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Design ideas
How to Recreate a Historic Kitchen
Tips to recreate the look of your favorite vintage kitchen.
Written by Meryl Schoenbaum

Interior designer Alison Kandler updated her friend’s 1920s Spanish Colonial Revival without sacrificing its original character. From tile to flooring to hardware and countertop material, there are many ways to add in period flavor. Moreover, what you choose to keep are almost as important and what you choose to replace when it comes to remodeling the space for style while also renovating for functions. Here, Alison shares her tips to achieving period nostalgia in the 21st-century kitchen.

  1. Pay Attention to the Details. In this 1920s Spanish bungalow renovation, Alison put dark-colored hardware on white kitchen cabinets for an Spanish revival look. Choose hardware made from period materials, such as wrought iron or galvanized steel.
  1. Turn to Tiles for an International Flavor. To add a vintage Spanish feel to this kitchen, Alison used terracotta and avocado-green tiles for the backsplash. Use tiles that fit the era, such as encaustic tiles for a Victorian backsplash.The terracotta-style flooring tiles also amp up the look.
Alison redid the floors in terracotta-style tiles to add to the period flavor of the Spanish-style kitchen.
  1. Keep Some Original Windows. The designer left two original windows above the sink because they were in good shape, didn’t affect the functionality of the kitchen and to keep some of the original kitchen’s integrity intact. Although smaller and not quite as energy efficient, they add cottage charm and are truly “windows to the past.”
  1. Hide Modern Machinery. If your washer/dryer is located in the kitchen, consider having doors built so the appliances stay hidden when not in use. Other appliances, such as refrigerators and dishwashers, can be concealed through a façade of cabinetry.
A concealed washer-dryer unit keeps the kitchen looking historic
A concealed washer-dryer unit keeps the kitchen looking historic.
An antique cabinet provides extra storage in lieu of additional traditional kitchen cabinets.
  1. Create Cottage Cabinets. Install new reproduction cabinets, or sand, paint and refinish existing cabinets for rustic flavor. In the remodel, Kandler chose cabinets in the style of the old cottage house, with flush-frame inset doors and crown molding.
  1. Change the Faucets. Kandler replaced the farmhouse sink’s faucets with an exposed plumbing faucet, called a bridge faucet, for an old-cottage look. Unique plumbing fixtures can turn an everyday sink into a show-stopping focal point.
  1. Hang Period Style Lighting. The designer bought realistic reproductions of pendant light fixtures and supplemented them with flea-market finds. You can even use historically accurate light bulbs, without sacrificing efficiency. For an early 20th century kitchen, check out these vintage LED bulbs.
Adding a set of glass-fronted cabinets allows you to provide a spot for your collections to convey the historic side of your kitchen.
  1. Display Lots of Vintage Pottery and kitchen collectibles. An easy and inexpensive way to add vintage style to a kitchen is to display a generous array of old pottery on the shelves and countertops. Jillian Harris’s set of vintage seltzer bottles and other flea-market finds adds colorful history to her kitchen.
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