It’s not the kind of project designers see every day. Craig Couture, a kitchen and bath designer at Cypress Design Co. in East Providence, was gobsmacked when clients walked him through their centuries-old home in Newport. Built in 1750 and not far from Narragansett Bay, the historic home once belonged to a Colonial-era sea captain. “The home features simple woodwork that has subtle details and the sort of character that only comes with a home of this age,” explains Couture.
Naturally, the homeowners sought to keep the integrity of the home intact when considering a new kitchen, but they also needed 21st century functionality. “[They] wanted the new kitchen to fit the period of the home, as if it had always been there,” says Couture. “The homeowners were looking to gain function, storage, and an aesthetic that fit the character of the home – and most importantly to save the wallpaper!” In fact, the homeowners were so charmed with the existing rooster wallpaper, it became the renovation’s inspiration.
Couture says the homeowners had an overall sense of the color palette and how they needed the kitchen to function, but they turned to him to put all the pieces of their puzzle together to create a cohesive space. It was important to the homeowners for the kitchen to feature natural materials – nothing that would not have existed in the 18th century. An apron sink was an obvious choice, and custom fabricated natural soapstone countertops were made by Discover Surfaces in Millbury, Massachusetts. The homeowner also added something extraordinary that’s become the anchor of the space – a custom island built with their own two hands. Other eye-catching elements include a marble backsplash, antique brass hardware and a bridge faucet.
And that rooster wallpaper? A good portion of the original was saved in a mudroom area Couture designed. But the kitchen was so reconfigured, there was no way to keep it intact. So they had it replicated.
“This involved having photographer Denise Bass photograph a section of the wallpaper and then piece the photos together to create a high-resolution image to the scale of the wall where we would be installing the paper,” explains Couture. Next they color-matched, and then meticulously compared the scale, color, and texture to the original. Once approved, custom wallpaper was ordered and installed.
Couture says any homeowner looking to renovate their kitchen should start with how they would like it to function. “Don’t settle for something that bothers you but you can live with. Really consider colors, design styles and your goals for the space before contacting a designer,” he advises. “If you do this, it will really help the designer personalize a space for you.”
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