THE BLOG
05/11/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Real Food Rehab: Creating Your Own Authentic Kitchen

I discovered my tastes late in life. For a long time, my own preferences in practically everything from food to décor eluded me. Over the years, I appropriated ideas from lots of great sources, but none of them really jibed with me and I think it showed. My style amounted to a hodgepodge of ambiguity. When I moved out of my previous apartment and into my current home, I sold and donated nearly everything I owned. I now had this exquisite blank slate to begin from and decided to bring only things that truly moved me into my space. That was my one and only rule.

I had recently been given many of my mother's housewares from my '70s childhood, including her Villeroy and Boch porcelain dishes, a few studio pottery pieces, Dansk wooden bowls and Copco enamel serveware, all in pristine condition. I discovered the joys of displaying some of them in my kitchen. I began to slowly and thoughtfully collect other serving pieces, textiles and whatever objects caught my eye. I also used these pieces -- they weren't simply decoration, but became part of my everyday life, and they continue to make me incredibly happy. I watched as my own soulfully sophisticated style began to emerge. It was life-changing to see myself reflected in my surroundings for the first time.

Looking back, it was all part of the natural process of becoming my authentic self; discovering what I valued, what possessions I wanted to surround myself with and what and how I enjoyed eating. All very important things to be clear on if you want to feel truly satisfied. Yep, there's that word again.

I think I knew intuitively that until I could tangibly express myself in those ways, I wouldn't be satisfied. I wouldn't be living in a way that was true to myself, and I wouldn't be making choices that were right for me.

So how do you get there? Well, you have to be willing to pose the questions in the first place, and then you have to take the process of answering them very seriously. And it is a process; it takes a while to know the answers. But what better answers could you possibly have? I mean really? Your world and everything in it starts with you.

Last week I touched on the idea of making your kitchen a place you want to be. This is an obvious and important step, but one that is often overlooked.

Think about your kitchen and eating areas as a blank canvas for your unique form of perfect self-expression. Create it to be a reflection of who you are or want to be. Again, clear away any clutter; get rid of useless tools or old pots and pans that have outlived their day. Choose not to leave unopened bills and junk mail to pile up on the counter and give everything a good clean. Bring out what you already own, gauge how much of it you want to keep, then store, sell or donate the rest.

When purchasing tableware such as bowls, serving pieces, glassware, textiles etc., take your time and only buy things that move you -- don't just buy to fill up space. If you don't know what that means, let me help you: Get out of your head and into your body. Does it make you feel good? Does the object's color or the line of its shape or the weft of its fabric make you deeply happy in a way you can't or simply don't feel the need to describe? Excellent, you are on to something. If you have feelings of doubt or heaviness or if you even slightly suspect that you are buying something for the wrong reason -- get out of the store and think it over. You can always come back.

My greatest piece of advice here is to take a break from the big box stores and go to antique stores and malls, independent boutiques, art fairs and even thrift shops to find unique pieces that truly speak to you. Not everything has to match. It's also important to always err on the side of quality not quantity. I've listed below a few of my favorite places to discover housewares and decorative objects for your home in Chicago and on the Web. There's high and low - something for every budget.

This journey you're taking in earnest -- this transition from processed food to real food -- is potentially symbolic of something greater. While it may start in the kitchen, you never know where it might end.

Thrift Stores

The Ark Thrift Store
http://www.arkchicago.org

Mt. Sinai Resale Shop
814 W. Diversey Parkway
773-935-1434

Antique Malls

Edgewater Antique Mall
http://www.edgewaterantiquemall.com

Broadway Antique Market
http://www.bamchicago.com

Ravenswood Antique Mart
4727 N. Damen Ave.
773-271-3700

Chicago Antiques Center
3036 N. Lincoln Ave.
773-929-0200

Specialty Tablewares

Elements
http://www.elementschicago.com/

Tabula Tua
http://www.tabulatua.com

Porte Rouge
http://www.porterouge.biz/

Antiques

Modlife
http://www.modlifehome.com

DouglasRosin Decorative Arts & Antiques
http://douglasrosin.com

Revival
http://rerevival.com/

My Favorite Art Fair

57th Street Art Fair
http://www.57thstreetartfair.org/

Online Stores

MOMA Store
http://www.momastore.org/

A+R Store
http://www.aplusrstore.com/

Ochre Store
http://shop.ochrestore.com/

Kikkerland
http://kikkerlandshop.com/

Heath Ceramics
http://www.heathceramics.com