Ahhhh, the smell of baking. Who is doing it?
When my hubby and I were first married we lived in a lovely big bungalow by the college we attended. The kitchen in that house was tiny, but packed with charm. It was my little corner of heaven. It used to have a swing door but it was gone. It did have a spice cabinet made from an ironing board cabinet, glass-fronted top cabinets, a really high ceiling and a big window over the sink. It doesn’t sound ideal, but this space would come to influence all of my kitchens afterwards.
Our current house has a kitchen easily 3x the size of that one plus a butlers pantry. But I still wanted it to feel cozy like the first kitchen. I began to find pictures of all the “old” kitchens I could find. They were very hard to come by as the current fashion for huge stainless steel, marble-cold kitchens dominated every magazine and book shop.
I started to notice a trend. When I saw a kitchen that made my heart go pit-a-pat it usually contained an old stove and lots of 30s cuteness and details. They were usually in bungalows like our first house. They made me happy and they were hard to come by.
So I made a list of exactly what I liked in these kitchens (and got a lot of help from the book above) and brought it home to my then 1966 kitchen in my 1907 Vitcorian.
Period trim like wide baseboards and door casings (ours had been removed)
Older cabinets with glass handles and pulls (our handles and pulls were 80s ugly)
An old stove (preferrably an O’Keefe & Merritt or a Chambers) (we had a 27″ drop-in electric that didn’t even work!)
Shelves for herbs or herbs by the sink (easy)
Upper cabinets, preferably with glass fronts
Lace edging on the shelves
Lino or lino-look VCT tiles in a checkerboard design on the floor (we had brown faux alligator skin roll vinyl- so hideous but hilarious!)
A towel drying rack with arms
Cafe’ curtains in the windows
Details like ice cards, old-looking fans, scales, and high chairs
Artwork by David Lance Goines- it has a very 30’s and Deco flair
An old clock
Frankoma pottery in Prairie Green- a lovely earth tone (I already had this!)
First we will start with color. I used an analogus scheme of light yellow, ocean blue, and light springy green. One of my favorite kitchens is part of the set for the 1966 production of Rosemary’s Baby. I know that’s weird, but that apartment is the best Victorian- I couldn’t tell it was a set! There is an awesome montage at the beginning of Rosemary making the vast and cavernuos apartment into a lovely new home for herself and Guy. Her kitchen is very yellow and white.
My kitchen had white cabinets so I painted the walls the lightest yellow and viola! Then, I wanted to add some ocean into it so when we were able to get new flooring I chose a light ocean-y blue and a light green to make large 24″x24″ checkerboard squares with. If my room had been smaller I would have done a 12″x12″. At 88 cents a square foot with a 30 year lifespan they were an excellent choice for our budget and very soft and not freezing under our feet like tile would be.
My cabinets were installed in 1966 and they were solid hardwood. Instead of ripping them out I just touched up the paint and switched out the 60’s hardware for glass bridge handles and knobs. Except for the frolicking 60s trim at the top they look very classic and period! We did reconfigure a half island/ half bar area to make room for a more functioning stove. But we reused the cabinets! The only thing I would change is getting glass-fronted doors for some of my upper cabinets.
Our stove story can be found here. Suffice it to say I was enamored with Susan Branch’s stove and had very happy memories of our 1974 O’Keefe & Merritt in my childhood home and so we found one like Susan’s! It’s the best stove I’ve ever owned or used.
Here are the closest pics I could find of what our stove had looked like in my childhood home. I loved that stove and was so sad when it was removed and a new, cold, efficient thing was put in it’s place. I know it’s ugly and not what an O’Keefe & Merritt brings to mind, but I learned to cook on that! That thing on top was one of the first microwaves!
I kind of wish we could have an old ice-box put back in the pantry, maybe one day I will luck into one.
We are working right now on the trim. It will cost a lot of money to put it back the way it was so we are doing the baseboards first. Big, wide baseboards are in scale with our house and all they are are 1x8s!
It’s definitely a labor of love and of time. We do just a little bit here and there. That’s esier on the budget too. The most expensive thing we have done is the flooring, then the wall put back up in the butler’s pantry and the cabinets moved. You might say we are on phase 83 of our kitchen renovation/restoration! After all, we started almost 8 years ago when we first moved in. Here is a list of what (I can remember) we have done:
Touched-up all the cabinets
Removed shelving over the back pantry door
Found the south door in the basement and re-hung it
Found the east door in the carriage house and re-hung it (both of these doors baffled us that they had been taken down)
Filed down the strike plate so the warped-from-being-wet in the carriage house door would close on the east side of the room
Boiled the paint off both the sets of doorknobs to those doors and shined the brass underneath
Painted the kitchen very light cream yellow over a parchment green, then painted all the trim white again
Bought and hung curtains
Took down and stored damaged interior shutters (never throw away! always save!)
Installed a new faucet
Hung a masonite chalkboard for the kids
Hung the leftover plate rails from our breakfast room/butler’s pantry over the chalkboard
Had deadbolts installed on the back door and pantry (ice) door
Bought a newer electric stove to hold us over
Bought our gas O’Keefe & Merritt Stove
Replaced the old 80s handles and knobs with period glass ones
Installed LED light fixtures under the cabinets (this kitchen is really dark)
Found and re-installed the shelves in the pantry (they were in the basement!)
Decided we didn’t need a breakfast room but we did need our butler’s pantry back so converted that room including putting a wall and a door back where one was missing (this saves us a ton on heating!)
Moved the washer/dryer hookup to the butler’s pantry (it had been in the food pantry- only big enough for a stackable apartment-sized unit!)
Made the pantry into a food pantry again and not a w/d closet- glorious!
Re-hung the plate rail in the butler’s pantry (used to be a breakfast room)
Put in new shelf paper
Repaired hole in pantry wall from plumbing mess
Hung a manual pencil sharpener and a Coke bottle opener in the pantry
Hung some swing-arm towel racks for drying
Removed island thing and repurposed cabinets so we could move in our bigger stove
Added to a wall bump-out so the stove would sit flush against the wall
Installed a new dishwasher
Installed a garbage disposal
Installed a phone jack on the wall by the sink
Put in new VCT flooring after patching our old roll vinyl for years
Replaced one light fixture
Added a shade to the north kitchen sink window
Put an old ice card in the pantry door window and other fun touches
Man, when I look at this list it seems like the kitchen must have been horrible when we moved in! It really wasn’t, just a bit confused and not set up for a family. Some things were done because our taste was different, but most things were done to make the space more functional and workable.
Is there anything crazy I would love to do? Yes. I’d love to have the servant stairs coming back down into the kitchen again, but we would lose our handicapped accessible bathroom which I’m sure will come in more handy! LOL
Are we done? I would hope so, but there is one last project. I want to restore the trim to what matches the rest of the house. Unfortunately, that is expensive and it’s hard to reason out spending a lot of money on stuff like that when we can make do a little longer. There’s always other things that need doing worse! I’m pretty happy with it as it is and it makes my heart go pit-a-pat!
With kitchen love to you from Kansas Street,