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All good things take time—that’s an adage that Mary Fredrickson took to heart when it came to renovating her kitchen. Her St. Paul, Minneapolis house was built in the 1890s, but the cooking space didn’t reflect its history, and it wasn’t functional for her family of six, either. So, she tapped designer Bria Hammel to reconfigure it and bring it back to its traditional roots. And that meant relocating the existing kitchen into the basement for a year.

“We moved the cabinets downstairs and used those to store all of our kitchen goods during the renovation,” Fredrickson says. “It made moving back into our brand new, incredibly functional kitchen that much sweeter.” In order to start construction, approval from the Historical Society Association was necessary, which added to the timeline—but ultimately ensured that small details, like molding continuity and wood floor stain matching, were done right. Here, Hammel explains the biggest decisions that helped the once cramped and outdated space turn into a room the whole family could use and appreciate.

Small details balance modernity and history

Fredrickson didn’t want the kitchen to feel completely contemporary, but her aesthetic does lean towards more simple, understated styles. And since the room is along the north side of the house, she wanted it to feel “light and airy”—a feat accomplished by classic Carrara marble on both the countertops and the island, as well as a large, white porcelain sink. Plus, decorative drilling in diamond shapes lent a historic feel to simple white shaker cabinets, without feeling fussy or overdone. 

The true stand-out, however, is the built-in range hood, which Hammel designed with Fredrickson’s minimalist sensibilities in mind. The resulting feature is made out of sheetrock topped with plaster, with rounded corners softening the otherwise dramatic effect. 

An unexpectedly “neutral” green tied it all together

Fredrickson admits that she wouldn’t have picked green cabinets—in Southern Vine by Benjamin Moore, to be precise—but they quickly became one of her favorite details. “The color has a neutral feel thanks to its slightly gray undertone,” Hammel says. “It doesn’t feel alarming or out of place in a home of this age.”  The hue fit in so well that they chose to use it throughout the rest of the home, using it to paint all the millwork of the breakfast nook, first floor bathroom, and fireplace.

A total reconfiguration made the room more navigable 

Sometimes, a few walls need to come down to create a little more breathing room—in this case, one that divided the living room and kitchen. This made space for the family to all move around the space together, but making a somewhat open floor plan in a historic home required some strategy. To make the formerly separate rooms feel cohesive, Hammel installed a wooden beam on the ceiling that extends through the kitchen and into the living room, which mirrored beams that already existed in other parts of the house like the dining room. “It made it feel like the spaces were always configured this way,” she says.

Before courtesy of Mary Fredrickson

The existing kitchen island also proved to be a challenge—in spite of its large surface area, it was so bulky that the family had a hard time all fitting around it. So, they scrapped it for a more functional, narrower one. “I can’t even tell you how many times we measured the island,” Hammel says. “We worked down to the quarter of the inch to find the perfect size for the space.” It needed to be deep enough to store pots and pans, but slim enough to make family cooking sessions feasible. 

With more room for moving around, the kitchen quickly became a place where the family could easily convene—and not just for mealtimes. “My husband even talked me into installing ceiling speakers,” Fredrickson says. “We have dance parties with the kids almost every evening.”

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