From the February/March 2018 Issue  

Vintage Revisited

Writer Marirose Krall  |  Photographer Wing Wong  |  Designer Tracey Stephens, CID, Allied ASID  |  Builder European Craftsman LLC  |  Location Montclair, NJ
  • The range was the starting point for all the colors in the kitchen. A local mosaic artist created the backsplash mural. Featuring three pheasants on a snowy bramble background, it contains small hits of orange to coordinate with the copper trim on the range.

  • STORAGE SPACE | The renovation included removing a wall between the kitchen and the butler’s pantry. Designer Tracey Stephens replaced that with new cabinetry for added storage and counter space. The cabinet in the corner between the windows was original to the home, as were the upper cabinets on the wall at left.

  • BANQUETTE | The Preuningers know all too well that pets can be a handful, so the kitchen is built for endurance. On the banquette, “the seat cushions are faux leather,” the designer says. “It’s very durable. It needed to stand up to heavy use.” Alice Preuninger prefers the banquette to a table and chairs. In the former space, “the table would move and the chairs would hit the wall.”

  • The original cabinets, complete with vintage leaded glass and new orange interiors, hold the homeowners’ collection of china.

A century-old kitchen in Montclair, NJ gets an update.

The kitchen in Alice and Jim Preuninger’s early 20th-century home was reflective of the era in which it was built—it was the domain of the servants. “We even had the original call bells,” Alice Preuninger says of the Downton Abbey-esque nature of the former space. The long narrow area was broken into two rooms: a butler’s pantry and the main kitchen. “It was cool, but it wasn’t practical.”

Still, the family was making it work—until one hectic morning involving a sick cat who Preuninger was up with much of the night, a school run and a pizza box on the range. Jaeger, the family’s Wirehaired Vizsla, apparently tried to help himself to a slice and, in the attempt, somehow turned on a burner. Preuninger returned home to find four police cars, a fire truck and an ambulance outside her home. Fortunately, the story has a happy ending; no humans or pets were harmed. The kitchen, however, was not so lucky.

Tracey Stephens, of Montclair, NJ-based Tracey Stephens Interior Design, stepped in to create a new kitchen from the literal ashes of the old one. One of the goals of the project was to “create a better layout,” Stephens says. She achieved that goal by “removing the wall between the two spaces and creating a built-in banquette so the space is better integrated.”

Though the new kitchen includes all the modern conveniences, Preuninger wanted to be sure the style would be compatible with the home’s pedigree. “I still wanted vintage,” she says. “I don’t like when I walk into an old house and there’s a very modern space. It doesn’t do the house justice.” To that end, the room features the original leaded-glass cabinetry in the eating area, supplemented with new cabinets for added storage.

The slate floor is laid out in a herringbone pattern. “I have this design on the other side of the house in the sunroom,” Preuninger says. “I wanted to use materials that would be more of the period.” The glazed subway tile backsplash—though new—looks period appropriate. “It’s not perfect,” Preuninger notes. “There’s texture to it. It’s about as imperfect as you can get. It looks more vintage than the perfect ones.”

The tile is white, as is the cabinetry. But that neutral foundation is surrounded by bold color, which stemmed from one of Preuninger’s must-haves. “We based all of our colors on the stove,” she says of the blue La Cornue range. “It’s got that whole vintage-y look.” The trim on the range is copper, so Stephens brought in orange accents to balance the blues in the room. The interiors of both china cabinets are painted orange. The striking chandelier over the table, imported from France, features orange fruit among twisting vines. That piece is a favorite of the homeowners. “It’s such a cozy spot,” Preuninger says of the breakfast nook. “Something special needed to be there. It’s a big shape, but it doesn’t feel heavy.”

Stephens, a state-certified interior designer and allied member of the American Society of Interior Designers, says the new space reflects the personality of her clients. “They are enthusiastic cooks who host dinner parties,” she says. “They wanted a kitchen that could run efficiently for family meals and also for entertaining.” The designer was able to create that practical space while also incorporating the family’s “love of color fabrics, patterns and a feeling of fun.”