Hiding Modern Amenities in Older Homes

Design considerations for hiding modern amenities and creating credible period homes.
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Is your intention to go beyond a period-inspired yet contemporary kitchen? Do you want it to seem like it’s always been there? It’s not hard to create a kitchen that looks as if it survives from 1890 or 1930, provided you plan for some sleights of hand.

vintage kitchen

Appliances are vintage; the sconce is actually piped for gas. But the microwave oven hides in an upper cabinet, and old radios over the fridge hold Wi-Fi speakers

The Erstads’ kitchen may look a hundred years old, but it has all modern necessities. The major appliances are indeed vintage and make this a credible period room. But the microwave oven lives behind a narrow cabinet door next to the big refrigerator. USB chargers were included inside cabinet drawers—handy, but invisible. Electrical outlets are minimized with the use of an inset Wiremold strip beneath upper cabinets. “The only visible new thing is the smoke detector,” Rich Erstad says.

To the right of the salvaged 1924 sink, the dishwasher is faced to look like drawers. Modern freezer drawers are camouflaged to the left of the sink.

white kitchen, deep drawers

Deep drawers (and a look-alike) on either side of the sink camouflage freezer and dishwasher.

Other considerations keep the room authentic. For example, the Erstads skipped a center island in favor of a wooden kitchen table; double-duty and functional, it has drawers on one side, a cutting board on the other. While most of the room’s base cabinets are painted white, blue-green paint on the pantry cabinets creates the look of a kitchen dresser. Countertops are both marble and black granite. Mixing finishes gives the unfitted look of a room that evolved over time.

The kitchen remains in scale with the house, and is in its original location. Materials used would have been common between 1912 and the 1930s. Cabinets have inset, not overlay, doors and drawers. Finally, the details all contribute to a seamless design. Lights are combination gaslight or early electric fixtures, flooring is a resilient checkerboard, hardware is of the period. Even the faucet is vintage.

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