When my husband and I bought our 1910 craftsman home in Brooklyn five years ago, we loved almost everything about it—the original woodwork, the coffered dining room ceiling, the heavy oak pocket door which, no matter how hard you try, simply cannot be slammed. The one thing we didn’t love? The tiny, dated kitchen which was closed off from the dining room and boasted vinyl floors, a half-size portable dishwasher and a bathroom, which was inexplicably tucked into its corner, taking up tons of valuable real estate.
Reno Diaries: How I Doubled the Space (and Light) in My Brooklyn Kitchen
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Luckily, we had a lot of time to think about how it could work better for us as we waited and saved over the next half decade. And when the time came to renovate, we knew we had to go big, or go home. Here’s everything we did, and how we went from 100 square feet of usable kitchen space, to more than 150.
Breaking Down Walls
The most important question, which we answered with lots of input from our architect and contractor, was how to open up the space. Ultimately, we decided to remove the wall between the kitchen and the dining room and get rid of the bathroom, which was on the other side of it—taking up nearly 50 square feet that could be returned to the kitchen. (Don’t worry, we converted a coat closet into a tiny powder room, so we could still have a bathroom on the first floor.) This was time-consuming and costly (we’re talking structural engineers, steel beams and bureaucratic permits). But for me, it was assuredly worth it, since it was the only way to create an open concept plan and add a breakfast bar, which had always been our dream.
Bringing in Light
The other big structural change was the window, which we shortened but widened, so it could better fill the space above the relocated sink and full-size (!) dishwasher. This is now one of my favorite places to be in my house—which works out well, since I am nearly always washing dishes. But I also love the way it brings significantly more light into the kitchen, as well as the dining room and beyond.
Open Shelves (But Lots of Cabinets)
In addition to increasing the kitchen’s overall footprint, we vastly upped our storage thanks to ceiling-height shaker cabinets (from Bridgewood Cabinetry) and a 36-inch pantry/broom closet. And because we had so much cabinet space for all our ugly mugs and cereal boxes, I felt confident adding a little bit of open shelving against some exposed brick we uncovered during the demo.
Plumbing, Venting and Appliances
I am absolutely in love with GE’s café line, which offers a white custom look at a decidedly non-custom mid-range price. And my husband (the actual cook in the family) was insistent that our hood vent to the outside, particularly since we went with a gas stove. (I know…I know…) The pièce de résistance? The pot-filler, which we use every damn day.
Tying the Old to the New
Ultimately, it was very important to us to create a space that worked with our old house, not against it, so a hyper modern kitchen with light, scandi wood just wasn’t going to fly. We chose rich, dark engineered plank wood flooring from Stuga to connect the kitchen to the oak elements throughout dining room, and I cannot say enough good things about it. We get tons of compliments on the floors, which people seem to think are original (despite the fact that they do not match the parquet elsewhere), and we find it remarkably easy to keep clean. Additionally, we tried to keep details—from the brass knobs and pulls to the vintage inspired sconce to the glazed ceramic backsplash tile—in tune with finishes and time periods you’d find throughout the rest of the house. After all, trends may come and go, but if they don’t play nicely with a 110-year-old plate rail, they’re not going to work in my home.
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