Reader Question: Mixing Old and New Cabinets

THE BRYANT HOUSE Well it's time to answer the final part of Miyuki's reader question about the Bryant House kitchen: mixing old and new cabinets.

Here's a quick reminder on what she asked:

"My husband and I own a small home in LA, and looking to remodel our kitchen.  I love what you did on the Bryant house kitchen and I'm wondering if you can tell me about how much it ran you and in general, how do you budget for a kitchen remodel?

"We have a galley kitchen with very poor storage space.  Our cabinets are old, but I think we can salvage some of them so long as we can find a way to make the new ones match the old which is why I like what you did with the Bryant house.  Was it hard to make the cabinets somewhat match each other?

"And using butcher block is exactly what I want to do in ours too (my husband thinks I'm crazy).  Is Maple the standard wood you would go with, or would you suggest other wood qualities to consider?"

I strive to keep as much of the original home in tact as possible when doing a remodel - for both charm and cost reasons.  So whenever there are solid wood floors, a cast iron sink, or great original cabinets, I say keep them.  Of course this can get a little tricky. Old cabinets are usually only 20" deep (instead of modern 24" deep cabinets), which is too shallow for a dishwasher.  The countertops are usually placed lower than the current day 36" standard height and uppers tend to be so close to lowers that you can't always fit a coffee maker in between.  So let me say it again.  If there are great original cabinets in your kitchen, I say keep them...if they don't interfere with the goals of your kitchen reno.

The Grit and Polish - Original 1926 Cabinets with New Clamshell Pulls.jpg.jpg

We were able to accomplish this at the Bryant house when we saved the old cabinet bank on the south wall of the kitchen.  These cabinets feel like a built-in hutch and luckily were built without appliances or plumbing, so we were able to keep the original charm without making them work with modern-day dimensions.  And how great is that window sitting smack-dab in the middle, letting in oodles of natural sunlight?!

The Grit and Polish - Bryant House Original Cabinets

The west and north walls of the kitchen, however, were full of flimsy, cheap cabinets from a mid-century remodel with a layout that didn't work for us - and couldn't have really worked for anyone, ever.

Original Kitchen Photo

We designed custom cabinets for the 'L' shaped kitchen, and removed the wall to the right of the kitchen (see above photo) that separated the dining space from the kitchen, letting in even more natural light into the space.  

The Grit and Polish - White and Bright Kitchen Renovation at the Bryant house.jpg

To integrate the new cabinets with the old, we had a cabinet builder replicate the door and face dimensions of the original cabinets.  To keep the new cabinets from looking too 'new', we hand-painted them leaving brush strokes in the finish like those seen on any original cabinets - after all, they didn't have paint sprayers in 1926.  We also added the same butcher block countertops and hardware to both the new and old cabinets.  I'm pretty happy with the results!  Although the new and old cabinets are noticeably different (perhaps not on your first glance, but definitely on your second), they don't scream mis-matched.  Plus keeping all those old cabinets kept our renovation costs down, which should always be a kitchen reno goal!

What do you guys think?  Would you ever keep any of the original details during a kitchen renovation?



p.s. A bit of whimsy in Nashville.

p.p.s. Mint Milano cookies were a staple of my childhood.  I'm embarrassed to admit that my sister and I could down a bag of those in a evening.  Needless to say I can't wait to try this homemade version!

p.p.p.s. Check out this cool house tour.