Preserving the past, building the future since 1996.

Updating Your Victorian House?


Contact us for authentic Victorian period design, preservation, restoration, renovation and remodeling services.
Italianate  House Drawing: Victoria Heritage Foundation.

We specialize in updating period homes while preserving the feel, style and craftsmanship of the historic era. We can seamlessly incorporate a modern kitchen, bath or addition into your Victorian home.

Reproducing A Victorian Kitchen

J. M. Edgar, JD, CMC

Go into your kitchen and remove all the prepared and processed foods in your cabinets, pack them in boxes and move them to the dining room. Now, pack up and remove all the small appliances. You can keep any staples (flour, sugar, salt, dried beans and legumes, pasta, coffee, tea and baking powder), and spices.

If you have potatoes or onions in your root cellar, you can keep those as well as any fresh produce or meat in the fridge (for purpose of this experiment, renamed the "ice box"). Now consolidate those in as few cabinets as possible. How many did you need? One? Two? Not many.

This illustrates one of the principal problems in reproducing a Victorian kitchen. We have to store many more foodstuffs than the Victorians even imagined could exist.

Storage was very basic in a Victorian kitchen, because there was not much to store. A Victorian kitchen would have a lot of overhead racks for pots and pans, and hooks and open shelving for cookware and dishes. There was little need for food storage. The food to be consumed in a day was purchased, or picked, or slaughtered that day. Only a very few staples were stored for more than a few days: flour, sugar, salt, and perhaps lard, baking soda and some home-canned vegetables — essentially the same basics that had been kept on hand since Colonial times. Add to these the very few factory processed canned goods and bottle sauces and condiments, and we have all of the food likely to be in a Victorian kitchen. By modern standards, not much.

We also have to do something with electric appliances that the Victorians did not have. Electrification was available in just a few major urban areas even as late as the turn of the 20th century. But, there were as yet no practical electric appliances to speak of, and would not be for another twenty years. Electricity, where it was available, was used mostly for lighting.

There were appliances, all sorts of clever appliances, just not electric appliances. In fact, Victorians were the ultimate gageteers, game for just about any new gizmo that someone could dream up. Victorian kitchens were filled with all manor of labor-saving devices, all, however, hand-powered. The major appliances in the late Victorian kitchen were the ice box, to keep food cold; and the stove to replace the venerable hearth. For most of the period coal and wood provided fuel for cooking. Only late in the period did natural gas ranges become available in cities. Sinks and faucets in the kitchen were also something new. Indoor

o, now we have identified the design challenge. Planning a kitchen to look authentically Victorian yet include modern storage, appliances, functionality and convenience. One the one hand, we do not want to do without dishwashers, refrigerators and modern ranges, and we want to include the design efficiencies of a modern kitchen — but we don't want it to look modern. We want it to look Victorian. But, Victorian kitchens did not have refrigerators, dishwashers, range ventilation or modern cooking equipment. So, how to reach a balance?

Whatever solution we come up with has to meet the basic rules for kitchen design, or the kitchen will not be acceptably functional, and it has to include a necessary convenience that Victorians did not have — electricity.

Victorian Kitchen Furnishings


A Victorian kitchen did not have built-in cabinets, it had furniture. The furniture provided work surfaces and places to store food and utensils. The essential furnishings for a Victorian kitchen are a large central work table, kitchen dressers and larders, supplemented as needed with safes, drawer chests, shelving and hooks.

The Kitchen Dresser


In Victorian times, dressers were not just for bedrooms. Kitchens had them too. The name derives from one its original use as a place to arrange or "dress" meals before serving. Dressers were a common feature of better-equipped colonial and Early American kitchens. They were often used to store, and sometimes display, dishes and cookware. Eventually they moved into the dining room and evolved into the china hutch.

