Century-Old Brownstone Kitchen Remodel
Our client’s traditional New Jersey townhome is a beautiful and historic 1901 brownstone. While the homeowner wanted a kitchen remodel project to bring fresh transitional styling and white painted shaker cabinets, both the age and the stone construction presented a number of design challenges. CliqStudios professional designer A.J. Johnson partnered with the homeowner to overcome those challenges and get the finished kitchen they wanted. The new kitchen is perfect for an active lifestyle, featuring a convenient peninsula and efficient U-shaped layout.
The client truly wanted to give the refrigerator wall a built-in look and to use actual cabinetry pantry doors as the entrance to the pantry area. After drawing and discussing the ideas, everyone came to the conclusion that option simply wouldn’t be possible because there would not be enough room for a refrigerator. The homeowners weren’t happy with an ordinary wall over-the-refrigerator cabinet, because they felt it would not adequately balance the beautiful range-wall on the opposite end of the room. Designer A.J. wisely suggested putting open shelving above the refrigerator to tie in with the open shelving already planned for the adjacent sink wall.
The designer and homeowners felt the narrow space between the two windows needed to keep that open and bright feeling. Open shelving made of reclaimed wood fit the space perfectly.
Designer A.J. and the homeowners had to get clever with how to handle pipe chases for plumbing drains, electrical and gas lines as well as HVAC venting. The challenge is that in a brownstone, it is not possible to run these mechanicals through the wall. Instead the mechanicals could run directly out of the wall, and then external pipe chases and sheetrock wall build outs had to be used to conceal the mechanicals. This workaround provided a sleek finished look without exposed pipes, but it also shrunk an already small kitchen, making storage capacity of each cabinet that much more important.
Windows are an intricate part of brownstone architecture; to change them would have been a nightmare and a shame. These windows were inset into the wall by 10″, and were enormous, sitting only 25.5″ shy of the floor in a 10′ room. The pipe chases were built under the windows which set the cabinets 3″ proud of the wall, and the countertop was built into the sills.
Designer AJ describes the challenge and solution to creating balance on a short wall, “The client had limited space, requiring all elements to be tight and close together. The floor to ceiling build out on the range wall created a problem by the window on the exterior wall. There was not enough space to fit a full depth cabinet without blocking the window. No one wanted that. One idea was to make the cabinets be full depth, but not wide enough to reach all the way to the exterior window wall. We felt that idea would have left awkward dead space on that side. To make matters worse, an essential six-inch floor-to-ceiling pipechase on the peninsula side was butted right up against the cabinets. The entire plan would have resulted in a space that appeared unfinished, and would not provide a clean transition for the crown molding. The solution was to use cabinetry components to frame the range wall cabinets. I drew the wall so all cabinets would appear to be “bumped out” from the wall by using six-inch wide fillers set back six inches on both sides. This solution concealed both the pipe chase on the peninsula side and the dead space next to the window. We preserved the built-in look and added visual dimension to the focal point of the room. The resulting wall is symmetrical, balanced, and looked like it was done on purpose instead of looking like a mistake.”
This u-shaped traditional kitchen features peninsula seating, open shelving and perfectly painted white Shaker cabinets in the CliqStudios Dayton style. The simple crown molding in the kitchen complements, without competing against, the traditional stacked crown molding in the adjacent room.
The homeowner’s original utility room was built into an odd inset behind their kitchen and was an eyesore. The plan was to put in a combination utility and pantry room, but that plan left limited room for the refrigerator. The large soffits required for the area also created an unusual change in ceiling height. Designer A.J. worked with the homeowners to create a partial wall between the main kitchen space and the walk-in pantry, creating room for a refrigerator with open shelving above. The result is a natural looking space with an efficient flow and a smooth transition from one ceiling height to the next. With the pantry open to the main kitchen area, it was important to create a space that was both functional and attractive to blend with the whole room. Industrial shelving in the walk-in pantry provides efficient use of space, creates a ton of extra storage in the small 1901 brownstone kitchen and even offers a place to conceal a microwave, freeing up critical counter space in the kitchen prep area.
The kitchen features CliqStudios Dayton shaker-styled cabinets in Painted White. The countertops, nickel cup pulls, and apron sink were all selected to pay homage to the century-old brownstone’s heritage.More Photos