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As the weather turns, we pile on the cozy textures in our bedrooms and stockpile blankets in our living room. The one area we commonly overlook? The kitchen.

As the heart of the home, it definitely deserves a few seasonal upgrades in the form of new appliances and gadgets. With that in mind, we turned to hot sauce entrepreneur Hawa Hassan to get the scoop on how she would prep her New York City kitchen for fall entertaining—then we turned her wishlist into reality with the help of Walmart

In one afternoon, we transformed Hassan’s rental into a multifunctional space primed for cooking and hosting. Here’s how we did it. 

An Island That Does It All

Photography by Heather Moore

In Hassan’s apartment in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood, her kitchen is stacked against a narrow wall, at times feeling more decorative than functional. With just a sliver of counter space, whipping up a meal can be a challenge—having friends over even more so. The fix? A portable cart that provides extra counter space, storage, and a gathering spot for friends. 

With all those additional shelves, indulging in a few new pots and pans just felt like the right thing to do. 

Refreshed Basics

An avid home cook should never be without a sharp, durable set of knives. Hassan opted for a 6-piece set (oh, the variety!) fitted in a transparent acrylic holder that also props up her cookbook collection. On the other end, a stack of small serving bowls with a shiny gold interior are pretty enough to leave out. Fresh fruit optional, but encouraged. 

Sometimes, it’s the little things that make the biggest impact. We also updated Hassan’s old kitchen faucet—it had weak water pressure and no hose—with a streamlined stainless steel option that fell more in line with her day-to-day needs. 

Plates With Purpose

Photography by Heather Moore

Hassan started out with a few mismatched white plates in her apartment, so we brought in a contrasting matte black set that would make the colors of her spice-rich dishes really stand out. 

Durable Cookware

Photography by Heather Moore

’Tis the season for hearty stews and soups. We snagged an Instant Pot for Hassan that’s ideal for the recipes she has planned for autumn. Think flavorful concoctions based on dishes from her native Somalia, built on a base of potatoes and carrots. “I’ll substitute sweet potatoes in the fall, or swap in spinach and collard greens for a lighter take,” says Hassan.

A cast-iron Dutch oven is yet another versatile cold-weather essential. Hassan whips up perfect rice in hers—who would have thought it could be done without a specialty cooker?

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A Baking Staple

Photography by Heather Moore

Speaking of the necessities, what’s fall without freshly baked cookies? Given that now Hassan has twice the countertop space, a stand mixer was the next item on her list of musts. She spices up her batch with a dash of sea salt. The best part? The whole apartment smells amazing afterward. 

Spice Storage

Photography by Heather Moore

Hassan’s spice collection took up roughly 50 percent of her cabinet space—not ideal in such a small kitchen. The addition of the rolling island freed up a significant amount of space, allowing her to relegate her seasonings and sauces to an easy-to-reach spot over the stove. 

“I barely use salt and pepper,” says Hassan; more developed spices such as turmeric and cumin are her go-tos. The cook keeps her haul at optimal freshness by storing them in a cohesive set of tightly lidded jars with matching labels. 

Kitchens photo
Darice Clear Glass Jar with Locking Lid, Walmart ($12)

The Finishing Touch

Photography by Heather Moore

At the end of the day, all that cooking calls for kicking your feet up with friends. A patterned tablecloth draped over the kitchen island transforms the piece of furniture into a cozy spot for dinner. 

Kitchens photo
Portable Kitchen Island, Walmart ($138)