June 8, 2015
In Wayne, Pa., a development of 120-year-old storybook homes remains as some of the first works of architect William Lightfoot Price. Centered around Philadelphia’s Main Line, these massive homes all exemplify an arts-and-crafts style and 19th-century charm – including kitchens only big enough for a servant to work.
“The family that bought this house wanted a functional kitchen,” said designer Denise Taylor of Havertown, Pa.-based Sterling Kitchen & Bath. “They have young children, and the stay-at-home dad loves to cook, so the kitchen had to reflect everything he wanted. Some of which was unusual.”
Among those requests were five trashcans, as well as the extra space to hold those and the family’s needs. The size of the cabinets had to handle the larger size of their cookware, as well as a built-in microwave. To build an addition onto the house, the design team had to apply to the township. After plans had been made with the architect for a significant expansion, the zoning came back with a much smaller allowance.
“Now the challenge was how to put all of the same things that we wanted into that kitchen and not overcrowd it,” said Taylor. “That was probably the biggest surprise.”
After changing the depth of the cabinetry and scaling down the addition, the kitchen was expanded slightly, ending at one side at a servant’s staircase. This hand-carved, quarter-sawn, oak stair railing reflects the rest of the home’s original art-and-crafts style.
“The woodwork of the house is just magnificent,” said Taylor. “It’s all quarter-sawn oak with restored plank flooring and railings that look like works of art. There are fireplaces all over the house too, and each one is different. The house just had a lot of character.”
Old Meets New
To keep in character, the designer chose quarter-sawn oak cabinets for the kitchen in a lighter stain – an aged medium brown. The door style started out as a Shaker, but the homeowner eventually decided a slab door would gather less dust and be easier to clean. A majority of the kitchen was done in a semi-custom line with only a few custom pieces to keep the costs down. This slab door, adorned with straight-lined contemporary handles, keeps the home up to date without denying its originality.
“The design respects the age of the house, and yet we used slab doors, which gave it that contemporary fare,” said Taylor. “It’s a marriage of making it contemporary and functional while respecting the character of the house.”
Along with the wood elements, the natural slate flooring, done in a large subway pattern, makes the home’s age obvious and elegant. A yellow, hand-made tile backsplash also keeps with the art-and-crafts style, though the result surprised the designer.
“When I saw the tile for the first time, I thought, ‘Ugh,’” she said, “but the backsplash turned out not to be obnoxious because it basically has this glow to it. During the day, it’s not a harsh tone and it’s actually softer.”
Soapstone countertops, another unusual choice of the homeowners, also add to the style. Although the design team rarely uses it because of its easily damaged surface, these clients knew from day one they wanted soapstone.
“Finding a piece of soapstone big enough to do the island in one piece was a challenge,” said Taylor. “And when they came up with a piece big enough, they broke it when they went to work with it.”
As a compromise, the team designed a shorter soapstone island counter top with a live edge slab at one end to match the live edge kitchen table and the nearby stairwell. This unique difference in texture also occurs in the entrances, where old barn doors on rollers contrast with a steel beam. The beam, which appeared after the exterior wall was exposed, was not easily modified and the team decided to leave it.
“With the barn door with the old iron wheels and this piece of iron sticking out of the walls, you would normally think it wouldn’t work, but it did,” said Taylor. “It just looks like part of everything.”
Designer: Denise Taylor, Sterling Kitchens & Baths; Debbie Douglas, Independent Designer, Malvern, Pa.
Photographer: Nissa Gowat of Sterling Kitchens & Baths
General Contractor: Ranieri & Kerns Associates Bryn Mawr Pa
Cabinetry: Omega Dynasty
Door Style: Vail in quartersawn oak and Sizzle in stainless steel