Are You One Remodel Away From Your Perfect Vintage Kitchen?

You say your dream kitchen would look like the set for “Upstairs, Downstairs.” But if a wizard did whisk your perfect kitchen from the past to the present, you’d have some problems. For instance, where would you put your microwave? What about your refrigerator? You might find yourself remodeling your “perfect” vintage kitchen for practicality’s sake.

“Kitchens in really old houses are afterthoughts,” explains architect Rick Clanton, co-founder of Group 3 Designs. “Just a table and a few cabinets stuck between the main (and only) appliances—the stove and sink. Not even an icebox! So when you create a ‘vintage kitchen,’ you can’t be literal. You have to get across a feeling.”

Clanton, a self-proclaimed house “ghostwriter,” collaborated with interior designer Carolyn Hultman to remodel the Haig Point Plantation kitchen. While Clanton lofted the kitchen’s ceilings and strategized for ideal natural light, Hultman selected the vintage lamps and the island materials and finishes. Even while they wanted the kitchen to look like it had been built 100 years ago, Clanton remembered that they “didn’t need to be bound by the past.”


Mounted high on the ceiling, task lights ensure functionality, while vintage lamps create soft ambience (Photo courtesy of Group 3 Designs)

“The homeowner used the word ‘vintage’ in our first meeting,” Clanton explains, “so we tried to focus on that, bringing a level of thoughtfulness to the design and detail that went beyond her expectations.”

Light the Way

Before the remodel, the Haig Point Plantation kitchen had an average ceiling. For an airier look, Clanton raised it a whole level, creating a two-story expanse that provides room for imagination to take flight—and for light to filter into the kitchen below. Follow his advice to create a light-filled kitchen of your own.

• Try for a skylight. “If your climate is right, a skylight may be ideal. But here in South Carolina, a skylight gives you too much heat and glare, when what you really want is soft natural lighting,” Clanton says. To accomplish that, mimic a skylight by raising the ceiling and hanging windows on three sides, as he did in this would-be vintage kitchen. “Place your windows so that light can flow into your kitchen from three directions, and you’ll have continual light from dawn to dusk,” Clanton advises.

• Use the right window treatments. Since natural light can be harsh, choose window coverings to control how much natural light enters your kitchen. “We added Bermuda shutters to the windows above the kitchen,” Clanton says.

• Consider dimmable lights, even for task lighting. With enough natural light, you may only need to add soft, decorative lighting. Here, “high-intensity, dimmable lights mounted high on the wall provide excellent light to cook by,” says Clanton.


For more vintage kitchen design advice from Rick Clanton, click here.

By Sarah Yoon

Photography courtesy of Group 3 Designs

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