It takes months, if not years, to find a great house, and unless you're on a Bill Gates budget, there will always be a compromise—like the kitchen that you really wish were just a bit bigger. That's what Sabine Meyer was thinking when she bought her circa-1900 red brick home in Beacon, New York. She knew there were good bones beneath the cheesy wood paneling and the ceiling tiles she'd have to rip out, but the real challenge would be how to make the 11-by-12-foot space something she could easily cook and entertain in.

Her solution was to remove a dining room wall and replace it with a breakfast bar with tuck-under stools. She also needed more work surface and storage, so she added a second peninsula, using antique pine base cabinets salvaged from her grandmothers house. While Sabine liked the rustic look of the exposed brick she discovered under wallboard, and of the original tin ceiling once stripped of its paint, she was still searching for a contemporary, urban loft feeling. Her contractor helped her achieve it with stainless steel countertops that echo the stainless appliances. The kitchen's small, but traffic flows easily into the opened-up dining room, says Sabine. And I like that it looks clean and simple.

The Details
A 21st-century take on tradition adds functional style to a food-prep area redo.

1. PINE BASE CABINETS, with carved tulip details, date back to the 1920s. Here, they hold an undermount Elkay sink surrounded by the same ceramic tiles that were used on the floor.

2. A CONTEMPORARY BAR FAUCET by Newport Brass was mounted in the corner (there wasn't room between the sink and the brick wall). Knives by Global hang from a magnetic strip.

3. STAINLESS STEEL was a solution for the peninsulas, but instead of custom tops fabricated entirely of the material, the contractor suggested using it to cap two layers of plywood. Total cost: $300. Easy-to-clean ceramic tiles were used on the floor and then continued up the side of the bar.

4. THE BUILT-IN PINE HUTCH, original to the kitchen, had multiple layers of white paint. It took the homeowner six months to disassemble, then strip, sand, and polyurethane (three coats) the piece before she could put it back together to store her dishes. A much smaller hutch holds overflow.
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