Reader’s kitchens: Lee from Edinburgh

Who: Lee Randall

Where: Edinburgh

What do you do in your kitchen and who with? I live in an Edinburgh tenement flat on the South Side of town, and three of my four rooms overlook The Meadows — which is like having the most amazing front garden! My kitchen’s only 3.6m by 3.6m, and money is always a concern with me, so when I redid it about 8 years ago now, the goal was the best possible space for the smallest amount of dosh.  

How would you describe your style? My “style” is a combination of kitschty, antique and realistic — does that boil down to eclectic? I would always rather buy old or used dishes and furniture — my entire flat reflects this — but I mix it with modern and practical pieces that meet my aesthetic requirements, which are stringent, but idiosyncratic. At heart I’m a frustrated Nicky Haslam.

I’m fine with fake IF it admits it. In other words, I’d never get “faux” wood cabinets or a faux marble countertop, but I’m perfectly happy with sleek white synthetics that don’t pretend to be anything else. With the money I didn’t spend on fancy cabinets, I opted for solid wood counters, and I think that’s what lifts the whole room and makes guests think I spend more than I did on the place. I selected the nicest, unfussiest handles MFI sold. I was lucky enough to inherit a beautiful and useful window seat, which provides extra seating when people come to visit, as well as much needed storage. I had the joiner — who worked as general contractor, too — redo the seat section and fit it with a piano bench hinge, which is practically invisible and allows the entire top to swing up for access.

The “curtain” is an antique (circa 1930s) linen cross-stitched tablecloth that I liberated, along with a stack of other antique textiles, from an abandoned flat in Switzerland that acquaintances of mine had bought and were emptying. Why they didn’t want this stuff is beyond me, but I didn’t question my good fortune.

The four glass fronted units enable me to display some of my retro dishes and candle sticks and also bounce the light around, which is important, because my gable end, first floor, north facing flat is very dark. That’s why I painted this room “boring” antique white — for the light. But all the wainscotting, and door and its architrave are charcoal grey. I have used that colour on woodwork throughout the flat to link all the rooms, which are painted wildly different colours. It’s very soothing and the result is that the flat feels cohesive, and not at all like a circus tent. I am a huge fan of grey, and have just repainted my bathroom French Grey, with the same dark trim. My bedroom is bubble gum pink and charcoal grey. . . you sense a theme?

The red and blue plates are from Gubbio, in Umbria. I would have come home with the entire shop if I could have. As you can see from my collection of glass jars — new and antique — I like to see what I’ve got, which is why I love them for storing dry goods.

The three long shelves make a great place to display a portion of my antique ceramics and glass pieces — many of which I still use. The cornflower blue Westinghouse pieces all continue to do service, and my dishes and work bowls are from antique and junk shops. Their longevity is probably enhanced by my lack of a dishwasher! A lot of my kitschy objects were brought over from the United States when I moved to the UK in 1997.The pink flamingo vase was an early purchase when I moved to Hoboken, NJ, in 1983, and the fabulously silly green and purple semi-circular dish, with a bird swooping above it, is something I oh-so-carefully brought home from Nashville when I was there researching a book. In the cabinet you’ll see my pink elephant cocktail set, and a pink depression glass tea set (sadly, two of the cups have broken) that I found at a charity shop on the Royal MIle. I rarely use my pink glass cake stand but can’t bear to part with it!

The massive oak table comes from one of my local antique shops. I’ve made friends with the owner and we sometimes barter pieces back and forth. It’s a bit wrecked, which is great because that means I’m not precious about it. Seen from underneath, it looks like an amalgamation of things, and I suspect it’s from a library or a school or something. I adore it, and though it needs a cloth when in use at mealtime, I prefer to see the wood whenever possible. The chairs are a set (of four) that I found at a charity shop in Morningside — again, probably from a library or school, with their ultra basic construction and hard burgunday leatherette seats. They’re super strong, and I love their simplicity.  

What’s your favourite kitchen object? I have to laugh at the question about my favourite kitchen object. I don’t have a microwave, a dishwasher, or a host of other appliances. It might have to be my radio. Shouting at the Today programme every morning while I’m getting ready for work keeps me in motion and gets me out the door! 


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