Preservation of old homes is a favorite conversation of owners of vintage homes but rarely do you hear talk about a kitchen restored to its former glory. These beautiful historical homes we have grown to love and appreciate, did not have the kind of kitchens we expect today. Historical kitchens today are antiquated, inefficient and poorly laid out.
In a typical prewar model, kitchens were work areas plain and simple. Everything in the kitchens were freestanding from the huge cast iron stove, the sink on porcelain legs, the icebox and a table that doubled as a workspace. Those that were modernized in the 1950s, ’60s, or ’70s often held even less appeal than the ones before. The countertop, flooring, and ceiling materials in them were no match visually as the hardwoods, linoleum’s, and metals they replaced. Appliances were disappointing at best with their dismal colors.
Today we want to capture the flavor of the kitchens we imagine our great-grandparents loved and enjoyed. Homey, warmth and filled with the aroma of good cooking. Fortunately, replicating the mood of a vintage kitchen in an existing space has never been easier. As demand for kitchen accessories with a patina of age has grown, so has the availability of period materials. Architectural salvage and well-designed reproduction hardware and appliances are relatively easy to locate. Resources for old-fashioned pieces can be found by perusing advertisements in many home design magazines and inquiring at local antiques’ shops and architectural salvage companies.
Cabinets, more than any other single element in the design, determine the look and feel of a kitchen. To give a kitchen a historic feeling, designers caution against filling the kitchen with modern built ins. Architectural salvage companies often stock vintage cabinets in wood or metal. These cabinets mix well with freestanding antique or reproduction pieces. An antique dresser or a dry sink adds charm as well as semi-customized items like plate racks and open shelving. Painted wood cabinets may warp when stripped so be advised to try one cabinet door first. Metal cabinets should be stripped, buffed, and lacquered to prevent them from rusting.
Stone countertops are compatible with old-fashioned kitchens as long as the stone is honed to a soft finish not sleek and modern. Vermont soapstone is one popular choice.
For flooring, designers usually recommend hardwood. Linoleum, maligned for years, is making a comeback. Unused rolls of vintage linoleum from the ’20s to the ’50s can often be found at salvage companies or at specialty stores.
On the ceiling, pressed metal makes quite a statement, particularly when left in its natural state. As an alternative, try heavy Anaglypta paper, a cream-colored wallpaper embossed in a variety of period patterns. It is less expensive to install than pressed metal and once painted, achieves a much similar effect.
Finding authentic looking stoves and also refrigerators, became easier in the mid 1980s when the country look was blossoming. Our grandparents’ stoves have all been refurbished and are easier than ever to find. No matches needed!. Though most old stoves are white, some occasionally turn up in cream, green, or cobalt blue. Hoods are more difficult to find to match your stove since they were not around one hundred years ago. Try buying wood and blending it into the upper cabinetry.
Vintage style hardware is the icing on the cake for the finishing touch on your period look kitchen. Designers suggest antique brass, satin nickel or a blackened finish. The hardware makes the whole kitchen look as if it has been there for years just like the rest of your vintage home.