Arts & Crafts Made Modern
A new Craftsman kitchen celebrates the timeless ideals of honesty and utility.
When they found their brick foursquare in the mid-1980s, Ed and Kathy Friedman couldn’t believe their luck. They’d spent 10 years building a collection of Arts and Crafts furniture and decorative objects, and here was the perfect home in which to display it. The 1915 foursquare, with its built-in benches and bookcases, was as well preserved as if it had been locked in a time capsule.
Except for the kitchen. Remodeled in the ’50s, the boxy room had plastic tiles running halfway around it and white metal cabinets backed awkwardly against the walls. Not just outdated, it was completely at odds with the purposeful beauty of the rest of the house.
An addition with a mission
“From the time we bought the house I was thinking about renovating the kitchen,” said Kathy. But bringing the warm, wood-trimmed character of the rest of the house into the kitchen without making it seem dark and tight was a daunting task. It was also clear that an addition would be needed. Not only was the existing kitchen too small, but the Friedmans wanted to take the opportunity to introduce other modern comforts—air conditioning and an extra bathroom—to the house. In the final plan, both air conditioning ductwork and a first-floor half-bath were worked into spaces that had been part of the old kitchen.
Given these considerations, the Friedmans chose not to recreate a Craftsman kitchen in all its authenticity but to reinvent it in a way that embraced the craftsmanship and spirit of those early 20th-century designers in a more contemporary space. To the Friedmans, that meant focusing on four themes central to the Arts and Crafts movement: simplicity, honesty, utility, and beauty.
At the same time, they realized they needed a strategy to bring their favorite style a bit closer to the bright, open kitchens of today. They found their answer with the help of Gerald Morosco, a Pittsburgh architect schooled in the Prairie style of Frank Lloyd Wright. Morosco helped the Friedmans discover how elements of this related but slightly more modern style would gently nudge an authentic Craftsman kitchen just far enough forward in time to accommodate a 21st-century family.
A grand plan makes a poor start
Both Morosco and the Friedmans were enthusiastic about the project—perhaps too enthusiastic. Attempting to include their favorite features from both Prairie and Craftsman architecture, they came up with a plan Ed later described as an oversize hexagonal jewel box. “It was a totally inappropriate use of the space,” says Kathy, who nixed the project when she realized its price tag was more than double their initial $100,000 budget.
Disappointed, the couple didn’t go directly back to the drawing board. “We had to chill out and rethink it,” says Ed. But over the next few months, the Friedmans whittled away at the plan, reconfiguring it as a more modest rectangle that retained most of the features they wanted.
For more photos and details on this Arts and Crafts inspired remodel, click the View PDF button below.