The Victorian versions were usually more involved than the simple, open shelf dressers of the Colonial era. The step-back upper cabinet was often enclosed with doors, and the larger lower cabinet commonly fitted with drawers. There were, however, many variations, some less and some more elaborate. The Hoosier-style cabinet, possibly the moste elaborate dresser of them all, was almost a kitchen unto itself (See sidebar). Once fitted cabinetry became popular, dressers fell out of favor, at least on this side of the Atlantic. In the U.K. they are still fairly common items of kitchen furniture.

Larders, Pantries and Safes


Dried and canned food was stored in larders. Before refrigeration, meat and other perishables that needed to be kept free of insects were stored in "safes". The tight-fitting doors kept insects and other critters out. Safes are still being produced, and there are many available in antique stores. Reproductions are often made with pierced tin panels, which allow cooling air to circulate inside the safe. Few of the originals were made with pierced tin panels, except in the Deep South where the feature originated.

Larders are were what we now call pantries. In the 19th century the word "pantry" had a different meaning (see "Pantry Perfect for more information.) The larder was sometimes a separate room, often located on the cool side of the house or in the basement to store perishable food before refrigeration became common. More commonly, it was built as a stand-alone cabinet full of drawers and shelves that had a home somewhere in, or immediately adjacent to, the kitchen.

The Central Worktable


The centerpiece of any Victorian kitchen was its work table. It was the main work surface and was located, if space existed, in the middle of the kitchen. If there was not enough space, it was pushed against one wall.

It was usually massive — as large as the size of the room would allow — with thick turned legs and a heavy top. The top was originally wood, but as the Victorian concern with sanitation and hygiene grew, the top would have been covered in some sanitary material, such as zinc or oil cloth. It should have drawers on both long sides for convenient storage of small utensils, and some were outfitted with bins for flour, sugar and so on. Under the table, for additional storage, would be baskets, shelves or drawer chests. Supplemented pan and pot hooks overhead, this was often all the storage needed in even a busy a Victorian kitchen.

In a Victorian household, it is likely that most meals were eaten at the kitchen table. Only the main meal, usually at noon, would be eaten in the formal dining room. Breakfast and evening supper would be taken in the kitchen on the multi-purpose work table.

In the original kitchen, the table would have been just chair height. It was common in Victorian kitchen to sit down while preparing meals, because it took many hours of shelling, shucking, peeling, dicing, slicing, apportioning, measuring, weighing, combining, blending and mixing. Today, most of that work is done for us at the food factory. So our table should probably be counter height so it is convenient for work while standing.

If a table won't work, replace it with a central island, but make the island look as "table-ish" as possible, including using legs, even if they are fake.

Cabinetry in a Victorian Kitchen


A Victorian kitchen should not look built in. Built-in cabinets came much later to American kitchens — not becoming common until after 1930. Use as few built-in cabinets as possible in a Victorian kitchen, and make the few that are included look more like furniture than built-in cabinets.

Door styles should be mixed and matched for the desired effect of making the cabinetry appear to be free-standing. Vary the leg styles as well, for the same purpose.

Avoid duplication. You want the cabinets to look like they were added at different times as the family's needs grew and changed..

The furniture effect is further enhanced if the cabinetry is given more than one finish, some stained, but most painted. Painted cabinets rule in Victorian kitchens. Stained wood can be used, but should be used sparingly. White was considered the "sanitary" color, but usually not bright, appliance white, but a softer off-white. White may be mixed with other pastel colors to good effect. As long as the colors complement each other, even three or four different finishes can be used.

The one semi-modern cabinet that does look completely at home is a Hoosier-style step-back cabinet combining base and wall cabinet in one integrated (or apparently integrated) unit. These cabinets provide scads of useful storage. Hoosiers are not actually a Victorian cabinet. They were marketed only at the very end of the Victorian period and did not become widespread until the Arts & Crafts era. But, while Hoosiers were uncommon in Victorian kitchens, dresser cabinets were very common, and Hoosiers are an advanced form of the dresser cabinet, so they work well in Victorian kitchens. For more information on Hoosier cabinets, see Arts & Crafts Kitchens.

