Remodeling a Kitchen in a Pennsylvania Stone Farmhouse

A bold and insightful renovation put the Colonial kitchen back in its original location, and made the room fit this 18th Century stone farmhouse.

 

The kitchen table, built for a clothing store as a display piece, is where family and friends gather during Colonial dinners held monthly,
for which the owners cook in the fireplace. 

The lady of this 1790 stone Bucks County farmhouse has worked on many buildings, but when it came to remodeling a kitchen in her own home, changes frightened her. Recalling the family’s earlier work on the house, “I was young and scared,” she says, smiling. “We did the kitchen in 1990, but I could not bring myself to follow my designer’s advice. For the next 15 years I lived with the result. Finally, in 2016, I called him and said, ‘okay, I’m ready.’”

Built in 1790 by Quaker farmers, the stone house exemplifies a vernacular, eastern  Pennsylvania style that is beloved. The main house is on the right; to the left is the spring house, where the original kitchen was located. In an earlier renovation this section became the living room and a back bedroom, with two chambers upstairs.

The homeowners are a retired physician and his wife, who owns and manages rental real estate. They bought the 4,000-square-foot house in 1987. On the tax rolls by 1790, the original house was built by Quaker farmers. In the 1920s, it was renovated in a Colonial Revival spirit and a sunroom was added. In 1969, it became a rental property.  

“When we bought the house,” the wife says, “there was no kitchen, just some so-so appliances in an alcove. What had been the kitchen had become a living room. The plumbing and wiring were shot, there were dead birds in the toilets.”

Placing the stove and vent hood against the north wall was essential to the kitchen design, but it required cutting once again into an exterior wall to remove a window—a decision too daunting for the homeowner to make during her earlier renovation.

But the house, constructed of local fieldstone, was sound. And that’s what posed a problem for the homeowner.  The first time around, “I contacted Mark Slouf, a local builder specializing in the restoration of old houses,” she explains. “We turned the sunroom into a family room and built a new kitchen where the original kitchen had been.”

During the 1920s renovation, a wall had been removed to incorporate a back bedroom into what was becoming the living room.  The 22 by 26-foot space was left with one end wall punctuated by three windows installed during the 1920s.

Like the countertops, the sink is soapstone, fashioned by a local company to the homeowner’s specifications. 
After much searching, she found this faucet, which was made in France.

“Mark told me that the middle window should be removed  to make space for the stove and hood vent. But cutting again into the old stone wall was too scary for me,” says the homeowner. “Going against Mark’s advice, we left that wall alone, and put the stove in the middle of the room, with a downdraft vent.”

The mistake was immediately evident: “It cut the room in half,” she admits. 

Recently, Mark Slouf headed up the second renovation, which created a kitchen that beautifully suits the 18th-century house. It’s the result of “an emotional, aesthetic, and functional collaboration”  among the owners, Slouf, the cabinetmakers, and decorative artist Robert Dionne. “This is my top favorite project, to date,” says designer Cheryl Scerba–Cummings, who works with Levi Stoltzfus at Cabinets by CW. “From our first conversation, I felt that the homeowner and I aligned at a deep level, and I was honored to help deliver her dream.” 

The gentle finish of the blue–green cabinets looks convincingly old, with paint that appears worn at the edges. This patina was achieved by Robert Dionne, a fine artist and decorative painter who applied many paint layers and rubbed them back.

For his part, “In historic [work], I especially like to use old materials,” says Slouf, whose eponymous Custom Building and Design firm is located in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “Lancaster County has Amish builders who take down old barns piece by piece; they provided the antique pine boards we used for the cabinets.”

Pewter vessels line the fireplace mantel. The homeowner found the original fireplace crane in the basement; it is back where it belongs.

The room’s centerpiece is the eight-foot fireplace, once used for cooking and heating. Today it’s a place to display antique pewter and iron cooking implements. The kitchen’s new layout places a dining table in front of the fireplace.

“We found the table in a clothing store going out of business,” the homeowner says. “Probably made for displaying goods in the store, it is longer and wider than ordinary farmhouse tables.”  

Design cues came from a German Schrank, a two-door cabinet decorated with folk painting. It’s a precious piece from the homeowner’s past: “My mother was a German immigrant,” she says, “and I grew up bilingual. I took my junior year abroad in Germany and, when my husband and I were first married, we lived there, and we bought that antique piece.”

The Schrank suggested the palette, carried through in new cabinets colored a soft, teal blue. The paint was applied in layers and rubbed back to create a convincing aged look. Robert Dionne of Chadds Ford did the work. He specializes in what he calls “innovative re-creations of ‘centuries-old’ paint finishes.”

Left: The new kitchen has space for the fruits of lifelong collecting, including an 18th-century wall clock and an egg basket.
Right: The Schrank, which means closet, is a cherished antique found by the homeowners when they lived in Germany. 

Between the Schrank and the painted cabinets, a modern refrigerator hides behind a reclaimed-pine door. A closet near the fireplace acts as the pantry. Soapstone counters add to the antique sensibility.

“I was conflicted about keeping the 1920s red-oak flooring,” says the homeowner. “But Mark Slouf told me, ‘Houses are allowed to change as they age,’ so we kept them.”

Resources

Builder
Mark D. Slouf Custom Building & Design, West Chester, PA: (610) 996-5815

Cabinets
Levi Stoltzfus, Custom Woodworking Cabinetry & Design, Honey Brook, PA
cabinetsbycw.com

Hardware
Ball and Ball
ballandball.com

Michael Coldren
coldrencompany.com

Soapstone
Bucks County Soapstone
bcsoapstone.com

Faucet
‘Estelle’ Weathered Brass with wooden handles Herbeau
herbeau.com 

Walls
simulated latex milk paint, Extra White Sherwin-Williams
sherwin-williams.com 

Windsor chairs
Great Windsor Chairs
greatwindsorchairs.com

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