A Modern Kitchen for a 100-Year-Old Brownstone

November 4, 20142 comments

A Classic Brownstone Presents Interesting Challenges for Designer AJ

In a wood frame house, a remodeler has almost no boundaries. Windows and doors can be moved, and plumbing and wiring redirected through new or existing walls. Not so a classic brownstone. That is built to last—exactly as originally constructed. So creating a modern kitchen for a 100-year-old Hoboken, New Jersey, townhouse presented designer AJ Johnson and architect Rob Hegedus with some distinct challenges.

kitchen in brownstone row house viewed from dining room

Design by AJ Johnson

As you can see in the photo above, the ceiling in the adjacent dining room is finished with ornate crown molding. Matching trim would have had to be custom milled or crafted in plaster. The remodel budget was tight, and so those options were not on the table. AJ was pleased that CliqStudios offered a style of crown molding, seen throughout the kitchen, that coordinated well with the original trim.

wall of white shaker cabinets in historic home remodelThe biggest challenge was the window wall. It presented two problems. In order to create an effective working kitchen, the wall would have to be lined with base cabinets and countertop. The outside profile of the building could not be changed, including the low, deep windows (just 24 inches from the floor with 10-inch sills). And, the builder needed to run a chase along that wall to carry plumbing to the sink and dishwasher.

After scratching her head, AJ came up with a plan. The cabinets would bump forward, allowing room for the chase. The counter would run in a line with the wall, leaving a cavity between counter and window glass.

To let the design flow uninterrupted, no backsplash would be used the kitchen, with one exception. A low backsplash was added just in front of the windows to prevent objects on the counter from rolling over into the window cavity. The light and bright effect of the large windows was preserved by leaving the wall open except for open shelves built from wood reclaimed from the house itself.

stainless refrigerator with open shelves aboveThe wall shown on the left, carrying the only upper cabinets in the kitchen, presented a last-minute design crisis. The measurement she had been given for the space between window and corner didn’t include the 5-1/2″ trim! And late in the project it became clear a chase would have to run behind that wall to accommodate a gas line. AJ rose to the challenge beautifully, bumping the wall of cabinets forward and wrapping it in crown molding to create the effect of a built-in buffet. (The builder had doubts about how that would look, but was quite impressed in the end.)

To reinforce the open theme, AJ designed the refrigerator enclosure with open shelves rather than cabinets above, great display storage for special serving pieces.

AJ comments that the architect, Rob Hegedus of was great to work with. “Rob’s renderings and plans were clear and easy to work with, even as the measurements kept changing and the design worked through several iterations.”

See this project feature and a full set of photos in our gallery.

Do you have a special renovation challenge? Share your thoughts with our readers.

Showing 2 comments

  1. Faye Wilbur Reply

    I’m in the market for a new kitchen can u help me.

    • CliqStudios Design Reply

      Hello, Faye,

      A new kitchen – how exciting! I’ll have a member of our design team get in touch with you. One of the first things you can do is measure your kitchen – our Quick Measure Guide will walk you through it, or, if you have any questions about the process, you can wait until the design coordinator contacts you.

      Be sure and take Before pictures, so you can look back and see the transformation!

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