New kitchen recipe

When the owners of Steven-Thomas Antiques decided they needed an employee kitchen, the staff interior designer decided to build it in the showroom and started with a piece taken right off the floor.

Using a 100-year-old Italian Renaissance revival-style buffet as inspiration, designer Nina Naderchi envisioned creating a complete kitchen design.

“Antiques are my passion,” Naderchi said. “I’m always looking for ways to use them in my designs.”

Modifying antiques, such as joining twin beds to create one king-size bed, has been widely practiced. But re-crafting pieces into kitchen cabinets is a new concept, she said.

With 25 skilled craftsmen from the Steven-Thomas workshop at the designer’s disposal, she was able to disassemble and re-craft the large, walnut buffet. The hand-carved paneled doors and intricate carvings of leaves and berries were carefully removed. Each piece of precious antique walnut from the buffet was salvaged to form the kitchen cabinets.

To complete the kitchen, the shop’s craftsmen, who use the same furniture-making techniques that were used 100 years ago, created additional cabinets with moldings that match the original.

Naderchi blended old and new elements in the kitchen design by mixing the antique cabinetry with modern appliances. Granite countertops enhance the rich, walnut cabinetry, she said.

The resulting design appeals to customers who appreciate history or simply desire a one-of-a-kind look, she said.

A Gothic revival-style church confessional, which has been transformed into a wine cabinet, sits adjacent to the showroom kitchen. And corbels salvaged from another project were made into a paper-towel holder.

“You won’t see something like it at your neighbor’s house,” she said.

Before an antique is displayed in one of the store’s two showrooms, it goes through the workshop. The staff assesses each piece, deciding whether conservation, restoration or modification is appropriate. Conservation, which involves preserving the piece by providing only structural repairs when necessary, is always preferred. Restoration involves applying techniques to hide fractures or flaws. Modification actually changes the original function of a piece.

“It’s important to educate customers on which is appropriate,” said Carol McCarren, who assists with the shop’s marketing efforts.

While some may say that modification ruins a precious antique, it provides a way to fit a seemingly unusable piece into a 21st-century lifestyle, McCarren said. For example, 19th century armoires cannot hold most of today’s expanded wardrobes, but they can easily be converted into functional entertainment centers.

For a piece that’s original to its period, such as a rococo item that dates from the early 1700s, it would be wise to apply only conservation techniques.

Revival pieces are styled from earlier periods. For example, the Gothic style, which dates from the late 1500s, has been copied for centuries.

Steven-Thomas Antiques specializes in pieces from 1840 to 1940, imported from France, Italy, Belgium, England and Denmark.

The cost involved in these conversions varies according to the size and complexity of each piece.

Contact the writer: (714) 796-5020 or jbush@ocregister.com

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