Remembering Julia Child

Posted: Aug 15, 2019

When Julia Child was asked about the design of her home kitchen in 2001, she explained: “It’s certainly the soul of our house, and that’s one reason Paul [her husband] designed it the way he did with nice colors. It’s an attractive room, I think. It’s a work room that’s good looking.”

Many people heartily agree. Over the years, visitors to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., where Julia Child’s kitchen now resides as a popular exhibit have inquired about the exact names of the blue and green hues of the cabinetry. Not surprisingly, passionate admirers of America’s most popular and preeminent celebrity chef want to paint their kitchens in honor of their culinary hero.

The specific names of the blue and green paint and the manufacturer that the Childs used were sadly lost to history. But after the museum’s intrepid designers examined the cabinets and compared them to paint chips from various manufacturers, they determined that the blue-toned cabinets are close to Benjamin Moore’s “Covington Blue” and the green-toned pieces align with Benjamin Moore’s “Sherwood Green,” or possibly “Stem Green.” Assuming that the cabinets were likely affected by kitchen steam, cooking oils, cleaning solvents; and, perhaps even fading due to the room’s abundant seasonal sunlight, we still couldn’t know with 100 percent certainty.

Julia Child's kitchen (above, click to discover more) was “certainly the soul of our house," she said. "And that’s one reason Paul designed it the way he did with nice colors." (Jaclyn Nash, NMAH)
Then, in 2013, as luck would have it, a craftsman who had refinished the kitchen’s butcher-block countertops at the Childs’ home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, visited the American History Museum with his wife. He reported that in the late 1980s, he and a local painter worked together in the kitchen, sprucing it up for a special occasion. I seized upon the opportunity to find out if the painter had remembered the precise paint colors used on the cabinetry. He said he’d try to find out. He also admitted with a twinkle in his eye to having tucked his lunch-time McDonald’s burger wrappers in behind Julia’s stove and wondered if we’d come across them. We hadn’t.

By Paula Johnson
August 13, 2019

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