Looking for suggestions for flooring & counter top for 1919 home

tmclaireJune 12, 2013

Hello. We just purchased a 1919 home that we're told is Italian Renaissance. The home has stood vacant for over 20 years and is in very poor condition. We are needing to put down flooring and counter top in the kitchen. We are looking for suggestions for time period flooring and counter tops. The floors in the kitchen are down to the sub floors. We are keeping the wood counter tops but need to add more (as we're moving the stove into a back room) but would like to possibly stay with time period if possible.
The existing cabinets are a light green, which we will repaint the same. Currently, the walls are almost a blue / green that really clashes with the cabinets. I think the cabinets are from the 1950's ??
We are open to all suggestions. Thanks.

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Stick with the same species wood for the counters...for the floors, linoleum would have been a favorite choice, likely in a pattern. Check out the internet for pictures of antique linoleum patterns. Checkerboards were just one option, with the squares being about 6" x 6", not the foot square ones now.

The cabinets could be 5os, since no period cabinets would have the toe kick...and your sink is exactly like the one in my 1908 pantry, except it has no cabinet underneath! As a nice touch, I'd fill in the toe kick down to the floor and run a quarter-round like the baseboards. That extra 2" really doesn't serve any purpose except to make cleaning the floor harder, unless you have seriously short arms.

All your kitchen needs is fresh paint, linoleum and more period handles on the cabinets!

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 3:12AM
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Zinc and soapstone are also period appropriate. I agree, repaint with the same color or an off white. My kitchen is very similar, I kept the toe kick under the KISS it principle. But I did splurge and changed some of the inserts to glass. Not period appropriate, but then again, the kitchen isn't original either. Change out the door knobs, maybe using glass ones. There is another thread going on an older kitchen, read up on that one and follow the links on the x-post over on the kitchen forum.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 8:37AM
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Thanks for the suggestions. Late last night, we were talking about linoleum but it has such a negative connotation re being tacky, etc. My husband is pushing for wood or slate. But I think we'll revisit linoleum and take a look.

About the counters, I thought about wood but yes, I'm also thinking about how clean can I really keep wood so... What about granite - time period or even close?

I've included a picture of our house before we had it painted. What is everyone's opinion on the style? Is it Italian Renaissance or something else?

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 9:21AM
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True LINOLEUM (like marmoleum) is far from tacky, it's period and classic ... he's thinking of that tacky sheet vinyl stuff that imitates tiles or brick.

Period countertops were wood, or soapstone, or tile, or linoleum over wood (I've seen them all). There are web sites with vintage kitchen advertisements so you can see what was idealized.

I love the sink!

If you install similar new cabinets, or "unfitted" hutches from the 1910-1920s era where you need more storage, it will look great.

they were more concerned with hygiene and function than we are.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 1:02PM
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I'm sorry, but granite is the fastest way to ruin your kitchen at great cost! It is NOT period or even close. For a smaller extra countertop, you could use marble which is great for pastry and baking...if you want easy to clean, then that would work, but definitely NOT tile...too many grout lines and finding the right type of tile will be hard.

You would treat your wood countertops the same way as butcher block, seal them with a mineral(?) oil. In the unlikely event it stains, you can call it character, or sand it away if it hasn't gotten too deep.

Stone was not a period floor for kitchens, though hex tiles would work, but I'd prefer lino or wood as it is easier on the feet and on dropped dishes.

My pantry counter is wood with lino on it, as can be seen from the metal banding screwed around the edges...I need to do something else though as it has now got a dip in the center after 110 years, probably just fill the dip and cover with another piece of lino.

If patterns don't work for you on lino floors, you can do solid colors with a border of another color, or one solid color with a spatter-effect like running your finger over a fairly dry paint brush.

Regarding glass door inserts: my pantry has raised panel doors on the uppers above the sink which match my kitchen ones, flat panel for the lower ones with an X pattern scribed in, and the china cabinet has the same flat panels on the bottom, a large drawer with eased edges, but the upper two doors are original glass inserts to display the dishes. Above those and the ceiling is another pair of flat panel doors. All these have turn catches except the flat panel ones which have spring bolt types--the drawer has the half-moon metal pulls while the flour bin has a simple U handle with a large hinge on the bottom.

This post was edited by columbusguy1 on Wed, Jun 12, 13 at 14:39

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 2:29PM
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Granite would NOT have been a period counter choice. The machines necessary for polishing slabs like that hadn't been invented in 1918.

Even soapstone would only have been used in an area with soapstone quarries, which isn't everywhere.

It's not that people didn't devote scads of cash to moving pretty rocks (viz: all the marble imported from Italy on Park Avenue, NYC). But they surely didn't devote scads of cash to move pretty rocks for furnishing the servants' work rooms, which is what a kitchen like yours was when it was new.

The lady of the house might have visited, but she didn't do anything there except maybe make something special like "her" house version of penuche. But somebody else stoked the fire in thestove and cleaned up, for sure.

