Vintage Homes and “Renovations” – Where Do You Stand?

My husband and I recently watched an episode on HGTV of Home Renovations. As a devout old house fan, I have to say, I was, well, infuriated by the program.

The show had a (very) young and inexperienced first time home buyer looking for a Spanish style home in a Los Angeles neighborhood. She had the neighborhood picked out because she wanted to remain in proximity to her mother and twin sister. She found one she liked, a smallish 1930 stucco home with tile roof and the inside had most of its original features intact.

The kitchen was so charming!


The kitchen had burgundy and creamy pink four-inch tiles on the counters. Sweet cabinetry. There was even an arched (tiled!) recess designed for the refrigerator. It needed cleaning and perhaps paint and flooring, but it was so homey and beguiling, I fell completely in love and so did the young house hunter.


The ‘designer’ she hired to help her came in and completely bulldozed over this woman. He had an ‘expert’ show up and measure the lead content of the tile and (naturally) it was found to be in excess of current allowable levels. Okay, I can (almost) go along with this.

The designer completely demolished the kitchen

My first thought was that he would simply remove the original tiles and replace them with modern tiles of the same or similar color palette and same design but with no lead. That is NOT what he did.

He completely demolished the kitchen, taking it down to the studs. Solid wood cabinets with original hardware—gone. The beautiful burgundy and cream/pink tiles—gone. The tiled arched recess—gone. In its place he squared off the space and painted it whatever wall color he decided on.

He then put in plain cabinetry with black lacquered doors, a farmhouse sink, and (I believe) sage green glass subway shaped tiles on the ‘backsplash’. My question is, why didn’t he listen to her and simply re-create the kitchen she loved so much, with contemporary tiles that were lead safe? Well, he didn’t listen to her. On the floor he put large (approx.) 8×16 inch tiles that looked a little bit like wood. Her mother said, “So large?” He replied, “I like the larger tiles. It makes it in keeping with the vintage look.”  Say what?!


another vintage kitchen, before…


vintage kitchen, after idiocy-after

In short, the designer put in a kitchen that he would like. He didn’t give the young home buyer the kitchen that she wanted. She very clearly wanted the one that came with the house.

Not everyone in the world is looking for the same kitchen


With today’s designers there seems to be one mold that all rooms are supposed to fit into. The same materials are used. Read: stainless steel, granite, ‘farmhouse’ sinks (I’ve never seen an apron front sink like that in any farmhouse, and I grew up in farm country).

Not everyone in the world is looking for the same kitchen, created in the same mold by a designer who thinks he/she knows better.

Now the young woman has a charming vintage Spanish style home with a 2016 kitchen that sticks out like a sore thumb and looks just like every other kitchen that was ‘reimagined’ by a designer in that year.

What are your feelings on kitchens in vintage and historic homes?


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