Anyone with an old fashioned "unfit" kitchen?

kalindi615August 21, 2012


I am very new here. I will introduce myself properly in another post, which I guess means I will post pics of my house as soon as I can gather some sold pics as well as some works in progress.

What I am interested in is seeing if anyone has a more "untraditional" kitchen in their older homes. While I see that a lot of people on here own beautiful 20's style homes with 10' ceilings, my home is quite opposite and built back in the day when people were just shorter and built more practically. We are unsure of the actual date of our house, but back in the 90's my in-laws had it dated and they estimated the original 2 story log structure (really one room downstairs and 1 room upstairs) was about 275 years old, which puts it at early 1700's , and the addition of what we use as the family room downstairs and a bedroom upstairs they estimated was done in early 1800's.

Because of this, I get the spacious use of 6'11" ceilings in my kitchen and bedrooms and a bit shorter upstairs in a few spots where the timber is thicker than in other spots. So - upper cabinets are absolutely out of the question.

I already have the only layout possible in mind, hubby and I have been working on this for about 2 years now. But, I wouldn't mind a little inspiration from anyone else. There is so very little to be found on line. To be honest my hands are a little tied, we have two doors to the outside in the kitchen, two passage ways, so each wall has obstructions. Water can only come into one wall and can not be run anywhere else and the entire kitchen is only 12x15 which isn't bad until you consider the ceiling is under 7ft.

It is actually the little things I am not sure how to finish. I know I need to waterproof the wall behind the sink, but not sure what I want to put there. I will have some sort of cabinet with feet to hold the sink, but really don't want to wainscot the whole wall. There will be wainscoting in the kitchen in the back of some open shelving and it already lines the pantry closet we just finished building.

Would love to see pics of anyone who has done anything similar.



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Much of the mechanical/layout stuff is beyond the scope of my experience, but have you looked at the book "Bungalow Kitchens" by Jane Powell? It shows many different configurations of historical kitchens, many of which are fit into some pretty small spaces. There is also some good general information in that book about how to lay out a kitchen efficiently, even (especially!) when you don't have a lot of room to work with. You might find some ideas and information there.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 3:39PM
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That is exactly the type of book I need. I had never come across it. I just placed it on order with Amazon. Thanks for the tip!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 4:25PM
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lov_mkitchenIOWA zone 6b

Go to the kitchen forum on gardenweb. They can help you out with more ideas than you could shake a stick at. There are two unfitted kitchens that come to mind but I can't find either of them. They are a couple of years old by now but if you ask over there someone will find the link for you.

Here is a link that might be useful: gardenwebkitchens unfitted kitchen

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 5:06PM
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@lov_mkitchen - Thanks for the links! I have been reading and bookmarking links all morning. I appreciate it.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2012 at 11:01AM
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There was a wonderful unfitted kitchen that a man posted last year. It was on his property in the Bahamas. It was a remarkable restoration of a home with very short ceilings etc much as you describe. I hope someone can remember what his name was...c

    Bookmark   August 22, 2012 at 4:58PM
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that link is very cool.

I tend to shy away from kitchen forums
and kitchen designers.
Not really a kitchen person.
BUT, I loved the kitchen in the blog.
my kitchen is eclectic also. I was
thrilled to add two cabinets with brushed
steel fronts that I got at lowes. they were
garage cabinets marked down from $130 each
to $30 each. I love love love them.
they are such a mis-match with the wooden counters.

thanks for the link.
never heard unfitted kitchen before, glad to know
there is a 'name' for this.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2012 at 6:50PM
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My Kitchen is a little unfit. But that is what is quaint about it. Post pics we would LOve to see them

    Bookmark   August 23, 2012 at 8:19PM
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Yes, I agree, I would love to see pics!

My kitchen is going to have to be unfit. Mostly because I love the style and partly because my ceilings are so low I can't have any cabinets.

