By Babs Rodriguez
Photos by Grant Daniels
Respect for the sprit of a historic home and an eye for modern efficiency result in a kitchen filled with pragmatic beauty.
Amber Patterson and Meredith Snider briefly considered that their house on Fort Worth’s Elizabeth Boulevard was not destined to be their familiy’s forever home. But the couple quickly realized that they’d be hard-pressed to find anything better located — or with better bones — than their 3,300-square-foot Italian Renaissance house in the desirable Ryan Place neighborhood. The homeowners, who enjoy cooking and entertaining, decided that transforming the outdated kitchen into a more functional space would be a game changer. That’s when they called interior designer Christine Zeiler.
The kitchen plan segued into a remodel of the entire 1920s house. “It was like that book If you Give a Mouse a Cookie: If you’re going to do the floors, you might as well paint, if you’re going to paint, you might as well…. Soon we were discussing every room in the house,” the owner of Christine Zeiler Interiors says.
The open, streamlined style of the home grew out of Zeiler’s determination to reinvigorate the kitchen while both honoring the historic feel of the house and meeting expectations for a dream pantry and a central island. “The clients cook a lot,” she says, “so, they had pragmatic requests but not a lot of design opinions. They gave me lots of freedom.”
Two specific asks involved color. The original kitchen’s wood floors had been painted with a red-and-white diamond pattern by previous owners; the bright pop inspired Meredith’s wish for red cabinets. Amber, on the other hand, expressed a desire for a white kitchen.
“I was quick to run with Amber’s request for white cabinets,” Zeiler says, “but I also wanted to give Meredith some red. It’s important to me as a designer that I create spaces that not only function well but that also reflect the best version of my clients.” The designer envisioned using a red Persian rug as a kitchen runner, but she knew that wasn’t going to be enough.
Brick fireplaces in the home first made Zeiler think a solution satisfying to all parties would be to use a red brick veneer as the kitchen’s backsplash. “Both women were instantly in love with the idea,” Zeiler says. She was equally pleased. “I had originally tried to suggest a whitewash over the bricks, but I came to love the red hues in the bricks.”
In the demo stage of the renovation, Zeiler’s choice was reconfirmed. “We uncovered an old chimney upstairs where we were creating a laundry room addition; the brick was almost identical to the brick veneer that was purchased for the kitchen.” She ended up exposing the original brick in the laundry room. That upstairs look tied into the kitchen, where a laundry chute that Zeiler left standing to hide plumbing was reimagined with brick veneer. “The laundry chute bump-out was always in the kitchen, but we made it look like a chimney that was original to the house.”
Shiplap was added to the newly open kitchen as a compatibly rustic component, as were antique doors found at Simple Things Furniture Company and recreated as sliders. The doors help define the newly open room, created from merging two rooms, the original kitchen and an office/sunroom. On the footprint of what had been a kitchen overlooking the backyard, Zeiler installed a butler’s pantry, what she calls a “dirty kitchen.” The prep-and-hide space is ideal when the family is entertaining: Any mess disappears behind the sliding doors. At one end of the space that is just inside the back door, the designer incorporated cubbies and hooks for coats, purses and backpacks (the couple have three young daughters). “The drop station keeps the kitchen island from filling up with stuff. It also provides additional storage space for cleaning supplies,” the designer says.
Storage is the key to happiness in the heart of the kitchen, too. The wish for a pantry has been generously granted as a floor-to-ceiling pullout, and space for pots, pans and lids is built in under the cooktop. The island the homeowners long imagined floats in the center of the one time office, and it includes storage, too. Pendant lighting illuminates the workspace, which doubles as the family’s kitchen table. Clear acrylic counter-height chairs have modern good looks with brass bases.
The homeowners thought brass an ideal counterpoint to the black refrigerator they planned to keep. Zeiler likes brass, too, but felt in a historic home everything shouldn’t be bright and shiny. For the plumbing fixtures, she suggested going with an unlacquered brass that develops a patina over time. “It feels like it has the right fit, a vintage feel compatible with the age of the home,” she says.
Wall sconces sourced from Rejuvenation have a raw brass finish that will patina also, but Zeiler used a brass ager solution on them because they arrived shiny and take longer to darken than a faucet that is constantly being touched.
Zeiler matched the black fridge with a black double oven and microwave but went with stainless for the dishwasher, wine refrigerator and cooktop. A custom vent hood in aged steel bridges the two looks and plays off the black soapstone countertop. “The soapstone was a historic fit that looks great and pulls in the black-painted window sashes. But for a lighter note, I chose quartz for the kitchen island.”
Of the finished kitchen, Zeiler says she feels she met her goals of creating a space that reflects the couple’s style, their love for cooking and entertaining, and the deeply personal feel of a family nest.
“The kitchen is a very important space for Meredith and Amber,” Zeiler says. “I kept the home’s historical feel but updated it to feel more clean and crisp. But it still feels lived-in all the best ways.”