Crossing paths with people from your past is a part of everyday life when you run a business in the same small town you grew up in. Still, Hannah Guilford was tickled when her former high school teachers asked her to remodel their kitchen. Even better, they didn’t want it to be white. “They really enjoyed some of the things about their old kitchen, like the yellow cabinets and black and white floor tile,” says Guilford, co-owner of Heart and Hammer Homes. “The combination felt historically-appropriate and comfortable, so why mess with it?”
When the couple bought the Fryeburg, Maine, farmhouse, built in 1928, they knew the kitchen would need updating. The appliances were ancient, the paint was fading, and storage and counter space were lacking. Plus, the layout didn’t help. Guilford reworked the floor plan in the existing footprint, bringing everything up to code and increasing its efficiency.
Although she was preserving the color scheme, Guilford had plenty to tackle. “The shade of yellow was all wrong; it felt flat,” she says. After testing lots of paint samples, she settled on Sherwin-Williams’s Butter Up. The color proved true to its name. “It gave the kitchen a buttery warmth that feels really welcoming,” she says. “This kitchen has the coziness of your grandma’s kitchen, but with the function needed for the modern family.”
As for what would replace the old peel-and-stick vinyl flooring, Guilford’s first instinct — black and white marble tiles set in a checkerboard pattern — seemed precious. So, she explored 1920s-era patterns. Bingo. The designer hit upon reasonably-priced ceramic tiles with a vintage star design. The black and off-white tiles are anything but pristine. “They have random, rusty scuff marks that look like the room’s copper accents,” she says.
Guilford knew she’d need to carry the black from the floor up to the middle of the room so that the yellow wouldn’t feel overly bright. Black granite countertops did the trick. “Honed black granite is a classic farmhouse material,” Guilford says. “White counters would have reflected too much light; the dark counters cut the yellow.”
Wood elements at the sink establish it as the focal point. “A large, farmhouse sink in a wood base with fluted details on either side created visual impact,” Guilford says. Open shelves in the same material — cherry stained brown to match the knots in the salvaged wood dining table that the owner’s stepfather made a few years ago — flank the window overlooking the backyard. The backdrop, a full wall of zellige tile, is the project’s splurge. “The imperfections of this uneven, handmade tile make it perfect for the space,” Guilford says.
Bringing the tile to the ceiling leads the eye up to the sconces. The brass and copper fixtures, which Guilford found on Etsy, help integrate the homeowner’s collection of copper objects. “These heirloom pieces from her grandmother were a source of inspiration from the start,” Guilford says. “Showing them off was important to her.” Custom copper rails with brass hooks tucked under the shelves offer another spot to display them. The old-fashioned copper bridge faucet, also from Etsy, completes the tableau.
Guilford also revitalized the adjacent breakfast nook. Swapping the window for a slider necessitated nudging the dining table closer to the wall to ease circulation. To ensure the setup would still be comfortable for family meals, Guilford designed a built-in bench against the wall, buying the homeowners a couple extra feet of floor space.
Once everything was in place, including a traditional brass lantern, Guilford couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing. Scouring the Web for a black and white element that would bring the breakfast nook to life, she landed on a mural wallpaper picturing a Victorian engraving of a mountain landscape, to be hung above the wainscoting. “I asked them, ‘How would you feel about my gifting you a surprise element?’” she says.
They loved it, as did their Facebook friends. “When they posted the first day of school photos of their kids sitting in front of it, all the other teachers asked about it,” Guilford says. “It made them feel really good about their new space.”
Design/build: Heart and Hammer Homes, heartandhammerhomes.co
Marni Elyse Katz is a contributing editor to the Globe Magazine. Follow her on Instagram @StyleCarrot. Send comments to email@example.com.