Ack! Demolition at our house starts Monday, so it’s probably about time to start filling you in on our renovation plans!
Wendy Hodgson via Old House Journal
I’ve honestly been wanting to renovate this kitchen ever since we moved in 7 years ago. It’s located in “ell” of our house, between the main house and what used to be the barn (now garage with family room above), and is comprised of historic space + a 1970s bump out. The previous owners renovated it to its present state from what had apparently become 4 tiny rooms!
At this point, renovating is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. Our second faucet is taped together and shoots water out with the force of a fire-hydrant (usually soaking me in the process) …
… our pantry roll-out shelves have fallen down so many times (despite my putting lighter weight items on them and repairing the tracks) that now I just leave them….
… and only 2 out of 5 burners work on the stovetop.
A few more before pictures:
Please don’t Pin these!!!
We’re very fortunate that the space gets beautiful light from both sides and overlooks our pond, and there’s a huge amount of storage! But, while generous in size overall, the room is effectively divided in two halves by a large island/closet which makes for a long dining area with underutilized corners. Furthermore, thanks to some very weird construction from prior renovations/additions (’70s? 2000s? Who knows?!), the ceiling height in the dining area is 6.5″ and the windows are below eye level.
In the above cross-section, you can see our current ceiling. There’s a false ceiling under the main roof line, topping out at 6.5′ on the right side.
Above is our current layout, as I detailed in this post from so long ago when I first started brainstorming this renovation. You can see how the room is divided in 2.
Overall, my goals are:
- Re-inject some historical character with surfaces, color, pattern, and details that match the rest of the redecorated house.
- Carve out a “keeping area” with comfortable seating and a wood-burning stove overlooking the pond, by removing the center island/closet & using a center table instead of an island.
- Raise the ceiling in the “keeping area.”
- Make our same footprint work much harder by transferring much of our storage to the redone laundry/pantry (also a part of this project and which I’ll discuss in another post).
The new ceiling & layout will look something like the below 2 images:
Early drawing of the new cross-section above. My idea is to make the 1970s addition look like a converted porch (like in this post).
I worked with architect Sandra Vitzthum, whose work I have long admired and whose projects frequently appear in Old House Journal (this is my favorite), on the concepts and working drawings. It was she who thought of “reimposing the historic structure [i.e. using the historic part of the ell as the working kitchen] in order to break it.”
I loved that idea!
See how putting the refrigerator in a new corner reimposes the ell? Brilliant, Sandra!
The range will now move to the dining room wall and the kitchen table will be in the center of the room. Our final layout has changed a bit from the above, but not too much.
I’m SUPER excited to be opening up the already sweet country views with walls of windows on both the sink and the keeping room sides!!!
Here is my working design board.
My idea is to paint everything — cabinetry, walls, trim — in pale taupe and then layer on the pattern! I’ve looked for lots of “fresh classic” elements, from historically-inspired lighting mixed with a glass sputnik chandelier, a wood-burning stove that veers just a little modern, and that gorgeous range in blue! I’m hoping I can replace our dining chairs, but that remains to be seen.
More details as we go along!
I’m working with Lisa Muskat of LKM Design to create the kitchen cabinetry and overall design. She also works on a ton of old houses — her own 1790 house is gorgeous!
In the below drawings, you’ll notice few “layers of implied time” that I detailed here.
On the far left is the furniture-look, stained wood pantry, whereas the rest of the cabinetry will be painted. We’ll also be changing the doors on the pantry to a raised-panel style, both to make it look separate and to reference the raised paneling that still exists in a couple other areas of the house.
Most of our everyday dishes will go in the hanging shelf & plate rack unit on the right. The big base cabinets will hold most of my baking/roasting and cookware. I’ll probably also forgo a big backsplash on this main kitchen wall in favor of a simple 2″ splash in the countertop material, like this:
This house probably used to have up to 7 working fireplaces. All that remain now are one in the library and a closed up one with a mantle in Thing 1’s room.
