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Getaway Kitchens

How to decorate a vacation kitchen on a budget. By Mary Ellen Polson

    Relax... It's only a beach house!

    (Photo: Doug Keister)

    Like the rest of the house, the kitchen in a getaway should be a space that lets you relax and enjoy yourself. So what if the cabinets are old and the appliances aren’t stainless steel? Hopefully you bought the place for its age and charm. Even worn-out kitchens can be transformed into appealing spaces that are more than functional for the days or months you will be in residence for far less than a typical kitchen renovation that costs tens of thousands of dollars.

    A kitchen addition in an 1850s stone farmhouse in Canada keeps close to its roots: It was inspired by an 18th-century kitchen in a National Trust house in Cornwall. The long table, painted in Farrow & Ball’s ‘Viola,’ is particularly “English.”

    A kitchen addition in an 1850s stone farmhouse in Canada keeps close to its roots: It was inspired by an 18th-century kitchen in a National Trust house in Cornwall. The long table, painted in Farrow & Ball’s ‘Viola,’ is particularly “English.” (Photo: Edward Addeo)

    Turn Outdated Elements into Vintage Charm

    Let’s begin with the obvious: Keep the charm that won you over in the first place. Beadboard walls, original wood floors, molded door and window casings, even grungy existing cabinets can be spruced up or repurposed in ways that make your getaway your own.

    Note industrial pendants; palm-themed slipcovers add a jolt of color.

    Note industrial pendants; palm-themed slipcovers add a jolt of color. (Photo: Doug Keister)

    Designer Jane Coslick is famous for turning derelict wood-frame cottages in Tybee Island, Georgia, into colorful beach getaways. In one example shown here, Jane kept as many original elements as she could, from the heart-pine floor to the beadboard walls. When she needed more beadboard to complete the kitchen sitting room, she scavenged it from a similar building that was being torn down. She not only kept the feel of the original cottage, but also saved thousands of dollars.

    In a cold-weather getaway, an AGA stove that’s always on might be an investment to consider, as is orienting the kitchen to a source of heat, such as a fireplace or wood-burning stove. A summer house, on the other hand, might not even need true walls—the exposed beams and studs epitomize getaway rustic (and make it easier to run wiring).

    A tiny, plank-walled cottage kitchen makes the most of open shelving and an overhead rack for stemware.

    A tiny, plank-walled cottage kitchen makes the most of open shelving and an overhead rack for stemware. (Photos: Doug Keister)

    Got funky old cabinets? Paint them in sunny colors, or replace them with found built-ins, painted or striped.

    Got funky old cabinets? Paint them in sunny colors, or replace them with found built-ins, painted or striped.

    Avoid over-fitting the kitchen

    Do you really need expansive banks of upper and lower cabinets? Fewer cabinets mean less stuff. And so much of the charm of a cottage comes from using freestanding cabinets and open shelving. There’s no need for countertops measured in acres, either. Smaller surfaces allow you to adapt inexpensive scrap pieces of such high-end materials as marble, granite, slate, or copper for work surfaces or breakfast bars.

    Consider a retro range like this one in white from Big Chill.

    Consider a retro range like this one in white from Big Chill.

    This isn’t the place for a commercial stove and a Sub-Zero fridge. Put the money into an efficient gas grille if you’ll be cooking outdoors. If you find the old appliances unattractive, choose a kitchen color scheme to help them blend in. White appliances all but disappear in a white kitchen.

    It’s even possible to come up with a complementary color scheme for an avocado green stove. (Try white, with the green picked up in patterns on tea towels or slip-covers. Bolder renovators might choose a color on the opposite side of the color wheel—in this case, orange!)

    Shopping for something to match that avocado stove? Check out our Buyer’s Guide to Vintage Appliances.

    Experiment with color

    For a simple dwelling, keep the palette clean. One of the signatures of Jane Coslick’s Tybee Island cottages is her use of bright pops of color on a white palette. A getaway house kitchen can benefit from the use of bold, unusual, or whimsical colors, especially when there’s only enough money in the budget to paint the cabinets, not replace them.

    Personalize with hardware

    Bin pulls reproduced in historically correct (and colorful!) glass brighten aged cabinets.

    Bin pulls reproduced in historically correct glass brighten aged cabinets.

    A ribbed glass pendant from Barn Light Electric is nostalgic and inexpensive.

    A ribbed glass pendant from Barn Light Electric is nostalgic and inexpensive.

    Old glass insulators from Conant Metal & Light are fun and functional.

    Old glass insulators from Conant Metal & Light are fun and functional.

    Speaking of money, put dollops of cash into accents like lighting and hardware. A fresh coat of paint and new, period-appropriate cabinet and bin pulls can transform cabinets. Choose reproduction pendants and scon-ces to illuminate work areas. Personalize the space as you outfit it with dishes, utensils, and pots and pans.

    Add character with vintage collectibles

    The tiles aren’t the originals, and don’t look for twin dishwashers . . . but how charming is the collection of colorful spun aluminum  over the old stove?

    The tiles aren’t the originals, and don’t look for twin dishwashers . . . but how charming is the collection of colorful spun aluminum over the old stove? (Photo: Jonathan Wallen)

    A second home is the perfect place to trot out all those collectibles you found on eBay and have been storing since the late 1990s, or vintage pieces found locally that tie your house to its history.

    Remember that less is more when it comes to pots and pans—and utensils, if drawer space is tight or nonexistent. Edit tools and equipment, keeping in mind must-haves, like lobster pots in coastal Maine, or marshmallow skewers for mountain retreats with fire pits.

    If you are planning a major overhaul or addition, open the kitchen to the living space, indoors and out. Even small galley-sized kitchens live large when they open into a gathering room.

    For sources, see the Products & Services Directory.

    Published in: Old-House Interiors March/April 2010

    { 2 comments }

    NightOwl February 27, 2010 at 12:18 am

    The last two pictures with the colorful paint and polka dot bowls looks like a set out of Nick Park’s “Wallace and Gromit” claymation films.

    My remuddled kitchen would have loved that shelf unit (in its original dark stain) instead of the bleach blonde cabinets I presently have in my Victorian kitchen.

    Glenn March 23, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    I love Janes use of color. Check out her new web store opening soon!!!



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