Text by: Tiffany Carboni, editorial contributor
“The problem with most old Victorians,” says architect Ken Linsteadt, “is that someone—usually in the 1960s or 70s—updated the kitchen with materials reflecting a very different era.”
While he isn’t opposed to meshing aspects from different time periods, Linsteadt isn’t a fan of linoleum, Formica or poor layouts—all of which played key roles in this 1895 Victorian’s former kitchen in Larkspur, CA. The task was to transform the narrow gallery-style configuration into an airier farmhouse design that could take advantage of the light and views from its second-story vantage point. He also wanted to work in the best of modern conveniences while still retaining the soul of the house’s history.
Linsteadt started by gutting the room—including the simplistic gingerbread Victorian details. By eliminating a wall that divided the kitchen from the dining room, he created a larger space fit for a central island and bay window nook. The original French doors and the tall double-hung window over the built-in bench were salvaged while new double-hung windows were added around the breakfast banquette to capture more light. The short passageways leading into the area were elongated to befit the rest of room’s impressive vertical stature
The decidedly white palette includes Calacatta marble counters atop 10 feet of cabinets and the nine-by-four-foot island, with additional stainless steel countertops bookending each side of the stove. The 12-foot-tall ceiling is adorned by the same unfinished-edge wall boards used on the island. Unlike the island’s paneling of uniformly spaced boards, the ceiling planks are set tightly together. “Painters hate when it’s done this way because once they are painted and shrink, the boards want to separate,” Linsteadt notes. “We had to convince them that that was the texture we wanted in order to give it that rustic farmhouse feel.”
Clear glass cabinets create a unified back wall while adding depth and color depending on what’s being stored inside. “By placing the glass cabinets on either side of the window over the built-in bench, we were able to make the window not seem like a disruption. All the glass works as a relief from what otherwise could have been too much white.”
In stark contrast to its white surroundings, the range hood (made from the leftover oak floorboards!) is a striking feature that has become one of the room’s biggest conversation pieces.
In the end, the new kitchen allows an 1895 Victorian to fully retain its vintage persona while still satisfying the homeowners’ contemporary needs and personality. “I consider this to be a rustic-meets-modern-meets-traditional kitchen,” says Linsteadt.