Victorian houses aren’t known for kitchens, but these DIY stars worked their magic
Michael and Ashley Cordray, owners of Save 1900 Realty in Galveston, enjoy their kitchen time when they aren’t renovating historic homes in danger of destruction.
The stars of the DIY Network TV show “Restoring Galveston” love to cook, for one thing. Their 1-year-old daughter, Elle, loves to eat.
“She can eat as much pasta as I can,” Michael Cordray said. “We cook a lot. She thinks spaghetti is the funniest thing.”
The kitchen where all this happens is in a Victorian home about a block outside the Silk Stocking Historic District in Galveston. It isn’t the same kitchen the home’s first residents had.
The charm of a historical home built in the 1800s or early 1900s can fade if it lacks an attractive, functional kitchen where family members cook together, friends congregate and everyone connects in modern comfort.
Visitors in the 19th century would rarely see the small, cluttered workroom of a Victorian-era home where one hardworking person cooked and prepared meals while the family gathered elsewhere. Often, the fire-hazard of a kitchen was separate from the wooden house or barely connected to it with a breezeway or porch.
“It was wasted space,” Cordray said. “You weren’t going to hang out there.”
Michael and Ashley Cordray have met the challenge of giving Victorian homes in Galveston warm, modern kitchens while honoring the past. Saving 1900 buys old fixer uppers on the island to restore and sell. They create kitchen spaces that fit the older home’s character while also creating a center of family life, Michael Cordray said.
“You find a way to tie it to the old vibe, even if you are over the top,” he said. “An open concept is popular, but you respect the original layout.”
His favorite kitchen inside a home that Save 1900 has renovated is their own.
“It’s Ashley’s dream kitchen,” he said. “She designed it.”
A 17-foot-long island with a marble countertop is one over-the-top feature in the Cordray home that Victorian families lacked.
“It could support a cooking class,” he said.
Although the kitchen’s dimensions are large with a 12-foot ceiling, it complements the house’s overall layout, Cordray said.
To create such a spacious kitchen, the Cordrays combined two rooms at the back of their house by taking out a wall. Stained wooden boxes function as cabinets. Details on the vent hood mimic details on the columns on the porch.
“We built custom-stained cabinet boxes,” he said. “It’s an uncommon cabinet look. Definitely different.”
A distinctive quality of Victorian homes is the plentiful use of windows and tall doors, even in the kitchen, Cordray said. That isn’t something he wants to change during a renovation, he said.
“I love the scale of them,” he said. “We want the outside to look the same.”
To include the cabinetry and long counterspace many homebuyers desire, Cordray works around those long windows that extend much closer to the floor than a waist-high countertop.
“There’s a happy medium,” Cordray said. “We float the cabinets over the windows. It’s a way to keep the architectural look of the house intact.”
Another historic home that Save 1900 renovated includes a smaller modern kitchen with nice appliances and cabinets. The Cordrays widened a doorway to the kitchen to give the home’s layout a better flow and to make the kitchen visible across a hallway.
“It had offset doors,” he said. “They didn’t want to see into the kitchen, so the doors didn’t match up. Now, you can see in the dining room from the kitchen.”
That home sold in 2018.
The couple has more old homes they want to save from neglect and turn into comfortable family residences despite the proportional challenges.
“I don’t want to be limited,” he said. “You just work with it.”
Their own kitchen, the one where Elle experiences all types of pasta, has white walls, two mounted chandeliers, upper cabinets in a brown-purple-plum color and natural wood storage boxes.
“Ashley planned exactly the kitchen she wanted,” Cordray said. “I wouldn’t want it any other way.”