The historic ell at one time housed our home’s summer kitchen and wood shed. I wanted to create an “implied stove alcove,” as if there had previously been an open fireplace into which a range was inserted as technology evolved, with a faux mantle with raised panel millwork above the stove to cover the vent.
Since we are have very little counter space, the set-back upper cabinets on either side of the range are only 10″ deep. The base cabinets are 28″ deep (instead of 24″), allowing 18″ of counter upon which I can set pans when I need to.
To the right of the range wall, under the half-window, is a space where I can find some vintage piece to house my mixing bowls.
I’m super excited about my “new” antique table!
It’s solid cherry and weighs about 200 pounds, heavy enough to use as a work table! It was hard to find one in the 78-80″ length I needed and at least 34″ deep. (So many of them are 30″ and that’s just not a very comfortable depth.) I imported this one from England, using one of my sneaky tips for antique shopping.
Lastly, it has a DRAWER, and as I’m sacrificing so many in taking out the island, I wanted my table to be able to store my silverware.
BTW, my old antique table and chairs are for sale in my new Chairish shop! I’m adding new items, so make sure you follow along for inventory updates!
So, what’s my dilemma, you may ask? Seems like I have most things figured out, right?
I need to order upholstery — the sofa and chairs — like, stat. One thing that is new to most people when they work with a designer for the first time is realizing how long it takes to get new furniture made. Most upholstery workrooms run lead times of 6-12 weeks after receipt of fabric, depending upon the vendor.
That means that August is the drop-deadline for most Thanksgiving orders, and even that’s pushing it!
I know! I know!!! These are the decisions I help clients with all the time! But it’s SUPER hard for the decorator to decorate for herself!!!!!! I see it happen with lots of my colleagues 😉
The Handsome Husband wants things comfortable, I also want them to have a slightly worn-in, overstuffed historic look. I also want a dressmaker skirt (or slipcovers) on the chairs, because I think the fabric I chose would look beautiful and relaxed that way.
I’m debating between these combos of chairs and sofas. Don’t pay attention to the fabrics!
I love the tufting on this chair with the beautiful skirt. I also love the “settee look” of this sofa, but it’s deep enough for relaxing. Historic seeming, but up to today’s standards of comfort.
I love me a funky chair!!! but the HH thinks it looks really uncomfortable. I guess women are a little more willing to sacrifice function for form, or else we wouldn’t wear high heels. Anyway, I’m hoping to see these chairs in person at High Point, but that isn’t until October! Another settee-like sofa, but with a higher, square back. Love the sweet arms!
Relaxed, Hamptons “cottage” looking slipcovered chair paired with a tufted sofa with straight legs. To me, this chairs says “I belong on a converted porch.” I’d love to get some tufting in somewhere, so I liked this sofa!!
What would you do????? Any favorite combinations? Mix and match? Please help!
Meanwhile, I’m completely freaking out because our current kitchen is only half packed and we have only today (Sunday’s spoken for) to finish up. With all the advice about surviving a kitchen reno on the web (and you have to remember that this kitchen cuts off our access to the other half of the house!) you’d think we’d have our “makeshift” kitchen all ready.
Yeah, right! It’s summer. The kids are home. There are vacations. There are jobs. We’re winging this puppy.
One of the trade-offs of living in the country is that there is no such thing as Uber Eats. Or dinner delivery of any kind.
You are most welcome to stop by my house unannounced with food!!!
Let me know your thoughts! Any words of wisdom? Help for the upholstery quandary? I need to make a decision this week! AHHHHHHH!!
‘Til next time!
28 thoughts on “My Historically-Inspired Kitchen Plans — Help Me Decide!”
Hi, everything looks great and it’s all very exciting. Is the refrigerator really about 20 feet from the stove with a table and chairs in between?
Hi Andrea! Thanks for your thoughts. I’d have to look at the scale drawings, but I think it is 16-17 feet. We’ll use the table and counters in between as working spaces. Also, all my oils, rices, spices, etc are now right at the stove rather than across a room.
