Making a Period Kitchen Really Cook

For those of us with period homes, the kitchen can be among the most challenging to decorate. Our kitchens are often the heart of the house, the place where some serious work is done, where guests linger, and where families spend much of their time. So for folks with older homes, we realize our kitchens need to be functional. But they also need to fit within the flow of the rest of the house. They need to feel a part of things, not just a separate add-on to the overall atmosphere.

And walking that line between functionality and style can seem a little overwhelming!

Like how much period accuracy do you need? Well, would you trade your refrigerator for an old-fashioned ice box, just for the sake of historical correctness? Um... no, me neither. So that's why I thought today it might be helpful to talk about the period kitchen, and how vintage elements can be used to create a kitchen that has an old-fashioned vibe, without losing modern-day conveniences.

In the book "Period Kitchens," by Judith Miller, I uncovered a number of clever inspiration photos. Like the photo below...

Note the painted beadboard walls, and the use of mismatched plaids to create a comfortable, soft, lived-in feel. Also notice the way plaid tiles were used behind the vintage refurbished stove. Furniture here is the same sort of furniture this home might include in its livingroom or on a covered porch. This helps connect the kitchen to the rest of the home, and encourages visitors to pull up a chair and spend some time.

Here once more, tile becomes a central feature of the kitchen. See how the patterned feature wall in blue and white echo the china on the plate rail above, making the wall and accessories become one unified eye-catcher...

Cabinets are a combination of built-ins and free-standing pieces. This evokes the feeling that pieces were moved in over time.

This kitchen uses some antique seating and 18th century tavern tables to create a unique breakfast nook.

The china-filled cabinet displays pieces that are both usable and decorative. You'll probably notice many of these period-influenced kitchens have open shelving, which hearkens back to earlier times-- and gives a decorator the great chance of showing off some favorite collectibles.

This collection of china really appealed to me, with its different patterns yet cohesive coloring...


You'll certainly never go without a cup or bowl in this house, yet the abundant look displays a really pretty, welcoming collection.

I also thought you might enjoy seeing the way something as simple as a collection of different-shaped cornbread molds could become a pleasant wall display...

You're so busy looking at them hanging there, you really never notice the stove is a modern one. And because the molds are metal, they hold up well to any cooking oils that might splash up from the stove below.

I also drooled a bit over these terrific cabinets with gothic arch windows...

If it were me, I'd remove that distracting navy blue tea towel off that gorgeous cream period stove, but otherwise, the soft distressed blue cabinetry says "old world" while clearly this sort of cabinetry and styling never made its appearance as a part of earlier kitchens.

Here is another way to display a china collection, tying it directly to the colored wallpaper behind...


Now, many of these general ideas I used in my own kitchen. These are not the best photos, and for that I apologize. But this should give you a good idea of how I've been tying in modern conveniences, like my beloved coffeemaker with vintage collections...


A free-hanging stained glass window helps add a period feel to the window over the sink (and means I don't need to look at the big gray wall of my neighbor's house!). I added molding to the plan upper and lower cabinets, painting the upper cabinets white and staining the lower cabinets a dark shade that matched the woodwork around the rest of my home.

All white, and I think it wouldn't have looked as cohesive with the livingroom, from which it extends. And all dark, and I think with the giant upper cabinets, it would have been too dark, and not very fresh-looking. This was a strange, but helpful compromise.

I removed the doors off one cabinet on each side of the sink to create balance and to showcase my green and pink depression glass collections. This way I can reach them easily.

The bright green coffeemaker and toaster match the green depression glass quite well. Here is a little window display of some of my old and new accessories...


And here's the very-modern but plain stove. Nothing special about it, so it doesn't draw attention to itself!


Same with the refrigerator! Simple, and nicely boring!


More Victorian transferware plates and Jadite are displayed on the far wall, on plate rails...

Do you have a period-influenced kitchen you wouldn't mind sharing here? I'd love to hear from you. Kitchens are such a tricky room to decorate, I think we could all learn a lot from each other. Just email me at thriftshopromantic @ mac . com (except with no spaces) if you have anything you'd like to share.

Did you miss last Treasure Box Wednesday when we met the silent butler? Click here.

Happy Labor Day weekend everyone. Don't labor too much now!

8 comments:

Da Old Man said...

Cool toaster. Yeah, I have weird priorities and obsessions.
I like the Depression glass. A lot was made near P~Burgh in Jeannette. Do you collect by maker, pattern, or color?

ThriftShopRomantic said...

DaOldMan- AH! I LOVE the infamous Dualit toaster you have. I'd coveted that one for a while realizing I just couldn't get myself such a high end one. I'm happy with this Hamilton Beach one, though... Excellently vintage looking. So that makes two of us who believe in a good-lookin' toaster. :)

Yes, I actually go antiquing in and around Jeanette. My clear Depression glass pattern is called Waffle or Waterford by Anchor Hocking. Most of my other depression glass pieces are just ones I've picked up at thrifts in no particular pattern-- just by price and color/availability. They all sort of mix and match together.

I have some pink depression-look glass actually from the 70s from a French company called Araroc. I do stick to a particular pattern there.

Sweet Somethings by Lois said...

I love how you took the doors off those two cupboards to show off your glassware. Smart idea! I also like the stained glass. It's great how you can always find something to hide something else isn't it?

Rosemary said...

Hi Jenn,
Love your kitchen!!
Very nice! Thanks for sharing!
How lucky you are to live in a period house!
Rosemary

ThriftShopRomantic said...

Lois- Oh yes-- so much is about making do and covering up the things that aren't quite so lovely. But, it encourages you to be create, so that's worth it, I guess.

Rosemary- So many houses around here are period houses. It's always interesting to see what people do with them. Hope you had a great Labor Day!!

Debbie said...

Hi Jenn.....I had fun looking at all the kitchen pics....love your kitchen and you were right to paint the upper cabinets white to get that "it all flows together" look from the rest of the house...I have a farm style kitchen, no particular period although I do have glass doors and a plate rack and a big old single bowl white sink.

Take care,
Debbie

Thrift Shop Romantic said...

Debbie- Thanks regarding the cabinets-- it was an unconventional choice at the time, but I did a lot of research and spent a lot of time trying to think it through. I have some friends who still don't quite "get" what I did and why, but that's okay. It would just have been absolutely overwhelming to do all of those huge cabinets the same way in such a small space.

PS- I love glass doors in a kitchen! They just add so much.

Koekkener said...

Cool and fabulous kitchen!!! Very excellent posting..