The homeowners wanted to tie a modern kitchen into the historic nature of their home. | Photo by Margaret Rajic

Denise Hauser has been working on kitchen, bath and interior design for 20 years, and the process never gets old for her. She works throughout the Chicago area but has a soft spot for projects that are close to home. A recent redo in her Oak Park neighborhood was designed to suit the house, its owners and the way people live in their kitchens today.

Hauser said her clients were looking to make the kitchen in their 100-year-old house function better for their family. She said, “It was a really nice kitchen that had been done about 20 years ago. It was nice aesthetically but not functionally.”

Much of the space was allocated to a large banquette, and not enough space was assigned to the working portion of the kitchen. Like a lot of homeowners, these clients didn’t necessarily want to add on to their house. They just wanted the space they had to live better.

Hauser said the first step was to rethink the entire room. “We moved everything around,” she said. “We kept the same footprint but did structural work to remove two big posts that were chopping up the space.”

New windows on the back of the house flood the room with light, and a large island offers plenty of storage and a rounded bump out that perfectly fits a few barstools for casual dining. A floor-to-ceiling pantry greatly added to the family’s storage.

Beyond function, the homeowners were looking for a kitchen that tied into the historic style of their home. Hauser remarks, “We were really set on taking it back to the age of the house.”

To that end, she employed decorative details that evoke an earlier time. Beadboard details, and X-shaped inlay in cabinets and leaded glass in the pantry doors are elements that might have been in the home originally. The wood cabinets were modelled on an original built-in cabinet in the home.

An apron-front sink, brass cabinet hardware and light fixtures add to the old-world feel.

A colorful William Morris wallpaper is another detail that Hauser said works with the home. “In an historic district, you always want to return it to what it could have been originally.”

This kitchen is reflective of an overall movement in kitchen designs according to Hauser. “We’re seeing a return to maximalism — that’s really repeated in this kitchen,” she said.

Indeed, there are four colors used in the millwork alone. The pantry cabinets are painted a rich raspberry hue, the top cabinets are a subtle khaki color, the bases are a powder blue and the range hood is painted black.

Hauser said that bold use of color not only hearkens back to the period when the house was built, but also one of the homeowners is an artist and the kitchen reflects the colorful nature of her artwork that hangs in the kitchen.

“We’re really seeing a return to color, mixed metal finishes, wallpaper, pattern and more detail in design,” Hauser said. She said that a lot of people are seeking out a more vintage look in home design.

As an experienced designer, Hauser knows it is important to incorporate the personalities of her clients as well as of their homes when designing a space, and she is delighted that this kitchen suits the owners and their home.

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