Seattle Culture

Living: This Kitchen Really Cooks

Remodel preserves Victorian charm

By Sean Meyers January 11, 2023

Photography by Netra Nei

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2023 issue of Seattle magazine.

Raised on an off-the-grid ranch in southern Oregon, Mandy Lozano took a don’t-fence-me-in approach to renovating her kitchen in Seattle’s Squire Park neighborhood. She sought to balance a respect for the 1900 Victorian’s heritage with a genetic predisposition toward creative license.

“I don’t care for modern technology that much, and I don’t like fussy or trendy or overly complicated stuff,” she says. “I also don’t like the idea of old-fashioned for the sake of old-fashioned.”

She worked hard for information. Her internet query, “circa 1900 Victorian kitchens,” did not overheat Google’s data centers. But Lozano’s dogged research revealed that white, in its sublime, prim practicality, dominated the color scheme of Victorian kitchens. At the time, indoor running water was newfangled and electricity was viewed with suspicion.

The simplest kitchens would have had gas sconces, a large stove for cooking and home heating, and a center table for prep work and quick household staff meals. Also typical was a large sink and integrated drain board, walls with tile or paneling part way up to protect hard-to-clean plaster, and a pie safe or cabinet, but more likely multiple hutches.

Varying counter heights and compositions are common in Victorian kitchens, creating a more “furniture-like” look than modern kitchens, which favor long, uniform banks of cabinets and counters, a trend popularized by the desire to hide growing assortments of single-use electrical gadgets. Kitchens also evolved away from a chore relegated to staff and more toward a positive family activity. “Kitchens became more democratic,” Lozano says.

She teamed with Amanda Armstrong Sava, design consultant for remodeler Neil Kelly Co. in Seattle. Sava has extensive experience with Victorian remodels, having worked in the Bay Area market for 20 years.

At 3,000 square feet including an unfinished attic, Lozano’s home is not huge by Victorian standards, but yields numerous clues that it was built by a wealthy person, including a back staircase for the “help.”

The wealthiest Victorians preferred kitchen staff neither seen nor heard, often banishing them to a hot stove in a basement. See “Downton Abbey” for more on this household arrangement.

Kitchen functions were divided among three rooms in larger Victorian homes: a scullery  for washing dishes and other messy functions, a dry pantry for food and other storage, and a butler’s pantry with a small sink and china storage. Sculleries and pantries are trending in high-end kitchen installations as a tool to further streamline and showcase the main kitchen, Sava says, adding, “second kitchens are also trending, but for a lot of projects these days, space is a limiting factor.”

This kitchen is not tucked away. It’s at the confluence of several doors, but Lozano wasn’t looking to turn up the gas on the warm fuzzies. She has other appealing places for people to gather.

A circa 2000 cookie cutter kitchen that featured stainless steel appliances and contractor special cabinetry greeted Lozano when she purchased the home. 

That kitchen really set her teeth on edge, but she had to remodel it last for money considerations. She used the time to nurse a bitter grudge against the pedestrian laminate flooring, “although it turned out that the Pergo (laminate floor) was protecting the beautiful original wood floors.”

Many cultures influenced the final design. The floor finish is Swedish. There is a Dutch influence, inspired by a Lozano’s childhood fondness for delft tiles, which feature blue-and-white portraits of everyday life. White 4×4 Fireclay wall tile and Carrara marble countertops reflect memories associated with her Spanish heritage.

She wanted her majestic (and expensive) new Aga stove to feel at home, so she researched British kitchens. For climate change reasons, she didn’t want an Aga stove with an always-on gas feature for home heating. She instead selected Aga’s black gloss Elise, a newer cookstove-only model that runs on gas or electricity.

An orange ‘60s-era Japanese enamelware coffee pot lends a starburst of color. It is an homage to her now-deceased parents, both art teachers. Lozano’s parents designed an internationally recognized hillside concept home in California before moving north to become ranchers.

“My parents were visionaries,” she says. “I was fortunate to grow up with such creative, thrifty, resourceful people. It became a part of how I operate as well.”

Lorenzo selected Neil Kelly and Fireclay in part due to their status as B-Corps, a certification that recognizes businesses that meet high standards of things such as employee benefits, charitable giving and supply chain practices. She tenderly saved and reused the high-quality original construction materials throughout her three-year whole-house remodel.

Crystal Cabinets formulated inset box cabinet fronts (painted Benjamin Moore Polo Blue) to invoke a Shaker-like austerity consistent with Victorian values of not wasting wood. “They would have used a simple rectangle with dovetail joinery,” Lozano says.

A pair of “stumpy, stupid” French doors was removed to make way for a period-appropriate, cast-iron wall-mounted kitchen sink with Julia unlacquered brass fixtures.

To complete the effect, Lozano bought a pair of $85 windows from Second Use Building Materials in Seattle, a company that recycles items such as doors, vanities, appliances and the like. The lattice design matched other original single-pane windows in the foyer, but ran afoul of remodeling regulations.

It ended up costing about $5,000 to bring the windows to “improved R-value” standards.

“It probably would have been better to just buy a new custom window,” Lozano says.

There were triumphs, though, including Stuart Barnes for Robert Long sconces unearthed at Hippo Hardware in Portland and an “absolutely screaming Craigslist deal” ($400) on an 1840s washing table with self-tapping crystal drawer pulls.

“Mandy is very collaborative and it was a great experience working with her,” Sava says. “She gave the home the kitchen it needed.”

With 10-foot ceilings, luxurious natural lighting, classic elegance and rooms that can accommodate 15-person crews, Lozano’s home is now a popular filming location.

In a nod to “The Big Lebowski,” Lozano’s finishing touch in the kitchen was an heirloom rug rescued from her parents’ barn.

“It really does tie the room together,” she says.

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