seydouxJanuary 19, 2013

I find myself in a quandary. We have purchased an old house, colonial, not colonial revival. The current kitchen needs an entire overhaul. The house is Federal style, but the original kitchen was in the basement and required cauldrons. Since a kitchen was not a part of the living space, any kitchen we put in will be different from the historic reality. I fear that if I try to reproduce the woodwork style of the house, I will just have a kitschy faux reproduction. The house is grand and so country style would not be appropriate with weathered antiques. I have considered more modern kitchens like they put in old houses in Europe. Any ideas?

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It's difficult to abstractly give an answer--without seeing the house and space you have to work with.

The suggestions I'd make, though would be first--take your time. Really investigate what options you have, and envision them in your own home. Don't rush into anything. Secondly, don't let a 'kitchen designer' or 'Kitchen planner' make you take a kitchen that's not right for you. Have in mind exactly how you plann to use the room, what facilities you need, the kinds/sizes of appliances you want, the arrangement that makes sense for YOUR family. I've found that the sales people (billed as designers) in these kitchen places are more interested in selling THEIR vision than working out what's right for the specific customer. When we did ours, we ended up being our own planner/general contractor--was the only way we could get the kitchen we wanted. And over 20 years later? That kitchen is STILL a great design that was a huge selling point when we listed our house last year.

Have fun with the project, and make it a kitchen you'll be proud to work in and show off.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 1:18PM
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I see absolutely no reason why reproducing the woodwork in the rest of the house would look 'kitschy'--it is a good start to building a historically sensitive kitchen!

Definitely do not let one of the 'professional' designers at it--there is nothing to laying out a kitchen, or even picking your own appliances and fittings. Read up on period-looking kitchens--and while the house originally had the typical basement style, it could have been updated sometime later, so your options are open.

If something looks good on those diy shows, chances are it is a fad and should be kept clear of--like granite, tile floors and counters, and pot lights. And most important--a kitchen was made up of furniture--not continuous cabinetry, and NO TOEKICKS! Nothing will ruin the look of an otherwise decent kitchen faster than having a modern toe-kick which really doesn't serve a function. Your feet are not so huge that that extra 1-2" of space will make your arms magically reach farther.

You can incorporate plate and silver storage with a welsh dresser, stone or wood work surfaces--and NO island. A good sized wood table will be most appropriate.

My own 1908 house has a pantry, but my actual kitchen is only about 10x12, with one window full size and four doors, so it was not going to get continuous cabinets even if I wanted them (which I didn't, as I tore out the entire 70s remodel). The fridge was in front of the window when I moved in and the ceiling was lowered with fluourescent lighting. All gone now--the fridge lives in the pantry a few steps from the stove, and the sink is across from the stove to the right of the window. I built my own cabinets using the original doors I found in storage--frames are dead easy. My walls are wainscotted about half-way up, the rest is original plaster which I found under three layers of wallpaper.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 3:18PM
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I'm another who faced this quandry & azzalea's advice is good.

My antebellum kitchen was a seperate building that was demolished in the 30's & rebuilding it was unrealistic - from an economic standpoint as well as a functional one. Cooking on an open hearth without refrigeration or plumbing is just not what it's cracked up to be, LOL! The house is a Greek Revival townhouse with all of the usual formality.

Since there's no way to create a functional restoration, I went with the concept that I'd create a modern kitchen using the principals of the mid 19th century; & it had to co-exist with the rest of the Simple-yet-Bold style house. And I can't stand, cutsey, faux, etc! To me, stainless is the epitomy of simple, strong, long lasting, etc & a modified restaurant kitchen would have been high on my builder's list (no one's come back to haunt me) so I went with pro-grade appliances that are softened with milk painted cabinets, & the original heart pine floor. Most importantly, the cabinets were built to the scale of the room. Not really formal, definitely not country cute, and not "look at me - I'm new & bright & sparkly".

I'm sure there are lots of people who will disagree with my kitchen concept but many over in the Kitchen Forum don't seem to realize that all old houses were neither a 'Farmhouse' nor in the country; the same can be said for a lot of designers. When it comes down to it, you're the one living & working in the kitchen so it's all about what meets your perception of correctness & makes you happy.

