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The Past is Present

A Roaring ’20s Home in Basking Ridge Gets a Kitchen Makeover That Pays Homage to the Building’s History

Kitchens in old houses traditionally are utilitarian spaces devoted exclusively to cooking, but today they are being reimagined as central gathering areas not only for food preparation but also for entertaining.

In the case of a 1920s Spanish Colonial Revival house in Basking Ridge, Eileen and Jim Barna, owners of TrueLeaf Kitchens, consolidated a pair of rooms to create an expansive space for hosting a variety of activities.

The historic house overlooks what was called the Knollcroft Estate, now the site of Lyons VA  Medical Center. The home originally was the caretaker’s cottage that had English gardens and commanding views of the area.

The longtime owners, a couple with two grown daughters, commissioned the TrueLeaf team to create a light-filled open kitchen that respects the home’s historic style yet works for 21st-century living.

“Our goal was to create a rustic older feeling,” Jim Barna says.

Although the kitchen was small, the adjoining space, which was used as a sitting room, was quite substantial.

“The sitting room wasn’t being used and it had a fireplace,” he says. “So we flipped the purpose of the rooms and opened the attic to create a vaulted ceiling in the new kitchen.”

Original elements were either restored or renovated for a classic touch. The old attic beams were covered with more substantial ones made of century-old reclaimed wood and punctuated with black metal collar ties, and the attic’s brick walls were left exposed as were some of the other walls.

The old sitting room fireplace was converted to a hood for the new kitchen’s range; cast-concrete corbels on each side allow for more counter space. And the old hearth in the original kitchen was converted to a gas fireplace, making a cozy sitting space. The fireplaces link the spaces visually and historically. 

The kitchen’s large appliances, including the refrigerator, were deliberately not built in to maintain the feeling of an early 20th-century kitchen. The countertops – granite, butcher block and marble – create the illusion of a room that was modified over time: The farmhouse sink speaks of the residence’s storied past, and the white-and-gray wooden cabinets add a light, timeless touch.

The focal point of the new kitchen is the central island, which has a Calacatta Gold marble top and room for a pair of comfortable chairs that face the range.

As part of the project, the family room/dining room, which is two rooms away from the kitchen, was transformed into an additional gathering space, complete with TV set, mini-refrigerator and mini-bar.

The new kitchen and its sitting room have become the heart of the home.

“There’s a lot of history in this house,” Barna says. “And we created a space for this family to gather in for many years to come.”

Find inspirational kitchen designs at trueleafkitchens.com.

Renovation Rules

There are no hard and fast rules; your kitchen should fit your cooking style and lifestyle.

Choose a timeless, not trendy, design that is in sync with the style of the house.

Remember to look up and open up the ceiling.

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