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A Classic 1920s Kitchen

A remodel results in an elegant historically-inspired kitchen.
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open kitchen with floorcloths

Owner Barbee Lyon is attached to the woodstove that came with the house. Floorcloths enhance the old fir floors.

Attorney Barbee Lyon already owned this 1908 house in Portland, Oregon, when he married social worker Joan Kruse in 1992. Joan loved its high ceilings and original details…but campaigned to redo the kitchen, which Barbee had remodeled years before. So the couple hired a kitchen designer. They spent 16 hours just choosing countertop materials; Joan hated the samples. A call to Portland’s Architectural Heritage Center put her in touch with restoration consultant Karla Pearlstein. Weeks later, Joan asked Karla to review the kitchen designer’s final plans.

breakfast nook with cushioned bench

The nook’s bench ends reiterate the curve of an original seat in the entry. Valuable Art Nouveau wall sconces were found languishing in a box in the house’s maid’s quarters.

“It was a Sunday,” Karla recalls. “The place was filled with helpers packing up the kitchen, while contractor Keith Davis’s demolition crew went to work. It was a crazy moment.” Especially when Karla told Joan that the plans were not particularly historical.

Joan says, “When I told Barbee I didn’t want to proceed with the plan, he didn’t speak to me for three days.” Karla brought in designer Matthew Roman, and a new plan coalesced at warp speed.

Barbee wanted to maintain an eating nook with a sofa-width bench. In a compromise, it’s where the original butler’s pantry would have been, and the remodeled kitchen leans more toward 1920 than 1908. Barbee had turned the screened porch into a pantry. Now the space is more versatile, with storage and a sink, along with refrigerator drawers for guests.

historical kitchen

Original windows were refurbished. Countertops in the kitchen are black granite with a honed finish. Cabinets are based on original cabinets in the master bedroom. Portland Vintage Plumbing married different faucets and necks to create a unique, historical installation.

“I share everything but my refrigerator!” says Joan, who uses the large, integrated one in the main kitchen. Other compromises became assets: Varnished floor cloths cover expanses of the old fir floors, adding warmth while hiding blemishes. And Matthew Roman suggested that marble left from another job be used for the pantry’s sink surround, adding history-minded elegance on a budget.

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