In their turn-of-the-century Avenues home, Greg and Julie Livers enlist designer Brittany Tobler to create an updated family kitchen that balances old and new, function and form.

The porch sold the Livers on this stately 4,200-square foot, American Foursquare-style 1905 home.

If you listen, an old home tells you what it needs. Dark and dated? Not on the list. And neither is wood paneling, manufactured cabinets or old appliances. At least not for Greg and Julie Livers, who hired designer Brittany Tobler to help remodel their newly-purchased 1905 Avenues home. Tobler couldn’t wait to take on the challenge: Transform the Livers’ kitchen from claustrophobic and outdated to family-friendly and modern, while still maintaining the home’s turn-of-the-century charm. 

It was a kitchen for hobbits. I felt like, ‘I can’t breathe in here!’”  Tobler says. ” The size would be an issue for most people, but it was especially problematic for Greg and Julie, who cook and entertain often.” Gatherings around charcuterie platters and hand-crafted cocktails weren’t in the cards unless the space was reorganized.

First item on the agenda: Reconfigure the spaces. Architect Ann Robinson of Renovation Design Group drew up plans for a more functional family space by modifying the existing pantry and mudroom layout, and removing a wall between the tiny kitchen and an unusable living room featuring a working fireplace.


“Greg envisioned sitting by the fire sipping whiskey après-ski while chatting with friends and family in the kitchen,” Tobler explains. Without the obstructive divide, the old living room transforms into a cozy, off-the-kitchen sitting area. She gave the fireplace a facelift with new tile, similar in color to that adorning the home’s other fireplaces. Now, the sun streams through the sitting area into the kitchen in the mornings and sets behind the backyard’s 100-year-old Norway maple tree seen through kitchen windows.

Fortunately, removing that wall didn’t strip the home of its identity. “We kept the exposed brick, the original wood around the windows, all the stained glass and most of the lighting fixtures,” Tobler says. “It doesn’t happen with every house, but with this home, I had a really strong vision of where I wanted to go. There’s so much character already, and it was really important to me to maintain that.”

Once small and outdated, the Livers’ kitchen now enjoys expanded space and a fresh design while retaining it’s turn-of-the-century character.

The designer expanded the charm of kitchen’s original exposed brick by running brick veneer along the room’s longest wall. Here, two symmetrical nooks house appliance storage, cookbook shelving, a wine rack and the family’s control center with a bulletin board and desk.

Next up? The cabinetry. Charlie Hastings of Wood Revival matched the painted millwork and cabinet hardware in the kitchen to those of the pantry, but finished the mudroom doors and bench with wood stain. Hastings also designed and installed the kitchen’s main attraction: a nine-foot-long walnut-topped island. Tobler says, “Along with soapstone countertops, exposed brick wall and a white farmhouse sink, Greg was set on having a butcher block island.”

Soapstone countertops, exposed brick and a white farmhouse sink were among the homeowner’s must-haves for the renovation.

Accessorizing the room came with it’s own set of challenges. “Greg is more traditional, but Julie’s taste is more modern.” To appease both, the designer suggested incorporating traditional and contemporary additions including classic bentwood stools but with a punch of color, tailored occasional seating but with a mid-century edge, and a rustic wooden coffee table but with industrial legs. Pendant lighting boasts a schoolhouse vibe, yet the clear glass and shiny nickel provide an updated look. “With old home remodels, it’s all about balancing old and new,” Tobler says. 

See more inside the Spring 2017 issue.

written by Val Rasmussen    photos by Jessica White

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