Kitchens I Have Known and Loved...

The kitchen. The mighty mighty kitchen. The soul of the home.

I have learned that no matter how inviting you make the other rooms of your house, the kitchen is where everyone gravitates. It’s warm, a little bit messy and it’s where the food is. How could the other rooms of your house compete?

Case in point… My mother had a supercool house in Summerland/Santa Barbara, California. It was on 8 acres overlooking the ocean but the house itself was a small yet interesting one bedroom Balinese style house. The kitchen was minuscule… But there was something about that kitchen. Even though it was tiny, it had a big industrial style Wolf range and a huge industrial stainless steel refrigerator. The sink looked out to the ocean. There was hardly any counterspace but plenty of windows. No one ever complained. There wasn’t even a place to sit down in the kitchen but it didn’t matter because we all just stood there chopping vegetables, making pancakes on the griddle and making my mother’s famous wontons. All of my friends with their giant houses and kitchens in Santa Barbara all loved and were envious of my mother’s little house and her teeny tiny kitchen. I will have to find pictures of my mother’s house and do a whole blog about it. You all will love it.

Case in point… My friend, Diandra, as you know, had my all-time favorite house in Santa Barbara. I spent a lot of time at this house when Diandra lived there, I spent a lot of time at this house while my friend Susan rented it for a few years when Diandra was in New York, and I spent a lot of time at this house when Gracie and I lived there for about a year watching over it while Diandra was trying to sell it because she was still living in New York. Whenever we had a party at the house, no matter what we did to make the other rooms welcoming, the entire party usually ended up in the kitchen. Even if we told people to go to the living room, no one obeyed and everyone just stayed right in the kitchen. I know why. In Diandra’s kitchen there was the coziest fireplace that was on throughout the day no matter the weather. There was a cozy banquette that we upholstered in Carolina Irving fabric that was blue and white with little Spanish birds. There was a huge kitchen island and rare blue marble countertops that everyone ended up sitting on. Huge Wolf range, 2 industrial refrigerators with glass doors, a little door to the center courtyard, plenty of windows looking out to the ocean overlooking the orange trees. This was definitely the soul of the house and where we spent 90% of our time. There were always dogs running in and out, something delicious cooking on the stove, children sitting at the table next to the fireplace, flowers being arranged in the industrial sink, afternoon tea being organized in the butlers kitchen and where everyone felt relaxed. It was a glorious kitchen.

 Diandra's kitchen. Look at the little fireplace and the fabulous Carolina Irving fabric on the banquette.
Another view of Diandra's kitchen.
Case in point… I rented for years and years and years a little cottage at the beach in Santa Barbara. It was the size of a postage stamp but it was my favorite house I’ve ever had. Early 1900s, wood shingled, small yard surrounded by ferns, palm trees, lemon trees, eucalyptus trees, Hawaiian ginger plants and purple wisteria. It was a magical little house and where my best memories are. The house was near the little shopping street of Montecito. After my friends finished their shopping, they would come to my little house to slum it before going back to their big fat proper houses. I think they liked my house better than their own because they were always in my house… And we were always in my kitchen. My kitchen was so small that if you stretched out both of your arms, you could touch both sides of the kitchen probably. And yet, this is where all the action happened. Over the years I had collected so many photographs of my friends and family that I ran out of picture frames and places to put the picture frames so I just started taping up all of the photos to the walls starting in the kitchen. Over the years, the collection just kept growing and growing until it was basically wallpaper from the floor to the ceiling throughout the entire kitchen into the dining room. It was the most charming thing you’ve ever seen! Everyone loved to look at the pictures while having tea or cocktails or even dinner in my kitchen. I think I’ve only sat at my dining room table a few times over all of those years. Everything happened in the kitchen. Remember when people had house phones? My house phone was in the kitchen, on the wall with a superlong cord. I spent hours on the phone, talking while sitting on the floor of the kitchen on the threadbare Oriental rugs filled with sand from the beach, dogs running in and out of the front door, Jack Johnson on the stereo, ocean breeze… in total and utter happiness.
My little cottage...
I am sure all of you have all of these brilliant memories of your kitchens as well. That is why the kitchen is the most important room of the house.

Let’s take a look at some of my favorite kitchens…


On a little side note, I thought I would show all of you my friend Yolanda’s refrigerator. It’s brilliant, truly brilliant. She designed it herself and to me, it is the highlight of the house.

