Atlantic City – How do you restore a historic kitchen?

You’ve seen a lot that needs to stay in this house. What needs to change? The kitchen.


Now, in the 20 or so years since I’ve first seen this I’ve come around to steel cabinets and chrome dinette sets. Retro Renovation often features people who send them out to auto body shops or powder coaters. But there’s gotta be a point of no return somewhere. And the fridge in front of windows is absolutely unacceptable. Also, a 6000 square foot, 10 bedroom house needs a kitchen that’s comfortable for several people cooking for at least 24 people.

Right off the kitchen is a fantastically intact butler’s pantry!





When I was younger I thought let’s keep that sink and those cabinets and otherwise overhaul the space. Right behind the wall in the picture above is a small alcove leading to the den and butler’s pantry. Take all that out and you’d have this view right from the kitchen.


And taking the wall out would give you room for a big island. But now I take all this back. I might be up for altering the butler’s pantry cabinets. It looks like they were altered before. Look at the unfinished side of the cabinets above. Right now it’s set up for a separate freestanding fridge and freezer, though there must once have been an ice box. I’d want a single fridge and more dish storage here. The drain can stay though!


And the not-so-huge kitchen? It’s actually a fine space. Obviously this contraption stays, as do the buzzers in the bedrooms!


I’d get rid of the table and move the stove and fridge to interior walls where they’re not blocking windows (or breaking building codes). Then to get better flow I’d add a second door opening from the kitchen to the butler’s pantry, right across from the breakfast room door below.


Try to picture the breakfast room looking like a glassed-in porch. I know it’s hard – it’s the worst room in the house right now.


There’s even a door to the outside behind the paneling to the left of this door:


Another idea my friend’s mom had was reworking the back stairs to connect the kitchen directly to the roof of the garage.


Right now this house has no back yard so this would give you a place to grill where you’re not right up against the street. It’s an interesting idea. But it would cost a lot. You’d probably have to cut a larger stairway opening and shrink one of the bedrooms. And there’s already a gap in that parapet where you could access the garage roof from near the back door. It’s not direct but it would do. And plus, the narrow nooks and crannies in the servants’ parts of this house aren’t what we’d build today, but they’re part of what makes this house interesting. And with 6000 square feet to play with, there’s definitely room to say these quirks matter. Plus, this kitchen has so many windows I wouldn’t want to give up this wall space.


As for the style of the room, I’d say anything goes. The butler’s pantry ought to be fully restored including authentic reproduction tile wherever the existing material comes out and custom cabinetry if any is added. The main kitchen on the other hand will never be authentically 1919.

Now one more thing. I’m pushing for preserving as much of the old as possible in this house, but the truth is that I wouldn’t hold it against anyone to modernize this part of it if that’s what they want. After all, it’s not 1919 anymore and even millionaires are unlikely to have live-in servants. But no matter what happens, I want the world to see the back rooms as they were. What would you do if this kitchen were yours?


4 thoughts on “Atlantic City – How do you restore a historic kitchen?

  1. Mary Elizabeth

    I did look at some 19th century houses while house-hunting, and this is what I imagine for a kitchen of that era:

    1) Simple wood cabinets, maybe with shaker style doors with framed beadwork panels on the bottom, glass-front doors on the top.
    They would be painted white or sage green.
    2) Exposed walls would have a chair rail and wainscoting.
    3) The sink in the butler’s pantry would be refurbished if needed, or replaced with a retro-styled sink in the same style. If another sink is needed in the kitchen, a farmhouse style sink would be appropriate. ps://
    Even though we don’t have butlers and scullery maids, we can move all the dishwashing to the butler’s pantry.
    4) If possible, the dishwasher would be in the butler’s pantry. It would have open shelves on top and a small counter.
    5) Other appliances would be an Elmira iron stove in black and a modern refrigerator that is built into a cabinet, so you can’t see it.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s