Expert Advice from Rose Gilbert, with a little inspiration from ‘Soul of a House’

Chris Madden

Photograph (C) Leo Sorel, from my book ‘The Soul of a House’

Wonderful designer & writer, and wonderful friend, Rose Gilbert gives some great advice on finding space for a small breakfast nook when space is tight, using some inspiration from my book ‘The Soul of a House’!

Q: I grew up in a house with a breakfast nook and would kill to have one in our new house. The problem is space. I’m willing to give up some base cabinets in my kitchen. Do you have any suggestions on how best to fit in a small table and four chairs?

A: Take a leaf from designer/author Chris Madden’s handsome book “The Soul of a House,” an “autobiography” of the early-20th-century carriage house she and husband Kevin reclaimed in upstate New York.

Also dealing with a space shortage, Madden pulled out a decrepit radiator to gain room under the window for the banquette that now embraces the space. Dressed in a classic French country toile and paired with slipper chairs — armless, lightweight and easily accessible — the banquette maxes seating room and transforms the small area into a cozy gathering space.

In this photo, it’s centered with an antique pine table large enough to accommodate guests. For family only, a smaller round table takes pride of place. The message: When space is at a premium, be flexible. Rethinking your furniture arrangements to fit the occasion lets you maximize every square inch.

Two other highly stealable ideas from this little nook: the small lamp, which adds a special cozy glow, and the wall of framed menus, autographed by the chefs at the Maddens’ fave restaurants around the world. No piker in the kitchen herself, Madden practically launched her career writing cookbooks, plus her perennial best-seller, “Kitchens.”

She’s also been host of her own TV shows (on HGTV), Oprah’s first design correspondent and decorator to such other stars as Katie Couric and Toni Morrison. Her latest book is an inside look, quite literally, at how to evoke “the soul of a house.”

You can read more of Rose’s columns here:

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