Yolanda's refrigerator.
Yolanda inside her refrigerator.
So that’s that for kitchens. I have more kitchen photographs on my Pinterest board. Check it out HERE.

Okay, which room of the house should we look at next? Let’s do dining rooms… Stay tuned.
A toute!

*Something you don’t know about me? When I was growing up in Malibu, I had a little crush on a boy. Okay, I have to admit, a huge crush on a boy. Chris. Chris Cortazzo. He lived across the street from me and he was the lifeguard at Paradise Cove Beach. He was kind, spiritual, sensitive, under the radar, he loved animals and was a vegetarian. I loved him. I think I was only 15 years old so it was definitely a crush that I had no intention of acting on. I was too shy for that. I admired him from afar. I also remembered that he had the nicest parents I’ve ever met. Sometimes he would walk me home from the beach to make sure I got home safely. That was in the late 80s. I have not seen him since. FlashForward to yesterday… Chris Cortazzo was at my apartment in Paris. I kid you not. What are the chances of that? I’ll tell you… It turns out that Dreamboat happens to be the most successful real estate broker in all of Malibu and Coldwell Banker’s top real estate broker in the whole wide world! Complete bigshot. Dreamboat also happens to be my friend Yolanda’s real estate broker because she is selling her house in Malibu. See HERE. What a small world! I asked Yolanda to call him and invite him over to my apartment for tea because I saw on Facebook that Dreamboat was in Paris. Magically, the very next day, my doorbell rings and standing in my living room is that boy that I loved holding the most beautiful bouquet of flowers for moi. I knew I had good taste in men because he was still gorgeous and sweet and it turns out that we have a lot in common. We both love to decorate! Chris has an amazing ranch in Malibu that is to die for. See HERE. He also just finished a new house on the street that we grew up on in Malibu that he decorated with the help of brilliant decorator Martin Lawrence-Bullard. We spent the afternoon having chai tea and homemade goat cheese tarts, talking about our love of homes, decorating, traveling and Malibu and the fine art of “juzhing.” It always warms my heart when people arrive into my life at whatever stage who possess something special. Chris is that person. Kindhearted, softhearted, endearing, loving and genuine. What a wonderful afternoon. As Dreamboat was leaving, he planted a kiss on my forehead and I nearly fainted. Ain’t life grand?

Handsome Chris Cortazzo
Beautiful flowers that handsome Chris Cortazzo brought for moi.


  1. Wow! Where do I start? I agree wholeheartedly that everyone always ends up in the kitchen. It is truly the heart of the home. Just watched Chris' video of his casa. Beautiful but your hubby is much more handsome. Yolanda's house is breathtaking and my Sister and I have spent countless time discussing that gorgeous fridge. Hope she is feeling better and you are doing well. Your posts make my day.

    1. Bonjour Mme. Clooney. How is George today? Yes my husband is definitely a super hunk. He has no competition… Well maybe a little. Just kidding. Don't you love Yolanda's refrigerator! Thank you for your well wishes. I am feeling great but Yogi is not feeling so hot. XOXO X

  2. I love Yolanda's refrigerator. I have never seen anything like that before. Thank you for sharing. Oh, and Mr. Cortazzo is quite a cutie. Glad he made your day better.

  3. GOOD GRIEF!!!!!!!!YOU can write a book just from your few years in PARIS!First off STEPHEN did you spy those pink plates in the GORGEOUS kitchen???Second,the LAMB inside the AGA STOVE is MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE........I need both the AGA and the lamb!Third,I think I have seen your house!!!!!!!!!!What was up in the cupola?Looks like water storage.....which would be AWESOME cause we are in a drought!
    OH dear,I have lost my train of THOUGHT!
    People I am still collecting BIRTHDAY CARDS for MADAME E................I willNOT be mailing MARCH FIRST as it is SUNDAY but I will be wrapping everything UP by the end of the week so THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE!!!!!!!Send a card to Ellie wishing HER the BEST BIRTHDAY EVER......TO me! E. Kirkpatrick 16 Glorietta Court Orinda, Calif. 94563 Please write for Ellie or the Birthday GAL on the envelope somewhere so I doNOT open by mistake.......I will be making a box to send over with all the MAIL I HAVE RECEIVED!THANK YOU I know there are MORE of YOU out there cause I keep getting emails is it TOO LATE!You have time if you mail in the next 5 days...............BACK to KITCHENS!I agree photos on the wall and long telephone cords are THE BEST.......I have BOTH TOO ELEANOR!!!!And of course, they would ALL be at YOUR HOUSE!YOUR THE BEST!XOXOXO

