Designing a New Country Kitchen

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Both worktable and gathering spot, the island forms a galley with the opposite wall, which is symmetrically arranged around a large sink.

Both worktable and gathering spot, the island forms a galley with the opposite wall, which is symmetrically arranged around a large sink.

When Dave and Patrice Walters moved in during the summer of 2004, they had a lot of work to do. They’ve spent more than six years working on this circa 1816 house in Pennsylvania. A big project was the transformation of this space—once two small, out-of-date rooms. The existing kitchen was a former summer kitchen that had been connected to the house in the 1940s. So the couple tackled structural work, insulated and installed windows and doors, and laid the brick-tile floor themselves. “Everything but the wonderful cabinets!” Patrice says.

The cabinets, hutch, and island were built by Kevin Ritter. His company, Timeless Kitchen Cabinetry & Design, grew out of a demand from clients of his father’s reproduction furniture business (Bryce M. Ritter & Son). Kevin Ritter produces only about a dozen kitchens a year, so each is one-of-a-kind and highly detailed. The Ritters are known for their respect for patina (reclaimed pine is often used) and specialty finishes (distressing, real milk paint). The cabinet hardware usually comes from local blacksmiths.

“Dave and Patrice like symmetry, which led to the balanced design,” Ritter says. A soapstone sink and a window at center are flanked by high cabinets and then, at each end, by large floor-to-ceiling pieces. “The large refrigerator enclosure is matched by a pantry cupboard on the opposite side,” Ritter explains. The new kitchen is generous, incorporating a restored hearth and a dining area. Many of the rooms in the old house are small, and the family wanted a large gathering space. (With the kitchen finished, the couple moved on to their next project: Son Luke was born this past December.)

On one end, a large cupboard balances the refrigerator enclosure.

On one end, a large cupboard balances the refrigerator enclosure.

The owners designed the space in consultation with Kevin Ritter. Cabinets and built-ins were made specifically for the space. The red hutch is a focal point of the room. It was built as a freestanding piece of furniture but is attached to the wall and allows for electrical connections for the small appliances it hides. Although inspired by antique cupboards, the piece was designed for function—not only to house the appliances, but also to be a food pantry and provide storage for tableware. “With few upper cabinets in this kitchen—and most of our kitchens—a hutch or pantry cabinet is needed for storage,” Ritter says.

Inglenook brick tiles were used on the floor, with radiant heat installed below. “It’s incredibly comfortable in the winter,” Ritter attests. The sink, a solid piece of stone with the basin cut out so there are no seams, is an innovative design by Bucks County Soapstone.

Although the room embraces a large refrigerator, a modern cooktop, multiple ovens, and a fancy coffee maker, none of these detract from the simple, early appearance of the room.