Jessica Washburn's Kitchen
When the entire family can recall fond memories of Grandma's house, you know it was a special place to be—and an even more difficult place to lose.
"The house was built in the mid-1800s, and my
grandparents&mdashBig Mama and Papa, as we called
them&mdashwere only the third family to live there,"
says Jessica Washburn. "When the house was
sold in the 1970s, I started dreaming of the day I
would be able to buy it back."
That day arrived in February 1998, when
Jessica and her husband, Barry, settled into
the home she visited as a child in Greensboro,
Alabama. "We have a passion for historic homes,
and moving into this one was the ultimate," she
says. "It was like welcoming a long-lost family
member back home. We're a close-knit family
and our roots run deep, so everyone was pleased
when we bought the house."
But when the couple moved in, they found
their memories of the home didn't match its new
floor plan. "The original kitchen, with its dirt floor
and fireplace, had been on the lower level, but Big
Mama built a new kitchen upstairs and used the
old one as a root cellar for her homemade pickles
and churning butter," Jessica explains. "The new
owners had turned Big Mama's second-floor
kitchen into a large dressing closet, and built their
new kitchen in the root cellar, installing linoleum
floors and a few cabinets. Thankfully, they kept
the original brick fireplace."
The Washburns vowed to remodel the kitchen
one day, replacing the disintegrating cabinets and
outdated appliances. "But that one day turned
into 10 years," says Jessica. "In the meantime, I
pored over remodeling magazines and made lists
of what my new kitchen would have."
They were kicked into action in 2008, when, after a heavy Southern downpour, Jessica found
the kitchen full of standing water. "At that point, we
knew we had to do something quickly," she says.
Jessica and Barry hired a contractor, and Jessica
shared her wish list with him. "I wanted a modern
space, but not so modern that it compromised our
home's history. Storage was important&mdashI wanted
drawers, and lots of them. And because the room is
small, every square inch had to be utilized."
She got every one of those things. "No matter
how hard I try to think of something, there's nothing
I would change about it," Jessica says. "I love this
kitchen. It's perfect for when my sons come to visit
and for the dinner parties Barry and I host. The best
is when this room is filled with the people we love."
Jessica knows it's just what Big Mama would want:
her home sheltering her family once again. "I can tell
you, if my grandmother were alive today, she would
be so happy to see this." And so, this special house,
with all its old memories, has become a place for the
family to make new ones, too.
Photo Gallery of Jessica Washburn's Kitchen »