Hickory in a Retro Kitchen

Bold choices work well in this Victorian Revival upgrade.

When a Denver family decided to renovate the kitchen of their historic house in the National Register-listed Baker neighborhood, they hoped to preserve the ca. 1890 house’s charm without compromising function. They did it by incorporating a warm color palette centered on custom knotty hickory cabinets, with a creamy tile backsplash and veined black soapstone countertops, a tomato-color accent wall and brass details throughout. The design is a collaboration among designer Shaun Minné, owners Kimberly MacArthur Graham and Ralph Graham, and the appliance company Big Chill. The new work enhances the gracious design and rustic roots of a house designed by noted Denver architect William Lang (1846–1897).

Courtesy Big Chill

The rest of the house retains many original elements, but the previous kitchen, small and cramped, was an ugly 1980s rendition all in beige; “the fridge sat in front of walled-up exterior door, and the oven was in another room,” Kimberly says. The original double-hung windows and fir flooring were restored.

“The key to blending modern and traditional is to use the same color, textures, and shapes among styles,” says Orion Creamer, founder and CEO of Big Chill, which is headquartered in Boulder. “Here, the black accents create an eclectic yet harmonious look.”

Industrial-inspired ‘Classic’ series appliances from Big Chill are integral to the design. The matte black finish and brass trim are sophisticated, and somehow both modern and retro-Victorian (in six standard and 200 custom color options).

In keeping with the late-Victorian Queen Anne house in a Denver historic district, wood cabinets, subway tile, and stone have a period sensibility. Flooring is the original fir, restored. Window casings and a wall in red tie the kitchen to other rooms.

Courtesy Big Chill

Black and white underlie the scheme. Soapstone counters, an iron floor grille, and the range, hood, and icebox-fridge in black are classic neutrals that lend a turn-of-the-century vibe. Natural wood and brass provide a warm counterpoint.

Amish Cabinets of Denver used hickory, a wood with beautiful grain and color (incidentally, less expensive than quarter-sawn oak). Furniture-like details include the asymmetrical arrangement, inset drawers, paneled ends, and “feet” forming the toe kick.

Be Inspired

Details matter: The kitchen’s floor register has a Victorian design in cast iron. This Reggio model 1214R scroll register has a grille and built-in louvers, and fits in a 12 1/4″ x 10 1/4″ floor opening. reggioregister.com

Sculptural and practical, the Lefroy Brooks ‘1900 Classic’ cross-handle 8″ widespread gooseneck faucet comes in polished nickel or chrome. Spoke handles (with porcelain trim in black or white) have turn-of-the-century styling. restorationhardware.com

For the backsplash, Trikeenan’s ‘Boneyard Brick’ series combines surfaced thin brick (5/8″) with the beauty of a ceramic glaze in many color options. Rectangular modules in three sizes up to 11 5/8″ wide; a 3/8″ grout joint is recommended. trikeenan.com

Vintage Woodworks is the place for Victorian millwork and mouldings. They offer seven designs for corner blocks in four standard as well as custom sizes; casings also sold. Price varies by size and wood species. vintagewoodworks.com

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