Renovating a Kitchen in an Old Home

Kitchens were once workplaces designed to be hidden from living and entertaining areas. Today, parties often gravitate there.  

Kitchens have undergone a transformation to become open, airy hubs of the home. Owners of older homes often put a kitchen renovation at the very top of their wish lists because their outdated spaces no longer support modern lifestyles or cooking/food prep technology.

We have built many wonderful, modern kitchens in old homes (including our own). Many of the factors that give old homes character can create some unique challenges. Just a few of the special considerations include:
•    Out of level floors and walls that are not plumb
•    Framing members making it difficult to accommodate venting
•    Inadequate insulation, plumbing and electrical systems
•    Very low or very high ceiling heights
•    Unusual floor plans

Here’s how we met those challenges in a recent renovation for a family of four living in an 1850 home in Arlington, Massachusetts.


Arlington MA Kitchen Renovation

The kitchen was part of a wing that was separated from the main home. The room was quite small with numerous doors and openings breaking up the floor plan. Storage was very limited.

MA kitchen renovation before floorplan resized 600

Before Kitchen Floor Plan

Our client wanted an open layout to unite the dining room and kitchen, as well as the front and back of the home. The family wanted the look of the kitchen to be consistent with the rest of the house.


Renovating MA kitchen

Space previously allocated to a basement stairway and back pantry was incorporated into the kitchen. The new kitchen straddles a new addition and the existing home, creating an interesting challenge.

Modern framing sizes are different from those used a century ago. A new addition must adhere to current framing requirements. This means that the kitchen would have a different ceiling heights in different parts of the space unless we were clever with design. Instead of meeting in the middle of the kitchen, where the old and new sections of the house abutted, we decided to drop the existing ceiling down 2”, where the flooring surface changed in the foyer of the existing house. This way, ceiling height and flooring made a logical transition at the same place.

Arlington MA first floor plan after resized 600


Historic home kitchen renovation

kitchen remodeling progress photo

These shots were taken while we were finishing the kitchen and don’t fully capture the island with ample seating or pocket doors to the living room, but we hope they give you a sense of the finished space (professional photography will be coming soon!). We used traditional 6/6 (number and pattern of the lites) windows; a farmer’s sink; classic white cabinetry; Cambrian Black Antiqued Granite countertops and a Montauk Black Slate floor “runner” between the island and sink counter. These features help us to maintain the traditional comfort and character found throughout their home.

Our clients were happy to report the addition and renovation exceeded their expectations and fully met their goals: to build a home that fits with their current lifestyle with the traditional look and feel of the past.

Coming soon! Paul and Karen Morse’s personal story of their traditional to modern transformation.

Tags: Massachusetts remodeling, kitchen renovation, Massachusetts renovation, historic renovation

Arlington, MA Home Renovation Update: Final Installment

deck on Arlington, MA home renovation

This is the final installment in our monthly chronicle of a major historic home renovation and addition project in Arlington, MA. Our goal was  to go beyond "Before & After" photos to outline the many steps that go into a major renovation behind-the-scenes. The first installment laid out the scope of the project. If you missed it, you can read it here.


We began this major renovation project in the fall and completed in the spring. The homeowners have moved all their belongings back and are slowly unpacking and settling in. The kids are happy to be back home. They are waiting to have their friends visit until they have completed the transition.

The owners chose wonderful colors. When we walk into the house we feel welcomed and warm. When I asked if their home feels like they were hoping for, there was an unequivocal and resounding ‘Yes!'”

For a detailed description of some of the changes made, please read our February and January 2014 posts, as well as our 2013 posts in December, November and October. We're pleased to share a few of our own shots of the finished project. We look forward to sharing professional photographs, to be taken later this summer, after our son's wedding at the end of June.

If you have any questions, we welcome comments on our blog. If you would like to discuss a renovation for your home, please give me a call at

-- Paul Eric Morse

Arlington MA kitchen remodel

Arlington MA kitchen remodel scouting shot

Arlington, MA historic renovation

Arlington, MA bathroom remodel

shower in arlington, ma bathroom renovation

Tags: Massachusetts remodeling, Massachusetts renovation, Arlington MA home renovation