Modern Kitchen and Bathroom Finishes for a 1786 Tidewater Colonial

We are finally to the point of confirming selections of kitchen and bathroom finishes. When people ask how the renovation of this old house is going, I try to find a way to convey the breadth of the project, usually by sharing the data point that we’ve been without a kitchen since May 2015. Of course I get a variety of looks and responses that include uncomfortable laughter, disgust, and usually a little pity on top.

What I love is that it almost always ignites a connection over a shared experience of a similar renovation or project that they went through. It’s fun to hear how others have coped during major and minor renovations (whiskey seems to be a popular favorite), whether it be two weeks or two years! And yes, I heard one story of a family without a kitchen for almost two years because of contractor issues and legal disputes. I can always find a way to be thankful after that conversation.

Basement Kitchen, Before
Basement Kitchen, Before

We always find our way to kitchen and bathroom finishes and the exciting, creative opportunity to reinvent a space. It’s interesting how it evolves over time. In that regard, it’s a good thing the renovation took longer, because I have changed my mind on many of the choices that I felt so steadfast on last spring. A final trip to the tile store this weekend helped me lock-in many of my selections and I’m finally ready to order tile, which will begin to be installed next Monday.


The kitchen finishes were my starting place, and I have tried to honor the history of the house through living and natural finishes while being conscious of the need to create a modern space. And this is particularly tough working within the constraints of a basement with low ceilings, smaller windows, and structural walls that require a little more creativity.

I have chosen a distressed hexagonal tile with overall light coloring and a great deal of variance. Although I’m sure this floor was dirt throughout much of its life, this tile reminds me of the type of cobblestone or brick floors that might have been in a basement cellar at one time. And I can’t help but think about my bee hives when I see the pattern! What a nice way to bring the outdoors in.

Kitchen Finishes

The blue raku-style tile weaves bronzes and blues into a 3×12 which will be the backsplash above walnut countertops in the prep spaces. I am still debating a copper countertop on the 12 foot island, and will probably depend on having any money left when it comes time to install cabinets!  The cabinets will be painted white with the island being a colonial blue, another tip of the hat to one of the prominent wood trim colors used throughout the house in the 1940 renovation.


For the bathroom finishes, I struggled to find a unique floor tile that I liked, and in the end was compelled by the hex pattern and decided to carry it through. This might change, but, for now, I love the continuity between the spaces. The laundry station will have dark green cabinets and a cherry countertop accented by a rust/green glass backsplash. The shower will incorporate subway tiles although I haven’t picked the exact tile yet (these are stand-ins for color), brushed nickel hardware, and a federal-style vanity in cherry wood with two sconces.

Bathroom Finishes

I’ve had people tell me that I need more continuity, less variety of finishes, and more matching. But having lived in old houses for most of my entire life, I’ve come to appreciate the layers of years, styles, and materials that have been used to create a space. The wrought iron door hinges from the 1700s with the un-laquered brass from the 1930s, the colonial blue on the trim with the hand-hewn wood floors, and of course the modern conveniences that we all appreciate. I want to bring this same tasteful connection to the past into the renovated spaces below.

We are making progress and will hopefully have a warm, home-cooked meal in the new kitchen soon!