Laura Miner knows a thing or two about a well-run kitchen. As a mom of three and the creator behind the popular food blog Cook at Home Mom, Miner spends much of her time testing recipes and creating content for her blog, all while serving up three square meals a day for her family.
“I always wanted the kitchen to be the center of the home, like it was for my mother and grandmother,” Miner said.
A New York native, Miner grew up around food and the community that it can create. Her grandmother was known for hosting big family meals and get-togethers and it was in her kitchen that Miner herself began to cook.
“Every Sunday, we were there and she always had something cooking,” Miner recounted. “The kitchen was the center of the household and food was always at the center of our family. I learned the basics from my grandmother and, as I got older and went away to college, I would call her and say, ‘Okay, I have a can of beans and an onion here, and I think I have some pasta in the cabinet,’ and she would basically give me a cooking lesson on the phone.”
It was after Miner got married and had kids that she started experimenting more in the kitchen—deviating from the soul-nourishing cheese and pasta staples from her childhood and learning how to adapt recipes to her and her family’s preferences. She started her blog, Cook at Home Mom, in 2014 on a whim and a means to connect with others creatively. At that time, she had just moved to Lynchburg with her family and was a new stay-at-home-mom and the blog served as a hobby, creative outlet, and, by 2018, her full-time job.
Steady readers of Cook at Home Mom will notice an emphasis on whole, healthy foods, many of which are Whole30, paleo, or low-carb friendly.
“I didn’t grow up eating that way,” Miner explained. “I grew up eating pasta and cheese—all the things that are good for the soul but not necessarily good for my body. I did the Whole30 in 2015 and I found that all sorts of lifelong issues that I had felt—rosacea, joint pain, inflammation issues—disappeared. I hadn’t realized before then that I was having reactions to certain foods. So anti-inflammatory diets have just helped me feel better. After I finished the Whole30, I started transitioning to a paleo-type of diet—but I still do occasionally eat bread and cheese.”
There’s a natural crossover between the recipes Miner shares on her blog and the meals that make their way to her family’s table. On and off the internet, Miner prioritizes whole foods while still leaving plenty of room for special indulgences.
“We don’t have our kids follow any strict protocol or anything like that. My main concern is their overall health,” she said. “I think it’s good to allow them to experience all the different foods that there are and talk in kid-friendly terms about the decisions that we make. When we are watching what we eat, we talk about it not in terms of what we can’t have, but in terms of what we can have. To little kids, that makes sense in a way that is less harmful than talking about food as either ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ And we explain to them that their taste buds change every now and again and that they may now like a food that they didn’t before. I want them to have a good relationship with food.”
The prioritization of accessible whole foods plus the daily cadence of creating new content for her blog means Miner requires a lot out of a kitchen. But when they moved into their Lynchburg home, its piecemealed kitchen quickly exposed inefficiencies and frustration.
“The kitchen was essentially three separate rooms,” said Miner. “We had to knock out two walls. There was a full wall and a door between the kitchen and the dining room. For us, it just didn’t make sense.”
Despite the glaring inefficiencies of the space, Miner and her family spent a full year living in and getting to know their home before jumping into renovations.
“Over time, you think about how you use the space and how you want to use the space,” she said.
After observing, cooking, and learning, renovations got underway. The Miners knocked out the ancillary walls to completely open the kitchen into their living room and took down the door between the kitchen and dining room. What was left was a flood of northwestern light that gradually softens throughout the year as the tall trees in their backyard leaf out in the spring and summer.
Opening up the kitchen into the living room left two stunning bay windows that allow light to stream in.
“We went through several rounds of designs, and I was really worried about the windows, that they would look clunky or strange. But we wound up figuring out a way to make it work,” she said.
The new open space served as a blank canvas for what the new kitchen could be.
“I wanted the kitchen to be a place that was calm,” Miner explained. “I didn’t want it to feel crowded or cluttered, which meant we needed a lot of storage. And, of course, I wanted to focus on the utility of the kitchen. I wanted a place for everything, and I wanted everything easily accessible so I could cook quickly and with expedience.”
As a focal point to the kitchen, Miner had a large island installed with enough seating for her family of five. Miner opted for marble countertops despite countless warnings that they would get chipped and stained over time.
“I made my peace with it,” she laughed. “We opted for a leathered finish, so it really hides and masks any wear. I’m hard on the kitchen and I cook a lot. I also have little kids. So, I wanted something more durable but couldn’t find anything that matched that finish that I loved so much. I felt it brought a lot of warmth to a white kitchen.”
The island features abundant storage underneath and beside the deep stainless steel farmhouse sink, but the true storage abilities of the space can be found in the cabinets across and adjacent to the island.
Within arm’s reach of the stove is a dedicated, tiered spice drawer that keeps the many spices and seasonings Miner uses organized and close at hand.
“I knew I didn’t want to be rifling through cabinets,” she explained. “I wanted to be able to go through it in quick order.”
Other efficiencies found their way into Miner’s kitchen redesign—from electrical outlets in the pantries and a dedicated coffee space to a uniquely placed kettle faucet.
“I fill my Berkey [water filtration system] twice a day, so I knew that I wanted a dedicated faucet right above it,” she said. “I also wanted the coffee out of the way so people could come in and make themselves a cup and not interrupt me while I was making breakfast. You just have to know how you work and how you function.”
Miner prioritized design and functionality decisions that felt timeless—like the picket tile backsplash and cabinet finishes—with enough flexibility for the kitchen to continue to evolve as their needs change.
“A designer once told me, ‘Don’t do anything permanent if you’re not sure.’ That’s advice that I took to heart,” she said.
Miner doesn’t consider her kitchen to be “finished,” and it may never be. For now, future plans include installing bay window seating and storage and continuing to spend her days whipping up nourishing meals for her family and readers.