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This house is in Dunstable, Massachusetts, a hamlet with a still-rural air. Built as a traditional brick-end Federal very early in the 19th century, it grew with a gabled ell extension to the east and several screened porches added early in the 20th century.

By the time Mary and David Dacquino found the house, a side door and windows had been added to the street side, throwing off its classic symmetry. Interior partitions and extra doors divided the stately old house into a warren of spaces. But its colonial simplicity, fireplaces, and early moldings beckoned.

Mary especially liked the kitchen-a long, somewhat curious room extending half the length of the first floor. In the center sits a handsome brick hearth, a reminder, perhaps, of this space having been two rooms during the house’s time as a travelers’ inn. The large kitchen boasted three sinks and 36² of countertop space, promising plenty of homemade pasta primavera for the couple’s army of nieces and nephews. A separate mudroom entrance at one end protects the house from any incursion by the harsh New England winter.

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The promising room needed significant restoration. Ignoring colonial precedent in search of Tuscany, previous owners had faux-finished the walls with a yellow glaze and applied trompe-l’oeil paintings of roosters, pigs, and horses on cupboards and doors. The navy-blue ceramic tile floor was out of character and out of plumb, with tiles cracking. Mary and David began work with the floor; after removing additional layers of asbestos tile, linoleum, and vinyl, they found the underlying wood floorboards unsalvageable. A new floor of wide pine planks was properly laid. Particleboard cabinets were replaced with simple, Shaker-influenced units made in ash by a local cabinetmaker and painted in historic colors.

The south end of the kitchen is centered on a sawbuck dining table milled from lumber salvaged from an old shed on the property. Built-in bookcases, a 10²-long window seat, and the centered hearth make the long room cozy and comfortable.

Countertops now are a practical combination of soapstone and reclaimed 200-year-old chestnut. They kept the old sinks of stainless steel and copper. Mary, an accomplished cook, insisted on a commercial Viking stove. To keep the ventilation from looking too modern, a new soffit with an antique pediment camouflages the vent above. Behind the range, a veneer of antique-style brick integrates with 19th-century English mosaic tiles, which continue above the counters.

Architectural salvage and antiques furnish the room. An 8²-long sawbuck table was custom-made from old barn boards on the property. A mid-19th-century pine worktable with apple green legs became a perfect workstation by the stove. Ironstone and yellow ware; vintage copper pots, pans, and chocolate molds; a rusty bread sign from an old bakery; and café curtains made from mangle cloths create the look and feel of an early New England kitchen.

The mudroom at the north end likewise needed a total makeover. Housed in a two-story ell added by previous homeowners, the addition had a hipped roof that didn’t belong. Mary and David reconfigured it into a larger, more functional addition, making room for a pantry and powder room as well as a 16² x 8² mudroom downstairs, and a bedroom and bath upstairs. The back porch now has a flat roof and decorative balustrades milled to match those on the front porch, which ties the addition into the main house.

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Old House Journal

Founded in 1973, Old House Journal is the original authority when it comes to old-house restoration, traditional house styles, period kitchens, bath & kitchen restoration, DIY projects, gardens & landscaping, and more-- from Colonial and Victorian through Arts & Crafts and Mid-century Modern homes.

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