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See this 109-year-old home's kitchen go from dark to dreamy

In Michigan, you’re often coming in the door with snowy boots on, so walking directly from the back entry into the middle of the kitchen is less than ideal. Add to that the fact that the kitchen in this lovely 1907 Detroit home had undergone a not-so-lovely renovation in the 1980s and hadn’t changed since. To fix these problems, the young homeowners wanted to put a mudroom addition off the back door and renovate the small kitchen to fit in better with the home’s age and architecture. But when Robert Zebrowski, a certified kitchen designer, came by for his first site visit, he had other ideas. Take a look at a new kitchen that feels like it’s always belonged here.

When walking through the home for the first time, designer Robert Zebrowski was inspired to turn the dining room into the kitchen, an awkward hallway and closet into a breakfast room and the kitchen into a proper entry-mudroom space. If you’re confused, don’t worry, there are “before” photos and floor plans coming up that will make it all clear. First, let’s look at the main part of the kitchen, which is about 185 square feet.

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A hardworking central island that incorporates the sink, dishwasher and trash and recycling bins occupies the center. A free-standing hutch is a big nod to turn-of-the-last-century kitchens, and details like the custom reclaimed walnut counter and hexagonal glass knobs add to the vintage feel.

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BEFORE: This is the new kitchen’s original space. It previously served as the dining room.

On some parts of the first floor, wood floors had been laid atop the original hardwoods. The team removed the extraneous layer and matched up new hardwoods where needed. Then all of the flooring was sanded and restained for a seamless look. The trim was also spruced up to fit in with the original millwork.

While Zebrowski handled the plans, layout and cabinetry, he and the homeowners worked with interior designers Krista Nye Nicholas and Tami Ramsay on the finishes, such as the light fixtures, backsplash and other details. Although he didn’t meet the designers in person until photo shoot day, everything worked out swimmingly. “It was a great collaboration,” Zebrowski says.

“This was a mix of ready-made cabinetry, custom pieces and splurges that balanced the budget,” he explains. For example, the honed Calacatta Borghini marble countertops were a special splurge, but the couple saved by choosing midpriced appliances. Another detail worth noting is the crown molding where the cabinets meet the ceiling. The tall cabinet to the right of the refrigerator serves as the main pantry space and is equipped with pullout shelves.

One of the most striking elements in the room is the hand-painted ceramic backsplash. The tiles bring warm colors and a lively pattern into the room.

The valance toekick detail was a custom touch the homeowners had seen online and wanted to include in the design. The cabinetry is inset with Shaker panels; the tall, narrow cabinets are simple slabs. They chose the cabinet latches, bin-pull hardware and exposed hinges to honor the home’s style and age. Long, narrow cabinets flank the stove, one for cookie sheets and trays, the other with pullout shelves for spices and cooking oils.

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Turn-of-the-last-century kitchens tend to be small and utilitarian, not like the busy family hubs they are today. When Zebrowski walked into the existing dining room, he realized it was the right space for the kitchen, and the homeowners jumped at the suggestion. Because there were two living rooms across the front of the house, he knew the dining room could be moved with ease into the space marked “Living Room” on these plans.

Without having to change the footprint of the house, he created a much better kitchen space and the new back-entry mudroom his clients desired. In between the two, a former butler’s pantry became a breakfast room that has banquette seating and additional cabinets. Another bonus was finding room for a half bath, something the first floor was lacking before.

BEFORE: This is the original breakfast room. Zebrowski knocked out the closet on the right and had this wall closed up to create the eating area.

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Here’s the new breakfast room that connects the mudroom to the kitchen. It’s about 60 square feet.

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BEFORE: Previously, the back entry opened right into the compact kitchen.

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Now the back entry opens into this lovely mudroom. The new armoire is a custom-made piece by Ayr Custom Cabinets. A new six-paneled door matches the historic architecture of the home, and new shiplap adds character to the walls.

“It was important to make the new kitchen fit the house,” Zebrowski says. The homeowners note that people never congregated in their old kitchen, but now it’s the most popular spot in the house.

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