It’s always been important to me to have items around my home that bring me joy, rather than filling my home with loads of things just for the sake of it. Ultimately, I want to be surrounded by items that represent who I am, and make my house feel unique and authentic to my family and culture.
This is how the Navarro family brings their heritage into their own home, especially in la cocina, where a lot of their culture and traditions come to life. Check out the full video below to witness an inspiring and heartfelt conversation between dad and daughter duo, Jaime and Cassandra Navarro.
Similar to the Navarro family, having a space where we could create special memories and continue on with cultural traditions was important to my husband and I. When we set out to find our new home, we wanted something with good bones and modern updates, and we found just that in our forever home.
A few months ago, we got just what we were looking for. It’s an old house. Really old. We’re talking built in the year 1900 old, and I truly love it. Since our new home was fully renovated a few years ago, it fit the bill while also giving us that older character we were looking for.
We moved into white and gray walls, white cabinets and beautiful granite countertops- it felt kind of generic, and that’s so not me. I love color and texture. As a Latina, I think I was just born that way so there were some things I absolutely had to do as soon as we moved in to make sure the home reflected who we are. Here, I’m sharing some ideas on how you can incorporate your cultura into your home while still keeping it modern, if that’s your vibe. Let’s start, of course, with la cocina.
Use Your Kitchen Essentials as Decor
For so many Latino families, the kitchen — la cocina — is the heartbeat of the home. So many of our traditions revolve around food, and many of the traditions that are passed down to us from generation to generation, start in the kitchen. One of the very first items I unpacked in my kitchen was the pilón my brother gave me as a gift from Puerto Rico. It’s made from beautiful carved wood and instantly makes me think of my mother and grandmothers. It sits proudly on my modern, granite countertops, right next to my beautiful stainless steel gas range, and it’s perfectly at home and within arm’s reach for that next batch of mofongo, just like the Navarro’s molcajete. Of course, my caldero often sits right on the stovetop as well.
Incorporate Pops of Color
Even if you’re a neutrals girl, there’s something about the rich greens, reds, yellows and oranges that always feel like home. You don’t have to go all out with color to inject some of your personality and culture into your modern home though. A few pops of color will do the trick. My kitchen is gray and white, but I hung a framed drawing of a pig on an orange background — because, you know…chicharrón — scattered some lovely small green plants in clusters in otherwise unused spots on the counters and kept a small vase of brightly colored flowers displayed at all times. These small pops of color come a long way in making our homes feel more like a reflection of ourselves.
The paint in our house is fairly new so it seemed like a waste of money to repaint everything as soon as we moved in. I needed to switch the vibe up to something a little richer and more natural though. I started in la sala, because I spend a lot of time there – it’s the place where we gather to share moments together, to talk about our childhood memories, and reminisce about trips to el Yunque. We used a slightly warmer white on two walls and an earthy dark green on the other two, and it instantly cozied up the space.
I grew up surrounded by plant moms. My Puerto Rican mom, abuela and bisabuela had green thumbs to say the least. It’s my theory that all the green reminded them of being back home. It took a few years, but now, I’ve harnessed all that love and care to become quite the plant mom myself. It’s my goal to have living plants in every room. Right now, I have the most amazing plants thriving in my sala, cocina, and dining room, and it makes me happy every time I look at them. And plants are so in right now, so they are the perfectly modern way to warm your home right up and add tons of personality.
Make Art Matter
Anywhere we’ve lived, my husband and I made it a point to display wall art that’s meaningful to us. We decorate with framed family photos, drawings and paintings we purchase whenever we travel to another country. In our sala, we’ve created a gallery wall of family photos featuring so many meaningful images that show our history, including a portrait of my great grandmother as a young woman, a candid shot of our daughter when she was just an infant, and more. To us, seeing these photos every day reminds us of where — and who — we come from. Any trip to our beautiful Puerto Rico cannot be complete without picking up some local art because no matter how far we travel, this will always be the most special place to us.
Making your home your own, doesn’t have to take a ton of effort or money. You can bring in any meaningful aspects of your culture, your family traditions, your heritage, to make your space feel personal and welcoming, and most importantly, yours. Latino culture is all about warmth, family, hospitality, and love and bringing these elements of our heritage into our homes makes it feel all the more special.