Cabinet design can really make or break a kitchen. Come see how I designed these historic kitchen cabinets we built for our home!
There is so much to talk about with these historic kitchen cabinets so I think we should just dive right in.
Designing Historic Kitchen Cabinets
Let’s just throw this disclaimer right out there with a list of all the things I’m not:
- kitchen designer
- cabinet designer
- interior designer
- old house professional
- historic expert of any kind
(No this list isn’t really necessary but you know. 😀 Karens.)
With that being said, I looked at a LOT of kitchens for this project. A LOT. My goal was never to perfectly replicate an old kitchen I found. Instead I wanted to teach myself the “rules” of cabinets from this time period.Then I could hopefully follow the same general rules applied in my own kitchen.
I started to notice some trends in kitchens between 1905-1915. Lack of toe kicks, lower than normal upper cabinets, glass doors, latch pulls, half mortise hinges, to name a few. But I really latched on to two main aspects for our kitchen.
First and almost impossible to miss, inset doors and drawers. Inset means that the front of the door or drawer is flush with the structure of the cabinet instead of sitting on top.
Many modern cabinets have surface fronts in which the doors and drawers rest on the face frame of the cabinets, which is mostly done for ease of manufacture. Inset is a little more fiddly to make to begin with, let alone make quickly.
Both our upper and lower cabinets are inset. I opted for mostly drawers on the bottom because I personally hate trying to fish things out from the back of lower cabinets. A drawer just makes storage much easier!
The second design feature is a single bank of historic kitchen cabinets, meaning the built-in cabinets exist more or less on only one wall. This is quite a contrast to modern kitchen design!
Modern kitchens tend to have cabinets with a lot of twists, turns, bends, and corners. There is nothing wrong with that kind of kitchen, it just will tend to look more modern than old!
Around the 20’s and 30’s historic kitchen cabinets started to have corners a bit more. But before then they were only on one wall. Since we were aiming at pre-1910 cabinets, that’s what we did.
While this does mean very few cabinets, it also means no pain in the butt dead corners of doom. Which is honestly completely worth it.
But Paige WAIT!! That’s almost no counter space! Whatever will you do?
Good eye! It’s true. We don’t have a ton of counter space. But what little we have works hard!
I set up the kitchen so that these counters can be mostly clear all the time (mixer excluded). A 24″x26″ slab of always clear surface is more room than it seems!
And as a bonus, each side has a delicious pull out counter that provides just a little extra surface if we need it.
I swear I’m a registered adult who pays taxes and anything by GOSH DANG IT if I don’t squeal like a baby every time I pull these out. It’s like a perpetual kitchen Easter egg.
The Cabinet Starting Point
Let’s be honest. This whole wall revolves around the sink.
I found this beauty months ago on Facebook marketplace for $100. The only downside? It was four hours away.
Brandon is usually the final frontier for approving marketplace purchases. I already had a sink (albeit one I didn’t like) so I fully expected him to say no when I proposed we make a day trip to get this.
I held up my phone, showed him the picture, batted my eyelashes, and prepared to be defeated.
Then he said yes. Well. Don’t have to tell me twice.
What I love so much about this sink is the symmetry. Two drainboards. Two legs. Centered faucet. Underneath centered windows. It’s all just so deliciously symmetrical.
I knew I had to keep that symmetry in the cabinet design. The upper cabinets are simple two door units with no center bar.
The bottom cabinets themselves aren’t symmetrical. But they are from side to side. The right side has a right side door, and the left side has a left side door.
If you’ve been around a while you may remember my original plan. And you may remember I planned to have a dishwasher on the right side of the sink.
Clearly there is no dishwasher. What happened??
Ditching the Dishwasher
I fully intended to have a dishwasher in this kitchen. I’m all for historic kitchens and historic kitchen cabinets, but I somehow still had a dishwasher stuck in my head. Of course we had to have one, right?
Well, no. I had my sights set on this white Bosch dishwasher from Lowe’s. It is pretty, understated, clean lines, third rack, more or less perfect. At the time it was about $600.
I was almost ready to pull the trigger when we had some really strange car trouble! Brandon fixes the cars so it wasn’t too big of a deal, but the supplies and repairs totaled up to, you guessed it, $600.
This finally broke me out of my shell. I spent roughly that much on our stove and fridge combined. Did I really want to buy a brand new appliance that I probably didn’t need and might break in 5 years?
It was a no brainer. Nope. Not going to have a dishwasher. Plus the symmetry with these kind of historic kitchen cabinets just makes my heart SING!
I’m not a complete loon, though. We did make sure to have plumbing and electrical behind the cabinet in case we ever change our minds. Brandon built these cabinets so we can always build another base.
Historic Kitchen Cabinet Details
The knobs and drawer pulls all came off eBay. I don’t have much else to say about them other than I love them.
The hinges are from House of Antique Hardware. I did tone them down a little with ebony rub-n-buff. I’ve used the gold version before which worked really well. This formula was kind of terrible, but we got there in the end.
Side note: Brandon built all of these historic kitchen cabinets. Yes all of them. I am fully aware I’m living with a wizard genie, but I’m sorry. You can’t have him.
I can’t even tell you how insanely difficult it was not to pan around and show you the rest of the kitchen but WE MUST BE PATIENT.
Now HOLD ON TO YOUR HATS!! One week from today the kitchen reveal goes live. Yes. ONE WEEK. We’re almost there. Buckle up. Strap in. Hold on tight. Because it’s going to be SO. DANG. GOOD.
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