This kitchen project was part of a complete restoration of a 1920 historic bungalow in the charming Old West Austin neighborhood. The kitchen was void of plumbing fixtures and appliances and had vinyl parquet flooring and new drywall. Many of the original craftsman details were preserved through the house.
1920 is a great year for the bungalow – in Austin, they are usually distinguished by more interesting porch railings and column capitals, built-in bookcases and armoires, five-panel doors, and distinctive room shapes and sizes (as opposed to the 1940 ‘6-pack’ with less character). This house is distinctive in that it had two sunrooms lined with windows: one off the front bedroom facing the side yard, and the other adjacent to the kitchen facing the back yard. A new deck was built as part of this project, making the back yard and ‘kitchen lounge’ (as we called it) more useful and better connected to the landscape.
Another fun and unique space is the breakfast nook, which is just big enough for a seating booth (soon to be reconstructed in its sunny corner), wood wainscot walls and built-in pantry cabinet. This room forms a vestibule between kitchen and dining room and doubles as a butler’s pantry. The Elmira 1950 refrigerator in Buttercup Yellow becomes a focal point as seen through the cased opening and millwork details.
One of the more transformative changes for the house was to bring this much light into the kitchen area. We worked with the original window locations, but opened the wall to the sunny kitchen lounge for increased daylight. The walls are painted ‘Vanilla Milkshake’ white to bounce light of all the surfaces. A new cast-iron sink with extended drainboards and gloss white subway tile add to the gleam of the kitchen.
The cabinets turn to form a peninsula and bar top area facing the lounge, with open shelves facing the kitchen. One of my favorite accents is the mosaic floor border pattern, which was laid out around the cabinet base and toe kick detail. The owner sourced this material from American Restoration Tile, who pointed her to a tile that is manufactured within 500 miles of Austin. This contributed to her goal of sourcing 100% sustainable materials for the project, not to mention the effort and dedication to restoring a historic house.
The reclaimed cast iron sink is typical of this era, with its drainboard (pre-dishwasher feature!) and raised backsplash.
Reclaimed long leaf pine beams become shelves, supported by new brackets. The owner decided to keep their original rough-hewn texture to show the story of their use over time. This bit of character offsets the polished nickel Reed sconces from Rejuvenation – these are a good alternative to under-cabinet task lighting if one wants to stay a little more traditional.
On the opposite wall is the new range and built-in vent hood. The original design showed reclaimed shelves on either side of the vent hood, but during construction we discovered an old ironing board niche that had been painted tumeric yellow. The owner loved the idea of revealing this bit of history, so the shelves were scrapped and the new / old niche took its place.
Since an original 1920 house would definitely not have had a shiny new vent hood, we decided to downplay this detail with a drywall surround. This recalls a plaster fireplace hearth from an earlier era and is a bit more ambiguous in its purpose. I also like how the simplicity of this form leads the eye over to the original millwork of the windows and doors.
We developed a unique cabinet design to play off the historic millwork details: the painted cabinet frame is 3″ wide throughout, and flush inset doors and toe kick panels are made of reclaimed long leaf pine sourced by our cabinet maker. The cabinet boxes are constructed from FSC certified GreenPly, and the drawers are solid maple. We used no-VOC Benjamin Moore Aura paint throughout, which is completely odor-free and much friendlier to the environment. I’m starting to standardize these materials on all the projects since it’s so much more responsible.
DeVos Woodworking had these Sipo Mahogany countertop remnants left over from another job, so the pieces were templated and cut for the kitchen (another reclaimed resource). The knife slot is incredibly handy and simple to create: a 1/8″ slot was cut into the butcher block top, and the drawers are shortened a tad to allow room for the knives to hang below countertop. I love it and will definitely use this detail again!
I’m so glad to have the opportunity to help the owner restore this old house – so many people would have just torn it down, or tried to double its footprint for resale. There’s always so much to learn working on historic houses; in this case, the scale and individuality of each room, quality of the daylight streaming in through the huge double hung windows, and craftsman details give me an appreciation for this traditional architectural style.
Contractor: Matt Davenport of Home Source Construction
Countertops: DeVos Woodworking
Tile: Restoration Tile
Photography: Whit Preston