Work Surfaces in a Victorian Kitchen


Victorian working surfaces were slate, soapstone, wood or zinc. Individual work tables or Hoosier cabinets might have enameled steel tops. In fact, zinc and "porceliron", a type of enamel steel similar to that used on modern cooking ranges, are more or less the defining work-surface treatments of the era. Copper also works well, and was fairly common during the period, but mostly in upscale homes. Manufactured stone or stone-look laminates would also be convincing if they look like slate or soapstone. Corian®-type solid surfacing is not appropriate. Tile should be used sparingly. It works best if it mimics stone.

Mix and match countertops and other work surfaces, some zinc, some stone, some wood to give more of a furniture feel. A mass of countertop in the same material extending the length of the cabinetry is not the effect we are looking for. We have also seen concrete countertops used to good effect in Victorian-style kitchens. But you have to be careful with this material. It should look like stone. If it looks too much like concrete, it seems out of place.

For more information on the various countertop materials available and the pros and cons of each, see New & Traditional Countertop Choices.

Victorian Kitchen Flooring


The hygiene movement encouraged homeowners to use sanitary surfaces in their homes. Flooring was of particular concern. Christine Frederick, a pioneer home economist of the late Victorian period summed up flooring choices for the "modern" Victorian kitchen this way …
"The floor covering of a kitchen should allow complete and easy washing, the surface should not be covered with any porous material which will absorb or stain with grease. Linoleum, tile and a new cork material very restful to the feet are the best coverings; wood is too porous and turns dark and ugly with washing …"
Christine Frederic, The New HouseKeeping New York, Doubleday, Page & Co., 1913
Many contemporary flooring materials are not appropriate for Victorian kitchens, but most natural and traditional materials work well. For a complete account of flooring suitable for kitchens and baths, see Flooring Options for Kitchens & Baths.

Wood as Victorian Flooring


Wood flooring was not a favored material until very late in the Victorian period. At the beginning of the era wood floors were usually unfinished, oiled or waxed, and did turn gray with frequent washing and "holystoning" — scouring with a block of soft and brittle limestone. (Anyone who served aboard ship in the pre-1980 Navy or Marines is quite familiar with the process which was used to clean the wooden decks of the Navy's warships. Between frequent scouring, salt water and often fierce sunshine, ship's decks were often so glistening white, people though they were painted).

Wood floors became more common once durable enamel paints were available. But, only very late in the Victorian age did stained and varnished floors appear as paint companies began to offer tougher, longer lasting varnishes. The dark floors you see in old houses is not the result of wood stain. It results from a darkening of the finish over time and embedded dirt — although wood stain is often used today to replicate the look.

It was common to paint or varnish the floor once a year in conjunction with Spring or Fall cleaning — an major event in the days when the smell would permeate the house for days, and varnish or floor enamel took up to a week to harden.

The hardwood floors of this period were typically oak, chestnut, or maple. Maple was particularly popular for kitchen floors due to its closed pore structure. Unlike the ring porous woods — oak, chestnut and elm — it did not easily absorb spills. Toward the turn of the century, straight grain Douglas fir became the wood of choice, first in kitchens, but then working its way into into other rooms.

Wood floors were relatively expensive because their installation was very labor-intensive. Before the invention of the electric floor sander, floors were planed by hand using large floor planes and scrapers. It was back-breaking, time-consuming work. Once the floors were smooth enough, they would be given several coats of shellac. Shellac, however, is a problem finish in a kitchen. When it gets wet, it turns cloudy. So, to protect the shellac, floors were waxed. One advantage of shellac is that it can be removed easily with alcohol and re-applied (which means it can also be damaged easily by alcohol). The varnishes available late in the Victorian Era stood up to more wear and abuse, but, if damaged, the floor had to be planed or sanded down to bare wood, a much more burdensome process.