But it is also going to have to be a mishmash of very old and a bit modern. Hey, my house is 300 years old, but not only can I not afford to do a complete "old fashion" remodel, but as much as I LOVE the look, I also love to cook, can, and actually USE my kitchen.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2012 at 10:06AM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

Wow, it seems as if it's been a long time since I posted that 'unfitted kitchen' blog link!

Kali615, for years I had both in a bungalow/cottage--some site-built cabinets and a freestanding pie safe and chest of drawers. I had a drop-leaf work table that had a low shelf added to increase storage, too.

I did a facelift and replaced some of the site-built, sawdust-shedding cabinets with a vintage freestanding cabinet from an old school. Top and bottom are two separate pieces--I have them attached to the wall for stability, so don't know if they really count. I kept some of the site-built uppers (from the early 1980's, I believe), added a few inexpensive new cabinets, and built a couple of fillers, myself. I widened a doorway between the kitchen and DR, so had to relocate my pie safes. Then I put a second, vintage school cabinet in the DR; it's still in progress, but here are a couple of pics:

Dining room in progress--I've since added the crown molding:

Better pic of old stove in the same room, used for storage:

Vintage cabinet in kitchen (added 'filler' shelves between cabinet and wall):

Pic of the whole crazy conglomeration:

And bad pic of DR during kitchen remodel, with the freestanding cabinets temporarily housed along one wall:

The cabinets have found homes elsewhere in my overstuffed house. :)

I recently added a pic of farmhousebound's unfitted kitchen/pantry doors to a thread in Smaller Homes, so I'll add the link for her kitchen in the Finished Kitchens Blog, too. I love that kitchen!

Here is a link that might be useful: FKB-farmhousebound

    Bookmark   August 24, 2012 at 11:25AM
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I love your kitchen Mama Goose. You and I have very similar taste. While my kitchen is complete gutted and down to sub-floors, I have actually finished the large pantry closet. We chose the same beadboard in almost the same color, just a little lighter. We also plan to use it behind some of the freestanding open shelving also.

I really like the idea of using curtains behind all that glass. I love the idea of glass, but it is a little impractical at keeping everything tucked away.

Beautiful job.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2012 at 2:22PM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

Thank you! I'm looking forward to seeing pics of your old house and the progress you're making. I always forget to include something in my posts, and I meant to tell you how I am impressed with your love of a quirky, really old, house. Especially as you are working with small children--mine are all grown, so I had a long time to think about the kitchen. Before 'updating' with more of a 1920s, 30s, 40s (?) style, I used a lot of earlier items--old crockery bowls and pudding molds, wooden dough bowls, etc., and I find that I miss them! Most of them are packed away in case I change my mind.

I thought our ceilings were low at 91-94" (originally 8', less a few inches for lowered ceilings) downstairs, and 78" upstairs. My son is almost 6'3", and for the last couple of years that he lived at home, he had to duck to get through the door into his room. I remember when I was about 12 years old, realizing that I could reach up and touch the ceilings in my grandparent's old house, with my fingertips.

I used some black marble tile behind my sink, as an inexpensive imitation of soapstone, but I don't know what material would have been used in a house as old as yours. Have you considered a recycled slab of marble? Something with patina--King of Prussia variety comes to mind. I'm going to include a link to a 'Recycled Kitchen' thread, as well as a link to a favorite HGTV-RMS kitchen, to give you some ideas.

Here's my recycled kitchen. Some unfitted kitchen pics included.

Amazing DIY kitchen from recycled elements. far back are you willing to go? ;)

    Bookmark   August 24, 2012 at 5:02PM
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Welcome Kali - I'm looking forward to seeing your layout & photos; this & the Kitchen forum are both fun & knowledgeable places to get ideas.

My old house is only 155 years old - a mere child compared to yours - & my kitchen isn't particularly unfitted (smallish space with 11' ceilings so I had cabinets built to the ceiling to utilize every inch) but I will offer a suggestion. On my backsplash area, I used sheet copper which over the past 5 years has held up beautifully & the patina blends into the rest of the room like it's been there the entire 155 years. Technically, I doubt if it's truly age appropriate for your kitchen or mine - but then neither are running water & plumbing!

