Creating a New Old Kitchen

Three turn-of-the-century kitchens get revamped with cleverly disguised modern amenities and thoughtful period touches.

Cast-iron barstools salvaged from a local restaurant belly up to the printer’s desk-turned-island in Bruce and Melanie Rosenbaum’s Victorian kitchen. (Photo: Franklin & Esther Schmidt)


For Bruce and Melanie Rosenbaum, it all started with the stove. The salvage-loving couple was on one of their regular pilgrimages to the Brimfield Antique Show in central Massachusetts when they met David Erickson of Erickson’s Antique Stoves. He sold them a decorative potbelly stove from the late 1800s (which now sits on a hearth in the revamped kitchen of their 1901 transitional Victorian), and also mentioned another appliance he was restoring: a center-firebox, double-oven Defiance wood-burning stove from the J.L. Mott Company.

“It was a really deluxe model for its day,” Erickson notes. As soon as Bruce and Melanie saw it, they were sold.

“I thought it would be the perfect centerpiece for our kitchen,” says Bruce.

David Erickson of Erickson’s Antique Stoves used the stove’s central firebox to disguise the wiring and controls for the new electric cooktop. (Photo: Franklin & Esther Schmidt)

Not only did it become the focal point of the room, but the refurbished stove—which Erickson converted to run on electricity and fitted with a modern Miele cooktop selected by the couple—also set the tone for the entire kitchen renovation.

“We decided on a theme of adaptive reuse,” says Bruce. “We wanted to try to keep as much as possible, and then find salvage or antique items and restore or repurpose them.”

So while the massive stove waited patiently in the basement, Bruce and Melanie began hunting for other one-of-a-kind items. While they did select a few new pieces (including the Elmira refrigerator and the black beadboard cabinet faces), most of their eclectic kitchen is furnished with salvage, from the stained-glass windows above the hearth to the school desk that serves as storage for the dog’s food.

One serendipitous discovery was the printer’s desk that became an island: Bruce came across it in one of the salvage stores he frequents, where the owner was using it as a work bench. The owner was willing to sell the desk, but in the few days it took Bruce to mull over the purchase, someone else snapped it up.

“We joke with our guests that we’re going to charge them for the nice dinner they just had,” says Bruce Rosenbaum of the antique cash register that sits on the island in the couple’s kitchen. (Photo: Franklin & Esther Schmidt)

“We started looking at other options, but nothing was really as nice,” says Bruce. Then, a few weeks later, he came across the original desk in another salvage store. “They had bought it to resell, and let me buy it for the price I had negotiated with the first guy.”

The Rosenbaums also gathered accessories to complement their unique stove: a reproduction range hood and a copper tank, both of which were featured in a drawing of the stove that appeared in an original ad.

“The hood is an exact copy of a period hood from the turn of the century,” Erickson says. The nickel-plated rounded corners were fabricated from an original pattern, into which Erickson custom-fit the panels and modern ventilation equipment.

The copper tank is another variation on the adaptive-reuse theme: While it originally would have been used to heat water, the tank now houses a water-filtration system, giving Bruce and Melanie (and their dog, whose copper bowl sits below the tank) easy access to drinking water.

The Rosenbaums’ old-meets-new redesign not only provided the springboard for ModVic, their Victorian-restoration business, but also gave the couple a more welcoming space that fits perfectly with the era of their house. “The kitchen wasn’t bad to begin with, but it just wasn’t our idea of a period Victorian kitchen,” says Bruce. “Now we spend a lot of time in here—eating, entertaining, watching TV. It’s become the centerpiece of our home.”

The cubbies above the cabinets in Scott and Renee Davis’ bungalow kitchen were specially designed to hold Renee’s two golden-hued Bauer bowls. (Photo: Richard McNamee)


Scott and Renee Davis had lived with their lackluster kitchen for years. Scott had bought their 1909 bungalow in Seattle’s Roosevelt-Ravenna neighborhood in 1986, while he was still in college, and Renee moved in after they were married in 1991. But as the years passed, the couple’s growing family (they now have two daughters) and burgeoning interest in Arts & Crafts pottery sparked ideas for a kitchen overhaul.

“They needed a much more functional house to live in,” says designer Alexandra Gorny of WAI Gorny, who at the time lived near the Davises and assisted them in turning the space into a sunny, 1920s-inspired kitchen.