I feel confident that, in working with 2 antique home specialists, we did the best we could with layout, knowing that my family’s biggest priorities were to create a gathering area and to maximize natural light. Doing that, and within the footprint of a 225 year old house (i.e. not demolishing the ell and starting fresh), we have to live with some trade offs.
I love your plans! I adore the settee in option 2 but would pair it with the chair in either option 1 or 3. I’m looking forward to seeing what you decide. Good luck with the renovation!
Thank you! Noted.
Your kitchen will be amazing and I am looking forward to seeing it come together! That midnight Aga range is just gorgeous! I am an amateur but I love the tufted couch in #3 and your funky chairs🙂.
I too am super excited about the range — it’s a bit of a risk because it’s newer to the US market and there aren’t many user reviews (though I’ve found a few, all good and from very happy owners). I will definitely be posting about it. Thanks for your vote!
Is it an Aga? It looks like my Lacanche Chagny.
Hi Kay! It is an Aga. I was definitely pining for a Lacanche originally, but I’m excited about this one, too.
Hi Amy–how exciting!!! I love your color palette and style. And the window wall is fantastic! Love the 2″ backsplash–very authentic.
Here are my thoughts on your layout:
1. Replacing the island with the beautiful antique table is a great idea. I would rethink having chairs on the side near the sink–seems not to be enough room to work.
2. The alcove for the range looks beautiful, but I wonder if you have enough working room on either side? Would you consider a 36″ range instead? That would give you 6″ more on either side.
3. The work triangle is rather large and is interrupted by the table. Could you move the table farther away from the sink wall?
Regarding the upholstery, I like the tufted back chair in Option #1 and the settee in Option #2.
Good luck and keep us posted on your progress!!
Hey Diana— great thoughts! I’m actually thinking of doing a bench on the sink side so I could push it under the table. And that is one of the tweaks we’ve made — moving the table farther from the sink wall for clearance.
I did consider a 36” range and I agree it works better for layout, but I need the cooking capacity of a larger stove. I’ve cooked on 36” for so long and a 36” oven, and I know I need a second oven, and there’s no wall space for another cooking unit. Trade-offs….
Thanks for the upholstery vote!
It looks amazing Amy!! I love how you are maximizing all the natural light. It will be beautiful! Good luck.
Thank you!! Always scary wondering what you’ll find when you open up the walls and floors of an old house! 😬
Personally, I would not do a farmhouse sink. I think this look will be dated in short order. Also, look into the reliability and warranties of appliances/fixtures etc. My friend did a high end kitchen with high end appliances/fixtures and has had trouble with them all; fortunately most were covered by warranties.
Thank you for your thoughts, Sandra! Well said on the appliances. Ours will be “mid range,” and the refrigerator and washer have 5 year warranties. More in another post.
I disagree about the farmhouse sink. Whether the look becomes dated does not concern me because function is much more important. I find mine far more comfortable and easier to use than a traditional sink. There is always room to wash and rinse the largest items without splashing water on the floor. I have a large Kohler Whitehaven, which is enamel over cast iron rather than fireclay, with a rack made to fit the bottom. I can wash a few things and leave them to one side, then rinse the entire sink with the spray attachment without touching anything resting on the rack. I adore my sink.
I really like all three settees, and chair 1. Chair 2 is very odd looking to me and chair 3 is OK. Good luck making your decision and I am so excited to watch your kitchen evolve.
Thank you, Becky! The HH hates chair 2, too, so I think that’s out of the running.
I think your stove placement will work beautifully. Putting it there was my first thought when I saw your current layout. I love what you’re doing with seating and the central table. The refrigerator opposite the stove wouldn’t trouble me because ingredients usually reach my stove via the counter, for prep. You need a surface close enough to the refrigerator for things to sit while you’re putting them away, and it looks as though the table will serve that function.
I would use fabric to cover the area under the sink, rather than cupboard doors. It’s an older look, and you can use a washable fabric that ties in with the upholstery on the other side. In my kitchen the undersink curtains, which I made from linen dish towels, are gathered onto one of those cheap spring rods, so when I can’t find something and the curtains are in the way I just take out the rod. Very easy.
