For most people looking to remodel their kitchens, little consideration is given to what the original owners of the home would’ve liked. It’s more about what the current trends are, the latest and greatest technology in appliances and their own tastes and style. But for Katie and Jeff Bullard, principals of Avenue B Development, LLC, renovating the kitchen in one historic
Austin home required a trip back in time.
Once a jewel in the affluent Judges Hill neighborhood, the Brady House had sat empty for 20 years before it was finally put up for sale. “We put an offer on it the day it was listed,” says Katie Bullard. “Austin has a limited historic inventory where houses are concerned. And this one was one of the most spectacular houses we’ve seen.”
Bullard and her husband, the driving forces behind Avenue B Development, have been working together for more than 10 years. While Jeff’s background is in construction and remodeling, Bullard holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in architecture as well as a professional certification in historic preservation. Together, the duo has recreated livable masterpieces throughout Austin.
The Brady House, a1910s Arts and Crafts style home, was yet another opportunity for the Avenue B team to tackle the challenges of paying homage to the past while employing the luxuries of today. And in no other room is it tougher to do than in the kitchen.
While the rest of the house was stripped clean of most of its sheet rock and had remained in a state of reconstruction for two decades, the kitchen was the one room the previous owners had tackled and completed. Unfortunately, it may have been better left alone.
“It was relatively small and didn’t maximize the space. It was also the one area that didn’t have the original hardwood floors or the original windows,” says Bullard. But Bullard didn’t perceive the situation as a problem. Instead, her experience and historical knowledge kicked in to create the perfect kitchen.
“I wanted a modern take on a turn of the century kitchen,” Bullard explains. Her goal was to have hints of a traditional kitchen of the era, but she also wanted it to be modern for functional purposes. “We demolished the countertops and cabinets, then moved the peninsula to the opposite side and reoriented the cabinets,” she says. “By moving it, we gained 50% more in cabinet and counter space.”
In addition, the Avenue B crew relocated the pantry into the breakfast room area. They also built a corner window seat in the breakfast room and introduced a wine refrigerator and wine cabinet on a previously unused wall. “We actually turned the whole backside of the house into the kitchen and breakfast room,” Bullard says.
Reclaimed oak that had to be remilled down to one and a quarter inches was brought in for the flooring in an effort to match the character of the floors in the other rooms. Wood window frames with wavy glass were also installed to recreate the original look of the home. Custom-made, birch wood, shaker-style cabinets by ivercity Cabinetry were mounted with open-faced, glass doors.
And then the fun part could begin: choosing the colors, materials, lighting and appliances.
Subdued colors with a more industrial look would have been the norm for a circa 1910 home. With that in mind, Bullard opted for a soft gray as her main color, along with white countertops. “We painted the cabinets a light gray and kept the uppers glass which created, I think, a great dynamic. Traditionally, there wouldn’t have been a decorative backsplash, maybe a white backsplash at most. However, we chose a great beveled arabesque tile by osaic Tile & tone and then we used a gray grout so it would stand out,” says Bullard. “The countertops are honed Carrara marble that would’ve been traditional during that time period.” Bullard says that while today’s standard countertops are usually granite, the marble is more porous, so it stays cool and is great for baking and rolling out dough.
The Bertazzoni 36” gas range was also chosen with much thought. “The stove is a reproduction of a vintage-style stove. The lines and feet are similar to what the Brady’s might have had, but this one still has all the modern amenities of today,” she says. With a hint of an industrial feel, stainless steel appliances, including a Frigidaire Pro® series refrigerator, were also employed in the kitchen.
“We decided on a deep, single basin, farmhouse sink with a white apron front,” says Bullard. “And in the breakfast area, we wanted to bring in something industrial looking. From Barn Light lectric, our central lighting is made of galvanized steel. It plays off of the grays in the kitchen and is very interesting.”
But perhaps the most interesting piece in the kitchen is something one would not normally focus on. “We wanted a custom-built vent hood,” Bullard shares. “We painted it the same color as the cabinets and installed white tile all the way up on either side. It turned out great. It does serve a purpose, but I also think of it as a piece of art more than anything else.”
And Bullard is right; the beauty of the piece cannot be lost on those fortunate enough to visit the newly renovated Brady House. But then the entire kitchen speaks of beauty; a timeless beauty that would be just at home in the 1910s as it is in 2013.
By SUE-ELLA MUELLER
Urban Home Magazine, February 2013