This is a story about a dated, old piece of furniture, a stack of art, and a gathering of treasures – and how they turned a sow’s ear of a room into a chic French purse.
Years ago I painted this heavy oak buffet a cheery red and added a folk art design in the style of Peter Hunt. Back then it was the latest shout. But after four decades of red I was tired of the look. It didn’t fit with the decor I had in my head.
I turned the big laundry room into a butler’s pantry. Moved in the seldom used microwave, ice cream machine,and special occasion dishes and platters. I covered the walls with French photographs, maps and art.
Then the search for the perfect French gray paint began.
Paint samples came and went.
At last I found the perfect gray.
A gray reminiscent of the gray you see on old furniture in France.
The silver-gray of the dust that covered my shoes when I walked the streets of Paris.
Benjamin Moore’s DEEP SILVER!
I repainted in my version of instant French paint finish. Two coats of Fresh Start – a high-hiding all-purpose latex primer . Little touches of white around the trim . When completely dry – two coats of Minwax clear wax. What could be simpler.
In the pantry I resurrected a Beaujolais wine barrel used in one of our restaurants.
Then I created a mise en scène from bits and bobs – found treasures gathered over the years.
Into the garden to plunder the lavender.
My Paris Pantry is complete.
A Zen parable tells of a wanderer on a lonely road who came upon a torrential river that had washed out the bridge.
So he built a solid and heavy raft, which carried him safely across to the other bank. “This is a good raft,” he thought. “If there’s another river ahead, I can use it.” And he carried it for the rest of his life.
How often do we hang onto things that served us well at one point in our lives but are no longer relevant or useful?
It is a curse and a blessing to be a retired chef. Those pans and knives, those bowls and whisks, those tools of a professional kitchen are an extension of who we are. We may say good-bye to our restaurants but it is difficult to say goodbye to the tools of our trade.
Do I really need three china caps? What am I going to do with a dozens whisks – some 24 inches long. When am I going to use two stock pots a three year old child could hide in. Friends and family have graciously accepted beautiful (to me) saute pans but what use do I have of the other two dozen. Ours was a French kitchen and much of the menu was cooked-to-order requiring a battery of heavy saute pans.
I am getting rid of the life raft! I’ve removed over half the contents of the pantry and still have all this left. Some items a donation to my favorite Thrift Shop some to be sold on Craigs List.
I am shedding the life raft piece by piece.
I am saying good-bye to wonderful, happy memories. We loved our restaurants. We loved cooking and feeding people. The hours were long. The work at times exhausting, but we loved every minute of it.
What I will have is the perfect pantry. With new shelves. Shelves I will use to display my stacks of plates and serving dishes. Vintage soup tureens and platters. Narrow shelves filled with canned tomatoes from Italy. Capers from France. Jams and jellies from my preserving friends. I’ll put a sweet little wooden table in the centre of the room. Hang the walls with vintage food posters. Checked curtains at the windows.
What I will have is a new chapter in my life.