New Looks for Old Spaces

Readers Resources

Deborah Baldwin covers home renovations and new products for This Old House magazine. We spoke to her about remodeling kitchens and baths, particularly in older homes such as those often found on Cape Cod and the Islands. 

Readers Resources

Cape Cod HOME (CCH): What are the hot design trends for kitchens and bathrooms in older or antique homes in 2013-2014?

Deborah Baldwin (DB):  Older homes often have smallish kitchens stuck at the back of the house. Our readers like to take down a wall or two to open up the kitchen and make it feel more spacious. Often this allows the kitchen to become the central gathering place. You don’t hear so much about the celebrated ‘work triangle’ these days—it’s more about creating an open feel with good traffic flow and separate zones for cooking and hanging out.

We’re seeing islands with seating on the far side, so kids and friends can be in the thick of things without getting underfoot. And now that everyone’s in the kitchen and the kitchen is open for all to see, there’s lots of emphasis on finishes, not to mention keeping everything neat and tidy.

Fridges and dishwashers hide behind custom panels; islands mimic freestanding furniture; and open shelves replace traditional boxy upper cabinets, especially around windows. To make up for lost storage—and tame countertop clutter—people are adding pantry cabinets on windowless walls, or walk-in pantries with deep shelves and outlets for small appliances.

While white and off-white remain the top colors for kitchens and baths, we’re seeing lots of gray—it feels fresh and new, and works well with white cabinets, vanities, and sinks and tubs; marble countertops; and stainless steel appliances.

In kitchens and baths alike, renovations are inspired by the need for more function and convenience, but often the look is vintage-inspired. White subway tile continues to be popular, along with classic hex floor tile and period-style faucets and sinks.

CCH: Is the sustainability/green movement still big for kitchens and baths? What new developments are there for homeowners who want “green” kitchens or baths?

DB: Low-flow fixtures are standard in baths and kitchens these days. Low-VOC paints are now mainstream. Formaldehyde-free cabinets could be the next big thing.

Many kitchens also now have water filters, either under the sink or as part of the water-dispenser built into the fridge. And we’re beginning to see filters designed to reduce the chlorine in shower water.

CCH: As an expert on older homes, are there any exciting vintage or old-fashioned product lines out there (online or retail) where homeowners can find “antique” furnishings, etc., for their kitchens?

DB: Lots of companies offer period-look fixtures and finishes, from bridge faucets handcrafted in England to semi-custom Shaker-style cabinets. It’s easy to find old-fashioned bin pulls, claw-foot tubs, and industrial-style light fixtures. Check out our website ( for leads on vintage-inspired kitchen and bath finishes—and accessories, too.

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