kitchen with white subway tile white cabinets and grey countertops

My Kitchen's Five Minutes


Recently, I reached out to someone whose beautiful, quirky home I’d seen on Instagram, asking if she’d be open to having her place photographed for a feature in Down East. She responded enthusiastically, but with a caveat: “We want you to understand that our home is not a grand one filled with designer things…This house is always a work in progress, filled with loved and shabby things.” To which I replied, as I frequently do, that our primary goal is to showcase homes that have character and reflect their owners’ style. Sometimes they’re kinda fancy, but often they’re quite modest. As for “loved and shabby,” isn’t that code for warm and cozy?

I thought of this exchange earlier this month when our kitchen cabinetmaker and contractor, Ben Block, arranged for designer/stylist Tyler Karu and photographer Erin Little to prep and shoot our space. I cringed at the idea of these pros, whose work I admire immensely, seeing our 1980s-era vinyl siding, chipped moldings, and bubbled linoleum in the downstairs bathroom. But, hey, if I’m embracing imperfection in other people’s homes, shouldn’t I try to do the same in my own? (Answer: Yes, but boy is that easier said than done.) Experts like Tyler and Erin also have ways of making just about any room look fabulous, which, in our case, included angling the camera away from the offending linoleum. Here’s a closer look at how they pulled off some truly lovely shots.

kitchen counter and utensils
Photograph by Sarah Stebbins.

First step: Moving all the unsightly stuff to the dining room table. Can you believe the adorable, drippy candle our son made in pre-school didn’t make the cut?

Photograph by Sarah Stebbins.

Next, Tyler arranged dishes and flowers, a pot on the stove, and some bottles of seltzer. Isn’t this how everyone’s kitchen looks before a dinner party?

Photograph by Sarah Stebbins.

The bookcase in the family room created a distracting reflection on the kitchen’s glass-front china cabinet. After a few tries, the crew was able to remedy the situation!

Photograph by Sarah Stebbins.

Erin turned off all the lights and used a continuous LED light, pictured, to fill in shadows.

white kitchen
white kitchen
white kitchen

In postproduction, Erin removed the recessed lights and outlet on the table end of the island to create these finished images. I can’t believe how shiny and warm she made everything look.

After wrapping up at our place, the team headed off to photograph our friends’ kitchen, which Ben and his crew recently completed. Here’s one of Erin’s shots (below).

grey kitchen with white subway tile

I love the richness of the wood and blue-gray paint, and the fact that the couple eschewed upper cabinets — the space feels so bright and airy.

How do you think these turned out? Please share your thoughts!


  1. Marylou

    please show us what your kitchen looks like in “real life” for comparison. ☺

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