Rethink ‘Vintage’ for a Practical Kitchen Remodel

When you design a new “vintage” kitchen, you have to take poetic license just for practical reasons, says Rick Clanton of Group 3 Design. Here are eight ways to reinterpret vintage style when undertaking a kitchen remodel for modern life.

1. Define what you mean by “vintage.” “When I think of ‘vintage,’ I think of terms like ‘simple’ and ‘utilitarian,’ but that seems a little silly when applied to a house like this,” Clanton chuckles. “For this kitchen, ‘rustic’ and ‘clean cut’ were more appropriate.”

2. Design a space that communicates how “vintage” feels for you. “You can’t be literal,” Clanton says.


The petite window peeks from kitchen to dining room, implying imagined renovations and enclosed porches; it also encourages conversations between the spaces. Centered in pools of neutral colors, the blue-green island provides a splash of color, subtle yet refreshing (Photo courtesy of Group 3 Designs).

4. Stay away from perfect symmetry. Nothing will match perfectly unless it’s machine-made, so strive for a man-made look for your “vintage” kitchen. In the Haig Point Plantation kitchen, the designers laid the floorboards so that they switch direction when they move beyond the designated kitchen space. “We wanted to make it look like the room had been there for decades and had been added on to, or like a door had been removed and the space opened up,” Clanton explains.

5. Use only natural materials. “The whole house is made of wood,” which is historically accurate, Clanton points out. “The kitchen floors are reclaimed hard pine.”


The oak icebox, designed to match the cabinets, connects you to simpler times. Light and faucet fixtures add a rustic touch to the kitchen (Photo courtesy of Group 3 Designs)

7. Create vintage reproduction pieces. “This kitchen remodel features an oak ‘icebox,’ which was the owner’s idea,” Clanton says. “She sent a picture of an icebox and a cut sheet of the hardware just as the cabinets were going into production. We had it built-in so that it matched the rest of the cabinets.”

8. Accessorize with vintage pieces. “Eloise Pickard collects old light fixtures and reimagines them into these wonderful things. She and the homeowner chose the fixtures for the kitchen,” Clanton explains. “Their choices feel ‘inevitable,’ and you can’t do better than that.”


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


By Sarah Yoon

Photography courtesy of Group 3 Designs

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