Do you have painted millwork and white walls in other rooms? Because if you do, that would be a good look for your kitchen as well, more authentic to the period.
I love federal period houses—you are so lucky to have one!
Hi Kay! Thank you for your thoughts. I totally agree about the skirt. I’ve loved them since I saw Joan’s on fortheloveofahouse. However, it was one thing the HH did *not* want in the kitchen. We’ve compromised, and I’ll be using a skirt in my pantry/laundry … the plans for which I’ll show you in a few weeks 🙂
And we love our old Federal house … it’s definitely been marked by each design phase of the last 200 years, but there are still a few of the original elements left!
This is really fun to watch….from a distance:) I think it’s going to be a fantastic kitchen when it’s finished! I vote for chair #1 and sofa#2…I don’t prefer high arms to on sofas, but maybe that’s because I’m on the short side. I like to be able to actually rest my arms on them. I think you’ve had some really helpful comments so far, so I’ll just be eager to see how it turns out!
Great thought, Paula! (as always). I’m covered in dust from cleaning out things today. Yes, “from a distance” …. It’s amazing how much c*** you accumulate in 7 years. I hope never to go through this again, and we haven’t even begun! In our starter home, the kitchen was so tiny. We flew my dad out and gut renovated the space in 4 days. In this case, no kitchen, no laundry…. Catch me in late September, and we’ll see how we’re doing 😉
Yowser, that is going to be a beautiful kitchen!! heart eye emojis for everything!! We are really kindred spirits as far as decor as many of your “must-haves” were mine as well…right down to the taupe-y colors and marble counters. The one thing I did not do because of cost was the farmhouse sink, and that probably is the one thing I regret about the kitchen! I won’t make that mistake again, Its a definite for my next kitchen reno. I adore the sink wall layout, simply stunning…I can visualize it already- you have to promise me I can come for tea when it is complete 😉
For the furniture, my favorite is a mix and match of chair 1 with sofa 2 but depending on your options/leg style I would probably do a shorter skirt that shows a bit of leg-similar to a skirted slipcover on a dining chair? Something about that always says casual elegance to me and a keeping room seems like it is just causal enough for that relaxed look. Your fabrics are going to make whatever you choose look super.
Thank you Meredith! I am going to go with the farmhouse sink. Love them. It’s one of the few things appliance or fixture-wise I’ve been able to see in person, and I feel that it’s right for us.
Yes, tea!!! I would love that! I also really like chair #1 with sofa #2. Ack, decisions. I also really like your idea of a short skirted slipcover — I’ve seen it in dining room, as you describe. Hmm…. wheels turning.
I love all of your plans – it looks as if it will be a kitchen filled with light, warmth and cozy sophistication. It’s funny, but with the renderings, I thought the backsplash was going to be brick as with the hearth area. Instead of a short backsplash of the counter material, if you’re not opposed to non-traditional materials you might consider an Azek backsplash. I did that recently in my kitchen; it’s waterproof and since it mills like wood, it appears to just be part of the window trim work.
My vote is for upholstery combo #2. I love those chairs! They look very curl-uppable. HH can have the settee.
I’m very excited to see this come together.
What an interesting thought. I’ll have to check Azek out.
I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear. I meant that we’ll only be doing a 2″ splash on the *main cabinetry wall.* Yes, to make the stove area look more like a hearth, I will be using a glazed brick from Fireclay. I thought about doing unglazed thin brick (like a real hearth), but I knew, with my disinclination for deep cleaning, that I needed something wipeable.
I love the #2 chairs, too! Alas… men….. I don’t know which quote to quote! “Can’t live with them, can’t live without them,” or “The man is the head of the household, but the woman is the neck. And the neck can turn the head any way it wants to….” 🙂
Plans look amazing!!! I like cair from #1 and sofa from # 2 !
I am in the minority here but like option #2: the chair is reminiscent of the historic wooden seating around a fireplace to me! all looks gorgeous!
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