About Me

Growing up in a small New England town with a mother who was an antiquarian it was inevitable that I would be exposed to old things. After graduating from UMass/Amherst I lived in Connecticut, taught school, married, and raised three children in suburbia. A move to Newburyport MA renewed my interest in all things old. This background has now evolved into research, writing, consulting and all the things I love to do.

Prudence Fish

Saturday, February 28, 2015








Prudence Paine Fish


Now that we had agreed that the working kitchen would be in the lean-to along with the first floor bath and laundry we were facing the challenge of creating a kitchen that worked for us both in terms of efficiency and aesthetics. Nellie had drilled it into our heads that there should be a continuity between rooms, an easy flow, and a psychologically pleasing transition of color, style and pattern and materials as one passed from one room to another.

After the removal of the old half bath and other
walls this is what the lean-to looked like. There
was not much to save except the outside walls.
We abandoned our original idea of trendy, contemporary, light colored laminate cabinets. (In retrospect, how could we have considered this?)  We now settled on pine cabinets with raised panels that made more sense. 
The kitchen cabinets were raised panel pine.  Today they might seem dated
but I still believe they were appropriate for the house.  We finished them
Mexican tiles with a charming handmade look covered the wall space between the counters and the overhead cabinets.

The slightly irregular Mexican tiles for the backsplash with an occasional painted
strawberry avoided the slick look of modern tiles. They have a handmade look.
A large multi-paned window was installed at the driveway end of the kitchen where we envisioned a spot for a small table and chairs.    
This view from the loft shows the initial progress in the new kitchen as seen
from above.
Here the cabinets have been hung on the back wall.

Here is the same view in the finished kitchen.
The woodwork was pine, the floor also pine. The floor was new by necessity. New floors would be stained and finished. All original floors would be painted. In this way we tried to please the future buyer who adores pine floors and also please someone with a more purist mindset by painting the original floors.  The new floors can always be painted and the new kitchen does now have a painted floor.

At the far end of the kitchen was the bath/ laundry combination.  Above this area we created a small loft accessed from the second floor.
Under the loft is the door to the newly created bath/laundry. The new Velux
skylights can be seen in the ceiling.
This modern kitchen would have a cathedral ceiling with two large Velux skylights. The two back doors also had small panes of glass on the top two thirds. This kitchen would be bright and sunny

For appliances we chose a Jennair stove with convection oven that vented downward. The dishwasher was Maytag, the sink double stainless steel with a single control faucet. This was before the days when granite and stainless steel appliances dominate kitchens and would become the standard by which a kitchen is judged.

Track lighting filled the illumination needs. The counter tops were a neutral Formica.
The downstairs bath received an imitation quarry tile floor. The pine vanity had a terra cotta Formica counter top. The shower stall was fiberglass.  

There were hook-ups for a washer and dryer in front of the sealed up door in the Beverly jog. Nellie came “over the road” with a small print wallpaper from Old Stone Mill (no longer in business)  for the bathroom walls.

This completes a description of our new kitchen. We maintained the pine of the adjacent area, provided good equipment for 1981 and an easy transition to the next space, the colonial period kitchen/family room.
Here is the finished back wall of the kitchen with double sink and Maytag
dishwasher.The finish on the cabinets was truly a pine finish.  The old photo
suggests that the cabinets were dark.  They really were not any where near that dark.
Best of all we had confined the equipment, appliances and modern functions of a working house to the added lean-to without invading the period rooms. Our mission to keep the original rooms as pure as possible was accomplished.  
The finished kitchen with antique toys in the loft.
Looking at these old photos makes me realize how much harder this would have been today.  Some decisions would be based on codes and requirements of the town.  That goes without saying.  More troublesome is the realization that the expectations of today's home buyers puts modern amenities and trends ahead of preservation.  What seemed like a nice kitchen at the time might well be rejected now as would the small but serviceable bathroom upstairs in the space of the old bath.  There has been no space relegated to a master suite with en suite master bath or Jacuzzi!  There have been no walls removed that were original, the windows are true divided lights and not insulated glass.  It would be difficult to be a preservationist and make the decisions necessary for today's market.

I'm glad this was completed in a simpler day and age!

Now that the "modern amenities" have been dealt with we will continue with the restoration of the 18th century rooms in the next installment.


  1. Interesting how conventions in kitchen design force so much upon us. That is why all kitchens are looking the same--you can only tell the year from the cabinet doors and the material of the counters. I have lived in two places without typical kitchen cabinets, an old house in New Haven, and my current apartment in Taipei. I really don't miss the cabinets; most of their utilitarian value is made up with shelves, which I find more convenient anyway.

    I am impressed with your sensitivity in saving and restoring the old large kitchen--so often historic kitchens are demolished because "we had no choice." By the way, I just added Antique Houses of Gloucester to my favorite blogs list on Road to Parnassus.

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