A Kitchen Reborn

Simple in style, this lovely Peabody & Stearns turn-of-the-century home can be found in Newport, N.H. Owners Kathy and Dan Walsh have been lovingly restoring the house for several years.

Originally built in 1906 as a summer cottage for a Boston family, the home has a warm, cozy feel from the outside in. After working in several areas of the home, Dan and Kathy decided a kitchen redo was in order to correct a former 1950s update that wasn’t quite right for the house. They took the kitchen down to the studs about three years ago and brought in Susan Booth of Vintage Kitchens in Concord to help with the improvements.

The Walshes quickly found that they each shared a vision with Booth of what it would take to maintain and create architectural integrity while introducing modern functionality into the room.

A search through the home uncovered blueprints of the original structure, which served as a fact-finding tool while seeking out historical references for the cabinets and other features. Vintage Kitchens was then able to replicate the cabinets from these blueprints and hand-craft them in its New Hampshire studio.

A summer porch was gutted and combined with the original kitchen space to become part of the new remodel. This melding allowed both Kathy and Dan to cook and entertain in style and still mingle with guests.

One of the challenges in bringing a historic home into the 21st century is space, or the lack thereof. Every nook and cranny must be used wisely in order to generate enough storage, prep and cooking surfaces. Booth was able to do this by paying close attention to molding and cabinet widths as well as clever tricks, such as recessing the refrigerator into a former closet.

The sunroom area actually steps down four inches from the kitchen, so the ceiling was raised in the kitchen area to help balance the two different ceiling heights. Tin tiles were applied in keeping with the overall period look. During the renovation, the original beadboard ceiling was uncovered on the porch. It was then taken down, refinished and re-attached to help unite the two rooms seamlessly. Custom chairs were built to sit at the peninsula to make up for the difference in floor heights, and the difference is not readily apparent.

The cabinets were constructed out of cherry birch and include both solid and glass door fronts. A Southern pine floor that has been quarter sawn — a costly and laborious process that produces a tight grain — was laid to emphasize wood tones and accentuate the character of the space.

The house has several fireplaces, each with different corbel designs that sparked Susan to come up with her own design by blending together the best of each. The corbels were used under the peninsula and again beneath the china cabinet.

Former restaurant owners and culinary enthusiasts, the Walshes had a few requests of their own to satisfy. They wanted professional appliances, seating for guests and an attractive view into the kitchen from the front hall and entrance. Modern accoutrements such as a Wolf four-burner range and Miele dishwasher now co-exist with the beautiful woodwork.

Even the smallest details were not overlooked. The house has a lot of its original lighting, so vintage and reproduction lighting was acquired for the kitchen as well. The vintage chandeliers that hang over both the working area of the kitchen and sunroom are similar, but not identical. Each glass globe is slightly different, but all work well together.

Dark green granite counters coupled with bronzed nickel faucets and hardware add a touch of nostalgia to the room. Drawer pulls and knobs were used for cabinets, drawers and the slides of the china cabinet, while subway tile in a crackle finish (also seen in a downstairs bath) was used as a backsplash for the range wall.

Dan chose not to sacrifice the beauty of the original diamond mullion windows with a modern stand-in. He noted, “I would rather live with drafts than try to duplicate them. The glass plays with the light and is quite beautiful.”

The design for the tongue-and-groove half-round wood paneling was copied from built-in cabinetry in the living room and installed on the outside wall to bridge the gap between the lower and upper cabinets.

The walls are bathed in a buttery yellow that is repeated in a slightly lighter tone in the living room and in a mustard shade in the adjacent hall. The inspiration for both the wall color and other decorative touches came from a yellow-matted rooster poster originally used as an advertisement for an area farmers market that Dan had a hand in some years before.

Both the Walshes and Booth were excited to uncover the hidden beauty within the home and were delighted to bring the kitchen back to its former glory. NH

Kimberly Merritt, ISD, I.R.I.S. is a professional interior designer who holds workshops and decorator training seminars in Peterborough. www.beautifullivingonline.com