Don't confuse modern life styles, with older ones. In a house like yours there would have been multiple domestic workers. Too bad the economic means to pay for servants doesn't convey along with the deed.

Real modern replicas of linoleum are a high-ish end (wait til you price it!) choice, but completely period. Linoleum - the real deal variety - is definitely not your Mother's vinyl sheet goods. Thank heavens! You may never have seen real lino, depending on how old you are. It is also a very green product, if that matters to you.


    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 3:40PM
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Lovely old house. Yes, I agree with wood or marble counter tops, and I also can see a checkerboard pattern on the floor. Do you like the green paint on the cabinets? All I can picture is an off white. But then I'm one of the "white kitchen" people. ha.

If possible, I'd love to see pics of the rest of the house. Sitting empty for 20yrs? wow.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 3:49PM
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Ok, I hear you all about linoleum floors - we're going to check those out. May end up w/ wood as we've just had the rest of the house floors redone - of course, we were told that this was the last time - floors down to almost nothing.
I'll take a serious look at marble, soapstone and wood.
I think we're going to stick w/ the green for the cabinets but I definitely want a different wall color.
I've inserted another picture of the house as you've entered the foyer. You can see straight - stairs, walkway to back to kitchen, and formal living room to right w/ study at the back end. The formal dining room is to the left. We've purchased the french doors to put back on leading to the dining room and living room. Still need to find french doors to the study but the opening is absolutely huge so we need to find inserts or something. Thanks for all the input - it is greatly appreciated. Still want to figure out the architectural style...

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 5:00PM
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Here's a picture of the master bedroom. It runs the entire length of the house. It has access to each bathroom - one @ the front of the house and one @ the back of the house. Basically jack n jill bathrooms off of the 3 bedrooms upstairs.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 5:05PM
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Some people have all the luck! :)

Have you thought about pocket doors between the study and living room? If the wall is thicker than the others, that's a good possibility. I have them between my living/dining rooms. I have also seen pairs of french doors used where the ones by the casing are fixed, and the central two open.

Looking at the exterior is puzzling, but I get a Craftsman vibe from it with the brick pillars and the modillions at their tops...with a bit of possible Italianate influence. There were, of course, more types of Craftsman homes than bungalows. Are the grilles on the door original? The multi-paned lights above singles is very period for many house styles.

It is a shame the wood is all painted, but that time period just straddles the era when paint was winning out over stain.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2013 at 1:15AM
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What a beautiful house! If you are on the East Coast, Demolition Depot in NYC is an amazing antique salvage store...and Murco in Chicago also has some very good finds.

I love, love, love your sink. Although Linoleum would be period appropriate, so wood good old hardwood. I've had that in all of my apartments, my condo, and my house, and love 'em.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 8:11AM
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The style would be Craftsman+Tuscan Villa. It's a fine residence.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 9:41AM
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columbusguy1, good idea about either pocket doors or the pairs of french doors.
The grilles are not original. We believe they were added some time after 1958 (based on pictures we do have of the house).
This home was in 1 family from 1955 to March, 2013, when we bought it.
You want to talk about painted wood - one of the matriarchs loved pink - pink bedrooms, pink bathrooms, pink inside the kitchen cabinets, even the bannister is pink! Guess what, we're not keeping the pink - well, except for the bathroom - as the entire room, tile, tub, sink, etc is all pink. I'll paint the walls white!
Thanks everyone for your opinion of the style - that gives us something to go on.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 1:55AM
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Ok, we had our floor man come out to give a bid for the entire kitchen, including the smaller back room. I was looking @ the existing flooring trying to figure out exactly what it is. It is a hard substance, looks somewhat like 6x6 tiles and black.

Manuel just looked at this and said it was concrete! I'm going to try to get over to the house tomorrow and lift up the sheets of plywood that's in the rest of the kitchen. I'm pretty sure I saw this in the corner and closet of the kitchen. I thought it was down to the sub floor but when I think back, I was only looking in what had been the butler's pantry area.

Understand, it doesn't look pretty - not even remotely. I originally thought it was some type of burned flooring (as there had been a fire in the kitchen area 20 years years ago - this is what led to the house becoming vacant - it wasn't devastating as you can tell by the fire - more in the ceiling).

Can anyone date concrete flooring? We finally decided to go w/ wood for the kitchen.. Thanks. Tanya

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 4:41AM
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I went with a marble look-a-like made of quartz (Silestone "LAGOON"). More durable and more stain resistant. I love it.

Here's a pic of my almost finished kitchen in my Modern, formal 1930's Colonial. The real Italian marble backsplash went up later. The walls and trim have yet to be painted. Hopefuly soon!


    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 4:03PM
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Kompy, thanks for your suggestion. I will give quartz a look. We're getting closer to needing a decision...

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 12:00AM
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We have a 1916 home; just a few remarks re our own experience:

1) Are you sure the entire floor is concrete? We have a concrete slab just where the stove was. It is visible from the (unfinished) basement. (The rest is wood subfloor.)

