Modernizing Your Historic Home Kitchen Without Compromise
Often referred to as the heart of the home, the kitchen is a space that holds a great deal of value to many people. It’s a place to nourish your family, catch up with a neighbor over coffee, or even a sanctuary where you get to try that recipe you have been meaning to experiment with. Regardless of how you find personal fulfillment in this space, when it comes to Historic Homes, the original kitchen may not afford you the modern conveniences we all have come to expect. The words “modern” and “historic” home do not seem to align and the word “Modern” is often a scary one for people that have a higher degree of attraction to stylized or referential architecture.
When we speak of modernizing a historic home, we are referring less to the stye and more to the quality of life and use of space. Often in Historic Homes the kitchens are fairly small, counter spaces are shallow, and storage space is limited. These are all limitations that prohibit people from using kitchens with the more modern sensibilities of today. Even with these limitations, we find that it is possible to upgrade historic kitchen amenities while respecting the architecture and interior language of the home. We refer to the design of the home as the “language” because not every space fits into a neatly wrapped style of architecture. What “feeling” does the existing language evoke? This feeling is what we are looking to extract when it comes to the design of a new space. A new space does not necessarily need to be a direct replica of what exists, but it should instead, resonate with the rest of the home and become a natural extension of the home.
So how do we achieve this in a historic home? First, start by consolidating space. Typically historic homes will have a series of compartmentalized spaces, most often associated with the kitchen but partitioned from it. We typically start by considering the removal of these partitions and joining the spaces. The most prominent challenge arises when a design must conform with the existing window openings. As a historically designated structure, you are not permitted to change or alter the existing windows and openings.
Second, we consider who you are and what you needs will be. Before we put “pencil to paper” to start a new design, we issue a design questionnaire tailored to you and specific to your project. This will aid us in understanding how you live in your space and takes probable measures for aging in place. For example, a young family with specific needs for their children may not have the same needs 10 years down the line. We evaluate these possibilities as a team, with you, to develop the likely long-term goals.
Third, We consider storage needs. Dependent on the era of your home, long banks of cabinets may be appropriate but in some cases you may need to consider a cabinet design that emulates stand alone pieces which appear more like furniture. The key is to satisfy your family’s storage needs. Whether you consider yourself more of a cook or more of a baker, you need a space for your tools, pot and pans, utensils, and small appliances.
Fourth, we consider the finishes. All finishes, whether they be cabinet finish, counter material, backsplash, or hardware, need to be considered carefully. For example if you have a purist philosophy and want to stay true to the era of your home, this simply may not be a practical point of view in todays environments. Note, that If your home is pre 1900’s the typical counter material used was wood. Used in specific zones, wood is practical, but with the advent of newer materials, material consciousness has evolved away from wood due to sanitary concerns. Countertop material options have evolved over the years from wood to tiles, plastic laminates, stone, and to the current trend of engineered quartz. Countertop material selection in particular, is where some artistic license is needed to specify a material choice that continues to align with the historic nature of the design, but takes into account modern concerns.
We have identified some of the primary considerations that we focus on when embarking on an historic remodel with you. The list of considerations grows from there as each historic property and each one of our clients are unique unto themselves. So please, tell us, what does your dream kitchen entail?
What a Pandemic Can Reveal
We are writing our first journal entry in the wake of the COVID 19 pandemic. We have spent the last 2 months re-aligning our studio and business practices to the new pandemic climate in an effort to continue to serve our clients in the best way possible, while making sure that we successfully shelter in place and take care of our own health, safety, and welfare. In light of all of this we have given a lot of thought to what our typical design process means to us, and how this process serves to enhance the quality of life for our clients.
It is our goal and pleasure to help our clients plan for meaningful quality of life no matter the type or size of project we take on. Although we have no way of planning for unexpected circumstances such as the global impact of COVID-19, we are profoundly fulfilled when the rigor we apply to our design process yields rewarding results. Over the last 2 months we have heard from multiple clients that the work that we performed has proven to be beneficial to their lifestyle during this unprecedented and unexpected time in world history. It is our pleasure to share with you the words of one client who has found comfort and quality in their “new normal” life as a direct result of the remodel we recently completed of their home.
“When we made the decision a few years ago to remodel our house, we had to answer a lot of questions. We considered how to configure bedrooms and bathrooms, ceilings heights, window placement, and hundreds of tile and paint color options. We planned every little detail, right down to where the dog would sleep. But one question that never came up was: Will this design meet our needs in a global pandemic in which none of us leaves the house for days or weeks or …?
And yet, during this strange, frightening, slower-paced time, we often take a moment to be grateful that we renovated our house when we did. Every decision we made in that process helped turn our home from what previously could have felt confining and uncomfortable into a sanctuary that calms and accommodates us perfectly.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in our kitchen. Our new kitchen was made by combining three small rooms (dining room, breakfast nook and kitchen) with little storage, less counter space, ancient appliances and no dishwasher. It’s hard now to imagine how we would’ve coped with preparing, serving and cleaning up after three meals a day for all of us for months on end. And while—let’s be honest—we still miss going to our favorite restaurants, at least we are able to enjoy mealtimes together comfortably. Baking with our son has become a fun distraction, and making homemade pasta together for the first time while FaceTiming with friends in the midwest is an experience we will remember fondly. Also, having the storage space for several weeks’ worth of food is something we will never take for granted.
Another thing that has saved our sanity is the fact that we each have our own workspace. For my husband, on conference calls and video meetings perpetually, the garage office conversion has been a godsend. Our teenaged son has a built-in desk in his room which he currently uses for various building projects. And my desk, sitting in the kitchen, has become the internet, Zoom and distance learning hub. Adjusting to our “new normal,” means a lot of time staring at screens for most of us, but at least we aren’t annoying each other by having to do it in the same room. Even though we didn’t add square footage, the open design of the central living area feels more spacious, while still affording enough privacy that we can get away from one another when necessary.
It’s hard to know when this will all end; when we will be able to ditch the masks and hand sanitizer, run our normal errands, go out for meals with friends and walk down the sidewalk without recoiling in fear when someone comes too close. Someday our lives will go back to something resembling normal, but our home will continue to be our safe place.”
It seems that we have been facing one crisis after another on an annual basis in California, and that the “new normal” reaches beyond the face of this pandemic. One thing we are certain of, is that we learn from each crisis, and we strive to absorb each lesson into both our personal and professional lives so the we do what we do best – FOR YOU!
Cheers and stay safe! Jessie and Tony