Here is a link that might be useful: My kitchen

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 4:27PM
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Thank you all. I like the kitchen you did antique silver. We will by necessity be taking our time. The budget of what we think we want will take a few years to save lol. You are right not all antique is farmhouse. The current kitchen is 1960's builders grade and nothing is left of original cabinetry in this part of the house. I am not sure that there was cabinetry in this part of the house. We are trying to plan it so we can up with the budget and a plan to save the money for it. The only part of the advice I am not sure I will take is no island, since I want electric in the work space, but that remains to be seen. I am too tall to work comfortably at a table.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 8:06PM
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Messy, not to sound snide, but: there is such a thing as a chair which I often use when mixing or prepping food at a table. I often use it at the stove if something I am doing needs constant attention, like candy-making. Also, you can have outlets at your counters if they are gfci...they instantly shut off if they pull too much power. It just amazes me how our ancesters were generally shorter, and accomplished the same tasks without undue pain at a table while we taller people cringe at the thought of even stretching out an arm or bending very slightly or sitting down to do something.

The only task you would need to do standing up during cooking is kneading bread--so when was the last time most of us did that?

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 11:42PM
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I meant to ask: what kind of woodwork are you concerned about reproducing? Mine was fairly plain & mostly intact original so I kept it as such; I think when you change it is when it starts to look wrong. If mine had been ultra fancy & required buckets of money to reproduce, I'd probably give you a different answer, LOL!

But, to my knowledge there's no such thing as a truly formal kitchen in old houses - the grander the house, the more utilitarian the place for the servants to work - so if the woodwork in your kitchen will be a slightly plainer version of your formal rooms, I doubt if the house will be offended.

You've picqued our interest - we want pictures.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2013 at 12:26AM
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antiquesilver: Over on the kitchen forums, it sometimes seems like "more cooktop ventilation!" is the most frequently offered piece of advice. I'm still waiting for someone to suggest slapping a 600cfm hood over an open hearth. :) (Although I suppose with an open hearth, no one would "need" a warming drawer!)

    Bookmark   January 20, 2013 at 5:22AM
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Trying to add photos. My camera uses too many pixels for GW to be happy. This is what it looked like before we bought it. The rest of the house is Federal/Georgian. As you can see no original anything here. lol

    Bookmark   January 20, 2013 at 9:15AM
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This is the living room, one of the more unchanged parts of the original house.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2013 at 9:17AM
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This is the exterior

    Bookmark   January 20, 2013 at 9:18AM
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A good look at early kitchens is in the pages of Catherine and Harriet Beecher Stowe's 'American Woman's Home', published in around 1850.

Here is a link to a site with some pictures of early kitchens.

Here is a link that might be useful: Early Kitchens

    Bookmark   January 20, 2013 at 3:43PM
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Artichokey, don't forget the horrors of having only a 600 cfm hood! My favorite advice concerning stoves suggested that one could always replicate early ones found in an English manor house in the former open hearths that must have been at least 10' wide total. Yep, 10' of Lacanche ranges fit right in with everyone's budget (& house) that I know, never mind that the original house was in a different country.

Beautiful house Marsy. Was the 3rd floor added later - like maybe during the Greek Revival era when eyebrow windows were popular? They look large for eyebrows but coupled with the flat roof, that's what comes to mind.

Is the present kitchen in a room that was original to the house? If so, I'd defintely stick with the mouldings that are in your formal room - they don't seem particularly ornate but I can't see the detail - & that will add continuity to whatever kitchen plans you decide upon.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2013 at 7:10PM
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thanks silver!I will remember that when all of the heated air goes out the vent lol. And as far a 10 ft of Lacanche, even if I took out a second mortgage I can't have one as there are no gas lines there and none expected for at least 10 years. As far as the construction, the basement seems to indicate that the house was built in 3 parts. The oldest first settlement section, a second addition which also seems to have raised the ceilings, and then a last section which brought the whole house to a Federal style. The house stood in its current configuration by 1830 because there is lithograph? in a history book showing it as it is in 1830. The kitchen is currently in the oldest portion of the building which is an ell in the back. We suspect that this portion was at some point used as a carriage house, although there was a substantial barn. I think that we will be using a modern kitchen style with themes and woodwork style from the rest of the house. I guess I no more want a scullery than I want to remove the plumbing and central heating. We are hoping to have a pleasant living area here while preserving the authentic portions of the house.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2013 at 8:42PM
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I keep going back & looking at that hauntingly beautiful house. With the 'for sale' sign, encroaching woods, & the large dead tree, it seems so desolate; can't wait to see exterior photos after you've lived there awhile. What part of the country is this?

