From porch posts to ornate iron brackets, other people’s castoffs are John K. George’s inspirations. For more than 25 years—long before others were recycling—this college history major turned interior designer has been salvaging and reusing materials in his design projects. “My love of history is interwoven with a strong respect for well-built and well-designed historic buildings,” George says. “Plus, as one of five kids raised in a very frugal family, I have practiced green remodeling, salvage, and dumpster diving since before they were considered virtues.”
The Virginia designer demonstrated his respectful approach when renovating the kitchen of a 1913 Tudor-style home for the Richmond Symphony Showhouse. Originally built by a family to honor its Scottish heritage, the house features a brick-and-timber exterior, wood-paneled interior walls, and other details typical of a British country house.
The kitchen, however, was all-American, circa 1970s, with vinyl floors and blue plastic laminate countertops. “The original kitchen was a large room with great windows but the finishes and appliances were very tired,” the designer says. “I wanted to show how we could create an attractive and beautiful space without the conventional gut-and-start-over approach.”
George’s first chore was peeling away multiple layers of vinyl and linoleum flooring. “It took a lot of muscle and elbow grease, but it was well worth it,” he says. “We easily sanded and finished the original pine flooring, which was absolutely beautiful, with watermarks and stains that made for an incredible patina.”
The designer preserved most of the kitchen’s cabinets but bumped up their historic charm by adding moldings on door fronts, vintage-looking bronze hardware, and fresh coats of paint in a muted green. A previously humdrum built-in china hutch was painted red using a dry-brush technique to simulate a timeworn patina, and it now looks like a cherished antique.
The ceiling also got a makeover. George tapped a Richmond reclaimed-lumber business, E.T. Moore, to install a coffered ceiling using salvaged antique wood.
Antique Gothic porch posts and brackets that George found at Caravati’s—one of his favorite Richmond salvage dealers—flank the new range and are a nod to the house’s Tudor styling.
Another find at Caravati’s was a turn-of-the-20th-century porcelain sink, which George upgraded with a new faucet in an oil-rubbed bronze finish. Slate countertops around the room’s perimeter replaced the blue plastic and are another period- and status-appropriate material for the home.
Vintage light fixtures recycled from a church were encircled with hand-forged bands to create a one-of-a-kind pot rack and light fixture above the wood-topped island. The table-style island is also a study in recycling—made of old, wormy pine beams wrapped with hobnailed iron banding.
George incorporated 21st-century technologies, including energy-efficient appliances, compact fluorescent lightbulbs, and a water-conserving faucet, proving preservation and progress can beautifully cohabit.
Photography: Ron Blunt
Produced by Eileen A. Deymier
Richmond Symphony Showhouse