by Ian Thompson Editor
In the ever-evolving realm of interior design, our kitchens often bear the weight of change, reflecting the spirit of their times. Today, as we venture into the heart of this new episode, “Built-ins, Cabinets & Kitchens,” Brent Hall embarks on a journey to resurrect the essence of bygone eras in our modern abodes.
Kitchens, once relegated to the shadows of our homes, have emerged from basements and outbuildings to become the focal point of our homes and gathering areas. They are now elegant and functional spaces, places where a lot of budget (perhaps too much) is spent. The transformation from mere service areas to culinary sanctuaries is a testament to human ingenuity and a profound connection to our history.
This episode delves into the captivating narrative of how kitchens have evolved over the decades, meticulously tracing their journey from utilitarian workspaces to spaces where aesthetics meet efficiency. The attention to detail, like the infusion of English nuances, Tudor arches, and the selection of cabinet hardware, breathes life into the soul of a house.
As you immerse yourself in the artistry of kitchen design, you’ll discover how the fusion of tradition and modernity in cabinetry can create a timeless masterpiece. The captivating blend of history and innovation awaits you in “New House, Old Soul – Ep. 13.”
Over to Brent.
“Built-Ins, Cabinets and Kitchens” New House, Old Soul – Ep.13
Welcome back to New House, Old Soul. How do you build a new house with an old soul? When you think about kitchens, cabinets, and built-ins and these products, right? In fact, this may be the most difficult room to create that old soul in a new house because there are so many new products.
Build Original Series hosted by Brent Hall. New House, Old Soul sponsored by Stellar Floors and the Unico System.
A little history on kitchens, right? A little history on how they used to form. You know, we’re doing that Granbury house, and we actually have the Sanborn maps, and there is a number of outbuildings. I think there is 11 outbuildings at one point. That house was built in 1871 in Texas. I don’t think there was a kitchen in that house till probably 1900, 1920. I think that there was an outside kitchen that was part of how they prepared meals. So you think about that’s 150 years ago. Even up into the… They didn’t have running water coming into their streets until like 1905, 1910. The things that make a kitchen work, right? The running water that you need to clean things wasn’t even there until 1910. So, as we think about this, we need to realize that the modern kitchen was a service area for a long time. So maybe in the 1960s, maybe in the 1970s, kitchens began to become the living room of the house like they are today. What was that, 50 years ago? So the modern kitchen doesn’t necessarily evolve because it’s a fairly new thing. You know, getting it to blend, getting it to work is a challenge. So that’s 1870s. That house had an outdoor kitchen, and you see, you know, in the North, they have the kitchen that would be in the basement, at the bottom of the fireplace, where they cooked their meals. Then they came up to the main floors. No kitchen in the house. In the South, the kitchen was outside. Fire and everything else and heat and all those different problems. And the whole post-Civil War and early industrialization, so you begin to see trickling of technology coming into the house. Running water, electricity, modern appliances. So by 1920, 1930, the kitchen begins to evolve.
Now, realize that in the millwork catalogs in 1900, there really aren’t kitchen cabinets in there. They might give you a pantry cabinet, but they didn’t even advertise for the cabinets. So what was the kitchen at that time? It was a work area, and it stayed a work area probably into the 1920s and 30s. There are catalogs in the 1920s that talk about the workspace. The efficiency of the workspace. The efficiency that the kitchens were small. You wanted to have as fewer steps as possible. It was an efficient workspace. It was the way we might set up a mill shop today or a garage shop where you wanted to be very efficient about how you move things around and where everything was. By the late 1920s, you begin to have component cabinetry where you could buy a lower base or an upper cabinet. Things like that really change after the Great Depression going into World War II. The products start changing from inset doors and to plywood doors. Before World War II, it was a workspace. It was small. It was compact. After World War II, from 1940 into the 1960s, it slowly begins to morph into a more elegant space. You begin to see stain-grade cabinets. You begin to see it open up to the family room. Think of the ranch-style houses of the 60s. Think of The Brady Bunch and how the kitchen opened up into those other areas of the house.
