By Nancy Hiller

s a designer of cabinetiy for period-style kitchens, I specialize in work for clients with homes built in the late 19th and early to mid-20th centuries. People come to me not for strict reproductions, but because they want their new cabinetiy to fit harmoniously into an older home. Whether I'm adding to existing cabinetiy or designing a kitchen from scratch, it pays to follow some basic guidelines. Although the cabinets shown on these pages were built for 19th-and 20th-century homes, the same principles can be applied to other periods.

When designing cabinetry for an older home, familiarize yourself with the house and its architectural details. Ask yourself: When was the house built? What is the architectural style? How are period elements expressed in the original doors, trim, and built-in cabinets? You may be adding to the original cabinetry rather than replacing cabinets added at a later time, so the trick is to tie in the new with the old. Clients often ask me to design cabinets that will look like the rest of their kitchen but will function more practically.

Consider raising the height of the counters

Old kitchens have counters that would be considered backbreakingly low by contemporary standards usually 32 in. above the finished floor. While this may be fine for kneading bread dough or rolling pastiy, it's terribly uncomfortable for most of us, when washing dishes and preparing food. Even if you leave existing base cabinets at their original height (and sometimes they are well worth preserving, restoring their tiled or linoleum countertops as needed), consider making new base cabinets with today's standard height of 36 in.

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