The Perils of Kitchen Kitsch: Fat Chefs, Lighthouses, Sunflowers, OH MY!

Home Stager with FEATURE THIS... Real Estate Staging & Interior Decor

We see it everywhere.

And it's scary.

The Themed Kitchen.


Whenever we are in them, our senses are assaulted by wine bottle-carrying obese chefs, roosters of every possible size and description, hand-painted palm trees swaying the breeze on every plate and cup, swags of ceramic chili peppers around the window frame, Folksy-Country signs with wooden hearts telling us the dishwasher is full or empty, salt and pepper shakers made of cowboys napping whilst standing up against cactus (Ouch!).

It's an epidemic. And when a family of fat chef figurines arrived at my house today, via my significant other on a shopping spree, I was suddenly mentally forced to draw a line between tasteful decor and utter crap (that would be udder crap if it is kitchen decor comprised of black and white cows). I absolutely must rebuke the chefs and banish them to the outer realm.

Before I start a riot from fat chef lovers everywhere, I want to say I love collections, and have a few hokey ones myself. They make me smile. I happen to adore those tacky plastic bonsai trees from the fifties and sixties. I love kooky-looking figurines of Asian guys fishing with a crazy look on their faces made of off-white plastic and brown stain, to supposedly mimic ivory. I collect bejewled box purses by E. Collins (they are really, really tacky with giant plastic gems glued all over them). These things are my weaknesses, and they are displayed with off-beat pride. They are parts of my personality.

But such tacky collections do not belong in a house for sale. Or, for that matter, in the house of someone who makes their living helping others stage and/or redesign theirs.

The thing is, I want my guests to comment on my stuff. I want them to see things they may have seen before, but in a whole new light after being in my house. I want them to drive away thinking, "Well, I have never seen anything quite like that. She sure has an eye for odd but interesting crap! "

But if your house is for sale, you really want the opposite reaction. You want any cook to picture themselves chopping healthy vegetables for their family, stirring big pots of their family favorites in your kitchen, laughing with their own people as they weave a spell of friendship and abundant entertaining. That is hard to do with thousand rooster eyes staring at you as you make your way through a stranger's kitchen sizing it up for purchase.

And that is the thing: a themed kitchen is a  strange kitchen to a stranger. The goal is to make it universal, warm, spacious, and able to drink a cup of coffee by one's self and a newspaper with sunlight streaming through the windows, cozy up near a loved one over a couple of steaming bowls of soup on a rainy day, and celebrate the milestones and events in class and style on special occasions with the whole clan.

                                                                                                                                                                           You want to acheive this feeling regardless of the buyer's age, ethnicity, religious beliefs, or their own decoratingmatador salt and peper shakers style. The fastest way to do that is to get the collections of kitchen kitsch OUT and let a wider audience appreciate what your kitchen has to offer.

Just say no to fat chefs and all their ilk. Do not use them as a decorating crutch. Stand on your own two feet and find a legitimate style to show off your house if it is for sale. And if it isn't, still, please think twice about copping out and buying that entire set of dishes with a different birdhouse scene on every plate. Your food will thank you by tasting much better and be more dignified on a "plain" plate (It's ok to have a nice floral centerpiece on the table with a realistic-looking bird's nest nestled in it).

There.  I feel better now. 

So, how do I get these three fat chef figurines out of my house without hurting my beloved's feelings? I may be able to save others from falling into the kitchen kitsch crevasse, but apparently I cannot save myself.





Comments (49)

Tracie Cope
Granville, Newark, Heath, Buckeye Lake & all of Central Ohio - Granville, OH
ReMax 360 -

A few years ago, I put a FEW roosters in my kitchen, that's all I wanted.  I wanted them because we live in the country and actually had chickens.  A friend at work asked me if I had a theme and I told her just a few roosters.  Little did I know that she was using this information so co-workers could buy me Christmas presents!  I have got rid of most of them, still have a few, but I believe it's under control!

A little while after the rooster gift episode, I was working on my bathroom and had specific ideas about what I wanted.  I had mentioned to this friend that I was doing a FISHING theme in the bathroom.  I put up pictures of my family fishing, a little decorative fishing pole, decorative lures on the shower curtain and a Longaberger boat basket with a little fisherman.  It's cute, not overdone.  My friend says to me one day, "I saw some fish stuff for your bathroom....." scared me!  I begged her not to buy me anything and not to tell anyone any of my themes.  I also pointed out to her that my theme was not fish, it was fishing and there is a big difference IMO.

