A Kitchen with Vintage Character

A family of restaurant owners use their design-sense to transform three century-old rooms into one efficient kitchen that's filled with antique treasures.
By: Jen Jafarzadeh L'Italien

A Century-Old Kitchen

Bryan Steelman and Claire Olberding moved wanted to create more space in their 100-year-old kitchen for family time. The original kitchen was cut up into two separate, small rooms — a tiny butler’s space with a sink and some cupboards and the other room had a kitchen table, refrigerator, and an electric range.

Finding Materials to Reuse

The original kitchen had a butler's station with a butler staircase. The only salvageable elements of the original kitchen were the wood floors beneath the linoleum tile and one broom closet door. It was a beautiful vintage door that they added to an upstairs closet.

Comforts in the Kitchen

To put their design-sense to work, the family salvaged materials and used eclectic finds to create an inviting space for mealtime. The center table is the family's favorite spot in the kitchen. "The table is a part of our lives every day and we feel very connected to what it's made of." says Bryan.

From Salvaged Materials to Table

The kitchen table, which also acts as an island, is made of a metal base and salvaged wood top. Claire found the antique mechanical table base, and the wood is from a maple tree that had fallen in Portland. "Our friends who make furniture built the table top from a beautiful slab of the old maple, and we traded them tacos from our restaurant for the work they did," says Bryan.

Shedding Some Light on The Remodel

Bryan and Claire added double French doors to the kitchen that lead out to the backyard. The pretty doors invite you outside, where the family dines alfresco all summer long.

Stainless Steel Appliances

Bryan and Claire had all stainless steel, energy-efficient appliances installed. "We wanted plenty of firepower to cook with a super rad gas range," says Bryan.

Farmhouse Sink

While the kitchen sink looks vintage, it's not. Bryan wanted a big farmhouse sink with a four-foot wide basin that could hide all of their dishes if they didn't feel like cleaning up right after a dinner party. Bryan had a commercial sprayer added on the sink, since he's used to washing dishes at the restaurant. "We didn't put in a garbage disposal, because they seem to just cause problems. Plus, we compost," says Bryan.

Illuminating the Space

The original kitchen was plagued with bad lighting with just one light in the center of the kitchen. Claire found the vintage pendant lights in the kitchen. One light was bought on eBay and the other light was found in the salvage section of a local Portland shop. They installed eight recessed lights to fill light in any dark areas of the kitchen.

Salvaged Storage

An original piece of furniture from their home was transformed into a built-in storage piece for plates and glasses. The vintage shelving gave them enough storage space so they didn't need upper cabinets. The backsplash is made of tiles from Hungaria that Claire found at an antique shop in Portland called Antiques & Oddities.

Taking Down Walls

Originally, these stairs were the tiny butler’s staircase. They took out a wall that blocked the second set of stairs and created an open banister. Now their daughter can climb up and down the stairs and still be connected with them in the kitchen.

Antique Character

Claire found all the antique gems in their kitchen, which add a vintage charm. The remodeled staircase includes a found piece of original railing from the Sellwood Bridge in Portland.

Custom Shelving and Concrete Countertops

Bryan and Claire opted for open shelving rather than a kitchen filled with upper cabinetry. They created this simple shelving system using found wood and vintage brackets. The counters are made of poured, stained concrete.

Setting an Intimate Mood for Mealtime

The new lights are all on dimmers so that the kitchen can be commercial kitchen bright or dimly lit for romantic meals around the table.

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