When her spouse suggested moving to a home with an elevator, a Beacon Hill lover of cooking and antiques replied in no uncertain terms that she was not moving anywhere unless she could bring her kitchen table with her.
Which was no small thing because the table is a long and heavy 9-foot 3-inch antique kitchen work table, one that resembles a cooking table one might see on Downton Abbey. As the couple’s son fondly remembers, it has served for years as the center of the family’s social life and its beautiful patina shines from love and use.
When architect Brigid Williams was brought on board to renovate the 1830s home they eventually decided to purchase, she realized right away that this family lives in the kitchen, and that the table needed to continue its important placement in their new home. So, she designed the new kitchen around the beloved table.
Guests on the fifth annual Creative Kitchens Tour will be able to see just how she did this. The Tour is a rare opportunity to view distinctive, unique kitchens in Beacon Hill and Back Bay private homes. Sponsored by the Beacon Hill Village, this fundraising event will be held on Saturday, April 7.
The original kitchen was on the garden level; to one side was a sitting room with pink wallpaper for the maids to rest. Still partially intact, the original cooking hearth with a Glenwood cast-iron gas range and a large soapstone sink remained.
When the couple purchased the home, there was a small galley kitchen on the entry level, close to the living and dining rooms. Williams likened it to a 19th century butler’s pantry.
“The kitchen had probably fallen out of use when there were fewer and finally no servants to carry the food up and down the stairs,” she said.
Williams moved the kitchen and dining room back to the original garden level, now more accessible due to the installation of the much-desired elevator. Both rooms were designed around the owner’s favorite pieces of antique furniture; along with the family table are a crockery rack and two tall cabinets (one of which conceals a television.)
The furniture nicely shows off her pottery and folk art, examples of which are scattered throughout the kitchen. The tall cabinets hold her collections of brightly colored ceramic spongeware and mochaware pitchers and mugs. On the table are wooden fish decoys once used in ice fishing.
It is a very efficient kitchen, laid out for someone like her who loves to cook. Daylight streams through the windows. Pots and pans hang from the antique rack over the island to welcome family members and guests into the food preparation space. The stove, sink and refrigerator, concealed in the largest cupboard, are within an arm’s reach. While preparing the food, the cook can easily chat with those sitting at the long table and elsewhere in the room.
The location of the table inspired the complete transformation of the garden level. A wall of glass, including a door, was installed to fill the room with natural light and provide a view of the new stepped terrace and garden beyond.
“Although this kitchen embodies several very modern principals – no servants, family living space merged with the cooking space, streamlined functionality – it might also seem reasonably familiar to the kitchen staff who occupied this house when it was first built in 1830,” said Williams, pointing out the large sturdy table, traditional style of the cabinetry, soapstone countertops that look 100 years old and two fireplaces.
The kitchen is one of two designed by Williams that will be showcased that day. Co-founder and principal of Hickox Williams Architects, she will speak at the Heart and Hearth Luncheon preceding the Tour about ‘Who and What’s in the Kitchen in the 21st Century…and where is it?’ She will share her thoughts, experiences and stories about kitchen design, technology and the people who bring a kitchen to life.
Tickets for the Tour, which takes place from 1 – 4 p.m. on April 7, are $50 in advance and $60 on the day of the Tour. They may be purchased at the Hampshire House at 84 Beacon Street and the Hingham Institution for Savings at 80 Charles Street.
The pre-tour luncheon will be held at the Hampshire House from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. The cost is $135, which includes the Tour ticket, and is payable in advance. Proceeds from the Tour and Luncheon will benefit Beacon Hill Village. A complimentary cocktail reception will be held at the Hampshire House from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.