Linoleum: The Victorian Miracle Material


Genuine linoleum was the original sheet flooring material, first patented by Englishman Frederick Walton in 1863. Although some people still call all sheet floors "linoleum," the real thing is quite different from petroleum-based sheet vinyl floors that are the modern replacement for linoleum. Its name derives from its main ingredient, linseed oil. (In Latin, linum is the word for linseed and oleum means oil.) The oil is boiled, mixed with melted resins, and combined with powdered cork, wood flour, ground limestone, and other natural materials. Mineral pigments provide the color. This mixture is formed into a durable sheet by applying heat and pressure. In the later half of the 1800s, linoleum would have been the first choice for an upscale "modern" Victorian kitchen.

Cork: The "Green" Kitchen Flooring


Many people believe cork to be a relative fragile material and are surprised to see cork listed as one of the original Victorian flooring materials. In fact, cork used in flooring is very robust and has a long history as a resilient flooring going back to the first half of the 19th century. It reached its peak in 1927 when 2.9 million square feet of cork floors were sold. It is very durable. The cork floor in the lobby of the Department of Commerce building in Washington, D.C., installed in 1930, is still in use today, as is the cork floor specified by Frank Lloyd Wright for his "Waterfall" house in Pennsylvania.

Cork was not only the first, but is in many ways the best resilient flooring for a kitchen. Due to its unique cellular structure (about 2.4 million air-filled cells per cubic inch), cork is a very resilient floor. It has a little "give" and feels soft to the foot. Yet it is extremely tough and durable. Modern finishes give cork a high level of protection from dirt and chemicals, and cork is naturally waterproof. Its cellular structure prevents it from absorbing water, which is why it was the original material for fishing bobbers and life vests. With proper care, cork floors last 100+ years, and if damaged, can be easily repaired, although most cork afficianados don't bother — a little scratch or gouge just adds to the patina.

Cork is also the "greenest" flooring available. It is completely sustainable and renewable. Cork is the bark of the Cork Oak tree. The tree, grown predominately in Europe and North Africa, has a life span ranging from 150-200 years. Cork is harvested using methods that have remained virtually unchanged since the uses of cork were first discovered. Once the tree has reached maturity (typically 25 years), the first harvest of cork bark is removed from the tree. The process is repeated at intervals of nine years (the minimum interval required by law), at no time affecting the health of the tree. During each harvest, no more than 50% of the bark is removed, allowing the tree to protect itself using its natural defenses.

Cork floors are even "greener" because they are made from waste — cork left over from making wine corks, ground into small granules and baked under pressure in molds at varying temperatures producing shade variations in the finished tile product. A dye may also be applied, but most of the color you see in cork is just the result of baking. The cork slab is then cut into slabs, smoothed and finished with several applications of polyurethane or some other durable coating. The coating adds to the natural resistance of the cork to dirt and stains. Damp mopping with a mild detergent is all that is required to maintain a cork floor. Cork does not stain easily nor ever require cleaning with harsh and unhealthy chemicals.

Ceramic & Stone Tile: The Durable Victorian Flooring


Ceramic tiles are okay, if not strictly to period. Ceramic tile that looks like natural stone, and, of course, natural stone tile is better, particularly if it is somewhat rough. Flagstone and slate would be ideal, if a little difficult to care for.

Stone tile includes granite, marble, slate, and limestone as well as a huge variety of exotic stones. Some varieties, such as granite, are practically indestructible, while others are vulnerable to scratching, cracking, and other wear. (Imperfections, however, may make a stone floor more attractive.) Some stones commonly used for countertops, such as soapstone, are too soft for use on a floor.

The disadvantage of natural stone and unglazed tile is that they need a surprising amount of regular maintenance. Stone needs to be kept clean and dry, and it needs to be re-sealed regularly. Manufacturers usually recommend that it be sealed annually, but it may be necessary more often in high-traffic areas — as often as every three months in a busy kitchen

Typically stone floors would be oiled or waxed. Today's modern stone sealants would work as well, last longer, and require re-application less frequently. Some tile makers offer tiles that look like slate and stone, but have a ceramic glaze which never needs sealing and is virtually maintenance free other than brooming and an occasional light mopping.

