"We wanted a kitchen that looked as though it might have been here in
says Shirley Erstad. That’s the genius of this new kitchen:
although it’s new, it is convincing, handsome, and functional, outfitted
with its original oak mill work, leaded-glass windows, and built-ins.
The transition from living or dining room into the kitchen is seamless.
The entire house looks like a lovingly maintained period piece.
their “period” kitchen, Rich and Shirley used antique appliances,
lighting fixtures, and plumbing fittings, but they cleverly integrated
them with top-of-the-line contemporary elements. The refrigerator, for
example, is an original 1927 GE Monitor Top. Beside the 1924 sink,
however, are freezer drawers, hidden behind wood cabinet doors.
freezer in the old refrigerator is miniscule, and it needs to be
Rich says. “But that refrigerator measures 17
cubic feet and is very quiet and efficient. It has the original coolant
and a newer motor that probably dates to 1938.” The Reliable gas stove,
too, dates to the 1920s.
Erstad built the cabinet over the
refrigerator, basing the design on a desk owned by the Finnish composer
Sibelius. Sonos wi-fi speakers are hidden inside vintage radios in the
kitchen floor posed its own challenges. They wanted 6"-square linoleum
tiles in period-correct colors, but they no longer exist. So they found
12" commercial vinyl tile in Chicago, in the right light and dark-brown
combination, and had them laser cut to precise 6" squares.
Hiding the Modern, Designing a Credible Period Room This
kitchen may look a hundred years old, but it has all modern
necessities. “The only visible new thing is the smoke detector,” Rich
says. The big appliances are indeed vintage. Contemporary items, like
modern freezer drawers, are camouflaged or hidden behind cabinet faces.
USB chargers were included inside cabinet drawers—handy, but invisible.
Electrical outlets are minimized with the use of an inset Wiremold strip
beneath upper cabinets. To the right of the sink, the dishwasher is
faced to look like two deep drawers.
The Erstads skipped an
island in favor of a kitchen table. Blue-green paint on the pantry
cabinets creates the look of a kitchen dresser. Countertops are both
marble and black granite—an unfitted look that seems evolved over time. The
kitchen remains in scale with the house, and in its original location.
Materials used were common between 1912 and the 1930s. Cabinets have
inset, not overlay, doors and drawers. Lights are converted gaslight or
early electric fixtures, and flooring is a resilient checkerboard.