In Washington DC in 1925, a kitchen consisting of a gas stove, a four-foot-wide countertop, and a sink was all most people really wanted or needed. In fact, it was such a standard that the cooking areas were usually hidden, under the stairs. But fast forward almost a century and, well… you’ll start to see the problem. “Now that we have all these other devices, we need to expand this very limited footprint,” says interior designer and architect Nicholas Potts. The neoclassical 1920s townhouse in the Petworth neighborhood that his last client had purchased during the pandemic was this classic case of a small kitchen under the stairs.
While the house had been rented for some time and had undergone top notch renovations, no one had ever thought of changing the location of the kitchen until Potts came on the scene. Looking into the nearby conservatory, he saw an opportunity to move the whole space, with the help of a contractor Impact construction, maximizing the ceiling height and using the area under the stairs for a new powder room bathroom. It was a win-win plan.
The breath of the past
Even though Potts introduced a new plan for the house, his client was adamant that the kitchen looked like it had been there for 100 years. The two were inspired by traditional English kitchen design (the owner had lived in London for some time before) and sought to make the cupboards look more like furniture than anything else. This is the reason why you won’t find a swarm of upper cabinets.
“It’s all low,” Potts notes. The peninsula that stems from the structural wall where a set of French doors once stood is meant to resemble a free floating table. “It was really about thinking about it from the perspective of not so much today, but yesterdayhe adds (but with the convenience of a microwave drawer and wine fridge, which have been tactfully tucked away).
The hardworking pantry
The main exception to the low storage plan is the floor-to-ceiling section of pantry cabinets, located on the side of the house where the previous kitchen was. Potts incorporated a butcher block ledge in the center so his client had a place to store and use countertop appliances (toaster, coffee maker, stand mixer, etc.) behind closed cabinet doors. Her trick in any kitchen that lacks upper cabinets is to go for deep, stacked drawers. This way you can easily load them with large mixing bowls and other bulky equipment.
The clever painting illusion
Look closely at the walls and you will notice that they are not as white as they appear. In fact, they are blue. The color, dubbed Pale Powder by Farrow & Ball, coats the walls, ceiling and moldings of the kitchen and helps to enhance the dimensionality of the rich, almost black millwork, according to the designer.
The touch of the craftsman
Potts commissioned a custom cabinetmaker to build the new storage to make sure the cabinets didn’t look like they came straight out of a factory (they’re so precise you don’t see any seams between the frames). Splurging on a bespoke design also meant he could have complete control over the dark paint color. The latches are from PE Guerin in New York, who have been making pieces by hand since the 1850s. olive and bits of citrus discoloration are welcome.
While Potts started thinking big by moving the entire kitchen into an entirely different room, he also thought about the finer details, like brass switch plates, outlet covers, and vent panels. “If you do something from a certain period, those little things make space,” he says.