Mouldings in Victorian Kitchens


We commonly see ornate compound crown moldings in recreated Victorian kitchens. Actual period kitchens rarely had them. The idea has been imported by kitchen designers from more public rooms where ornate molding were almost required. This heavy crown treatment also assumes you have a typical 9 or 10-foot Victorian ceiling. If not, then some aesthetic adjustment must be made. Crown moulding is appropriate, but simple crowns are best.

Base molding can be more complex. A deep moulding is really not optional. Early horse-hair plaster wall seldom reached the floor, and the gap between wall and floor was hidden by mouldings. Base mouldings should be deep, at least 6", and at least 3/4" thick. Nine to 12 inches is better, and usually requires a compound, multi-part molding. By contrast, modern base molding is usually just 3/8" thick and not more than 3-1/4" high. Chair rails are rare (unless incorporated into wainscot), but picture molding, usually incorporated into shelving, can be used to hang pans and other kitchen implements at or slightly above eye level.

Moldings are what gives a Victorian room its characteristic look, so don't skimp. Wide mouldings as window and door treatments are the norm to complement the wide, sculpted base board.

Victorian Sinks and Faucets


Victorian technology mastered the art of applying glass to cast iron, and delighted with this achievement, used this sanitary enamelware throughout the house. Cast iron tubs in baths were the standard as were cast-iron sinks in the kutchen. They also learned to plate brass with nickel. Nickel, unlike brass fixtures, did not tarnish and did not require weekly polishing. Nickel was replace by more durable chrome at the beginning of the 20th century. But for most of the Victorian era, nickel was the king of faucet coatings.

Victorian Kitchen Sinks


Sinks set into cabinets of the type found in modern kitchens were rare in Victorian times. Most kitchen sinks were attached to the wall and supported by cast iron legs. To keep water off the wall, the sinks were usually cast with tall backsplashes. These sinks are ubiquitous in architectural salvage yards in the Midwest, and not hard to find. Cast iron with a thick, durable enamel coating, these typically nothing more than a pumice stone and a little elbow-grease to restore them to pristine condition.

The problem with this sink, however, is that it provides no place for storage. So, for the modern reproduction kitchen, the sink is often set on top of a cabinet — a technique that actually works fairly well and does not depart so radically from traditional Victorian kitchen as to jar the eye or sense of appropriateness. Another solution is to use the modern analog, the farmers or farmhouse apron-front sink. These have become the go-to sink for Victorian renovations although they were not usually found in urban homes during Victorian times. A great variety of these sinks is available, and require neither cleaning or restoration before use. Farmhouse sinks can also be mounted under countertops while traditional wall-mounted sinks cannot be — at least not without a lot of modification.

A copper or zinc sink is also a good choice. Copper sinks were set into cabinets to provide the support that the thin copper or zinc sheets did not provide. The advantage of using copper today is that the sinks are widely available and readily fabricated by small-scale artisans who can make them to any size or specification. Zinc is harder to find, but most copper fabricators will venture into zinc on request. Copper is a maintenance-intensive material if the desire is to keep it new looking. Most owners just let it tarnish and enjoy the patina of a well-aged copper sink. Zinc is virtually no-maintenance. It will typically darken over time, but the well-seasoned look of zinc is more attractive than the industrial look of new zinc, so most owners just let it the sink age naturally.

Victorian Kitchen Faucets


Kitchen faucets in styles suitable for a reproduction Victorian kitchen are easy to find. Originally cold and hot faucets were separate. The water mixed temperatures in the sink. The hot water dispensed by the faucet was often scalding hot, and dangerous. Such faucets are available from foreign suppliers, but they are illegal to install in a dwelling anywhere in North America. They can only be installed in museums. Modern two-handle faucets mix the water inside the faucet before dispensing it into the sink. These are much safer and preferred. Single handle faucets were not invented until the 1940s, and there is no true Victorian analog. Nonetheless, a number of companies make single handle faucets in styles more or less convincing as a Victorian kitchen faucet.

