Farmhouse Kitchen Gets Modern Update

A 1730s farmhouse kitchen is updated to make it workable today, while respecting its charm and history.

Accents from Karen's farmhouse kitchen.

Farmhouse Kitchen Gets Modern Update

Karen's farmhouse kitchen decked out for Christmas.

Accents from Karen's farmhouse kitchen.

Farmhouse Kitchen Gets Modern Update

Karen's farmhouse kitchen decked out for Christmas.

Accents from Karen's farmhouse kitchen.

Farmhouse Kitchen Gets Modern Update

Accents from Karen's farmhouse kitchen.

Rebuilt hearth features antique brick, plus the original set kettle once used to heat water for cooking and washing.

Farmhouse Kitchen Gets Modern Update

Rebuilt hearth features antique brick, plus the original set kettle once used to heat water for cooking and washing.

Accents from Karen's farmhouse kitchen.

Farmhouse Kitchen Gets Modern Update

Rebuilt hearth features antique brick, plus the original set kettle once used to heat water for cooking and washing.

Karen decorates her kitchen for Christmas.

Farmhouse Kitchen Gets Modern Update

Karen decorates her kitchen for Christmas.

Bright idea! Cabinetry hides the modern fridge.

Farmhouse Kitchen Gets Modern Update

Bright idea! Cabinetry hides the modern fridge.

Ample Storage. The large step-back cupboard with wide roll-out drawers serves as a pantry.

Farmhouse Kitchen Gets Modern Update

Ample Storage. The large step-back cupboard with wide roll-out drawers serves as a pantry.

Hand-forged hinges with handmade nails.

Farmhouse Kitchen Gets Modern Update

Hand-forged hinges with handmade nails.

Details like hand-forged hinges with handmade nails add charm to the baker's cabinet, as do the punched tin doors. The low marble counter is ideal for rolling pastry.

Farmhouse Kitchen Gets Modern Update

Details like hand-forged hinges with handmade nails add charm to the baker's cabinet, as do the punched tin doors. The low marble counter is ideal for rolling pastry.

Farmhouse Kitchen Gets Modern Update

"When you live in a house that was built way before the American Revolution, you can't help but think of the people who came before you." — ­Karen Donofrio

Homeowner Karen Donofriodanville

Farmhouse Kitchen Gets Modern Update

Homeowner Karen Donofriodanville

Mixed cabinet styles and milk paint in period colors add authenticity. The wide-plank pumpkin pine flooring is original, as is the ceiling.

Farmhouse Kitchen Gets Modern Update

Mixed cabinet styles and milk paint in period colors add authenticity. The wide-plank pumpkin pine flooring is original, as is the ceiling.

Accents from Karen's farmhouse kitchen.Accents from Karen's farmhouse kitchen.Accents from Karen's farmhouse kitchen.Rebuilt hearth features antique brick, plus the original set kettle once used to heat water for cooking and washing.Accents from Karen's farmhouse kitchen.Karen decorates her kitchen for Christmas.Bright idea! Cabinetry hides the modern fridge.Ample Storage. The large step-back cupboard with wide roll-out drawers serves as a pantry.Hand-forged hinges with handmade nails.Details like hand-forged hinges with handmade nails add charm to the baker's cabinet, as do the punched tin doors. The low marble counter is ideal for rolling pastry."When you live in a house that was built way before the American Revolution, you can't help but think of the people who came before you." — ­Karen DonofrioHomeowner Karen DonofriodanvilleMixed cabinet styles and milk paint in period colors add authenticity. The wide-plank pumpkin pine flooring is original, as is the ceiling.

 

By Karen Donofrio

I fell in love with New England when my husband and I moved temporarily to a small town outside Boston while he oversaw a construction project. Several years after returning to our home in Florida, we decided to move to the Northeast and began looking for a historic home that had character and a couple of acres of land. Eventually we found a Danville, New Hampshire, farm that had a 1730s house with an unfinished addition, a big barn and an orchard with 300 heritage apple trees.

We hired a craftsman who specialized in restoring historic houses. The old farmhouse kitchen was torn out, walls that were not original were removed and the original wide pine floorboards were numbered and taken up. Rotting beams had to be replaced when the sagging structure was jacked back into place and the floorboards reinstalled. New electrical wiring was added and, for the first time, central heating was put in.

It’s not unusual for houses of this era to have had their hearths removed, altered or buried behind new brickwork. Not only was the one in our kitchen unattractive, it was out of keeping with the period. Its only redeeming features were an original beehive oven and a rare set kettle, a large standing pot used for heating up cooking and washing water. Wanting a more harmonious design, we hired a mason who specialized in restoration work to rebuild the hearth using salvaged antique brick. The Colonial hearth is now the focal point of the room; it’s surrounded by items we’ve collected that were used for cooking back in the era.

When the results of decades of neglect had been repaired, it was time to re-create a kitchen and keeping room — a kind of Colonial multipurpose area — that would reflect the evolution of a household.

All the cabinets were built on site using hand-planed wood. Put together with mortise- and-tenon and dovetail joints, they were secured with wooden pegs. Hand-forged hinges held in place with handmade nails were used on the cabinets. Knobs of various sizes, shapes and materials were used on the doors and drawers. One cabinet has antique glass doors, while the doors of another use punched tin.

The largest cabinet, built to look like a step-back cupboard, serves as the pantry. Behind its wooden doors are 24- and 30-inch-deep pullout drawers. A baker’s cabinet topped with old marble was built low for easy kneading and rolling of dough. It also has deep pullout drawers where we keep a stand mixer and other small appliances. A tall, narrow cabinet hides plumbing and holds a TV that can be swiveled and seen from anywhere in the room.

A 48-inch professional stove centered on the rear kitchen wall is the only modern appliance you notice when entering the kitchen. To its left is a large cabinet with a door on top and three drawers below. If you didn’t hear the quiet hum of its motor, you wouldn’t guess that it’s a refrigerator-freezer. The same three-drawer look was used to conceal the dishwasher. Once completed, all the cabinets were finished with milk paint and sealed.

After several years of construction, we were finally able to move into our house. It was worth the wait. I especially love the kitchen, where I spend hours developing recipes for my food and travel blog, Back Road Journal. It has plenty of storage and is easy to work in, whether I’m cooking for just my husband and me or for a big gathering of friends.

At Christmas, when I decorate for our holiday open house, I’m inspired by old Currier and Ives prints. I hang stockings over the hearth, place greens and pinecones in the kitchen and put old-fashioned toys under the Christmas tree.

For the party, I lay out finger food on the kitchen island and dining table and set up a bar on the baker’s cabinet. Guests love standing around the island or sitting in front of the fireplace, visiting with friends and enjoying their favorite nibbles and drinks.

Through adaptive reuse, our kitchen now has the feel of an old Colonial New England room with all the conveniences you’d want in a new one. The wide pine floors, low-beamed ceiling, warm red milk-painted walls and cozy seating in front of the brick hearth couldn’t be more welcoming. This truly is the heart of our home.

Photography by Greg West

Fae's Twist & Tango 1 December 18, 2014 at 6:53 pm

A delightful article! I visit Karen’s blog regularly, learn from it and enjoy her travels and recipes tremendously!

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