Think Virginia countryside. Think eighteenth century farmhouse with a number of additions already done. Merging space from another era with the demands of a kitchen in today’s world while creating a cohesive, flowing unit is an interesting challenge.
The old kitchen was a small, dark corner that barely functioned. But relocating it presented some interesting challenges in design, materials and construction. We were working with three different levels of the floor, three totally different ceilings, and most of the walls that were Virginia field stone. A large structural wall needed to be removed to open up the the kitchen to the hangout space and bring in much needed light. There were old beams in the ceiling of the area best situated for the new kitchen. These were structural, not decorative, so they were staying. Besides, they’d be fabulous once they were cleaned up. Needless to say, in an old space we had electrical, plumbing and other construction puzzles to solve. Moving the kitchen, which was the only good option, meant we had to solve all kinds of puzzles.
The first design challenge was that they absolutely wanted a professional range which meant we needed to place the range so that we could get the duct from the hood out of the house. Placing the range strategically between the beams, I was then able to lay out the refrigerator on the adjacent wall, thank goodness, because that was the only wall not of stone. And then the sinks, with their paraphernalia, in the island completed a nice working area.
I still had to find homes for a few other items. They wanted a second oven, a television, office space, and pantry. If I left some of the wall between the new kitchen and the hangout space, I could put the second oven and the television on it. That also gave my guys a space to hide the supports for the beam we needed. The office went into the area the old kitchen occupied—that small. And the pantry found home in a cavernous space in another wall. By outfitting it with can racks on the doors and roll-out shelves within, the space became a great pantry. Last, at the back entrance we created an elegant, open mudroom so that, coming in from the fields or riding ring, they could change and shower. We were just fortunate that the space did so well at accommodating a kitchen, an office and a mudroom.
The next big design challenge concerned the type of materials. We went with red birch cabinets on the heart pine floor. Using inset doors and beadboard sides made it feel just right for the old house. And, although we needed to put storage up on the stone walls, we wanted to have that stone be seen. Open backed, opened shelf cabinets solved that puzzle. Not all but enough so the stone is shown. Honed Giallo Venizialo granite tops retained the farmhouse flavor with today’s materials.
Once the design was settled came the construction fun. I’ll say it over and over again, I’m lucky to have Jerry doing the work for me. Construction is much like a chess game. The first move, and each consecutive move, determines the outcome. I only work with guys who THINK. The stuff you can’t see, such as electrical and plumbing and ducting, were tricky but we got the job done. Of course we couldn’t use recessed lights because there was no space to put the cans. The selected fixtures are in keeping with the feel of the space. The floor had to be re-worked. Jerry found some old heart pine floor boards to supplement where we needed to. We didn’t want a patchwork that said, “Here’s where the old wall stood”. As you’d expect, plumb and square didn’t exist here which means one has to really work to get everything to come together correctly. Of course I had to order materials so that they could do the job. Notice the fine workmanship where Jerry cut the extended stiles to nicely meet the ragged stone. Equally impressive is how you can’t see where the cabinets attach to the stone walls. Even my granite guys worked some magic with the countertop against the stone walls.
After all the work was completed, the homeowners filled the kitchen with their belongings. This, dear folks, was the crowning piece for so much is visible. They attended to the details as much as we had. It was so gratifying to come back to take photos and see all the little things that makes it home!