Thirteen years passed before my husband, Frank, and I tackled remodeling the kitchen in our 1926 English Cottage. We’re fortunate to have old photos of our house to guide restoration, but none show the original kitchen. To lend authenticity, we took cues from the adjoining rooms, which have built-in cabinets and a Batchelder tile fireplace.
Our first challenge was to find the right contractor, and we did. Tom Radu has a love of old houses, refined skills, and the patience to take my vision and make it a reality. We made a commitment to live in our house with no access to the kitchen for up to five months, using our 1926 bathroom (and its small sink) as our only access to running water. This was hard; we longed for the aroma of simmering sauce, the crackle, and smell of bacon!
Stove and fridge were moved to the dining room (now another room was unusable). The kitchen was reduced to debris. The good news: we were able to repurpose about 20% of the existing countertops and cabinet work in a kitchenette for a guest space located at the back of the property. We had assumed, incorrectly, that when this kitchen was remodeled in 1988 by the second owners, they had addressed the knob-and-tube wiring. To our horror, the original wiring remained, unsafely and illegally patched into. A complete electrical overhaul followed. Our new motto became “always plan for the worst.”
We knew that we would use decorative tile for the backsplash, after a lecture about Batchelder reproductions given by Cha-Rie Tang from Pasadena Craftsman Tile. Cha-Rie visited us, inspected the fireplace, and designed both original and revival tiles for us, all in the Batchelder tradition.
For countertops, I’d wanted Carrara marble, but on further research, I realized it would be impractical for us. I decided to go with Brazilian green soapstone; soapstone is unaffected by acidic and alkaline substances and by heat. It would only need periodic oiling. We finished our kitchen in time to host a pre-house tour dinner for the Monrovia Historic Preservation Group in 2016.