Preserving the Past

This renovation subtly incorporates elements of the old with the new.

The past helped set a precedent for this kitchen renovation. Originally designed for and by popular Georgia architect J. Neel Reid in 1914, this Druid Hills home near midtown Atlanta aptly demonstrates Reid's architectural versatility, his attention to detail, and classic Southern style.

As part of a whole-house renovation, the current owners sought the help of local architect Thomas D. ZuiderVeld and designer Wallace Bryan to update the kitchen and butler's pantry. Their mission was to create a historically inspired design that would seamlessly answer the needs of a busy family of five.

In the spirit of preserving the past, Thomas and contractor Nabil Hamman attended an architectural history class focused on J. Neel Reid. "In the end, if we do our job right, it will look like we were never there," says Thomas.

"The concept of the updated kitchen came from the idea of an 'old kitchen,' but because it is a modern space there would naturally be built-in cabinetry," explains Thomas. Following the "old kitchen" as a guide, Thomas introduced several freestanding furniture pieces, including the island table and baking hutch. A touch of warmth and color was introduced into the room using the five tones in the backsplash tiles.

Old-world materials, including the handcrafted tiles and heart-pine flooring, give the space a comfortable, family-friendly feel, while sleek finishes and new appliances lend the room a more contemporary atmosphere. "Part of the thought in the actual choice of materials and finishes was to select items that could somehow look better over time with dings, scratches, and wear," says Wallace.

"The result of the renovation is a modern family kitchen with historic character," Thomas says. Both he and Wallace agree that the result is a beautiful kitchen, and were J. Neel Reid alive today, no doubt he would approve.

A Little Light Reading
For more information on the architecture of J. Neel Reid, check your local bookstore or library for J. Neel Reid, Architect of Hentz, Reid & Adler and the Georgia School of Classicists by William R. Mitchell, Jr., published by The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, $50.

"Preserving the Past" is from the December 2000 issue of Southern Living.