Little Kitchen, Lots of Charm



Donna knew she needed more storage, more electric plugs and more light; but she also wanted the kitchen to feel like it belonged


Written by Jon Shadel | Photos by Shannon Butler | Designer: Chelly Wentworth | arciform.com 


When you first step into this colonial revival home in Portland’s West Hills, you’ll likely suspect its classic black and white kitchen lived through the past century untouched. It’s only when you take a closer look at the clean, modern appliances and clever organizational features that you might think otherwise.

 An appliance barn below the microwave
keeps the counters open and uncluttered.

That’s exactly what Chelly Wentworth, senior designer at design-build firm Arciform, intended when she designed this compact space for homeowners Donna and Bill Holden. Since Arciform specializes in remodeling and restoring vintage and historic homes, the Holdens were confident Chelly was up for the job. Even so, making the space feel like it belonged in the home was no easy task.

Chelly faced a number of challenges in the Holden’s kitchen: First, the room had been victim to an ill-considered remodel in the ‘80s that did little to address the lack of storage and dim lighting. Second, the previous remodel neglected much of the home’s timeless charm, making the kitchen stand out like a sore thumb.

“The room looked like Macy’s kitchen department,” Donna quips, explaining that — due to the lack of appropriate storage space — small appliances crowded the limited counter real estate. Donna knew she needed more storage, more electric plugs and more light. But she also wanted the kitchen to feel like it belonged. “The house was built in 1916, so we wanted the design to reflect the look of the rest of the house.”

In her design, Chelly tapped into the home’s early 20th century charm while avoiding kitschy details that sometimes accompany poorly planned historic restorations. The resulting remodel strikes a delicate balance by being both context-appropriate in style and livable by design. “The main goal with the remodel was to fit a lot of functionality into a small space,” says Chelly, “but we also didn’t want the kitchen to feel cluttered.”

Spices are cleverly stored
in this easily accessible drawer.

The Holden’s refreshed kitchen is a fitting case study for homeowners wishing to appropriately maximize space in compact rooms. And the details throughout testify to Chelly’s consideration of the Holden’s lifestyle: Since Donna and Bill both love the rich pinot noir of the Willamette River Valley, Chelly cleverly placed wine cubbies in the gap between the cabinetry and the wall. Donna also loves to cook, and her spices are now easily stored in a drawer rather than a clumsy spice rack or a messy shelf of dusty tins.

The kitchen is more functional now, too. To remedy the crowd of small appliances on the countertops, Chelly built an accessible appliance barn to store the mixer, toaster and coffeemaker. Counter lighting and four overhead lights give the room a warm glow, and Donna can finally see what she’s cooking. The traditional, full inset cabinets — custom built by Versatile Wood Products — are period specific while offering plenty of storage for pots and pans.

“A lot of homeowners complain about the size of their kitchens,” Chelly says, “but there are so many creative ways to help maximize the space. You just need to work with someone who will do the right things for your home and lifestyle.”