All of the major American faucet companies like

(For more information on faucets in general, including what features and qualities to look for when purchasing a faucet, see Faucet Basics. For reviews and ratings of over 100 faucet brands, see Faucet Reviews and Ratings).

Victorian Kitchen Appliances


Modern appliances tend to look out of place in a Victorian kitchen — more so than is the case with any other kitchen style. We cannot do without them, so special efforts need to be made to make them fit in. Still, there are ways in incorporating modern appliances without destroying the special look and feel of a period kitchen. Essentially these boil down to four approaches.

Original Period Appliances


Directory of Antique Appliance Restorers

Click any Column Label to Sort
NameCityStateTelephone
Antique AppliancesClaytonGA(706) 782-3132
Antique Gas StovesLos AngelesCA(909) 484-2222
Antique Stove HeavenLos AngelesCA (323) 298-5581
Antique Stove HospitalLittle ComptonRI(401) 635-4896
Antique Stove Restoration of Dallas DallasTX(972) 525-0537
Antique StovesTekonshaMI(517) 767-3606
Belgrove Appliance YonkersNY(914) 664-5231
Buckeye Appliance StocktonCA (209) 464-9643
Bryant Stove & Music BarnstableMA(508) 362-9913
Canadian Antique Stoves KasloBC(250) 353-9648
Carolinas Antique Appliances Los AngelesCA(323) 780-2810
Dream Stoves Valley SpringsCA (209) 754-4100
Erickson’s Antique Stoves LittletonMA (978) 857-8014
Good Time Stove Co. GoshenMA(413) 268-3677
Homestead Stoves CentraliaWA(360) 736-5188
Mill Creek Antiques PaxicoKS(785) 636-5520
RMR Company San DiegoCA(619) 231-2808
Sarah’s Antique Stoves BradfordVT(802) 922-6676
Vintage Appliances & Restoration TucsonAZ(520) 326-6849
Weiss Antique Stoves LaramieWY(307) 760-4969
List courtesy Old House Journal
The first is using an actual period appliance. Some Victorian appliances can be used in their original form, or modernized with new innards to keep the look of the period with the convenience of modern functionality.

Gas ranges fit nicely into this category. The technology of using natural gas to produce heat has not changed much in 140 years. All it takes is a supply of gas, and a burner. The modern burner is not very different from the burners used 140 years ago. The big improvement is that modern burners are sealed so that any spills stay on top of the stove instead of migrating inside.

The other significant change is the safety and reliability of ignition. Today we use electric ignition. Our grandparents used kitchen matches or a pilot light — not nearly as safe. However, it is not a difficult process to add modern electric ignition and sealed burners to a period stove. It's a little more complicated to modify an old range to use electricity, but again it is possible. We much prefer, however, to stick with gas. Gas cooks better (which is why almost all professional chef stoves are gas) and is more authentic to the period.

If the range needs restoration, dozens of companies recondition old appliances. For a range, reconditioning means taking it apart, sandblasting and cleaning, inspecting, and repairing or replacing gas valves, and thermostats. Pilot lights and thermostats need to be calibrated to meet modern codes. The interior will usually get new insulation and gaskets.

Reproduction Appliances


The second alternative is to find a modern appliance that looks like it could have been around in the 1920's and 30s. There are such things, but they're not made by GE, LG or Amana; or, in fact, any other appliance maker you have ever heard of. They are made by small companies like Big Chill and Elmira Stove Works. Some reproductions are totally convincing. Some less so. Modern ranges and wall ovens with 1890s styling are virtually indistinguishable from the original, and fit right into a Victorian kitchen. The differences are apparent only when the appliance is in use and the modern electronic controls and ventilation systems are exposed.

Other appliances like dishwasher panels and microwaves are less successful. Nothing makes a microwave look like it belongs in a period kitchen. The best solution for a microwave is to hide it in a cabinet. Similarly, a retro dishwasher panel looks like … Well, we're not really sure what it looks like, but it does not look like it should be there. We suggest using reproductions for ranges and ovens, and leaving dishwashers and microwaves to be handled by hiding or disguising the appliance.

