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How to achieve custom cabinetry that mixes
valuable antiques

artkit4.jpg (43656 bytes)Who would have thought that on the threshold of the 21st century, the most coveted new kitchens look to the past rather than the future. Instead of robots and sleek star ship interiors, we want comfortable very personal kitchens that make us think of Norman Rockwell holidays at cozy farmhouses and rambling Victorians. And that’s true even if we live in big cities or manicured suburbs.
Fortunately, today’s designers understand these yearnings well and interpret the looks of past centuries to create charm galore and yet not sacrifice one iota of the efficiency we expect from a kitchen of the 1990’s.
“We do it with custom cabinetry that mimics valuable antiques, stone or tile floors that look as if they were quarried from ancient mountains and caverns, hand-painted ceramic tile with a touch of innocence, and yesteryear’s deep color of natural wood finishes,” explains Mark Bernard, a noted California designer and a partner in Rutt of Los Angeles.
“An important part of this look is unfitted cabinetry,” continues Bernard. “Cabinet heights and styles are often mixed, and free-standing pieces, such as hutches or pie cabinets, are common. This lends the impression that the kitchen has served many generations and evolved over time. Of course, one could reproduce this look by going to country auctions and haul home relevant pieces, one at a time. But that really isn’t necessary. We can design the pieces that are needed and still make them look as if they were brought home from the far-flung fields and porches.”
Antique Finishes
Michael Quinn, also a member of the Rutt of Los Angeles design team, feels that the extraordinary finishes that are applied to such custom cabinetry are just as important as the country styling.
“We use special Rutt finishes that age the cabinetry intentionally and artfully, right down to the nicks and scratches that would occur over time,” says Quinn. “The process takes 13 steps of wirebrushing, distressing, sanding, sealing, antiqueing and more. In some styles, the corners of the doors even feature two plugs, in the tradition of early craftsmen, and door knobs are wood. It requires the eye, care and touch of artisans to create such beautiful aging.”
These antique finishes can be used both on painted and natural wood cabinetry The most cherished paint colors are forest green, dusky blue, and cranberry red. To enhance the appearance of a kitchen that has evolved during many years, Rutt designers across the nation often combine painted and natural wood cabinetry. For example, base cabinets may be green, appropriately antiqued, of course. Then, wall cabinets and a freestanding hutch may be natural pine, maple or oak, again distressed to simulate generations of wear. Or, a paneled cabinet door may feature a painted panel and a natural wood frame, or vice versa.
A Charismatic Style
Together, the seemingly casually assembled kitchen element and the authentic finishes create a kitchen look that’s hard to resist.
“It has infinite charisma,” comments Debi Oertle, who leads the Rutt of Chicago design team. “And it’s a look that’s immediately understood. It doesn’t matter where you live. New York or Charleston. Chicago or Seattle. This is a kitchen everybody but high-tech devotees loves. It’s the kind of environment that draws family and friends. Holidays were never better, and at parties this is where family and friends congregate.”
In reality, this is no specific style. The designers all agree that it’s actually an amalgamation of the 18th and 19th century design details from the American melting pot. But a style- any style- is more than a collection of parts. It’s the spirit that those parts generate that counts. This style is all about ambience: warmth, informality and comfort. They say they love to be asked for this kind of style because it invites creativity and homeowners always love the end result.
“What’s not to like?” asks Oertle. “It’s an all-American look, yet highly individual, and it’s always beautiful and intriguing. Display your collectibles in such kitchen. Stoneware. Lionel trains. Jars of herbs. Pewter plates. English teapots. Old-fangled cooking utensils. French copper pots. Anything goes.”
However, Oertle is quick to point out that for all it’s charm, an “antique” Rutt kitchen doesn’t overlook today’s practical necessities. A corner cupboard may well house an oven. A hutch drawer may open, and up swings an ironing board. And an armoire that looks like it came from Provence is as likely to hide a refrigerator behind it’s aged doors as a collection of heirloom table linens.

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