A Kitchen Full of Memories
Mindful of open flames and splattering food, even the most nostalgic of homeowners tend to shy away from keepsakes in the kitchen. Not Malene Barnett. The cook space in her renovated 1910 townhouse in Brooklyn, NY, brims with mementos, artwork, and travel souvenirs that reflect who she is and where she’s been. “My kitchen’s about a lot more than cooking,” says the globe-trotting rug designer and principal of Malene B Carpets, who purchased the house in 2008. After a 21-month overhaul that included annexing 12 extra feet from the backyard to create the airy kitchen, she now has a space evocative of her Caribbean island heritage and some of the 24 countries she’s visited (so far). “I’m already planning my next trip,” says Malene. “My kitchen could always use another treasure from abroad.”
A collage Malene made for a college assignment is the largest piece of artwork in the kitchen. Depicting a Fulani tribeswoman from West Africa, “it isn't typical kitchen art,” she says. “But it sums up my philosophy: Be worldly and live boldly.”
Cabinets and Counters
Balancing splurges with steals, Malene topped IKEA cabinets with Carrara marble counters, then added hardware from Lowe’s. She removed a set of doors on the island to create open shelves for Guatemalan teacups, dishware, cookbooks—and her yearbook from high school, where Malene was voted “most artistically talented” by her senior class.
First-time visitors often mistake the sleek, unobtrusive Elica range hood for a pendant. “It seems delicate, but it’s great at removing smoke and smells,” says Malene, an avid cook who has been a vegetarian for 25 years. The hood's interior is a gutsy absinthe green.
Hexagonal tiles by Akdo in frosted gray-blue—Malene scooped them up at a sample sale—mimic the colors of wave-tumbled sea glass.
The white oak floors are stained bluish green. “I wanted it to seem like you’re wading into the waters of the Caribbean Sea,” says Malene.
Malene built the custom wall niches to showcase her finds from far-flung places, including Senegal, Panama, Ghana, and St. Lucia. The square teak table is from Pier 1 Imports, and the hand-printed, handwoven jute, wool, and Lurex rug, in a pattern inspired by coral, is her own design.