Disguising & Hiding Appliances


Which brings us to our third approach: disguising. This approach works well for dishwashers. Modern dishwashers can be hidden behind panels that match the cabinetry. Many dishwashers are designed to accept a wood panel insert to match the cabinetry.

Refrigerators are more of a problem. They are simply much too large to look convincing in a Victorian kitchen, so we try to move them out of the kitchen into an adjacent pantry or mud room where possible. But if this is not possible, they should be wrapped with cabinet wood both to minimize their bulk and to disguise their modernity as much as possible. For more information on wrapping refrigerators, see Kitchen Remodeling on the Cheap. We have also resorted to building them into a closet.

Using Modern Appliances


The final appliance option is to simply use modern appliances. Ok, it's not strictly to period, but, so what? A kitchen is not a museum. It needs first and foremost to be fully functional. Style comes in at a distant second. If it takes modern appliances to get to full functionality on your remodeling budget, so be it. If any of your family, friends or neighbors are offended by your lack of pure historic authenticity, ban them from your kitchen. There, problem solved.

One big advantage of staying with strictly modern appliances is that they are a lot cheaper. Most of the restored antique and retro-look appliances available on the market cost two or even three times the price of a non-retro-look equivalent appliance. So, sacrificing a little authenticity for a leaner budget is, for many homeowners, a sterling idea.

Another advantage is that since the 1970s modern appliances have been made to standard measurements which fit modern standard cabinetry. Antique appliances usually do not and special accommodation must be made for their use.

Most Requested Feature in a Victorian Kitchen


Since 1900 the meaning of the word "pantry" has changed. Today it means a place where food is stored, and usually refers to one or more cabinets or a closet adjacent to the kitchen.

In the late Victorian age the room where food was stored was the "larder". The pantry was a serving area located between the kitchen and dining room. Often it was not much more than a wide hallway equipped with ample countertop space and, commonly, a sink. Typically the butler would fetch the cooked food from the kitchen, dividing it into serving portions, arrange it on dishware invitingly, then serve it. The pantry usually had swinging doors at both ends which helped keep kitchen noise, heat and odors away from the diners.

With the simplification of house design that occurred during the Arts & Crafts period of the early 20th century, the butler's pantry was largely eliminated and replaced with built-in cabinetry inside the dining room for storing dinnerware, linens, glassware and silverware — all the things formerly stored in the pantry. Improvements in cooking technology, such as the natural gas or electric cookstove made isolation of the kitchen from the dining area much less important to dining comfort.

Today the tendency is to call any walk-through pantry a "butler's" pantry, but this term is not strictly correct unless it includes a counter-height set-up and serving area, and possibly a small sink. In a modern household, the serving area makes a convenient landing zone for loading groceries into the pantries — at least until you finally get around to hiring a butler.

For more information on pantry design, see Pantry Perfect: The “Can't Go Wrong” Pantry Design Rules .

The Victorian Bathroom


The Victorians invented the modern bath with running water, porcelain fixtures and a flushing toilet. And to celebrate their inventiveness, proceeded to add as much fuss and detail as they could to the room. Victorian bathrooms, especially in England and the Northeast United States were elaborate fanciful rooms.

It's easy, and an oversimplification, to view the Victorian Bathroom as yet another example of Victorian excess. They were indeed often opulently decorated, particularly in the homes of the well-to-do, where the bathroom was often as much as showplace as the main parlor. But, in fact the overwhelming theme of most Victorian era bathrooms was comfort. They were, in many ways the most comfortable baths, designed for luxuriating and relaxing. The large rolled-edge bathtub almost demanded a leisurely bath with lavender oil and a good book.