    1. So sweet of you Elizabeth to organize these birthday cards. Can't wait to see all of them! Your house would be perfect with a lamb in the Aga stove. Love your blog posting yesterday. Everybody should check it out. XOXO X


      The site name changed YESTERDAY TOO!!!!!!!!!!OXOOXOO

    3. I love your post today too! I noticed those pink plates but I like yours more! I was antiquing pretty much all day today and no luck finding pink plates! Luckily a few really old deep inky indigo blue and white transferware pieces found me though. So I didn't go home empty handed.

    4. THANK GOD!THAT would have put both of US in a BAD MOOD!I am still LOOKING for YOU!!!!!!

  4. Yolanda's fridge is like a Work of Art. So beautiful.

    My favourite kitchen was a teeny 1980s affair that felt great and was amazing to cook in. Glamorous it wasn't, but I had some Happy Times there, feeding people, chatting, stirring things, chopping stuff up, thinking…

    I hope you'll post your Mum's dining room based on the Most Beautiful Houses in Paris one. I have that book by my bed and made Mr FF look through it with me the other day. Such good eye candy!!

    Luff your posts x

    1. How great is that book! I think I've looked over it at least 5000 times page by page by page almost with a magnifying glass. One of my favorite houses in the book Hotel Lambert caught on fire a couple years ago. I almost cried. I will definitely post a picture of my mother's dining room that we copied from the book. XOXO

  5. What a beautiful story, how wonderful. Yes, kitchens, they are the heart of the home.

  6. I am so happy that you have had some great kitchens! I haven't been quite so lucky in the kitchen department, but I have the gorgeous bones of one now so hope springs eternal. So glad you were able to see your old friend. Over to your kitchen Pinterest board now!

  7. Oh I love that house! Isn't it funny? I thought I knew where you lived...but I didn't! I had you living across the street in the house with the fab guy on the chimney who was blowing the wind!

    You lived in the house with the water tower! The guy who was the "head agent" for Sea Meadow.....grew up in your house! David Basham....he died at 90 something....that house is one of the oldest in all of Montecito.....I LOVE IT!!!!! That is how you know Marietta!
    (one of my favorite humans!!!)

    I am sure you lived there during my 25 or so year "reign" at Sea Meadow....."Mungerville" is what I named it! I wish I had seen you or known you then! Well; at least I met you right before you left....and you knew Ella and Gracie knew Ella too!

    I adore you.....and I'm thrilled to know the house you lived in!

    Funny!!??!! I LOVE that house! I rescued a dog who lived in that house 3 times on my way to church!!! (not your dog)!


    1. It probably was my dog that you rescued three times. My dogs loved to escape to go to the beach and sometimes walk right into church. I wish I would've known you while you were at Sea Meadow because you could've come over every single day for tea! I think I was being cautious when I said the house was from the early 1900s because I actually think it's from the 1800s. I ripped up the carpet one year by myself and found the most beautiful beautiful hardwood floors. Another year, we had to rip up all of the floors in the back bedrooms due to a plumbing problem and we discovered that all of the pipes no were terra-cotta pipes. Terra-cotta! The other house with the face of the man on the chimney blowing wind with the brilliant roof is my friend Eleanor's house. It is so fabulous you would die. A feast for the eyes! Happy happy birthday to you. Sending you big hugs. Give everyone in Montecito a big hug for me as well. XOXO

    2. FIELD TRIP PENELOPE!!!!!!!!!!!I think I know where it is.........lets play HOT and COLD!

  8. Your taste in men is favorite is all those artichokes.....Makes me want to have an artichoke "fest"!!!!

    We have two plants that may yield a few......I just love how they look when they "bloom" I just can't pick them yet......maybe this year????

    I adore you and I adore your blog!

    Do you remember when you said to me....."I wish I had met you before I was moving to Paris! You are so nice!"
    I remember thinking....."Gosh! Me , too! She is so nice....and so much "my type"!! You delivered this lovely chaise longs!! (dark green wicker and the other stuff I bought......I still treasure those plates....from Paris...and of course; you I treasure most of all!!!

    1. YOU have plates that belong to ELEANOR???YOU may have to SHARE with me!

    2. If they are PINK STEPHEN will need to be CUT IN!!!

  9. I wish that you could have heard me giggling with delight while looking both at the photos of your Yogi's beach house (that view!) and the video of the Cortazzo ranch (his photography collection!). Whew! My goodness.

