April 22, 2018
Along with the artisan bakeries, quirky shops and farmer’s markets, Portland’s historic homes add charm to its distinctive character. Many of these dwellings were built in the ornate Queen Anne style, which was popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s. One of these homes – constructed in 1903 in the simpler Queen Anne Vernacular Victorian style – had scarcely been touched since the 1970s when its current homeowners purchased it.
When these clients approached Janel Campbell, a design consultant for Portland-based Neil Kelly Design, they asked her to revitalize the home’s original appeal while incorporating modern amenities. As with most century-old buildings, Campbell faced several challenges along the way.
The Pros and Cons of History
The home changed hands a number of times before the current homeowners obtained it. Carpenter Charles Heidlebeck built the home himself and lived in it until his death in 1908, but his widow continued living there and rented out rooms until 1940. A boarder named Guy Campbell – who belonged to an exclusive club for prominent Portland residents – later took ownership and then passed the home to a relative who lived there until the late 1960s. A third owner had the home until 1975, when the current homeowner bought it.
“The kitchen had been painted at some point in the 1970s, but the age of the cabinets was unknown,” said Campbell. “There was a dropped acoustic tile ceiling to conserve heat, and in short, the kitchen was simply old and didn’t have insulation, adequate storage, counter space, ventilation or built-in appliances.”
The designer’s plan was to do a complete overhaul of the space with all new finishes, along with installing modern necessities like insulation and replacing old plumbing pipes and tube wiring. Meanwhile the homeowners requested that all the door and window locations, as well as the existing trim, remain untouched.
“Our biggest fear was breaking the brittle trim and curved rosettes, so we worked around them in place,” said Campbell. “We also saved the original wainscot trim, which was hiding under a layer of cedar shingles.”
Working Within the Footprint
Since the overall footprint of the kitchen had to stay the same to conserve the home’s exterior, insulation was added while the wainscot was in place, and the entire room was furred out so that the drywall could match up to the depth of the existing trim. The design team could not move the hidden chimney/flue without changing the footprint, so this dictated the limited width of the refrigerator so that is could be recessed into the wall.
“Then the new exhaust hood duct size was larger than the depth of the 100-year-old ceiling joists, so we lowered the ceiling by two inches to accommodate the size of the duct,” said the designer.
Campbell used AutoCAD to take advantage of each part of the small space. She removed a built-in bookcase and recessed the range into that space, freeing up room in the middle of the kitchen. This allowed the team to extend a peninsula for the built-in dishwasher and another small cabinet.
“Every inch was precious in this kitchen,” said Campbell, explaining that originally the cabinets were less than 20 inches deep. “We now have two walls with 24-in.-deep cabinets and one that is still 19 inches to fit within the existing alcove.”
Once the kitchen was repaired and insulated, Campbell’s next challenge was fulfilling her client’s vision for the space.
“During our initial meeting, she showed me an inspiration photo of a farmhouse-style kitchen where the colors were inspired from the hue of chicken eggs: soft green and peach tones,” she said.
The homeowners also own a business in this eco-friendly city, so investing in local enterprises and long-lasting, sustainable materials was a priority. The designer combined these requests by choosing a local cabinet company that uses NAUF (no-added urea formaldehyde) plywood construction, which helps improve indoor air quality. The cabinets are a soft green, like the original inspiration, and the wainscot, walls and ceilings are all painted with three varieties of peach tones.
“In a current design trend of gray and white, I loved working with color!” said Campbell, adding that she particularly likes the blue and white glazed backsplash tile.
This tile backsplash was locally made, and the light fixtures are from a company that has roots in Portland. The countertops, a white Carrara marble, were chosen for their color, matte finish and their prominent use in the home’s original time period.
“Understanding that marble develops a patina with use was a factor in creating a new kitchen that will develop its own ‘story’ over time,” said Campbell.
Designer: Janel Campbell, Neil Kelly Design
Photography: KuDa Photography
Backsplash: Pratt & Larson Tile & Stone
Cabinet Hardware: Manzoni
Cabinetry: Neil Kelly Cabinets
Ceiling: ATI Decorative Laminates