NRV Magazine Plantation kitchen remodel
One Heavy Kitchen Remodel – updating the heart of the home in an 1850 structure
by Joanne M. Anderson, March/April 2014
Whitethorn shrubs grow well in Virginia and provide refuge for birds year-round. Lovely, off-white, bell-shaped flowers emit a lovely fragrance from evergreen bushes which can grow as high as 15 feet. It was from these attractive plants that Whitethorn Plantation got its name.
Built on 22,000 acres in what is now Blacksburg, the brick plantation house was completed in 1850 by James Francis Preston, grandson of Colonel Preston of Smithfield Plantation. The structure was constructed with locally-made brick resulting in 17-inch thick walls. The property had numerous outbuildings, one of which included the food preparation and cooking area. Thirty-three years later, the property sold to a family which has maintained ownership to this day.
In the 1920s, an old porch was converted into a kitchen in the house, and the basement was dug. Though the kitchen had been updated occasionally, current owners Kenneth and Anne decided not only to bring it to modern standards, but also to restore it in a manner which fit into the historical home. Well- acquainted with period architecture and the house’s structure, the owners, along with Scott Gardener of Glencoe Museum and Rick and Diane Hyatt of Atmosphere Builders, developed a plan.
“At some point, the kitchen ceiling was lowered from its original 11 feet to about eight feet,” explains Rick Hyatt. “I suggested raising it as close as we could to the original height. The lower one didn’t reflect the quality and character of the home. The final design also incorporated three rooms into the spacious new kitchen, and therein laid a huge challenge: those 17-inch thick walls.”
“We engaged Truesdell Engineering to provide structural design so several sections of load-bearing walls could be removed,” explains Hyatt. “We would install I-beams for new supports. In the midst of the project, some 40,000 pounds of brick and the second story exterior wall of the house was being held up temporarily. Insulation, electrical and plumbing were all brought up to current code, and the finished kitchen blends seamlessly with the period antique furnishings throughout the home and the mid-19th century architecture.”
“This kitchen forms the center of family activity and entertaining,” Hyatt continues, “and the island, measuring 11 feet by 54 inches, provides the perfect food prep and gathering spot. Painted cabinets are solid maple with inset doors and drawers. A farm sink, bridge faucet, pot filler faucet, double ovens, induction cooktop and pop-up, downdraft ventilation create a functional and attractive space.”
“The result is more beautiful than we imagined,” states Anne. “We are so pleased with the work done by Atmosphere Builders and its professional employees.”
To create an unbroken backsplash, Hyatt’s team tucked light switches and outlets under the upper cabinets, which have LED lighting under them. Video, Internet and phone connections are also incorporated in the hidden housings. The entire kitchen exudes class with porcelain tile flooring, custom crown molding and homeowner dedication to keeping an historic structure, listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register, updated for generations to come.