Kitchen Design Tip: Making New Kitchens Fit Old Spaces

By: Mark Clement , Contributing Writer
In: Old Houses, Old House Construction, Home Improvement Tips, Old House Musings

One of the trickiest projects in old houses weaving modern kitchens into old spaces.

Even as little as a half century-ago people had cast iron coal and wood-fired stoves for heating and cooking. Indeed, I’ve heard the story from many people who shut parts of their houses down in winter to maximize the heat from these heat sources. Indeed, in my own home, while prepping for our new kitchen I stripped plaster from the chimney and found the old stove-pipe hole.

The reason for the recent history of heat boils down (get it? Boils…anyway…) is the fact that not only do we have more appliances these days, but they don’t lay out the same way the old ones did making it a challenge to get the kitchen to keep true to the old house pedigree but work as a modern kitchen should.

To put a fine point on it, the issue often plays itself out not at the stove, but at the sink. See, any kitchen without a sink centered under a window that’s–roughly–in the center of the room calls negative attention to itself.

Kitchen Deisgn Solutions

The solution, after this long list of problems, is at once simple and complicated: move or alter the window. In the most recent kitchen I’ve done, I shrunk two double-hungs into a single casement window. This enabled me to shift the pluming the few inches I needed and changed the perceived center of the room. Now, unlike the old kitchen, the new kitchen not only has a modern range, but a dishwasher and counter space.

The cabinets can keep things like a vintage house. The appliances can help us lead a modern life. And the whole thing was the result of a simple design trick followed up by a lot of hard work.


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  1. 8 Responses  to “Kitchen Design Tip: Making New Kitchens Fit Old Spaces”

  2. Aug 29, 2011
    Yes these can be extremely tricky projects. The amount of space to work with is quite tight and, obviously, you still want to make sure the modern kitchens have all of the appliances built in.
  3. Aug 29, 2011
    Altering the windows might give more light, but not necessarily practical in all kitchens.
  4. Aug 29, 2011
    With newer kitchen designs, anyone would want to have that space that is convenient, functional, as well as stylish. With the changes you did, it sounds that your new kitchen now fits into your needs.
  5. Aug 29, 2011
    Remodeling an old kitchen can be difficult. I especially like the part about the window and the sink being centered in the kitchen. If you need to buy cabinets then i have to recommend
  6. Aug 29, 2011
    You have some excellent ideas for kitchens. That has been one of the recurring themes in my own life--looking for a way to make our bathrooms and our kitchen look really glorious, even though those rooms are much too small. One of the glories of the Internet, though, is that there is absolutely no dearth of ideas. Right now I have no idea of what I will ultimately do, but I keep hoping I will come up with something really slick.
  7. Dave
    Aug 29, 2011
    I've love to center the sink under a window in my home. Problem is, the windows in the kitchen are floor to ceiling, not conducive to being covered by cabinetry. My compromise: Frame an arched "window" into looking into the family room. Watching the kids play is almost as good a view, almost.
  8. Aug 29, 2011
    Thanks Will. It was the key to unlocking a kitchen design that would work. Sometimes the simplest (or maybe most obvious) things are the easiest to miss__
  9. Will
    Aug 29, 2011
    I like that initial thought of seeing if the window is centered with the window or not, all the kitchens now that I think back that I liked all had that characteristic...Guess it's something you kind of take for granted because when you are shopping for houses all kitchens kind of blend together...