Tour My Kitchen with Jessica Washburn
An Alabama couple reclaims grandma's house and transforms the heirloom kitchen with her in mind
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The Washburns vowed to remodel the kitchen one day, replacing the disintegrating cabinets and outdated appliances.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.