Image above: I have far too many cookbooks and even though I had a huge bookcase built specially for them, they are spilling out on the floor and in the blocked fireplaces. This said, I would have had space for all of them if I had sold my art books (I was in the art world before moving to food). I wanted [the space] to be white but not a boring white so after I tried all kinds of whites I settled on a very nice one that changes with the light which is called blackened white by Farrow & Ball and the white is mixed with very little purple and even less black.
Advice for people thinking of doing the same: Be prepared for weirdness in the house. Our floor was not level by 1.5″, which wreaked havoc with a design that had no trim to hide uneven lines. Our contractor, Dave Rannala, actually jacked up one corner of the kitchen from the basement below in order to even things out. All the counters and shelves are totally level, but then there are all sorts of little things they did, like tapering the ceiling beams to hide the house irregularity. They did an amazing job. It is really important to have an experienced builder. Also, plan the layout beforehand and test lots of ideas. We did five different kitchen layouts before we settled on the final one. Doing that forced us to answer all the questions about the type and size of appliances and where the work stations would be. Those questions have to be answered at some point, but planning first meant that the actual reno was way less stressful. One final thing: Use simple, good quality materials that are timeless and bridge the modern and historic influences
Anissa Helou is a London-based food writer concentrating on Middle Eastern, North African and Mediterranean cooking (check out her In The Kitchen With recipe!). She’s truly had an amazing career. Before Anissa was into food, her life was in the art world, and before she lived in this modern, minimalist two-story loft, she was living in a Victorian home full of 19th century objects, paintings and furniture. She moved into this light, airy, spare space 13 years ago, but despite attempts at minimalism her cookbook collection keeps growing! Anissa also blogs about her travels, the people she meets and shares recipes. Her latest endeavor is an Egyptian street food experience in an elegant ‘hole-in-the-wall’ place in Covent Garden with a group of Egyptian foodie entrepreneurs, and she leads the occasional culinary tour. Anissa also works as a consultant for the National Museum of Qatar, helping them develop a food culture program for their Food Forum. Many thanks, Anissa, and Celia Topping for the beautiful photos!