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OLD HOUSE RESTORATION: Sympathetic Kitchen Renovations

By Martin Schwartz
of Textured Home

With broker in tow, you walk eagerly up to that elegant, turn of-the-century colonial advertised as just “dripping with detail.” Your lips purse slightly with a smile as the exterior lives up to its described billing. Moving quickly inside the common rooms, your breathing becomes heavy with the warming thoughts of finding a new home. As you rush now through the dining room into the back, your checkbook fingers actually itch with anticipation to write-up the contract and initial deposit. Until you reach the kitchen. And then, your heart ‘sinks’ - literally.

That dream home’s touted “updated kitchen” is really from the 1970’s. It has absolutely no relationship to any architectural detail in the house and looks like
someone’s suburban life vision of Leave it to Beaver. We see this all the time, from
small starter houses to the areas largest mansions.

From the 1950’s through the early 90’s, in the attempt to modernize function and amenities, many people re-doing their kitchens lost touch with the underlying aesthetic within their homes.

Consumer studies today show that the condition of the kitchen is one of the most important factors people consider when evaluating a purchase. Of course, some buy actually hoping to renovate a newly discovered eat–in eyesore. But whether you are contemplating an immediate rehab – or thinking about longterm valuations, here are some tips -- both to maximize resale and create a comfortable and contemporary kitchen space.

The kitchen pantry has taken on renewed life again -- not just as a storage area for foodstuffs, but as an overall preparation space. The old butlers pantry, with those
accessible, twin sinks for large pots, a work counter for messy peeling jobs and built-in, stepback cabinets for storage – has become hot. The goal is to take some of the heavier load out of the main kitchen.

Back when many of the areas larger homes were first built, only servants worked the kitchens. Today, they’ve become a central gathering place for family and friends. The recent rush to build bump-outs or full additions off the footprint, is not so much for additional preparation and cooking space – but extra room just to hang out. So it makes sense that today’s homeowner wants more of the clutter, storage and work moved off to the side - if possible.

Along with renewed interest in a working, butler’s pantry feel, main kitchen cabinet and door styles are also more reflective of this equalitarian, ‘restoration’ movement. When picking cabinetry, many old-house homeowners reference their original molding details, casings and wall paneling - to create storage spaces that compliment the home’s original architectural period. Both off-the-shelf and custom fabricators recognize this market direction. They’re offering a range of earlier door and cabinetry details - sympathetic to older homes.

Hardware and sink manufacturers have also tapped into the restoration look. There are multiple options for sinks, faucets, and door pulls today that feel like they’re 100 years-old, but are still clean and spanking brand new. You use to have to spend a fortune, and buy some hard-to-install European model to get the ‘been there forever’ feeling. No longer. Most domestic manufacturers have caught on – with the devil in the details for price and quality.

And forget about that Home Depot touted silestone for the present. It’s still looks and feels like plastic. And it is -- ninety percent. While a new line is supposedly coming to market that emulates more natural stone found in top-of-the-line kitchens, the basic choices still don’t cut it in our opinion - even with their enhanced
performance. Loud and shinny granites are not much better aesthetically. Think rough, honed and natural. Try to spend the few extra dollars to get this more sophisticated look. A quick touch-up sealant every so often on soapstone or honed black granite - and any performance difference is mute.

Today, from a creative design solution, quality custom cabinetry and tasteful stonework that integrates all the modern fixtures and amenities, not only you can upgrade to get that clean, open feeling the kitchen may be missing – but you can still
remain sympathetic to the underlying spirit within your older home.

A Montclair resident, Martin Schwartz is a principal of TEXTURED HOME --
Restoration Builders & Modernization Contractors.

Their design/build work includes kitchens/ baths & additions, as well as whole house restorations. They specialize in sensitive renovations for the older home.
If you have questions about updating while still retaining the character of your home, call him
at (973) 783-2580 –

New House...Classic Style
Bathroom Renovations
Kitchen Renovations
Renovations for Resale
Siding Removal and Exterior Restoration


Complete Building and Finishing Services
Montclair • New York City • Southampton • Westchester-Connecticut