I’ve gotten involved with a really fun and unique kitchen project – Country Living’s annual ‘Makeover Takeover’ happening in Hudson, Ohio this year. The setup: one 1825 farmhouse, a three week design process with Hello Kitchen and Country Living, a rapid-fire build-out by Franklin & Associates, and the Bishops – one very game, enthusiastic and adorable family. Here’s a snapshot of my experience so far!
Before traveling to Ohio in March to meet with the Country Living styling editors and my new clients, I had only some very basic information about the project. I knew I would meet a family of four living in a very old and charming farmhouse in a fairly remote location. I knew that Gina and Brian had put a lot of effort into restoring the house room by room (Gina is an antique collector and very creative owner of Homegirl Shop), but the kitchen hadn’t been updated in fifty years. I wanted to know why Country Living picked them, and why they all picked me! I was happy to learn that the Bishops were presented with several designers to choose from, and they chose Hello Kitchen based on our work on other historic kitchen restorations.
When I first stepped into this house, I thought: oh wow, this is the real deal! I’m used to working in Austin, where the average ‘old’ house is just nearing 100 years old. This one is coming up on 190 years, and it reveals that history in so many interesting details: the patchwork pine flooring, the wood plank walls made from 18″ boards, the double hung single-pane windows, the teeny stair treads leading to the basement and second floor. The walls and floor tilt and sag, but the house has obviously stood the test of time!
The kitchen sits in the oldest portion of the house originally built in 1825, spanning across the stone walls of the basement. The age of the kitchen shows mostly in the floors – antique pine, with many layers of shellac and varying board widths. It appears as though half the kitchen may have been a porch and was enclosed at one point, maybe in the 1950’s.
The existing kitchen is a winding galley shape – making an L-shape hall connecting the back family room with the middle dining room. This major traffic pattern makes it really difficult for Gina to cook and transfer food from stove to counter. The giant refrigerator is the first thing you see when you enter from the back door… which happens to be the way most friends and family enter.
But the kitchen has its charm, too, and these wood walls may be the best feature. It’s hard to see in the photos, but each board is an unbelievable 18″ wide, solid piece of wood. The boards may have been milled on site out of the maple trees, as the property functioned as a maple tree farm before converting into an infirmary in the mid-1800’s.
This pass-through china cabinet has a ton of potential, sitting between the breakfast nook and dining room. I left the doors open in this photo so you could see the storage challenge the Bishops have encountered!
But honestly, the best part about this house is the family! I absolutely loved meeting the Bishops and experiencing their joyful personalities first hand. We met on the second day to go over some sketches I had done the night before. They were so open to new ideas and took it all in with enthusiasm.
As the first part of our ‘Recipe for Renovation’ process, I presented a few sketches that gave them a lot to consider. The first was an overall plan of the house, since I had a few ideas about reconfiguring the various paths from indoor to outdoor. With all the years of additions to the house, they now have five separate front doors! I suggested a new porch near the kitchen that would provide a covered shelter and emphasize this entry for arriving guests. We also discussed changing the gates at the picket fence to simplify the pathways.
The kitchen design transforms a winding galley into a full-fledged room with a central island… which Gina loved! This helps designate a ‘hot zone’ for the cook, but allows for a bit of social interaction in a properly shaped room. I felt it was important to maintain the relative scale of room as it might have been in a house of this era, so the overall kitchen footprint is a modest 14.5 feet by about 13 feet (plus the breakfast nook).
I think symmetry is incredibly important in a house of traditional roots. The sink moves to the outer garden wall in front of a new window, and in line with the end of the island. The Big Chill retro-refrigerator sits between to equal sized pantry cabinets, forming a big useful storage wall. And the Big Chill range and vent hood will make a handsome centerpiece for the back wall, in view from the dining room.
Also part of this plan is the utility and bath, which you may have noticed are swapped from the original floor plan. I have one big ‘no-no’ with kitchen design, which is that you should never, ever see a toilet from the cooking space! I also felt that they could maximize use of these rooms by using the utility room as a vestibule into the bath, effectively removing one door from the kitchen area.
After the Bishops had time to gel with this plan, they had one bit of input about the breakfast nook. They wanted to increase the seating and face out toward the kitchen, rather than across as a booth. So we made this change to an L-shaped banquette, which I love:
My trip to Hudson was a success… only one little snafu:
Watch out for the Ohio mud! It is way, way more slippery than it looks. In Texas, we nonchalantly drive across fields and beaches to get where we want to go. In Ohio, stick to the roads!
I’ll follow up with more blog posts to show how we transform this sketch into an actual, built space. This is going to be a faster-than-usual project, but Country Living is there to help us all along! I can’t wait to see how this turns out!