Now I understand why my sister got fed up with us buying her snowmen in every variety available!

Nov 22, 2009 01:48 AM
Joe Pryor
The Virtual Real Estate Team - Oklahoma City, OK
REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties

They can have my Marvin Martian Pez dispenser when they pry my cold dead hands off it. Did I say that? I need a 12 step program for my addiction!

Nov 22, 2009 02:00 AM
Lisa Lucas
Lisa Lucas Design - Seattle, WA

I have had many clients during my consultations tell me that their collections make it feel like their home and I remind them that it will continue to be their home if those collections stay put. So often a buyer can't remember if the house had crown moulding but will vividly remember if the owner had a large wedding! De-personalization is probably the hardest hurdle for most sellers but really gives insight as to how truly motivated they are in the selling.

Nov 22, 2009 02:06 AM
Tricia Pearson
Tricia Pearson - Pearson Real Estate - Texas Hill Country - Boerne, TX
Real Estate Broker, San Antonio/Hill Country Homes for Sale

Here in the Hill Country, "Texana" is very popular. Barbed wire, windmills, bluebonnets, cowboys,etc. Believe me, a little goes a long way...

Nov 22, 2009 03:35 AM
Ron and Alexandra Seigel
Napa Consultants - Carpinteria, CA
Luxury Real Estate Branding, Marketing & Strategy

Great post!  The clutter factor is alive and well! 

Nov 22, 2009 05:02 AM
Shirin Sarikhani
Seattle Staged To Sell - Seattle, WA

Sign me up Michelle!

Nov 22, 2009 05:33 AM
Deena Cottingham
GreenApple Staging & Images, Calgary Staging & Photography - Calgary, AB
Home Stager & Photographer

Michelle, I will join your club! I will even be a booster!

Nov 22, 2009 06:11 AM
Kate Talarico
Kates Home Staging and Interior Design - Goshen, NY
RESA, Top Orange County Home Decorator & Stager

Maybe you can have a cleaning accident and accidentally throw out the three fat chefs in your house?

Better yet, have someone in to clean your home for the holidays ~ now you have a "fall guy" for the missing figurines. 

I definitely agree, some kitchen collections are way over the top and are very distracting.  Very funny post.

Nov 22, 2009 09:50 AM
Cathy Brosius
Arranged Smartly LLC - Saint Louis, MO
Home Staging St. Louis region

Kate's response made me think of the leg lamp in A Christmas Story... Too funny! I confess, I have a rooster in my kitchen but there's just one. And yes, I ask my clients to pack up ALL collections in their house. One man's fat chef is another man's kitschy trash...

Nov 22, 2009 12:45 PM
Sharon Parisi
United Real Estate Dallas - Dallas, TX
Dallas Homes

You are so right!  The house we live in and the house we are trying to sell are two different concepts.  Sometimes this is a difficult point to get across to sellers.

Nov 22, 2009 12:55 PM
Laurie Calhoun
Gloria Home Staging, Inc. - Winter Springs, FL
Seminole County FL Home Stager

This was a fun post, Michelle!

We staged a log home a few months ago that was full of moose and dog figurines, among other things. (Including a miniature replica of the leg lamp from A Christmas Story, and a Red Rider BB gun) Fortunately, the owner was willing to get rid of everything we didn't use for the staging. Here is one of the most glaringly tacky pieces, a dog biscuit jar:

Dog biscuit jar  One of the other stand-outs was the wooden moose that had a little hay bale under its head and a tiny bucket under its tail. When you raised its head, a raisinette would fall into the bucket. We quickly removed that one from its place of prominence on the kitchen island.

There's never a dull day, is there?

Nov 22, 2009 01:47 PM
Michelle Molinari
FEATURE THIS... Real Estate Staging & Interior Decor - Lafayette, LA
Feature This Real, Estate Staging & Curb Appeal Concepts

My Goodness! I didn't realize I was featured! Thanks so much for all the wonderful comments!!!