    Bookmark   January 20, 2013 at 9:17PM
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It is in Eastern Pa, and believe it or not, there was a family living there at that time. Except for the kitchen, the interior was well maintained. They simply did not know how to maintain the exterior. We have spent 6 months mostly working on the exterior, except for a few beams that had to be replaced in the house. This part is the most time consuming and expensive part. We have several invasives that have taken over the a lot of the land, and we are working on eradicating them. the poor Tree is not dead, but is on its last legs because the last owners had it topped. We are delaying taking it down as long as possible because it provides shade. All in all we love the house, and since I ama gardener some day the grounds will be beautiful. I can't seem to post my photos to Garden web, too many pixels.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 6:33AM
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MessyMarsy ... interesting house. And short of going back to cauldrons and turnspit dogs in the basement, you have free rein on what to do.

Europeans would put a modern kitchen into the old shell. An IKEA-style unfitted kitchen and they are done.

Looking at the living room photo ... that's rather sparse detail, and nothing like the Victorian excesses of the 1880s.

First of all, go for a layout that makes cooking easy and fits your lifestyle. If a center island makes sense because you are tall - providing there is room - install one. Or make a work table the height you need.

Houses of that era graded their decor and details according tothe status of the persons who saw it and used it: public rooms were grand, adult family members got less grand, and utility areas were plain with the trim more utilitarian then posh.

Simple painted or stained cabinets with a bit of molding detail with simple coved molding at the ceiling would echo the style of the living room without looking fakity-fake.

Then any appliances and countertops you want.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 1:01PM
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Your house looks like a very similar vintage to ours. We are mostly through a kitchen remodel. I prefer to keep my photos on flickr, here is the outside shot of the house.

The kitchen we found was tiny and dark, on the right (north) side of the "back house", theoretically the original building. It was separated from the south side of the house by a center hallway that felt like a mouse run. The northwest corner of the back house, that gives onto the beautiful back yard and pond, was occupied by a laundry/mud room and tacked-on breezeway to the garage, so the view was invisible and inaccessible.

We took out all the walls in the mudroom-kitchen-back hall space, and reframed the north and west exterior walls with more windows and French doors (as energy efficient as we could afford, with simulated divided lights). We took up the non-antique floors throughout the back house, and replaced most of them with reclaimed pine boards over radiant heat. These steps also gave us the "opportunity" to address several structural issues that came to light in the process, both in ceilings and floors.
Here is our current in-progress look. We plan a kitchen island, with electricity to be brought up through one of the legs. I'm not so tall, so the island will be 34.5" high, whereas the back counters are 36". It is meant to look like a table-- cherry with a clear finish, with drawers built in on the kitchen side. Adjoining the kitchen, carved out of the back of the formal dining room in the "front house", is a pantry chock full of cabinets (very outdated, but we'll stick with them for now), so the kitchen only needs to hold the highest-use items. Our fridge will be on the kitchen's east wall, and we may eventually build a surround for it that includes a food cabinet; for now, the food will be stored in the pantry.

Behind the photographer is the "hearth room" with an old fireplace along its back wall. We will eat there (the formal dining room will become our family library/homework room). The hearth room connects via a wide cased opening to the parlor, in the "front house," making a gradual progression from informal back to formal front of the house.

The back central hall is still visually suggested by the small back staircase that remains, and the chimney block that defines one side of it, but the mouse-run is gone. The front house's central hall is a kind of grand, wide, foyer, which we left alone. It connects to the back via a door that will probably stand open most of the time.

Good luck with your renovation! This is my first post here, but I lurked a lot, and found some great ideas. Let me know if you have questions about things we did. The kitchen designer who recommended the layout and many of the details is excellent and works nationwide, we're happy to steer you her way. We also found the books Creating a New Old House (Versaci) and New Rooms for Old Houses (Shirley) helpful and inspirational in a more general way.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 9:44AM
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