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Designing an Old House Kitchen

Tips on designing a timeless kitchen from the editors of the Design Center Sourcebook.

    How do you design an appropriate old house kitchen? One that will still look good and function well in twenty years?

    (1) Rely on timeless materials such as wood and stone. Downplay contemporary materials by keeping the kitchen design simple or incorporating period conventions – trimming out laminate counters in wood, for example, or using honed rather than polished granite.

    (2) Take kitchen design cues from your dining room, or from an old pantry in the house or the neighborhood, in designing your cabinets and millwork.

    (3) Try to use only those traditional kitchen details and materials which are related to the date and style of the house.

    By looking to your old house for design cues and not falling under the spell of what’s in this year’s kitchen showrooms (no matter how gorgeous) you will design a kitchen that goes with the house now and tomorrow.

    The colonial kitchen is of course a 20th-century convention. Most owners of early houses restore the original kitchen, with its huge fireplace, as a keeping room/parlor, then incorporate a plain, functional kitchen perhaps one with colonial-era cabinetwork into a wing or ell. The same kind of approach applies to those who own an early-19th-century house, whether Greek Revival, Carpenter Gothic, or Italianate. But it’s possible to be closer to authentic if your house dates to the Late Victorian era (1885-1900), the Arts and Crafts era (1900-1920), or the early-20th-century years of the “sanitary” kitchen (1915-1940). These latter kitchens are identical in Bungalows, Foursquares, and the Romantic Revival houses such as Dutch Colonials and Tudors. Some forward-thinking folks are restoring or painstakingly re-creating kitchens of the 1950s and 1960s . . . .

    However simple or elaborate, a period-inspired kitchen is a good choice because it avoids the “time-warp” sensation of walking from a restored parlor or dining room into an open-plan room full of laminates and stainless. Ironically, a period-inspired kitchen is timeless and thus less likely to look dated in the future.

    Published in: Old-House Interiors Design Center Sourcebook


    Brenda Baker February 22, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    I am TRYING to get a subscription to EARLY HOMES
    I have been through a maze every time I try to order it-
    Is there a way to order it ?????

    Clare February 22, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    You can order copies at The Old-House Bookstore. Right now we have issues through Winter 2009; the Spring/Summer 2010 issue will be available in a few weeks, and you’ll also be able to find content from that issue on this site soon. Hope that helps!

    Debbie October 17, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    I have a 1920 “old house” that I’m getting ready to fix up. the rooms (6 ) aare 14′x14′x14′. It has a real wide (app 5′ breezway?) down the middle of the house. Could you please tell me where I can find house plans for this type of farm house.
    It also has a beautiful wrap around pourch.
    Thank you for your help

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