A Period Home Kitchen Adjusted for Contemporary Living

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A Period Home Kitchen Adjusted for Contemporary Living

At the turn of the century, foyers were for formal greetings and goodbyes. Often the home’s first impression, the entry would have refined, authentic details to occupy the eyes of visitors, and black-and-white tile was a popular choice for flooring. The Kochman Reidt + Haigh team took that idea and brought it into the kitchen of this 1920s house in Winchester, Massachusetts.

“We wanted something that would bring a more refined aesthetic to the kitchen,” says Paul Reidt, president of Kochman Reidt + Haigh. “Also, we wanted to acknowledge it was one of the most important rooms in the house and the location to receive guests and friends.”

The pre-war home had good bones and was constructed as a custom house in the 1920s. “Meaning the original owner of the house was engaged with the construction of it, which translates to a high-quality standard.” Perhaps the present-day homeowners felt a connection to the original occupant because they were very involved in the renovation and wanted to honor its original design. “They were really committed to their house,” says Reidt. “While they had their own aesthetic, they wanted to be sympathetic to the character of the house.”

The kitchen needed major changes. In the early twentieth century, kitchens were not for gathering. Guests would join homeowners in parlors or dining rooms, but the kitchen was for meal prep and was set off away from the party. “When the house was built it was a pre-modern time, and kitchens were seen as completely efficient workspaces,” says Reidt.

Fast forward 100 years and now kitchens are magnets for social gatherings and homeowners who are charmed by historic properties are adapting their homes to fit the trend. Reidt and his team added a breakfast bay, where the family would have most meals even though there is a formal dining room. Adding an island was essential as a workspace and another spot to eat. “The island was treated more like a piece of furniture than a kitchen cabinet component,” he says, which was dressed in American black walnut.

They were also tasked with minimizing the number of wall cabinets. “That would have been an unusual feature for the period,” says Reidt. To be more efficient with storage, Reidt carved a space for a custom cabinet into the wall. “Since kitchen space was fairly narrow, we cut a whole in wall between kitchen and adjacent den to make room for this piece and it doesn’t stick out into the room.”

Other details were chosen to reflect the home’s era, such as the sconces on the wall. More modern light fixtures that hang over the island were chosen for transparency. Each element is a balance of historical appreciation and the homeowners’ style, and everything was adjusted for contemporary living. “This was particularly successful marriage of the house and the aesthetic of the homeowners,” says Reidt. “It’s hard to provide modern needs of the kitchen these days in the context of a period house, but with this one all of the pieces fell into place.”

Reidt credits the homeowners thoughtful engagement for the project’s success. “If you don’t have a highly influential homeowner, you provide what you know. When you get someone like them this is an opportunity for them to lead you to discoveries you wouldn’t have made on your own.”