Giving your Home a new Option

Before & After: A Thoughtful Kitchen Remodel Balances Flourish and Function in a Portland Victorian

Designed by well-known Oregon architect William Christmas Knighton and completed in 1902, this house was built in anticipation of the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition. “The way that it’s oriented on the lot, the front of the house doesn’t actually face the street. It faces what was the view down into the valley below, which is where the fair was in 1905,” says interior designer Stephanie Dyer of Dyer Studio. 

Last year, Dyer was brought in to overhaul not the front of the house but the back. The owners are a couple with three children, and they needed a more functional kitchen that matched the scale and style of the original home, as well as a mudroom that could actually store stuff. 

Before: Exterior

Before: The house was built in 1902, in anticipation of the world’s fair held in Portland in 1905.

Dyer squared-off the bay window to gain space inside the kitchen, making sure to add windows that seamlessly fit with the existing units.

Dyer was immediately taken with the house’s historic character. “There are just beautiful volumes and details throughout the whole home, such as trim details that I’ve never seen anywhere before. It’s just a very special home,” says Dyer. Her studio proposed a new kitchen and mudroom plan that primarily utilizes the existing footprint, only much more effectively. 

“I come from a historic preservation background and ethos,” says Dyer, noting that a prior architect that the homeowners consulted suggested blowing out one side with an addition to get the space needed for a more functional kitchen. “It’s really important to me to not just come in with a sledge hammer and knock down everything,” says Dyer.  

Before: Dining Room

Before: The dining room had an existing niche with original wood wainscoting. The door to the right was the only connection between the kitchen and dining room.

Dyer allocated the entry to the niche, saving and reinstalling the woodwork. It frames a beckoning view of the kitchen, as well as the striking new windows over the sink.

Inlays in the red oak floor mark the new threshold. 

Dyer’s remodel plan excised space from the existing home wherever possible. For example, the team removed the kitchen’s dropped ceilings to reveal ten-foot-high ceilings that sync with the rest of the home. When a wall oven was pulled out, Dyer and team discovered unused space behind it. Additionally, an old chimney within the wall was removed. 

“It was a nice way to access a lot of space without doing a major addition,” says Dyer, who felt that an addition would “not be as sensitive to the period of the home. I wanted to see what we could do to make the space feel bigger within essentially the same footprint.” 

Before: Kitchen Entry

Before: The door between the kitchen and dining room, from the kitchen side. Note the unique curved casework, which Dyer retained, or recreated in the new plan.

Before: The bay window created unused space below it, that was too shallow and in the main circulation path to be of any use.

Relocating the entry further down the wall created room for a banquette with display shelving above. The scalloped detail at the shelf ends is something that Dyer introduced and which is repeated throughout, in honor of the home’s Victorian origins.

The team squared-off the bay window to form a new bump-out, which made room for the banquette to extend along the wall.

To start, the clients requested a white kitchen that contrasted with the colors found in the rest of the house. “I really liked the idea of this bright white space in the kitchen that you would see through the very saturated color of the dining room,” says Dyer. To that end, the perimeter is lined with white cabinetry, stone counters, and simple white tile. 

Dyer then introduced color and contrast with a bright blue stove and a bespoke island stained black. In order to reference the home’s original details, the team wove in a subtle, repeated motif of curves and scallops, from the scalloped edge on shelving and the counter, to the coved ceilings that match the dining room, to the rounded niche of the stove. “There were all these curves,” says Dyer. “I wanted to bring that language into the kitchen.”  

Before: Kitchen

Before: The kitchen had probably been updated in the 90s. The pillar of drywall bisecting the counter is where the chimney was located. Removing the chimney necessitated updating the furnace and water heater, which previously vented through it, but doing so made it possible to utilize the space it occupied. 

Before: The design team discovered unused space behind the wall ovens and refrigerator.

Before: “The kitchen definitely did not match the special quality of the rest of the house,” says Dyer. 

Per the clients’ request, the kitchen skews to a predominantly white color palette, with the bespoke island providing contrast. 

The color of the BlueStar range references the dining room. 

The walls were gently rounded at the stove alcove and inset niches hold supplies.

The team added a bank of windows above the sink to flood the room with light. The ceiling pendants are from Allied Maker and the stool is the Cherner Counter Stool from Design Within Reach. 

Removing the dropped ceilings had a dramatic effect on the perceived size of the room. “I think the ceiling height alone changed how that space felt,” says Dyer.

Dyer was inspired by all of the original curved details throughout the home, and wove subtle references into the kitchen’s design, including the scalloped detail in the stone counter and backsplash, the curving walls of the stove alcove, and at the coved ceilings. 

Dyer Studio custom-designed the island with a black-stained white oak wood base and a walnut and soapstone counter that curves at both ends. 

Before: The mudroom had very little dedicated wall space for storage, so became a hotspot for clutter.

Relocating the kitchen door and changing the windows to high, small units created much more space for storage.

Dyer designed a designated niche for keys and mail by the exterior entrance.

There’s now a storage locker for each member of the family. They sit atop a platform made of stained oak, like the kitchen island. The cabinet maker customized the molding detail to match the width of the pulls.

The bold pink hue was picked in collaboration with the client. “She wasn’t afraid of color,” says Dyer, who paired it with a deeper burgundy shade for the doors.

Interior Designer Stephanie Dyer in the completed project.

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