What makes a kitchen the heart of a home? If you ask Joanna Gaines, it may boil down to two objects she came to love and rely on long ago: a cake stand and an island.
In her latest book, “Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave” (HarperCollins, $40), Gaines opens up about the kitchen in the very first house she moved into with her husband, Chip, as newlyweds, and how—shocker!—she wasn’t all that crazy about cooking at first. But that soon changed, all thanks to a gorgeous glass-domed cake stand she’d received as a wedding gift.
“Initially, I set the cake stand out on my counter because I thought it was pretty and worth showing off,” she writes. “But soon it wasn’t enough that it was nice to look at. I didn’t like seeing it empty.”
So she started baking, filling that cake stand with sweets that enticed family, friends, and neighbors dropping by to linger in her kitchen a little longer. To further encourage them to stick around, she soon added another object that would later become a cornerstone to her whole kitchen design philosophy: a tiny rolling cart that served as a makeshift island.
“There wasn’t enough room in there for an island, so instead I found a 3′ x 3′ cart with a butcher block surface that I’d just roll in as needed,” she writes. Placed right in the middle of the room, this cart became a magnet for all who entered the room.
“People would be gathered around it eating an appetizer or resting their drinks on there,” she recalls. Even after Gaines moved out of this house, these two objects—cake stand and cart—followed.
“From then on, my cake stand remained full of something sweet, and over the next few years, no matter the house we were living in, I continued to pull out that same 3′ x 3′ cart for dinner parties,” she writes. “These two inanimate objects came to symbolize ideals of anticipating hospitality and creating spaces for gathering.”
The take-home lesson for us all? You don’t need all that much space or money to make a kitchen warm and inviting.
“Determine whether you can build in an island, and if you can’t, consider a movable cart like the one I used to roll in,” Gaines says. Even though she now has a good-size island in the gorgeous farmhouse she lives in today, “the moments that we spent around that cart were just as rich as the ones we have now.”
To top things off, consider adding a cake stand—and get baking. What better sight to greet guests than a plateful of colorful Christmas cookies or an apple pie?
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