A Vintage Kitchen with Today's Conveniences

This house's age -- more than 100 years -- complicated the remodel because the owners wanted a kitchen that looked period-appropriate yet had modern conveniences.

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By Bob Masullo
Sacramento Bee

The kitchen of the otherwise spacious home in Sacramento, Calif., seemed uncomfortably small to its owners. From the day they purchased the house in 1999, they had visions of enlarging it.

The house's age -- more than 100 years -- complicated the remodel because the owners wanted a kitchen that looked period-appropriate yet had modern conveniences.

"The kitchen had been remodeled years ago by a previous owner, but it had no place to eat and very little room in which to work," says Nora Dwyer, who lives in the house with her husband, their three children and her 80-year-old father.

The goal was to transform the kitchen into the home's centerpiece, a place where children and guests would feel comfortable spending time while meals were being prepared.

"We thought of a few ways to change it," says Dwyer, "but none did everything we wanted."

A real estate agent inadvertently led the family to an architect with considerable old-home experience when he gave Dwyer a copy of "Painted Ladies," a book about old Sacramento homes. It mentioned architect Matthew H. Piner.

"Piner seemed to have exactly the kind of respect for older homes that we were looking for," says Dwyer.

The architect, who has worked on more than 70 older-home remodels in Sacramento, fell in love with the Dwyer house on his first visit.

"As with all vintage homes, I let this one talk to me," says Piner. "What it said was that we had to expand not just the kitchen but most of the rear of the house."

Fortunately, an open porch area next to the kitchen gave Piner the room to expand. He pushed out two walls of the kitchen and converted the deck into what he calls a "sitting room."

Although a built-in desk provides a hint of separation between it and the new kitchen, the two rooms seem to merge.

Piner put a bay window in the sitting room to add additional space, copying the style of a bay window in another part of the house. It provides good views of the swimming pool and its low-emissivity glass helps deflect late-afternoon sun.

On the wall opposite the bay window, the sitting room opens to the house's living room via a set of French doors that previously opened to the deck.

Because the kitchen and sitting room are on the main floor, their extension outward created additional covered space below. That new space was made into a 9-by-12-foot exercise room.

The new kitchen measures 15 by 18 feet, doubling the size of the old kitchen.

The only area in the old kitchen on which food preparation could be done was the countertops. Now, a large island with a butcher-block top provides much more work area. An antique gate is used as a suspension rack for pans above the work island.

The new countertops are a gray-veined, white marble imported from Greece.

"Marble was considerably more costly than modern topping materials that could have been used, but the family wanted the old-fashioned look of marble," says Piner. "They felt its risks (cracking, staining, etc.) were worth it."

Cabinets are grooved wood panels, painted ivory, in the early 20th century style. Some go from floor to ceiling. At the top of the high cabinets are compartments about 2 feet tall with leaded antique glass doors. Used for exhibiting collector china, they include electric lighting with a dimmer.

The family can eat in the new kitchen, at a table positioned in a corner with built-in seats.

Among new appliances are a six-burner, restaurant-style Wolf stove; an LG brand French-door refrigerator and a Bosch dishwasher. All have a brushed stainless steel exterior that Piner feels blends well with the kitchen's period look.

Other features include hardwood flooring; new open-air staircases (to the pool area) on either end of the kitchen/sitting room space; five skylight tubes with built-in electric lights to illuminate the rooms day and night; a solar-powered attic fan; two inside ceiling fans; and Astro-Foil Reflective Insulation, which Piner considers a revolutionary, highly effective material, in the walls and beneath the floor.

"Since the main wall faces west, this is an area that normally would get very hot in the summer," says contractor Fred Morris. "But this insulation, which I've used on my own home, will keep it quite comfortable."

The original budget for the remodel, which took a year to complete, was $150,000 but jumped by about 30 percent when poor-quality older framing, bad plumbing and bad electrical work were uncovered during demolition and had to be replaced.

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