History Lesson

It’s always a conundrum: how to honor the original bones of a historic home while ensuring the redesigned spaces meet the expectations of a 21st-century family.

This give-and-take is playing out beautifully in the three-story Colonial Revival home at 716 W. Broadway that Heather and Adam Plues are lovingly restoring, one room at a time. Their lustrous updates respect and reanimate the home’s storied past.

Built in 1909 by John N. and Elizabeth Taylor, the stately home eventually slipped into decline, carved into multiple rental units; a temporary wall divided the sweeping 10-foot-wide entrance staircase for a time. New owners in 1999 rescued the home and converted it into a bed-and-breakfast that achieved local and national historic landmark status — one of Columbia’s very first properties to do so.

In 2012, the Plueses purchased the home, intent on restoring it to its original single-family use. The first project of this work-in-progress was a complete kitchen overhaul. Working with designer Hannah Wilson of Columbia Showcase Kitchens & Baths, the couple started work in September 2013.

“When I first stepped into this kitchen, it was so clearly all wrong for this beautiful, historic home,” Wilson recalls. While the previous owners had preserved or restored much of the original architectural details, the kitchen seemed stuck between eras.

The first challenge was how to reconfigure the oddly arranged, dark and cramped space to create a family meal and gathering area and an open, airy and accessible look. After finding out that a wall they wanted to eliminate was load-bearing, the clients were dependent upon a creative plan that would open up the space within existing parameters, Wilson said. They achieved their aims by removing a 48-inch-high half-wall and a bar/peninsula that broke up the kitchen, reorienting appliances to make for a usable workspace triangle, and creating an island with an apron sink and family meal and gathering area.

The couple added a second opening to an adjacent hallway, improving the entire flow of the house, and installed double glass doors opening onto the back porch. White cabinets with inset construction and flat panel doors — including some with glass doors with mullions and interior lighting — also created great effect. Pre-existing soffits on one wall detracted from the spaciousness of the high ceilings, but they could not be removed as they held plumbing and mechanicals. Instead, Wilson placed the refrigerator and flanking cabinet pantries on that wall and extended the cabinet facing up to the ceiling. The faux fronts offer an unbroken look; three complementary sets of pulls create interest.

Homeowner choices — details such as staining the island a rich chocolate, using traditional moldings and detail work, exposing the original brick chimney shaft, and adding hickory hardwood floors — added warmth in keeping with the home’s classic look.

Quartzite countertops and a beveled marble subway tile backsplash offer more light, clean, fresh, modern touches, as does the statement chandelier from Restoration Hardware over the center island.

The kitchen was a true collaboration with homeowners and designer taking inspiration from each other’s vision. The couple served as their own general contractor, working with local craftsmen and experts and completing some of the renovation work themselves.

“This kitchen embodies what I love about kitchen and bath design,” says Wilson. “There were many obstacles that proved a challenge. It was a puzzle that needed solving and there was nothing ‘cookie cutter’ about this design.”