Yes, frogs are incredibly prevalent here also - I am only about 20 miles south of Rayne, Louisiana (The Frog Capital of the World).  the largest shipper of frogs legs in the worlds (that's how I like my frogs - dipped in batter and deep fried- absolutely delicious and much tastier, whiter, and jucier than chicken!)

I do think some collections start out as misdemeanors ( a little pig here, a dolphin there) and family members and friends become partners in crime and even instigators in felonious acts of gift giving. For instance, I was born on Valentine's day. There is no end to the supply of heart-shaped crap I have receive year round by virtue of fact I came into this world on February the 14th. I am sure it will continue on that way and there will be floral wreaths shaped like hearts at my funeral and hearts etched on my casket.

Regarding the Leg Lamp - I want one of those!  In fact, you can tour the real house used in the "A Christmas Story"  movie, which is in located in Cleveland, Ohio. They sell the full-sized leg lamps in the gift shop for only $99 bucks! What a deal!

I truly accidentally dropped one of the chefs yesterday. His nose and arm broke off! I was so excited, until my beloved whipped out some super glue <sigh>.

I really hate those chefs! What's it going to be next? Prolly those lame twirly rainbow things in the yard. After all, I have a separate branch of my staging business called, so it's only natural for us to have such beautiful ornamentation!

But really, I thank you all for commenting! I was worried the fat chef lovers might rear their heads in protest and I was going to have a PR nightmare on my hands. But I just couldn't keep my feelings inside any longer.






Nov 22, 2009 03:26 PM
Wayne B. Pruner
Oregon First - Tigard, OR
Tigard Oregon Homes for Sale, Realtor, GRI

When I see really odd treasured items that need to go, I suggest that maybe they need to be put away so they are not stolen. It works about half the time.

Nov 22, 2009 03:30 PM
Cindy Bryant
Redesign Etc. Home Staging - Houston, TX
"Houston Home Staging Pros"

The chefs would be cute at an Italian themed party!  It's like chile peppers everywhere, take them down and if you must use them for a mexican themed get together.

Nov 22, 2009 07:28 PM
Scott Taylor
Realty Center - Orlando - Ocoee - Orlando, FL

Such an entertaining post, thank you. I remember back in the early stages of my real estate career, ducks were all the rage. Duck figurines, duck wallpaper. In our office we classified the style "Country Duck". Now if you peel back some wallpaper boarders you may still be able to find this long forgotten style...

Remember this?

country duck

Nov 23, 2009 12:31 AM
Michelle Molinari
FEATURE THIS... Real Estate Staging & Interior Decor - Lafayette, LA
Feature This Real, Estate Staging & Curb Appeal Concepts

Hi Wayne,

That is an excellent approach!



Nov 23, 2009 03:45 AM
Michelle Molinari
FEATURE THIS... Real Estate Staging & Interior Decor - Lafayette, LA
Feature This Real, Estate Staging & Curb Appeal Concepts

Hey Cindy-

Absolutely, it would be darling. But one cannot dine on lasagne forever!


Nov 23, 2009 03:46 AM
Michelle Molinari
FEATURE THIS... Real Estate Staging & Interior Decor - Lafayette, LA
Feature This Real, Estate Staging & Curb Appeal Concepts

Hi Scott -

OH YES I do remember the ducks, and thier evil counterparts, the white geese with blue ribbons around thier necks.


Nov 23, 2009 03:47 AM
Sandi Gerrard
Toronto, ON

Fun post and I enjoyed reading all the comments too.  I was guilty of a themed kitchen back in the day (way back)!  It was ivy ... dishes, glasses, placemats and hand painted ivy trailing along the bulkhead over the cabinets.  Yikes, what was I thinking?!

Feb 10, 2010 12:09 AM
Michelle Molinari
FEATURE THIS... Real Estate Staging & Interior Decor - Lafayette, LA
Feature This Real, Estate Staging & Curb Appeal Concepts

Thanks Sandi! I think we are all guilty of  kitchen kitsch crime on some level... my mom had the ivy, too, and I had Mickey and Minnie Mouse e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g in my first apartment, due to my first husband's extreme love affair with all things Disney, from the cookie jar all the way to the dishtowels.


Feb 10, 2010 05:55 PM