When Marie and Ron renovated their 1919, they did most of the work themselves, hiring professionals only when the job was too tough for them to tackle alone—and one such job was the kitchen.
“We wanted to do it for a long time, but we knew we couldn’t,” Marie recalls. So they saved their money and figured out what they needed in their kitchen. Most of all, the couple wanted to maintain the architectural integrity of the home. They didn’t want to add on, move doors or tear down walls. Also, the refrigerator needed to come into the kitchen. “I wanted a work triangle, like you see in magazines,” Marie says. The couple also wanted to avoid man-made materials, which Marie feels will quickly look dated. “I didn’t want to come into the kitchen in five years and ask myself, what was I thinking?” she says.
Finding the right contractor wasn’t easy; they interviewed seven. “Most just didn’t get it,” Marie says. “We wanted butcher block, and they said granite. We wanted old-fashioned wood cabinets, and they pushed for laminates. They would have done a kitchen that looked like 2010, but we wanted it to look right for a 1919 house.”
They finally made their selection based on finding a company they felt would honor their desire to create a vintage-style kitchen. But early on there were clues that this might not work. The contractor gutted the space (throwing away original trim!) replaced the old water heater, updated the plumbing and started work on the electric. After a series of disasters, Ron asked them to leave, and the couple started over again.
Marie salvaged a plank from the trash, set it on some old furniture, and that was their kitchen for the next year. They washed dishes outside, dodged around dangling wires and found a carpenter to replicate the discarded trim, which Ron installed. Meanwhile, they searched for someone else to complete the room.
Marie and Ron met Chuck Kensicki and Katherine Wu of Good Home Construction at a restoration expo and immediately knew the search was over.
They invited Kensicki to look at their kitchen and spent a good deal of time brainstorming a design with him. “It was helpful that Marie and Ron knew what they wanted,” Wu says. “The plan wasn’t final, but they had their ideas and needs defined.” Kensicki returned with the design, and was soon at work turning that vision into a reality.
Marie had spotted a photo of an arched alcove on the Good Home Construction Web site and knew that would be the perfect way to accommodate the fridge and the couple’s antique stove as well.
“We wanted to find an era-appropriate stove,” Ron says. “Our first idea was for a wood burner, but Marie found this one on eBay and we fell in love with it.” What she fell in love with is a Wedgewood gas range dating to around 1928. “The company continued to manufacture this model until the 1930s,” Ron says. “But we were able to date ours from the salt and pepper shakers, which were still intact.”
Kensicki installed a fan into the ceiling over the stove to inconspicuously provide ventilation. “We had no air circulation before,” Marie says. “If I cooked in the morning, the kitchen still smelled like it when I came home from work.”
There are only 21 inches between the dining room doorway and the sink wall; three inches less than standard. That was no problem for Kensicki, however. He crafted the cabinets on site (the way it used to be done) and made them to fit. Butcher-block countertops were not an issue either. Kensicki simply fabricated them to fit the cabinets, which were painted with lustrous white enamel.
The couple now has a nice expanse of work surface on either side of the farmhouse sink. The room is lit with reproduction schoolhouse fixtures and finished with a soft blue paint. The once dismal mudroom was similarly transformed with period-style cabinets and a neat little bench with cubby holes for shoes and storage beneath. Vintage-style posters add a touch of European flair.
Marie and Ron are completely happy with their kitchen and the time that they spend there. “I don’t really cook a lot,” Marie confesses, “but Ron does.” Now the space suits them so well that it’s a pleasure simply to be there.
Written by Catherine Titus Felix
Photography by Mark Tanner
Styled by Hillary Black