How I’ve Turned Sentimental Clutter Into Some of My Favorite Pieces of Kitchen Art
We all have those items we feel inclined to hold onto—cocktail napkins, cork coasters, worn aprons, and more—because they signify a special place or memory. Transform them into art you love, versus continually shifting them from one packrat pile to the next.
I've long been the type of person to play archivist with my personal food-related nostalgia: the menu from a restaurant where I learned to love sardines, an old cookbook scrap from a cherished family friend, a piece of the tattered apron my dad wore my whole childhood complete with (highly-storied) stains. If an object tugs at my heartstrings—and has a delicious memory attached—there’s a high likelihood I’ll hang onto it, no matter how oddball or, admittedly, inconvenient.
Eventually, though, many of these items ended up piled in the corner of my attic, appearing more like “clutter” than “precious mementos worth cherishing” to those who didn’t share my exact blend of attachment to culinary-adjacent items and complete inability to part with even slightly sentimental stuff (A.K.A. my family). Fortunately, I found an inexpensive, thoughtful way to preserve these keepsakes while elevating them from clutter-adjacent to a place of prominence: framing them as DIY art.
When framed (and matted, if you’re feeling fancy), a cocktail napkin from your beloved college bar goes from “hiding in the pages of a half-finished scrapbook” to a vintage-cool throwback to hang above your living room bar cart. A favorite recipe card passed down through the generations is able to take centerstage when framed and used as kitchen art, ensuring that family culinary traditions are always front and center. When it comes to paper products—menus, pages from cookbooks, letters with recipes in them, ingredient lists scribbled on matchbooks—framing these memory-triggering items guarantees that they’ll be preserved for years to come, and will never get lost or damaged in the shuffle of day-to-day life.
But paper isn’t the only thing that can be framed. Snippets of cloth from a kitchen towel or other textile, an oilcloth placemat from a childhood vacation spot or a piece of vinyl seating from your hometown diner chair can also be easily framed and make for strong (unexpected!) conversation pieces. Perhaps the best part, though, is that it’s inexpensive, individually resonate art that’s almost foolproof to make—even for the least crafty among us. Just pick out your desired frame, trim your culinary keepsake (if necessary), position it inside the frame and be prepared for plenty of opportunities to talk about your new artwork’s backstory.
Framed pieces of food-adjacent nostalgia also make a deeply thoughtful gift for birthdays, weddings and any occasion in-between. Before you know it, you’ll be smuggling away a copy of the tasting menu from your best friend’s wedding, or snagging a coaster from your dad’s favorite brewery, just in preparation for the moment when you can turn these items into meaningful, truly personal pieces of art.