Written by: Joan Pearlstein Dunn/Photos by: Craig Thompson
No longer an appliance of days gone by, Chambers ovens and ranges are being refurbished and making their way into modern day kitchens. Developed in 1912 by John Chambers, his ovens were known for a patented insulation method, which enabled them to continue cooking on retained heat after the fuel was turned off. This method conserved energy and reduced shrinkage, which increased the food value of cooked items. Chamber’s daughter, Alma, traveled coast-to-coast for 20 years conducting large cooking shows to promote their ranges. Demand for refurbished Chambers stoves remains high, some of which have sold for up to $17,000.
Serena and Rob of Mt. Lebanon calculated their entire kitchen around one of these vintage stoves, adding that the unique gray enamel is what drove most of the design decisions. “We wanted an antique Chambers stove from the 1950s, and we were able to find a beautiful one, in a stunning gray enamel,” says Serena. “I then located a guy here in Pittsburgh who restores them and makes sure everything is in working order.” Doug Korekach was also able to re-chrome the top of the stove and replaced the enamel on the burners.
Although small, with only three burners, the color and antique flavor of having a Chambers stove outweighed the decision to bring in a modern day range.
Effective space planning
The couple recruited Natalia Dragunova of Notion, LLC to direct the project. Every designer that the couple initially interviewed wanted to incorporate the appliances in the island. “We were adamant that we wanted an expansive countertop and Natalia was the only one that listened to us,” says Serena.
“Our main challenge was the ceiling because we were knocking down a wall between the original galley kitchen and family room, and I was also concerned that the ceiling heights could pose a problem,” points out Natalia. “We had to bring in a beam to support the second floor, which posed a second challenge of what to do with that beam.” The designer dry walled the beam to make it less visible, and then centered the stove on the beam with everything surrounding it.
The kitchen is equipped with a state-of-the-art espresso machine that can rival those found in top coffee shops. “We are coffee snobs,” laughs Serena. “This machine can make any hot beverage that we can dream up.”
Appliances are built-in, and made to blend with all of the cabinetry. A particular challenge was bringing up the floor in the section of the room that used to be a cold storage porch. The concrete floor was close to a foot lower in that area, so they had to bring it up to make it level with the rest of the kitchen.
Serena chose a vintage cast iron farmhouse sink from the 1950s that she came across in one of her searches. Weighing in at over 300 pounds, the cabinetmaker had to beef up the cabinet to support the tremendous weight. With the sink curving on the front, it had to be pulled out to accommodate the curved corners, so a custom cabinet was built using the same radius. An unplanned bonus was the added depth, which allowed for more insulation on the outside wall, safeguarding the pipes from freezing in the cold months.
The flooring is heated porcelain tile with a wood grain that blends beautifully with the walnut accents. The owners wanted a clean and crisp space that was warm and inviting, which is where the walnut shelves and hood came into play. “We wanted to keep the kitchen open and airy, therefore floating shelves were the right choice,” explains Natalia. “Doing the tile on the entire wall behind the shelves created one fluid wall as opposed to a choppy, busy and segmented space.” The darker tones were used intentionally to help keep the stark white kitchen warm and cozy. “You get the warmth of the wood with the durability of the porcelain tile,” says the designer.
Serena enjoys mixing and matching things to create some subtle excitement. She likes to maintain an open and airy look, but will throw in just enough color for pop. “Natalia isn’t set in her ways and is always open to new ideas, so this gave me more freedom in designing and allows her to be more daring,” says the owner. Countertops are different sizes and different heights, with the island being a bit taller to accommodate the owner’s towering height. “With Rob being 6’4”, we had to push the hood on the stove as high as we could,” says Serena. “We added the brown trim as just a bit of accent color.”
With all of its beauty and vintage charm, it’s just a family kitchen that was designed for family gatherings. “Everyone can sit at our spacious island and just enjoy being together.”
Resources: Designer: Natalia Dragunova, Notion LLC; Contractor: Seth Knorr Remodeling; Cabinetry: Cabinetry by Ken Leech; Countertops: Super White quartzite, Ultimate Granite; Backsplash: Subway tile, Ceramiche Tile & Stone; Appliances: Miele dishwasher; Sub-Zero refrigerator, Don’s Appliances; Chambers stove restoration: Doug Korekach