Wednesday, November 14, 2012

☞ REMEMBER: Original Brownstone Kitchens

Brownstones kitchens started out modestly for the most part with basic cast iron stoves and ceramic sinks alongside wood pantries.  The above photos from circa 1899 show the three components that have been combined today to create the modern kitchen.  Note in the top image that the marble surface was on a separate table by the window and this detail has been added to the standard pantry cabinet counter in modern times.  White subway tiles line the walls because they were considered the most sanitary surface and this design element has also seen a revival in homes today.

Renovators now use glass doors as design detail alluding to the original kitchens but also surround them with solid paneled cabinets to utilize the full space along a wall.  Stainless steel is the modern choice today for stoves and the better kitchens have them encased in cabinetry. Sinks also evolved to be incorporated with counter tops but a few distinguished modern renovations will incorporate a porcelain basin sink to allude back to the original kitchen founded a century ago.  As far a floors are concerned, wood is the proper original material used in many early homes but contrasting tiles are also period appropriate.

Archival photos courtesy the digital collection at the Museum of the City of New York


  1. Excellent post, amazing seeing all those exposed pipes, looks remarkably industrial. Its so odd to see those really wide drawers, they must have been heavy to pull in and out.

    In the top picture to the left of the stove on the floor, what do you think that box is for, the cat? Doesn't seem so sanitary, or maybe that was the place for wood, was the hot water heater stoked by wood or coal?

    What do you think that cylindrical object is just to the left under the sink countertop?

    Really interesting to see these practical domestic spaces.

  2. The canister shaped like a tree trunk at the top photo is probably just for garbage but is also decorative at the same time. Click on photos to enlarge.

  3. Agreed, excellent post. This kitchen with its exposed piping looks about as utilitarian as a modern boiler room. I really like these old cast iron stoves, almost as ornate as the Taj Majal. Also I like the free standing kitchen cabinet, I remember seeing one of these restored in a brownstone kitchen on a house tour, it looked wonderful.