For the first few years that John Ashbery lived in the house, he used a yellow kitchen table and chairs that the owner had left there. “A Prison All the Same” (Shadow Train, 1981) begins by mentioning it: “Spoken over a yellow kitchen table (just the ticket / For these recycling minded times).”
In the late 1980s, Ashbery partially renovated the kitchen, adding the tin ceiling and vintage hanging lights, and painting the walls yellow (in a style and finish he copied from a restaurant in New York City). After spotting a wooden table and chairs he liked at a casual restaurant in Housatonic and discovering where they were made nearby, he ordered some. When they finally arrived months later, he recycled the yellow kitchen table and chairs (to be used as an office table) and moved them to the basement.
The kitchen also contains several collections of pieces Ashbery found (and was given) over many years: a small series of cookie jars on top of the refrigerator, yellow bowls displayed on a baker’s stand, copper fish molds inspired by those he saw in Giorgio de Chirico’s paintings on all the walls, vintage signs (many he remembered from advertisements on barns and in magazines during childhood), and a large collection of cookbooks and cooking equipment in one pantry and everyday dishware in the other.