5 Ways to Design a Traditional Kitchen

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Designing a kitchen that looks as if it has always been there is no easy task. Whether you want an authentic look or a more transitional space—which bridges both past and present—focus on the layout and the details. Introducing some tried-and-true elements into your kitchen design will produce not only a timeless aesthetic, but also a functional space. Here are some tips to create that perfect period-inspired kitchen.

Traditional components create a timeless kitchen.

Key Flavors

A soapstone sink and a central worktable lend authenticity to a farmhouse kitchen.

A soapstone sink and a central worktable lend authenticity to a farmhouse kitchen. (Photo: Eric Roth)

For this New England farmhouse kitchen designed by D. Michael Collins, adding a cream-colored Aga cooker and custom green-gray soapstone double sink, complete with gooseneck faucets, created a period look. Furthering the feel of a traditional kitchen is the worktable that takes center stage. Built by Ohio-based craftsman David T. Smith, the 7'6" x 4' curly maple island with drawers is reminiscent of an old farm table and adds the perfect patina. Smith also built the lower distressed cabinets, solidifying the old-time feel.

Antiques Collector

Designer Joan Krainin deftly incorporated antique pieces into her gourmet kitchen.

Designer Joan Krainin deftly incorporated antique pieces into her gourmet kitchen. (Photo: Eric Roth)

When interior designer Joan Krainin remodeled her kitchen on Cape Cod Bay, she wanted ample space to prepare gourmet meals for family and friends while creating a warm kitchen of the past. To create the look, she painted her wood floor in a black and white diamond pattern. She also recessed the stove—a design element popular in turn-of-the-century homes. Krainin introduced an antique block and a hanging plate rack to the space for an authentic look. Brass drawer pulls in a 1900s style play off the antique copper and brass collection.

English Cottage

Architect Andrew Reck and kitchen designer Eileen Kollias used stone, tile, and copper to create an Old World look in this kitchen.

Architect Andrew Reck and kitchen designer Eileen Kollias used stone, tile, and copper to create an Old World look in this kitchen. (Photo: Eric Roth)

The romance of a Cotswold cottage is brought to life in this charming kitchen designed by architect Andrew Reck and kitchen designer Eileen Kollias. The owners wanted an authentic Old World style. One element that creates a period look is the blue-and-white 17th-century Portuguese tile mural, reclaimed from a house in Portugal, above the cooktop. A hand-hammered copper range hood contrasts with the blue-and-white tile, adding a pleasant color balance. Other authentic additions include the slate floor and stone wood-burning oven, which is ideal for pizza- and bread-making.

California Charm

Period details are subtle in this casual cottage kitchen.

Period details are subtle in this casual cottage kitchen. (Photo: Eric Roth)

When architect Stephen Giannetti and his wife, Brooke, an interior designer, set out to create their interpretation of a 1930s beach cottage, they looked to historical examples throughout the Los Angeles coastline. They wanted a relaxed, welcoming vibe with period patina. The couple chose a tin ceiling—popular in historical kitchens. Decorative registers set into the ceiling also give the space an old-fashioned look. Reclaimed wood flooring warms the room. A white farmhouse sink, with a gingham curtain to hide the plumbing, offers the perfect 1930s touch.

Colonial Inspired

Colonial-inspired details ground this new old kitchen in history.

Colonial-inspired details ground this new old kitchen in history. (Photo: From A Classical Invention: The Architecture of John B. Murray/The Monacelli Press)

When architect John B. Murray’s clients requested a traditional kitchen for their second home on Seaside Island in Georgia, Murray created a functional and aesthetically pleasing kitchen with a distinct American feel, grounded in colonial roots. A beamed ceiling and copper lanterns create the 18th-century feel. Murray designed a white-painted “unfitted” hutch inset with a white farmhouse sink. The cabinets are detailed with raised panels, black H hinges, and walnut knobs. The counters are topped with white carrara marble. Murray also designed a custom colonial-inspired tavern table and bench for a breakfast nook, which is finished with beadboard walls and ceiling. The kitchen is featured in Murray’s book, Classical Invention: The Architecture of John B. Murray (The Monacelli Press, 2013).