The Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood of St. Paul is resonant with architectural history, and Daniela Bell and Eric Foster’s home is no exception. Syvver and Oline Hagen originally built the Queen Anne in 1885; their daughter, after becoming a schoolteacher, also lived there for many years. Later, the structure was converted to multiple apartments. During the 1990s, the Upper Swede Hollow Neighborhood Association saved the dilapidated Victorian from demolition, according to Bell, after which several owners enjoyed the house.
By the time Bell and Foster purchased the property, it had been vacant for years. Moreover, the “previous owners had taken all of the kitchen—cabinets, appliances, everything—with them when they left,” Bell recalls. “The bank owned the house and was in the process of putting in a kitchen when we made an offer. We asked them to stop as the cabinets they were installing were not to our liking. We then essentially had a blank slate for the kitchen, which is just how I like things.”
Bell and Foster were determined to honor the history of the home, while incorporating 21st-century conveniences and family functionality. “I ran across an article that discussed how Victorian kitchens were often a collection of functional bits and pieces,” Bell says. That inspired designer Jacqueline Fortier (a.k.a. Jax), of Jacqueline Fortier Studio in St. Paul, to take a “component” approach with relation to function, furnishings, and materials.
The kitchen includes four components demarcated by furnishings, color, and material. On one wall, the distressed-wood hutch holds treasures and pottery, and is a period antique piece that would have been common in a Victorian kitchen. Another wall of custom cabinetry painted a butter or cream color provides storage, display space, and fronts for appliances. On either side of the Bertazzoni range are a soapstone countertop for Foster to roll out pie crusts—he’s the baker in the family—and a butcher block top for food prep (Bell’s the cook).
With its farmhouse sink, custom metalwork, dark blue color, and pewter top, the island is a standout. While deciding on the countertop, Bell says, “I started thinking about pewter, a metal I have long loved, the patina on old tankards from Revolutionary War-era America, and a pewter bracelet I got from Colonial Williamsburg during a childhood visit.”
The decorative metal welded along the island’s ends and edges help support the pewter, Fortier says, while introducing a “cool factor.” Fortier included a similar pattern as legs under the tabletop in a new alcove for Bell and Foster’s daughter. “Jax came up with the brilliant idea of using that space as an art nook/homework area for our daughter so she could have her own spot in the kitchen,” Bell says. “Custom benches with storage areas, a soapstone table, and a vintage chandelier really make that a special place for her.”
The hand-painted tile backsplash behind the stove ties the gray-blue and cream color palette together. Metal drawer pulls, the cabinet-mounted dish rack, antique pewter and glass décor, and modern lighting add to the kitchen’s aesthetic blend of traditional and contemporary.
Compact and well suited to the Victorian house, the kitchen is now “highly functional as well as beautiful,” Bell says. “I love how each of the countertop materials develop patina and scratches and even stains that speak of the love that is created when you cook, bake, and spend time with friends and family in the kitchen. We got exactly what we wanted and the kitchen really reflects our design aesthetic for the first floor of our Queen Anne Victorian.”