How to design a vintage-modern kitchen
A resourceful Portland designer reawakened her Victorian kitchen by combining the best of old and new
When Vicki Simon first saw the tiny laminate-clad kitchen of her future home, it inspired grander visions. “I once toured a mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, and was so taken with its Victorian-style kitchen that I memorized every detail: the stand-alone furniture, the big pot rack,” recalls the interior designer. “It was beautiful but as functional as a commercial kitchen.” Simon kept coming back to that image as she remodeled her 1908 house’s kitchen, a process that involved restoring the original floors (despite contractors who said it couldn’t be done), trolling Craigslist, and scouring salvage yards up and down the West Coast—a 10-month labor of love that led her to declare, “If I ever move, this kitchen is coming with me.” vickisimoninteriordesign.com
To expand the original kitchen (pictured) from 125 square feet to 225 square feet, Simon knocked out a wall and adopted the space of a covered porch. She then took the porch’s drop ceiling back to the original rafters and added tongue-and-groove pine siding for a vintage look.
Some contractors were “afraid of the amount of work it would take” to rehabilitate the original Douglas fir floorboards covered by layers of linoleum, says Simon. Eventually, she found two carpenters who were up for it. She had them leave the original pockmarks in the floor for character.
With her heart set on “a furniture kitchen,” Simon shopped flea markets and Craigslist for pieces that could work in lieu of standard-issue cabinets and counters.
“I don’t like to hide things in the kitchen. Open shelving holds things I use every day—dishes, dry goods that I store in apothecary jars, plates, even my family’s silver,” Vicki explains of a design strategy that keeps useful items accessible and aesthetically pleasing.
Vicki handpicked hardware from salvage yards, then scrubbed each piece with steel wool and applied a brass ager to give them the same patina.
In the breakfast nook, Simon combined a bistro table, Balinese chairs bought on her honeymoon, and a painting by her mother. “I like to have things that carry a story,” she says.
This cherry-and-maple butcher block, which Simon had made for her old house in Seattle, is her workhorse. “I wanted a surface where I could cut to my heart’s content.”
This reproduction sink has slightly tilted drainage boards, “which are almost like having counter space.”
Simon loosened her no-built-in rule in order to have an oven she didn’t have to bend over to use, along with a dishwasher and a tray rack.
Simon painted this two-piece hutch, made by a farmer in central Oregon, a warm neutral (Eddie Bauer Linen) to match the ceiling, and added crown molding to the top.
Vicki doesn't have a pantry, so this antique hutch serves as her food storage. "My favorite part is the big drawer that unfolds like a dishwasher and holds every last bit of my Tupperware,” she says.
Simon creatively mixes modern applicances with vintage treasures. She explains, “I found this desk at an antiques show, topped it with salvaged jasper stone, and put a Wolf range on top.”
No renovation required: These easy pieces instantly charm up a kitchen.
Fun yet functional utensils
These spoons resemble treasures unearthed in Grandma’s attic but are much more utilitarian. Dining room measuring spoons, $24; anthropologie.com
The more you use these linen towels, the better; they get softer and more absorbent with every wash. Fog Linen kitchen cloths in natural blue stripe and red thin white stripe, $15 each; shop-foglinen.com