Several months ago, the owners of a 1918 Craftsman-style residence here in the Oakland area asked me to remodel their kitchen. Small and dark, the room had last been renovated many decades earlier. A partition separated it from a butler's pantry, which held a corner sink and a tiny toilet room. The toilet hadn't worked for years, and the pantry was used for general storage. All told, the kitchen and pantry contained nine doorways, plus a set of stairs leading to the basement and the second floor.

Not surprisingly, all of the cabinets were in poor condition; probably the nicest thing you could say about them — assuming you liked history — was that they looked really old. As it happened, my clients did like history and wanted their new kitchen to feel as though it might have belonged to their grandmothers.

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