Even when it comes to kitchens, her philosophy is straightforward: Karla Pearlstein is guided by the Secretary of Interior’s Standards, and she keeps as much original as she can. A key strategy is the use of actual period fixtures and salvaged materials.
Acknowledging that it’s not always possible to rely solely on vintage pieces—as when multiples are needed—she incorporates good reproductions. Years ago, buying a “fixer-upper” Queen Anne in Northeast Portland gave Karla a crash course in restoration. The house had its 1920s kitchen, with crude countertops added by a former owner. Contractors advised ripping out the charming, if narrow, cabinets, but Karla refused, and installed soapstone countertops and a sink to accommodate the vintage cabinets. The lesson learned: how to get contractors to listen.
Her next home, an 1861 Victorian, had a contemporary kitchen incongruously installed in the front parlor. Karla relocated the kitchen to the back where it belonged, creating an appropriate room around a 1910 gas/wood stove. Word of her approach spread, and following what she calls “a steep learning curve,” she found herself in demand as a kitchen design consultant, and in 2006 started Restoring History.
Pearlstein is known for her spot-on interpretations of bungalow-era kitchens, but her expertise has grown to include all periods. Recent projects include consulting with North Bennet Street School carpentry-program founder Robert Adam on a ca. 1715 First Period house in Massachusetts, interpreted to the 1820s–30s period—it has a historic cheese-making room with two kettles and “radically historic” plumbing; collaborating with Matthew Roman to rescue a converted 1912 brick firehouse in Portland; and restoration of an 1848 house in Forest Grove, Oregon.
Restoring History LLC