It’s a dilemma for homeowners everywhere who live in older homes: Can you have an up-to-date kitchen with modern appliances but still be true to the period of the house? Yes, says interior designer Karen Hott, who successfully merged old and new in this 1920s Virginia-Highland bungalow.
“The first thing people always comment on are the appliances, of course,” says the designer. The retro-looking refrigerator, range and dishwasher have a polished-chrome exterior — as if they came from a set of a 1950s TV show — yet, this Colorado-based appliance line, called Big Chill, manufactures all newly made products, combining modern capabilities with a retro look. And rather than choosing a kitschy color, such as turquoise, Karen designed a custom subdued gray, allowing the homeowner’s collection of Fiestaware to provide pops of color.
Efficient space planning plays another important role. This kitchen needed a complete redo and a little more square footage, so the designer borrowed some space from an adjacent dining room to enlarge the footprint. To get the vintage look they were going for, she selected cabinetry with Craftsman-style details, referencing an architectural style popular in that time period. The cabinets are a classic off-white, with glass-front doors on some of the upper cabinetry to show off those colorful dishes.
The custom island particularly exudes old-fashioned charm, with its walnut countertops and retro-looking pendants hanging above. “The pendants are actually 1950s milk jugs (still with tags on them), with the bottoms cut off that we had made into lighting,” says the designer. A microwave is tucked into the 8-foot island, which also features a small prep sink, giving it good marks for function as well as looks. Display shelves on the side can showcase cookbooks or other collectibles.
For homeowners wanting to celebrate the design of older homes, Karen recommends keeping things unfussy.
“Cabinets and countertops should have clean lines without a lot of detailing,” she says. “The ’50s and ’60s celebrated simple designs. And too much color, such as bright orange appliances, can be overwhelming and kitschy, so stick to a neutral palette.”
Whether you want to recapture the good ol’ days, pay homage to your home’s historic roots or just love a specific decade, you can create a retro kitchen with a modern twist by thinking outside the box and looking to the experts for guidance.
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