    Bookmark   August 24, 2012 at 7:09PM
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@MamaGoose.... it is partly love for old quirky house and partly the fact that this is family property. My husband's mother was born in a bedroom upstairs, it has been in the family for almost a hundred years. Although to be honest, there was serious discussion about tearing down and starting over simply due to the state of the house.

We decided we couldn't live with ourselves if we did that and would always regret it. So we tore down the newest additions to the house, which were the laundry room/bathroom and the attic space above the kitchen. We left the kitchen (sort of) had to remove the ceiling to put in new supports for a second floor above and added the laundry and bathroom back on. It will make more sense when I get around to uploading pics. We left the old part of the house, the main 300 year old log cabin and the early 1800 addition, just gutted the entire upstairs.

It is all very slow going as we are doing it all ourselves and not hiring contractors. We did have my husband's brother help with the actual building of the structure as this is not within our area of comfort and he did construction for 40 years before retiring.

I have absolutely no plans to go completely rustic in my kitchen. I would love to keep the feel of rustic with all my modern amenities. I also love the old crockery and bowls and do plan a nice old piece of wood as an open shelf running along the wall over the sink area to display. But it will probably but right into my nice modern Advantium over the range oven. I am not really sure any other way to do it. My space is not large enough to "hide away" my modern stuff and I do love to cook. I think we can pull it off. The entire house will be a very big mishmash of old and new, so I think it will all work well.

@antique silver - I love the idea of copper. That may very well be the answer I am looking for. I will try very hard to get photos up early next week. I have been trying to get everything out of the garden this week and haven't found time yet. And you are right about the running water and plumbing. My mother in law loved to tell me how she had didn't have indoor plumbing here until she was almost a teenager. (she pulled that one out every time we would discuss extending the extremely small bath downstairs).

    Bookmark   August 24, 2012 at 8:13PM
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Since you're not opposed to eclectic, here is an old posting that may give you some ideas on finishing to compliment an elderly house. I had the cabinetmaker leave all the cabinets unfinished & I applied the milk paint; in fact, all of the finishing in the room was DIY by a small,50ish woman - so not that strenuous but a lot of work. If I'd known in the beginning I was going with copper, it would have been a lot easier to use roofing copper before the cabinets went in but I waited & had to use a narrow craft-grade glued to thin plywood which was a bear for one old woman to install in one piece! Sometimes having only 9' of counter is a good thing.

Here is a link that might be useful: antiquesilver's kitchen

    Bookmark   August 24, 2012 at 9:32PM
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Ohh... your kitchen is beautiful. You did a fabulous job on the finish on those cabinets! I do LOVE the copper. You are right, it looks like it has been there forever.

I really wish I had enough ceiling space to hang my pots, but with 7 ft, you would be walking into them everywhere. I had thought about hanging them down the wall (like my mother in law used to keep them), but I ran out of wall space.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2012 at 9:52AM
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Here's a link to the recent kitchen remodel of my 1870 home...the kitchen area was likely added a few years later. It's a bit on the "unfitted" side. We, too, had low ceilings, but made the decision to raise the ceiling to just shy of 8' since there was attic space above.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hlove's kitchen

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 8:40PM
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I too have very low ceilings (7' in some areas and 6' 10" in others) in a 200 year old cape and went with upper cabinets on one wall as I don't have the ability to keep shelving looking attractive on a daily basis. My cabinets were built for my kitchen by our contractor and, as there were so few, it was quite affordable compared to some kitchen's I've seen in the kitchen forum. My biggest pain was finding lights I liked that wouldn't cause us to hit our heads when we walked through. Recessed lighting wasn't an option for me, just not a look I like.

The kitchen isn't entirely done. We are still painting and haven't installed the tin backsplash behind the stove. That will come but for now our bathroom is screaming for attention :)

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 11:10AM
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The photo above is the west and north wall, this one is the south wall.

(Haven't figure out how to add multiple photos yet!)