So kitchens are a crazy spectrum. There’s a house that we looked at from the 20s here in Fort Worth that had very small kitchens, especially their original space connected off a back stair, had Chamberlain cabinets. The original kitchen cabinets were changed to a metal cabinet probably in the 50s, but it was still a really small space. There was a swing door that opened onto an eating area. You can think of that as that small space that we added to the Stock House, where you walked through that door and it’s like a three-foot door. Here’s this 7,800 square-foot house, and there was a three-foot, less than three-foot-wide opening that opened into the kitchen. So talk about being cut off. The solution we had was to expand that space so that the kitchen could open to the family area and then become an access to the rest of the house. The old way of building was that the kitchen was a service area. It was not a family gathering area. That’s something that’s really changed.
The challenge to build that new house with an old soul is to infuse into the cabinetry, especially because if you think about a kitchen, 80 percent of the surface area of the walls is made up of cabinets. Maybe 70 percent, maybe 50 percent. A majority is made up of cabinets. If you can get the cabinets right, you’re really helping yourself along. You can put in modern appliances. You can have a modern countertop, but cabinets are key. So you really want to infuse that design with things that are historic. To get that historic look, the inset doors, making it look as much like a piece of furniture, whether it’s the trim that you put on the pedestal. The different ways of building it, you can still build your boxes, but you’ve got to have the trim, so it communicates the right story. The last piece of that hierarchy is really when we’re trying to imply that we’re building furniture. Look at these hinges, these are olive hinges, and they are very unique, wonderful types of hinges. So all of these things can communicate a narrative. You can infuse your kitchen with a sense of history and tradition.
There’s a number of decisions that you make when you’re building cabinets. Overlay doors, inset doors, exposed hardware, all those different things. As we talked about hardware, it’s a very definitive piece of historic cabinets. Where does all this come from? As a reminder, it comes from furniture, the furniture was the pieces. That’s where built-in cabinetry started. It didn’t start with cabinetry. Cabinetry was always copying furniture. When we were building this piece here to look like an antique cupboard, we put the entablature above. We put the trim onto our cabinets, okay, that communicated it to be more of a piece of furniture. But look at the hinges. Now I know you guys might push back, but the butt hinges, especially this style of butt hinge, is really important because it communicates that age and history and tradition. Look at the pushback I get on butt hinges, like, “Oh, what if the house moves? What if the thing?” Well, there are adjustable butt hinges. Amerock makes some, but this traditional butt hinge is very communicative of an older piece, an historic piece. So all of these things I’m doing, I’m stretching their sizes. I’m playing with the scale and proportion of them so that it communicates a story.
Talking with Wind Supply here in Delta. You know, in this whole series, we’ve been trying to build a narrative and a story. That old soul is kind of the magic, the secret sauce for a new house. So, we’re talking with Amy. She’s with Wind Supply, talking about these plumbing fixtures and the narrative of them and why they’re so appropriate for these houses. Tell us what you’ve got here. These are really handsome-looking. They look like they have a clear story. What do we have?
We have the Delta Broderick here, and it’s really great because it has an industrial farmhouse look. They really thought about a lot of the details here, you know, with the little nut here to really add that industrial look.
This is exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about when I want a narrative. I want something with character. Too often, it feels like the hardware, plumbing supplies, just are muddy xeroxes of xeroxes of xeroxes. They have things like this that tell a story, and that’s really important.
It seems like sometimes the homeowner gets sent into the showroom, they see all that’s going on in your place, and they’re like, “The eyes glaze over.” You help them through that process. Is that what happens?
I sure do. So, a lot of people don’t think about plumbing fixtures a lot. That’s not something you think about every day. So, when you walk into a showroom like our Wind Supply showroom, you’re pretty overwhelmed. There’s so much to look at. You don’t know where to start. And that’s where I come in. I really like to be that guide for them. And, you know, they come in with a design style, and I can take them to that specific design style that they’re looking for.
Are you everywhere in the country? I mean, you know, where is Wind Supply? Wind Supply is located strategically throughout the US. We have 660 stores. Wind Supply is not a problem right now. Supply is definitely not a problem. We are keeping up with the demand of our customers.
If you’re interested in Wind Supply, what do they do? How do they find you?
We do have a website, and you can visit us at WindSupply.com.