Interior

A Kitchen Makeover That Recalls the Past

When Rebekah Zaveloff, principal designer to kitchen design firm KitchenLab, was enlisted to rehabilitate the kitchen of her client's Chicago home, the space was in a sorry state. While the rest of the house had been left relatively untouched with original custom-milled trim around the doors and oak strip flooring throughout, the kitchen was stuck with an ugly 1970s renovation.
 
View the slideshow above for a peek into Rebekah's kitchen.
 
Zaveloff and her client wanted to bring the kitchen up to the present, but they still wanted it to fit into the home's Victorian charm. "The challenge was to bring the detailing and the style of a period kitchen without taking itself too seriously," says Zaveloff. The finished results feature white subway tiles, industrial light fixtures and vintage details appropriate to the home's age.
 
With nearly16-foot high ceilings, Zaveloff was particularly careful not to go overboard. "If we'd gone too glam or too Victorian, it would have been too much," says Zaveloff. "We really tried to restrain and go more humble, more industrial."
 
The first step in the renovation was to create a more functional space by taking down the wall to the butler's pantry and reorienting the entrance to the mudroom. These two structural spaces made the kitchen slightly larger and also made it fit in more naturally with the rest of the house.
 
A self-described "tile nut," Zaveloff and her client were inspired to tile to the ceiling by a local Italian restaurant that made grand use of white subway tile in its design. Zaveloff notes that the effect of running the tile all the way to the ceiling is actually similar to the way that these iconic tiles are used in subway tunnels. Love the look? White subway tiles are an affordable option -- so go ahead and tile high in your own home.
 
When it came to finishes, Zaveloff was deliberate in her choices of hand-rubbed brass and oiled bronze. "I didn't want the kitchen to be too sweet," she says. "If all the hardware was polished nickel -- it would be a very different look. Even if you're not planning a full kitchen re-do, new hardware can refresh your kitchens look."
 
While one wall features two windows and no cabinetry, the wall next to it is built-in with ample storage. The design of which harkens back to the original butler's pantry. "We treated it more hutch-like with the glass fronts," says Zaveloff, who is a big fan of open shelving and glass-fronted wall cabinets. The backs of the cabinets are papered with Farrow & Ball's Silvergate wallpaper -- an easy trick to copy.
 
While this kitchen was custom built, Zaveloff encourages homeowners with existing wood cabinets to break out some paint and brushes to refresh their cabinets. "You may want to wait to remodel, but that day can be so far away," says Zaveloff. "Rather than living in a space you can't stand, why not try painting and putting effort into it?"
 
Zaveloff and the homeowner also took great pains to make sure there were vintage elements in the space to give it texture. "You can't fake some patinas," cautions Zaveloff, who sourced vintage Victorian tiles for the desk area and an antique table for the island. "It creates that feeling of always having been there," says Zaveloff.
 
Industrial touches keep the space from seeing too sweet. The lights are detailed reproductions from Circa Lighting while the drawer pulls are sash pulls for windows that were originally meant for an industrial application, not a home. Don't be afraid to incorporate a little toughness into your own design for contrast.
 
Photo Credit: KitchenLab

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