    Before I forget, can I say that I would be delighted to see your Mother's Balinese style home? Pleeease? Bali is one of my favorite places on earth and I am sure that with her famous taste she did something beautiful. And yes, I am crazy for your little cottage too.

    What I love about the kitchens that you chose (plus the KW wet bar, mais bien sur) is that they don't really look like kitchens, just great and interesting rooms in their own right that make you want to cook up a storm and make people happy. :) Hardly a subway tile in sight! (What is it about me and subway tiles? Well, let's just say that if you lived in Manhattan as long as I did, when I did, the last thing that you want the place where you cook and eat to look like is a subway.)

    PS? The kitchen in our previous apartment was a converted closet. You really could touch the sides with outstretched arms! The upside? Since it was only big enough for one person there was no room for "well-meaning" visitors to watch me cook and say, "Oh, so iz ZHAT how you do it in America?" grrrr...

  10. Do you know what my favorite thing about banquette seating in a kitchen is? People get trapped in them and can't get up and get in my way while I'm cooking! Haha I'm the worst about escorting people out of the kitchen. Lugging Le Creuset pots that weigh 40 pounds around while they're 400 degrees is no place for mingling! I've always said my ideal kitchen would have a little zoo cage where I locked people while I cooked and set them free once everything was plated. How I love D's kitchen. I've seen one other person use that blue Brazilian marble and it looks so hideous (in the kitchen I've seen). She used it beautifully with the terra cotta tile. Love it.
    Sad to see Yolanda sell. But I'd imagine this will simplify her life tremendously. Hope she is doing well.
    And lastly, I need to know what kind of dogs you had? I imagine you having like 2 Australin Shepherd mixes. And maybe a Setter for some euro countryside charm.
    Oh one last thing-I'll pretend I didn't read that you love Jack Johnson. I've had to endure one too many douchebags wearing jeans and flip flops with acoustic guitars in his likeness. My distaste for JJ really stems from a visceral disdain for DMB.

    1. Regarding the dogs in my house… The first dog I adopted for Gracie ran away the first time we took her to the beach. Her name was Katie and we search for her for the next 12 years. The second dogs were 2 huge golden retrievers. They ran to the beach every day. Then I had a huge black dog that would not let Grace or I into the house. That I had my favorite little Italian Greyhound named Ines. My husband hated her. Later we had a little orange Persian mix kitten named Otto. She had diarrhea for three months. Then we had another Persian who got hit by a car and we had to bury her in the front you. It's like the house was jinxed for pets. All of my neighbors thought I was crazy because we had so many pets coming and going. I like Jack Johnson because he lived a couple doors down from me in a little green cottage with his kids and wife and he seemed cool and quiet. But that is the only douche bag in jeans and flip-flops that I would like. Who is DMB? Am I talking too much? Maybe you just need to come over. XOXO

    2. Dave Matthews Band. Love them- sorry stephen- guess we part company here �� ....but that's okay..I grew up in ohio- a million yrs ago. Love your blog, Ellie. Love that little cottage on the beach. Great kitchens- personally, I like great old rugs and runners thrown around on the tile or wood floors- really warms things up.

    3. When I first met my husband he used to wear sandals with socks (I jest not) and DMB was his favorite band. I overlooked that because he was otherwise adorable.
      I cannot get into Jack Johnson. All of his songs sound exactly the same to me. Or is it me? Or is it the whole visceral disdain for DMB like Stephen has?

    4. Awww how heart wrenching to have a pet run away! Let alone all that terrible luck afterward! Susan, I know I'm in the minority re DMB. but I've learned to accept his fans as pretty much everyone I know loves him! No one ever lets me put on my playlists! Tropical deep house and Native American disco just haven't caught on like I thought they would.

    5. They haven't Stephen? Really? I would pay a pretty penny to hear the latter.

      And ps. Did you see that Susan is also from Ohio? Susan, so am I and so is Stephen and that makes two against one in the "Just Say No to DMB" Camp. You know, the camp where all the cool kids hang out... ;)

  11. Kitchens are the best, and the true "living rooms". Interesting that your friend had a kiva style fireplace in her California kitchen.
    In Santa Fe, we have many historic homes with kivas in the kitchen. I love the cozy ambience of the crackling fire in my kitchen on a snowy morning.