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 11:15AM
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@hlove - you did a great job on your kitchen. It took a minute for me to realize you moved your ceiling up so much. It was hard to reference with the upper cabinets missing. We were originally going to do that here, however, that would mean we would to have to build yet another addition elsewhere to add a bedroom, so we decided to live with 7' ceilings.

@Maine_Mare - your cabinets fit in very nicely! Your contractor did a wonderful job. They look like they fit perfectly in the house. I am so glad that others have to deal with 7' ceilings also. Most people enter my house and wonder why we haven't tore it down. Of course that was before the renovation started, so I am hoping to make a ton of converts.

We have decided to go for the recessed lighting, I am with you and not a huge fan, but I like a lot of light in my kitchen and there was no other way I could get it where I needed it and for years we banged our head on another light in that kitchen and decided no more. We found some really nice options for trim for the recessed and hubby has some other ideas if we don't like that once it is up, so we will see.

I absolutely am in LOVE with your sink though!!! I so wish I had enough space for that. Where did you get that? Do they have smaller versions?

    Bookmark   August 29, 2012 at 10:42AM
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I am a bit too proud of that sink. I really wanted a vintage or 'pretty' range (enameled, sitting up on legs, graceful knobs, etc) but the cost was out of reach so went with a regular range. Once I realized my dream range wasn't going to happen, I redirected my efforts on a special sink. I found this one on Craigs List for $50 in someone's basement in Massachusetts. My In-laws picked it up for me and brought it to my place, caked in dirt and just neglected. Hubby and I figured $50 was a decent risk and if it was unusable we would recycle it or resell it. But, a bottle of Bon Ami and it cleaned up perfectly! It has the years of use patina I wanted and fits the kitchen perfectly. I redesigned the south wall specifically for that sink. Our kitchen was a complete tear out as it hadn't been touched since it was installed in the 40's (except for paint over the old wallpaper and mid 80's appliances) so I had that luxury.

There are other sizes out there but once you get to the double sink it does get pretty big. Try salvage yards and recycle places...and craigs list. Good luck with your kitchen!

    Bookmark   August 29, 2012 at 1:32PM
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What a great find! You lucked out at $50. That is a fantastic sink. I was really hoping it was a reproduction though and I could get one too, but smaller ;) Maybe I will get lucky and find one to fit my exact measurements. I don't want double. I have too many huge pots and a small space for the sink. I want a 30" wide, fairly deep, faucet high on the wall like yours. I hadn't considered the sink itself could be it's own backsplash though. That is fantastic! I will start looking. We do have a couple of salvage warehouses we frequent, I hadn't really searched craigslist for that sort of thing though I will start.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2012 at 2:08PM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

antiquesilver, your tall cabinet is amazing!

hlove, I smile every time I see your pretty kitchen. :)

Maine_Mare, I love your kitchen, especially the sink!

kali615 (and anyone who loves kitchen pics), I came across another blog with pics of kitchens in various degrees of unfittedness:

Here is a link that might be useful: Material Girls--The 'unfitted' kitchen

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 9:22AM
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This is an old cabinet we've had for many a year... this is the third kitchen we've had it in. I like furniture in a kitchen (and bathroom). It makes the space more inviting, at least to me.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 1:29PM
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Kali, my kitchen is 'unfit'...considering I found the original cabinet doors in the garage, and built my own frames for them! I used my original pantry as an example, although I had read lots of house plan books and perused photos online.

The kitchen was done about 20 years ago, and need the flooring replaced and some patching where a leak upstairs caused some damage...but the kitchen works for me since I have the pantry for extra storage, and I don't have a million appliances which are plugged in even if they hardly ever get used. While my double sink has some dings and stains, it cost me nothing, being found next to a dumpster--just had to add a new faucet!

Should I excavate the flooring layers, I know I will find wood, but whether it is oak is unclear--the rest of the downstairs is oak, but I've read that maple was common in kitchens from the turn of the century like mine.

Here is a link that might be useful: House Pics Part II

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 8:12PM
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