From the Floor Up

Retrofit Kitchens: Just How Close Should You Stick to the Original?

Posted by Daltile Team on May 14, 2015 6:00:00 AM

National Home Remodeling Month Series, Part 4

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You’ve finally found the perfect Arts & Crafts, bungalow, or Frank Lloyd Wright modern style home; now it’s time to give it the TLC it needs.

Even though you love your old house, you may find some its amenities lacking. The turn of the century was a different time with different needs. It was a time of coal stoves for cooking and ice deliveries for refrigeration. Open floor plans were not yet a twinkle in the eye of designers and multi-tasking rooms just didn’t exist.

So just how true do you remain to the style of your home without sacrificing the comforts of a contemporary kitchen?

Staying True with a Contemporary Twist

Part of the value of your home is its age and style so to do away with that would be a huge disservice.

On the other hand, the tiny, closed off kitchen will never do for your Saturday night cocktail parties. You need to find a way to blend the quirkiness of your old home with some of the necessities of your lifestyle. Dan Cooper, a decorative-arts historian, recently told Arts & Crafts Homes

“Today’s period-style kitchens can be literal, or they can be interpretive.”

Interpretive. That’s what you’re going for. Here are some tips to help you stay true to the time period of your home, yet get the amenities you need.


  • Disguise Technology

You certainly can’t live without your refrigerator and dishwasher. Just disguise them with custom cabinets. You’re definitely not going to cook on that coal stove but you could replace it with a retro-styled appliance or install your oven in the pantry where it’s out of sight.


  • Infuse with Furniture-Inspired Style

Many old styles pre-date built-in cabinets. They have a craftsmanship that today’s cabinets can’t match. Try to keep original kitchen furniture or update cabinets with furniture-inspired designs that retain the sense of craftsmanship you don’t want to lose.


  • Keep Old Details

Hardware and software of the kitchen is easy to replicate in your retrofit kitchen because of the vast amount of retro products and designs available today. Shop for era styled light fixtures, knobs, pulls, and textiles. The details will ground the more modern elements you may include in your kitchen firmly in the original feeling of your old home.


  • Include Retro Tile

Tile was a huge trend in the kitchen from the turn of the century deep into the 1960s. It is still a cornerstone of the kitchen today. Many older tile styles are trending right now—think subway tile and intricate mosaics. Use these designs to channel an old style yet feel a hint of contemporary trendiness.


  • Use Period Materials

Using materials that were popular in the time period your home was built is a good way to stay true to your old home. Do a little research or inspect what’s already in your home before you start your retrofit so you can select similar materials. You might even be able to salvage some of what’s already there.


  • Preserve the Original Footprint
Though your old home is on the small side, don’t automatically assume you’ll need to add on. Sometimes you can get the extra space you need by borrowing from somewhere else. Getting rid of a wall or adding some windows might be enough to do the trick. It’s cheaper to keep your home’s original footprint and it helps you keep to the style of your home.

  • Mimic Details from Other Places in the House

Carrying a period appropriate theme through the house can help bring your kitchen back in time. But don’t overdo it. Fancy moldings from the formal dining room may not be the best choice for the kitchen, especially if you’ve introduced some contemporary elements. Keep it simple and clean to harmonize old style with the new.

Take inspiration from simpler areas of your home like the pantry or back hall to carry through to the kitchen.

Stay true to your old home and have all the perks of a new construction. With the right approach, you’ll be able to retrofit your kitchen like a pro.

Topics: Remodel, Redesign, Kitchen Tile Ideas

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