  12. You hit the nail on the head regarding the important of kitchens! We bought a house and remodeled it room by room. Tightened the budget in a few rooms so that I could splurge in MY kitchen. Plenty of windows and a large door with a great view, in conjunction with prep counters, sink, island seating and kitchen table facing the backyard, is what I like best about my kitchen. [A handsome, sweet, successful former crush showing up at my house with flowers... now that would be terrific!]

  13. Oh that Plain English kitchen is for me!
    Lovely : )

  14. Reading your blog makes me think of what it must have been like to be a guest at a salon in Paris in the 18th century. Fascinating. You have had such amazing, wonderful friends throughout your life. I appreciate you sharing them and your stories with us.

    The kitchens are beautiful! I could live in every one of them. Yes, dining rooms next. Do we still need formal dining rooms if we have kitchens large enough to seat a number of guests?

    My first grade teacher gave me her two Cocker Spaniels at the end of the school year. They instantly ran away. Most recently I had a Golden Retriever and a Lab (black) that were the most wonderful dogs. I miss them every day.

  15. Thank you for this post. It had me in tears as exactly2 years to the day i read your post we brought our beautiful 9 year old boy home from hospital in an ambulance. We transferred him from the ambulance stretcher to a hospital bed we had hired as he could not move more than 10 degrees due to serious injuries he had suffered, caused by a speeding 21 year old driver crashing into the rear of the car our son was in going to his soccer training.

    We wheeled the hospital bed down our hallway and through double doors into the rear kitchen/ living area of our home. We rearranged furniture so the bed fitted in next to the kitchen. The kitchen/ living area has 3 sets of french doors with ceiling to floor windows between them opening onto a deck that is the width of our home. It is a light filled area where we spend a lot of time and continue to do so. Our son was with me whilst I did everything in the kitchen, chatting to me whilst I cooked.
    At the end of the day, we'd wheel the bed out of this area into the hallway and into the first room on the right which is our dining room. We'd removed the dining table and the buffet to make room for our son's bed and for his mattress on which I'd sleep ( or try to sleep but I'm a light sleeper especially after 3 weeks in the kids' hospital where you don't sleep as you are either consoling your own child or helping some other mum and her child). Our bedrooms are upstairs so we just improvised.
    As soon as he'd wake up, we'd wheel his bed into the kitchen area and he'd chat whilst my husband, our darling daughter and he had breakfast. I just tried to fix my very disheveled look into a not so disheveled look!!!
    The first weekend we brought our son home, it was my darling niece's 10th birthday. She shares your birthday. Happy Birthday!!! My fabulous sister and brother in law who are also our son's god parents came over with the rest of my immediate family ( 20 of us in total) and we had our niece's party in the kitchen around our son's bed!!!
    The wonderful soccer/football community really helped our son. A player from one of the teams came to visit our son at home to boost our son's spirits and he was so cool about it , like every kid is lying in a bed unable to move, next to the kitchen. The player was meant to stay for 1 hour but he stayed for 5 & 1/2 hours!!! My husband and I now laugh because you've never seen me move so fast in the kitchen as I've never cooked for an elite athlete.
    Again, thank you and I wish you a very fabulous birthday. Den xxx
    Ps the day after we brought our son home, I had to text my husband to buy a new clothes line because it collapsed on my head as I was hanging the sheets on the line. Everything really does happen at once, and I didn't cry I just got on with it. My husband texted back with what else needs replacing????

  16. I'm most happy in the kitchen and can totally relate to your enthusiasm. I enjoyed your entire story. Your kitchen pics are like jewel boxes. The green malachite with the un-lacquered brass counter and backsplash, is Cameron Diaz’s NYC apt. (designed by Kelly Wearstler) Love! I'm glad you included Yolanda's fridge because I always hit rewind when it comes up during RHOBH (funny scene w/Lisa Rinna standing inside it). Lastly, that is one beautiful bouquet of flowers, vase and vignette. Dreamboat reminds me of someone I can’t quite place…a friendly face nevertheless :)

  17. Hi Ellie !
    Were Heather , Ken , Eloise and Lillian Graham next door to you ? Do you remember the big white goose in diapers with painted claws that would torment the pre schoolers at All Saints? Or was that after your time there ? If you can't find a photo of Mom's Summerland kitchen , I could probably draw one for you - it's etched in the old noggin ! Big Love , A

  18. Have major envy over your friend Yolanda's refrigerator!!!!