The focus on comfort translates well to today's Victorian home — and even to homes that are not the least Victorian. Sleek, sanitized functionality may have held sway in American bathrooms for the past 100 years, but homeowners seem to be returning to the cozy bathrooms of the past as a place to relax, refresh, renew and shed the cares of a busy and stressful day.... more »


© StarCraft Custom Builders • Rev: 05/13/15



Need to learn more about designing, planning and building a kitchen? Try these articles:


  • Adapting a Kitchen to a Budget
    A terrific kitchen does not have to break the bank. We may have to get creative and even make a few compromises, but you will end up with a wonderful kitchen that will serve your needs for years to come.
  • The Bathroom Revolution
    The role of the bathroom is changing rapidly. The importance of the bath in our homes has grown dramatically. Spacious rooms, closeted toilets, double bowl lavatories, whirlpool tubs, and recently large walk-in showers have found their way into our homes. No longer just a functional room, the bath is becoming a retreat. How can you modernize your bath into one of these gracious rooms? Find out here.
  • Behind the Scenes — The Hidden Kitchen
    Behind the beautiful new cabinets, under the sparking countertops, beneath the gleaming tile floor are the invisible bones and sinew that make the kitchen work - electricity, venting, heating and plumbing. Find out all that's needed behind the scenes.
  • Cabinet Basics
    Oak, maple, hickory, ash, cherry. Faced and unfaced. Framed and frameless. Custom, semi-custom and manufactured. MDF, Melamine, Thermofoil, even steel. So many choices. How do you pick the cabinets that are just right for you? Click here to find out.
  • Creating More Bathroom Space
    Our fondness of open spaces within the home doesn't end at the bathroom door. Unfortunately the acreage needed to create that spacious feeling just is not available in many older bathrooms. Often the key to updating a bath is creating more space — or at least the illusion of more space. This article examines where additional space can be found both outside and inside your existing bathroom.
  • Designing Efficient and Effective Kitchen Lighting
    The kitchen uses a lot of energy for lighting. While remodeling your kitchen, you have the perfect opportunity to create a highly efficient lighting system.
  • Finding Some More Kitchen Space
    Learn where to get more space, or at least the feeling of more space for your new kitchen.
  • Flooring Options for Kitchens and Baths
    Wood, stone, vinyl, ceramic tile, laminated flooring. What are the pros and cons of each? Learn the fundamentals of kitchen flooring.
  • How to Measure Your Kitchen
    All the steps required to measure a kitchen explained and illustrated. Learn to measure like a pro.
  • Mise en Place: What We Can Learn from Commercial Kitchens
    Organized to prepare a large variety of appetizing meals at a moment's notice, we can learn a lot about kitchen efficiency from studying commercial kitchens.
  • New and Traditional Countertop Choices
    Is solid surfacing, laminate, stone or tile your best choice of counter top? Or maybe something more exotic. Take a look at the incredible selection of modern counter top materials.
  • Off the Wall Kitchens: Living Without Wall Cabinets
    Wall cabinets are unquestionably useful storage, but with drawbacks. A major disadvantage is that wall cabinets make a kitchen seem smaller by closing in the space at eye level — which is where we subconsciously judge how large the space around us is - and limit the number and size of windows in the kitchen. Can your new kitchen do away with wall cabinets? Probably. Find out how.
  • The Rules of Bathroom Design
    The Kitchen and Bath Association has published guidelines for designing a safe and functional bathroom. Created and maintained by a panel of expert designers, these recommendations should be closely followed in any kitchen plan.
  • The Rules of Kitchen Design
    In 1944 the University of Illinois conducted a study of kitchen design and developed fundamental design principals that are still very much in use today. Here are the rules for designing great kitchens.
  • Selecting Bath Fixtures
    The choices of bathroom fixtures are a little overwhelming. Tubs, showers, sinks, faucets and toilets come in so many shapes, sizes, colors and with such a great variety of features that choosing the right fixtures can be a challenge. Here are some guidelines and suggestions.
  • Sources of Supply: Faucets
    Thinking about buying a faucet? Before your do, see our list of major faucet manufacturers with ratings and guidelines on what to look for and how to select a good, lifetime faucet.