2) When we moved in, the kitchen floor was green linoleum and the small countertop was the same, held in place with metal edging. Don't know how long that it been there, but long. (I think it was real linoleum, but not sure. But it wasn't pretty!)

3) We very much respect our house's character and try to maintain it. But we don't live in a museum. When we expanded/remodeled we matched the mouldings, windows, etc, but felt no compulsion to match every kitchen detail. We put down a "standard" oak floor similar to that in the rest of the house, and used a medium-light, marble-like, greenish granite (with white cabs). It seems completely in sync with the house, even though it is not period.

Unless you plan on getting 1919 appliances, you're not going to have a 1919 kitchen no matter what you do. Don't feel compelled to do anything you don't really like, just to be "authentic."

P.S. Don't get too hung up on the home's specific style. Fact is, most houses from that period -- like ours -- are a mishmosh of styles, and simply reflect what was currently popular. (As remains the case with most new homes today, though I would say to less pleasing effect!)

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 8:58PM
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Hi s8thrd. Thanks so much for your thoughts and experience. Actually, we just found out that the concrete was only in the very back separate small room off the kitchen. As we dug down, the rest of the kitchen did turn out to be wooden subfloor. And yes, I found a lovely faded, brown & tan linoleum. I'm not sure how to tell if it is real or not but it also wasn't pretty!
I appreciate hearing that you designed your kitchen, keeping some details time period but not all.
We are currently having reclaimed wood installed in the kitchen. I am between marble and a green granite for the rest of the kitchen counter tops. I will now choose what I prefer rather than strictly time period!
Well, um,,,,, I'm thinking a 1950's O'Keefe & Merritt stove - does that count?:)))
I agree about the mixture of styles - I found a really great site : http://www.antiquehome.org/Architectural-Style/ which identifies major characteristics of the different styles.... very interesting. I've come up w/ Italian Renaissance and American Foursquare for our house. You're right, a lot of the new homes of today are grandiose but the character is just not there... Take care.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 12:49AM
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Imhappy&Iknowit IOWA zone 6b

Since you are saving your pink bathroom.......have you been to Pam's site?

Here is a link that might be useful: Save the pink bathroom

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 8:29PM
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Just a word about the appliance comment above: you can get reproduction stoves from several companies that are entirely modern with a period look, if you have deep enough pockets; alternatively, you can look at it this way, get appliances from a later period, but closer to then than modern stainless monsters.

Looking at places like Craigslist, you can often find old stoves which might need a little work, but will fit right in--and the same goes for refrigerators. With those, you can get panels for the doors to blend in with cabinetry, or even cover the whole thing in wood and buy hardware which will make it look like an old-fashioned icebox. I bought some latches and hinges to do that with mine, just haven't gotten around to it yet!

Here is a link that might be useful: Ice Box Refrigerator

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 9:57PM
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I will definitely check out the save the pink bathroom site - should be fun. Understand, I don't necessarily want a totally pink bathroom but it's there and it is so low on a priority list to address...
columbusguy1, thanks again for your input. I've taken a quick look at the reproductions - yes, deep pockets are a requirement. I had the opportunity to buy a Western Holly that was incredibly cool - actually had 2 ovens - the door had round, glass inserts. Problem was that one of them was cracked - major restoration. I'm still looking and won't give up. I sure like your idea about the refrigerator - that would be awesome.... still plodding along!

    Bookmark   July 3, 2013 at 2:28AM
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Circus Peanut

Tanya - don't give up on that cool vintage Western Holly with its cracked window. Who wouldn't adore those round windows?

I completely replaced a cracked oven glass window in my 1949 O'Keefe & Merritt -- you can have a glass store cut the special oven glass (it's actually a transparent ceramic that can take very high heat) into a circle, then use black stove gasket (awful gooey stuff in a tube) to cement it into the framing of the window. If the glass store won't cut the circle -- although they should -- you can go to a stained glass studio and have them do it.

We did this 5 years ago and the replacement oven glass is still tight, clear and fully functional. It's double glass, by the way, as I assume most of them had.

If you feel like replacing the cement floor, google "encaustic tiles" for some gorgeous period-correct options. There seem to be a bazillion different makers and options.

I heart your new old house, and encourage you to think outside the [big] box and keep exploring solutions. Enjoy!

Here is a link that might be useful: One place that offers lovely encaustic floor tiles

    Bookmark   July 6, 2013 at 1:18AM
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Thanks circuspeanut for your thoughts on the stove. I'll keep looking. There's the slightest possiblity the stove is still available.. fingers crossed. I never thought it would be as simple as bringing the broken piece to a glass shop..
I absolutely loved those encaustic tiles. I'm not sure I can pursue them as our floor man has started laying wood flooring but darn....

    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 12:39AM
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Tanya - Concrete, scored to look like tile, was fairly common in some areas.

Many of the old houses in Phoenix were "slab built" and the floors were stained, embossed concrete. Others just have hearths or bathrooms on a pad of concrete.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 8:37AM
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