Our Kitchen

Many of you know that my husband is a Western artist. He spends most of his days painting and sculpting, pretty much nine-to-five. Right now, he’s in the next room working on a commission for an important historical project (Sorry, I’m sworn to secrecy, so don’t ask what it is…) He listens to radio shows and the Western channel as he works, only pausing to watch if the production is well-designed and accurately researched. Question: How many times can a person watch the movie Jeremiah Johnson? Answer: Infinity.

One of his best works is my kitchen. Most of our furniture in our kitchen, as well as the rest of our home, was hand built by my husband. I can’t begin to tell you how much I cherish the tables, chairs, doors and forged iron work that my husband has created. We didn’t have a mountain of money to decorate, and definitely didn’t have an interior decorator. Our unified vision for our kitchen and home is to only acquire things that we truly enjoyed, and that had meaning for us. We are quietly crazy about this space.

We moved into our home on San Vicente Ranch a full year after we were married, in 1990. Even though I had always wanted a Spanish Mediterranean style house like the classic main house at King Ranch, my husband had a different vision. Inspired by the German-born architect Heinrich Portscheller, we built a brick house with sandy colored bricks. Portscheller built the general stores that my husband’s great uncle owned on the Mexican border back in the early 1900’s.

Born into a family of builders, Portscheller was a German national that immigrated to Mexico in 1865. He joined the Austrian army in Mexico in support of Emperor Maximillian, but eventually deserted and fled northwards. Once military action in the area subsided, Portscheller became the go-to builder for families and businesses from Laredo to Monterrey, Nuevo Leon. His buildings in Rio Grande City and Brownsville are iconic, and still stand.

The Irony is I Always Told the Boys to Keep their Boots off the Table

In honor of your visit to my blog, I have recreated a couple of flower arrangements that I usually place when we have dinner parties.  Right now, we have beautiful deep magenta tunas, or cactus pears, growing on the cactus outside my door. I arranged a few in batea, or traditional wood basin, and placed them on a low wooden bench. Who says flower arrangements have to be vertical, on a table or even contain flowers? My cactus pad arrangement is horizontal, close to the ground, is embellished with purple sage, and mesquite twigs.

Also, I didn’t have any small vases for my flower centerpiece, but in a pinch, I found the boys’ retired cowboy boots. I used to dress them in matching outfits, so I had four identical boots to work with. They looked great lined up, but I really liked the way they looked bunched together. If you are looking for more ranch inspiration, the historic Texas-based company King Ranch has an inspiring Pinterest board, as well as a wide selection of trendy and old fashioned cowgirl boots. 

I really enjoyed photographing around my kitchen, so expect more pics in the future. Chatting over coffee, my husband and I agreed that even though we live on a cattle ranch, we haven’t really gone for a “ranch look” in our décor. What has come together in our kitchen is just local items, local history and reducing our belongings to what we really enjoy. Are there hats, boots and spurs in our kitchen? Yep, and here at the ranch,  we use them (but not at the table, please.) Nothing fake here. This is just who we are.

Melissa Guerra Kitchen

I think my kitchen looks amazing, as it is never this clean

Melissa Guerra Kitchen

My husband built everything you see – The pantry is reclaimed 19th century mesquite doors, and all the tile is from Mexico

Pot rack and dining room

Entryway into the dining room – Huge pot rack that my husband built. Loaded with colonial forged iron pieces, and paella pans. And a wok.

Cowboy Boot Bouquet

The boot leather was a little warped, and I could have tied them together with raffia, but in the end they behaved and stood tall

Cowboy Boots and Fresh Flowers

Lined up boots look good around entrances or in kitchen corners

Cowboy Boots and Fresh Flowers

The woven poncho is one of my husband’s props for painting

Cowboy Boots and Fresh Flowers

What you can’t see are the glass jelly jars that I pushed down into the boots to hold water for the flowers

Cactus Pad Arrangement

A flat “flower” arrangement – It’s thrilling to see fresh cactus pads up close. They always seem a little dangerous

Monkey hooks and garlic basket

Apparently we have a monkey theme in the house. I’ve never noticed. The TV room has about 50 monkeys, not counting my family.  I bought these hooks and the garlic basket in Fredricksburg.


Skeletons pop up in our kitchen. You can’t see the details, but this one grouping is a band, with trumpets, cymbals, and maracas.



  • HelenReply

    July 22, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    Your kitchen is beautiful! I am grateful for the credit you give to Heinrich Portscheller. I am a direct descendant of Heinrich and Leonarda Portscheller. They were the grandparents of my great-grandmother Esperanza Centeno, who was the only child of their son Guadalupe Portscheller. I have been researching my family for years and I have had difficulty getting information because all of my elders have passed years ago. It is through the publication of the admiration of his work from different people that keep his legacy going and getting the information out there. An author who admired his work recently published a book about my family. Without this type of credit, like yours, I would not have learned this much about my family. Since the books publishing, I have met family from Germany, and have met the descendants of Heinrich’s daughter San Juanita (by the way my grandmother was named after her). So thank you for getting this information out there. Heinrich has many descendants, still in Texas! Feel free to email me at any time if you have any questions.

    • Melissa GuerraReply

      July 24, 2017 at 9:15 pm

      Thank you so much! I am so glad to meet you! My husband and I are big fans of Portscheller, and believe me, he is not forgotten. Our family talks about his work all the time. Take a trip some time to South Texas, and go to Rio Grande City. Lots of beautiful construction. I appreciate you reading my blog, and I will continue to include mentions of his contributions to Texas Architecture when I can. Best regards, MG

  • SheenaReply

    August 1, 2017 at 2:41 am

    I just discovered your blog thanks to your border post and I love it so much. I feel so inspired by your writing and the way you live your life. I live in India so the ingredients aren’t always available but I can’t wait to try your recipes for myself.

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