Balancing historical accuracy with modern storage needs can be a struggle, but Grenier has a few tips for upgrades that can blend in without sacrificing function.
Builder and Massachusetts native Peter Grenier is the owner of Wicked Good Woodworks LLC and is skilled in cabinetry. He also loves historic homes and finds one of the biggest challenges homeowners of older properties face is adding storage in a way that does not compromise the home’s historical integrity.
From the kitchen to the bathroom and all areas in between, there are opportunities to maximize storage space without sacrificing key architectural features and compromising a home’s overall aesthetic.
Historic Home Cabinetry Basics
Depending on the era of home construction and the type of home, many older properties would not have featured an abundance of cabinetry as part of their design. More exclusive properties, such as Queen Anne houses and other Victorian homes, were designed with myriad bespoke features, including built-in cabinets, shelving, and drawers. Per Peter Grenier, standard family homes were typically less detailed and featured more functional storage or standalone furniture options, such as now antique hutches, china cabinets, and cedar wardrobes.
The complexity of outfitting a home that was not designed with cabinets and storage spaces and maintaining a feeling of historical accuracy lies here and requires a blend of retro craftsmanship, historic finishes, and an eye for smooth transitions between strictly honoring a period and blending in contemporary touches.
The kitchen typically has more cabinetry than all other areas of the home combined, so getting this room right is essential for the overall aesthetic of a home attempting to maintain a period feel. Peter Grenier of Massachusetts recommends a strategic approach that involves the construction of cabinets using design principles of yesteryear coupled with accent pieces that harken back to the era of construction.
Kitchen cabinets have experienced a variety of transitions over time. From cabinet door position to trim and handles, there are various factors to be considered that can add historical appeal. For example, older cabinets often formed smooth lines with the cabinet itself when closed, while contemporary options often rest on the cabinet. Older cabinets may also feature more trim work around the edges or have a freestanding look with legs, even if the legs were not essential for weight-bearing. Mixing and matching these details can make a big difference when attempting to blend a modern cabinet configuration in terms of size and number into an older home.
Another great way to ensure consistency is nailing an antique finish. For wood options, this may mean choosing a stain that either matches other wood tones in the home or is at least complementary. For a home with lots of painted detail, coordinating paint colors work.
For smaller kitchens or when the desire to maintain extreme period accuracy is felt, Peter Grenier recommends keeping the kitchen as retro as possible and then relocating the conveniences of modern cabinetry to a larger walk-in pantry with ample storage solutions. Open shelving and historical furnishings can command attention in the kitchen without stripping a home of all convenience.
Storage in the bedroom can also operate by similar standards. If a closet exists, custom cabinetry and storage in the closet area can help maximize tight quarters, according to Peter Grenier. If there is not a closet and room dimensions allow, a custom solution can be crafted to create a flexible storage space behind an antique door or double-door configuration.
An alternate option is to convert an unused room into a closet and dressing area with custom cabinets and storage befitting the period. Balance can be achieved with unique built-ins on one wall and antique furniture, such as an armoire and dressing table sprinkled throughout.