The first order of business: rearranging the layout to give the family more room to maneuver. An inconveniently placed fridge and island were impeding traffic flow, while cabinet and counter space was practically nonexistent. The island was scrapped, and, says Alexandra, “we swapped a door and a window to bring traffic straight through the kitchen. By doing that, we tripled the workspace.”

“I do a lot of canning, and wanted to be able to put big pots on the stove—even two at a time,” says Renee Davis of her choice of the professional-grade Lacanche range. (Photo: Richard McNamee)

They also created an ideal showcase for a few of the couple’s prized finds: a yellow Lacanche range (“That was my dream stove—I’d had the brochure for years,” Renee says) and a massive double-drainboard farmhouse sink that Scott scored at a salvage store for a mere $200.

“Scott had it in the back of his truck and drove it over so Alexandra could see it,” Renee remembers. “She took one look at it and said, ‘How big do you think your kitchen is?’ ” But thanks to the revamped layout, the sink fits perfectly, surrounded by Arts & Crafts-style built-in cabinets made by local cabinetmaker Danny Uno.

“They didn’t really have cabinets back then,” Alexandra points out, “so he created all of the cabinetry to look like pieces of furniture, with large legs and slatted doors.” To anchor the vibrantly hued appliances, Renee chose yellow tile countertops bordered in a Jadite-green band.

“The stove and the refrigerator are based on a European color chart, which is slightly different,” she explains. So she took a finish sample from the stove and a piece of Jadite pottery from her collection to Ann Sacks, where they were able to match both colors.

“I could’ve chosen a different color for the appliances,” she says, “but I have this thing about yellow. I grew up with a yellow kitchen, and I just think they’re bright and sunny.”

While the backsplash is tile, the countertops in Pamela and Gerard Zytnicki’s 1940s kitchen are a faux marble that mimics era authenticity while adding maintenance ease. “We wanted to have a tile-like surface that’s durable, because we like to cook,” says Pamela. (Photo: Andrew Buchanan)

Arts & Crafts

When Pamela and Gerard Zytnicki moved into their grand 1907 Arts & Crafts house in Seattle in 1998, they didn’t feel rushed to make changes in the kitchen. “It took us awhile to remodel the kitchen,” says Pamela, “because I loved the period charm and features.” It wasn’t until recently, after their old stove went on the fritz, that they decided to undertake the project, calling on the architect who had already helped them restore much of their home’s interior, Larry Johnson of The Johnson Partnership. “Gerard is a true gourmet and he’s also Parisian,” says Larry, “so I had a hunch he’d want a French stove. The La Cornue fit into the existing spot, and it became our starting point.” An added bonus, says Pamela, was the unit’s lack of electrical components. “We wanted a stove that didn’t have electronic parts, and this one is pretty manual.”

The appliance’s vibrant color was inspired by the house itself. “The red is based on the color of the 1940s linoleum floor,” Pamela says. The hue appears not only as a coved border on the floor, but also on the countertops as a pencil tile accent that wraps around the walls and sinks. “The sink has a radius edge—it’s not square, so we had to figure out how to turn the tile around it,” says Larry. The soap dish inset into the wall was Pamela’s idea. “I had seen a lot of examples from the period, and I thought it would be cool to have one there.” To her surprise, when the contractors opened up the wall, they discovered there had been a soap dish there initially, in the exact same spot.

The floor border jogs around architectural elements, adding to the period feel. (Photo: Andrew Buchanan)

The kitchen is small, and a remodel during the 1940s had created some awkward spaces—like a butler’s pantry-turned-eating area that was encroached upon by the dining room’s swinging door. “We tweaked the space for better flow,” Larry explains, “opening up the butler’s pantry but keeping its curved wall,” one of many design touches that maintains the 1940s feel. Other period-appropriate additions include perforated wire fronting the cabinet beneath the sink, exact copies of the earlier cabinets, and a Dutch door in the mudroom. “We matched the appearance of the old door, but now it keeps the dog inside when the bottom’s closed and still allows them to catch a nice breeze,” says Larry.

“We really have tried to be true to the house,” says Pamela. “We kept the original styling completely, just added a little modernity.”

Tags: arts & crafts bungalow kitchens OHJ March/April 2009 OHJ Staff Old-House Journal victorian

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