Text by: Tiffany Carboni, Editorial Contributor
Built in the 1950s, this house was designed true to its time period—and with a tiny original kitchen to prove it. The homeowners loved their kitchen’s nostalgic appeal but were defeated by its lack of functionality for their young family of five. The room was so small it couldn’t accommodate a dining table large enough for all of them to sit down at once.
Enter Kathryn Rogers of Albany, CA who knew exactly what to do to modernize the space while retaining its allure. She enlarged the room’s confining perimeters by knocking down the wall that separated the kitchen from the bright atrium that leads to the patio. “The homeowners have three children and wanted to be able to work in the kitchen while keeping an eye on them as they played,” she says. “People live much more informally now than they did in the 50s. We are opening up kitchens to adjacent living spaces these days so families can spend more of their precious time together since we are all so busy now.”
Walnut cabinets and white Chroma countertops capture the era’s quintessential qualities. In contrast, contemporary appliances, including an induction cooktop, double ovens and stainless hood, offer contemporary conveniences that the original kitchen couldn’t deliver. Six retro-style melamine chairs set around a simple, wood-and-metal table give the family the space they wanted without their having to sit in the formal dining room to get it. “The table divides the kitchen and atrium visually and functionally and is a convenient place for doing homework, reading the paper or simply hanging out,” Rogers adds.
The architect took creative liberties to use materials that, while not authentic to the era, blend seamlessly. Delicately sized Japanese penny-round tiles in blue-gray from Ann Sacks Tile and Stone add a twinkle of color and texture behind the open shelving. Obscured glass over the sink draws in diffused light as it simultaneously minimizes the view of the too-close neighbor. Cork floors, which extend into the atrium, provide warmth and comfort without the use of rugs or mats in prep stations.
Owners of older homes can attest that houses built back in the day have their appealing old-fashioned qualities. They also have their obstacles, which in many cases is an abundance of walls. By removing a single wall and conjoining two rooms into one, Rogers brought this 1950s kitchen into the 21st century without compromising its vintage vibe. The homeowners agree that theirs still feels like the real deal—only better.