All dressed up
Is your kitchen winter-ready? While we will probably wait a week or two longer before getting into full Christmas preparations, the cold snap is a reminder of the kitchen's status as the warmest, in temperature and friendliness, room in the house. A wood burner - definitely worth installing - ensures this with its live dancing flames. Something baking in the oven sends out a glow of warmth as well as tempting smells.
A kitchen dresser is a heavy lifter in the job of creating homeliness and emotional connections. Playing around with what is on your dresser can be a seasonal pleasure. You might want to start off with a cull of the old coins, expired reminders, rubber bands and anything genuinely past it.
The dresser - antique, new of one of my light versions (above) - is an iteration of a traditional piece of kitchen furniture. The word dresser comes from late 14th century French dresseur or dreçoir, meaning a table to prepare food on - a dressed chicken or joint is one ready for the oven.
These days we use dressers for display and storage of decorative kitchen objects rather than as prepping areas. The wider lower surface lends itself to bowls of fruit and nuts in shells, a gourd or pumpkin (or two), tea lights and candles. Dressers have additional shelves and surfaces that you can deck out in pretty china and pottery, photos, postcards and of course seasonal cards and invitations to Christmas parties. A line of lights adds to the atmosphere. Good new ones are available from Heal's and the Conran Shop, where we particularly like their pom-poms.
All this is not necessarily to recommend a jumble of sentimental knick-knacks. You can customise your kitchen with meaningful things at the same time as keeping it modern. The Danes are a useful references point here. Their concept of hygge doesn't deserve to be dismissed after its boom and bust impact in the UK last year. The word means belonging and togetherness expressed in comforting habits such as cooking, curling up with a book by a fire, sharing a coffee and, yes, candles.
As hygge is about creating a haven of security and care for others, the kitchen is its natural site. When the year closes in and family members gather at home from school, university or further away, we can take pleasure in doing ordinary things together. Here are some more suggestions: bake a cake or buy a good one and share it, consider the rhythm of your daily like, paying attention to small details, watch darkness fall in the afternoon, pick or buy fresh flowers, have some lightweight chairs to cluster together when needed, knit something, bring natural scents into the house with coffee, woodsmoke (in moderation), vanilla and musk - and alternatively, when you can, open a window for fresh air.