines winding around the room and, just for fun, made the effect three-dimensional by mjixing in silk plants. Very roughly translated, the Italian phrases I painted in the banner murals over the sink over each window ask God’s protection for the home, and for a bountiful harvest.
The colorful Tuscan tapestry of my window-toppers and stool backs was a remnant find, so I chose and sewed styles that fit the limited yardage. Look closely at the window toppers and you’ll see they’re embellished with wine corks instead of the usual tassels!
We opted for terra cotta countertops, with a twist. They’re actually floor tiles! I liked the sturdy, larger work surface as well as the Old World feel. Having fewer grout lines was a bonus.
My favorite feature is the deep copper sink with bronze-finish faucets. I’d wanted something that felt old. We needed to mount the faucet and spigots to the side, but the result reminds me very much of the pump at my grandmother’s farmhouse kitchen sink. The installer had been concerned I might tire of it quickly, but I still absolutely love it.
Another sentimental favorite is my canister set, a wedding gift more than 30 years ago from my parents. Over the years, we’d moved many times, and I could never bring myself to buy canisters to match each kitchen’s decor. Instead, I simply repainted my trust ceramic Pfaltzgraff pieces.
When we settled here, John urged me to splurge on some Tuscan-themed canisters from a catalog. But the price! Instead, I repainted ours once again, and dressed them up a little more by sculpting oven-baked clay from the craft store into grapes, vines and leaves, which I attached with construction glue.
Most visitors’ eyes go right to the chandeliers over the island. I’d planned a pot rack to go there, but John said hanging pots and pans would get in his way, so chandeliers it was. They’re not crystal, just simple glass, but I love the sparkle they bring to my rustic kitchen.
We love to entertain, and this roomy kitchen makes it easy to prepare meals to share. Guests chop along with us as we prepare stir-fry, for instance, before we go sit down together in the separate dining room.
John’s commented that I seem to spend more time in this kitchen than any of the others I’ve cooked in over the years. Pure and simple, I said, having a touch of Tuscany just makes me happy.
Click here for a closer look at Patty’s floor plan.
Photos by Somchai Boonchaisri