Kitchen is the center of Dickinson home
Sue Bown was 5 years old and in her grandmother’s kitchen when she baked her first cake.
“I was always fascinated with cooking,” said Bown, whose enormous Dickinson kitchen is outfitted with a commercial Garland stove, copper range hood, restaurant-grade triple sink, 10-foot stainless counter and a vast array of vintage collectibles.
Bown’s husband, Rodney, designed and engineered the rafters and trusses without supports; the 32-foot high ceiling and the floor space below — measuring 32-by-27-feet — adds an overwhelming sensation of openness.
There are no upper cabinets to obstruct the view of the woods outside the tall kitchen windows that run the width of the room. A few Boston ferns hanging from the rafters bring a touch of nature.
But it wasn’t always this way. The original kitchen was the size of a small closet, which now serves as the pantry. The current kitchen was added on to the circa 1900 house when the Bowns began to remodel in 1978. With Sue Bown’s eagle eye for finding things in resale and antique shops, and her penchant for spotting architectural salvage, she had an abundance of construction materials on hand.
Interior walls came from a demolished church in La Marque; pine floors were installed and whitewashed; and stained-glass windows were mounted.
“I’ve always been a collector,” Bown said. “If I see something that I think I’ll use in the future, I’ll buy it and store it.”
Pub signage, patinated copper cookware and Bown’s hand-painted portraits of chefs hang prominently on walls. Classic pots, pans, skillets, steamers, tongs, dippers and a cool assortment of old corkscrews give an ancient feel to this enchanting kitchen.
An early 1900s butcher block found in Austin, once a staple in all meat markets, is a reminder of bygone times. Architectural scroll pediments add a Romanesque touch. Enamel factory lights hang low for soft lighting.
A lot of seating is available in this roomy kitchen — a white, rectangular table that once occupied the grounds of a fruit stand; an oak table refurbished by Bown’s father when she was a child; and Bown’s aunt’s round table in front of the red brick fireplace.
Various storage pieces are scattered about, such as the blue metal dental cabinet with beveled glass and a Texas primitive cupboard with pierced tin panels from the 1800s. Bown is not certain about the large, galvanized object that hangs above it, but suspects it might be a French foot bath.
The bead board ceiling in the adjoining coffee bar came from an old farmhouse near Corpus Christi. The countertop and wall shelves are overflowing with coffee pots and coffee grinders the Bowns inherited from their respective families.
Bown rarely refers to her collection of cookbooks, preferring to use her own recipes and those handed down to her.
“I cook like my grandmother cooked — very basic, comfort food,” she said. “Everyone loves my roast, breakfast scones, pies and soups. I don’t freeze anything and I make everything the day I’m going to serve it.”
No one ever goes through the front door of the Bown’s home — guests and family use the kitchen door exclusively.
“My kitchen is the heart and soul of our property,” Bown said.
Rodney Bown can vouch for that, because as he finished up construction back in 1983, he left Sue a little something on one of the rafters. It has faded over time and you need a ladder or a pair of binoculars to see it. Written in ballpoint ink, you can barely make it out: “Rod loves Sue” within the shape of a heart.