When it comes to remodeling 100-year-old houses, making sure the renovation looks fresh—yet as if it has always belonged there—is one of the biggest challenges of all.
But this kitchen redo posed even more design challenges than most remodels. There was the porcelain sink and drainboard that the homeowners had brought home from Britain. They were in love. It had to stay, but moving the walls wasn’t an option. There was the kitchen window, set awkwardly, near a corner, but changing the home’s exterior wasn’t an option, either. The family of five—all active cooks—wanted to work in the kitchen together, with a fridge set within the traditional work triangle. However, there wasn’t much wall space to work with in the kitchen of this two-story, 1914 Craftsman house.
Architects Mark Larson and Jean Rehkamp Larson set a work island in the middle of the room. They then placed a second sink in the island, accessible to cooks working on either side. The refrigerator issue proved a bit trickier. The solution the architects arrived at is what they refer to as “dueling fridges”: two tall, skinny European-style units that face each other, set at opposite sides of the work island.
The clever positioning of other scaled-down appliances helped the design team gain as much counter space as possible. A 24-inch steam oven was set below counter, and a 30-inch range creates additional work surfaces. A mirror above the porcelain sink gives the impression of more space.
To ensure that the kitchen cabinets were right at home in this early 20th-century dwelling, the details and material draw right from the house, says Mark. In particular, he and Jean took design cues from a built-in oak buffet in the dining room. The beadboard soffit over the cooktop matches the cabinets, makes the scale cozier, and adds a timeworn flavor. So do soapstone countertops, which “melt in and immediately look old,” Jean says. Offsetting the deep colors is a warm yellow backsplash, with tiles made locally in Minneapolis, and a white-slatted pantry door reminiscent of the corn cribs common to Midwestern farms. A breakfast nook was set near the windows, taking advantage of the daylight. This warm, cheery kitchen is more than hard-working: It’s a beloved family hangout.
“This was an old house, so there’s a logic and a symmetry,” Mark says. “But there’s also flexibility,” which is why the duo opted for kitchen cabinets that vary in size and configuration. It’s a balance that helps the room hang together but also ensures that it steers clear of being at all cookie-cutter. Like the cabinets, this remodel strikes the perfect balance between new and old.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN.