No cookie-cutter kitchen

Newly remodeled kitchens all seem to look the same these days, thanks to a common copy-cat formula: polished slab granite counters, stainless steel appliances and new Shaker-style cabinets.

George and Gaye Rolstad don’t have a common kitchen, and, if they’re copying anyone, it’s Europeans fro

m 200 years ago.

In fact, the Rolstads’ kitchen, not to mention their entire Whidbey Island house, is so special and unusual, it will be featured Saturday on the AAUW Dream Kitchen Tour presented by the Whidbey Island branch of the American Association of University Women.

Stepping in

to the Rolstad home, once a simple, boxy Cape Cod overlooking Saratoga Passage, is a bit like walking back in time.

Thanks to a painstaking remodeling project that started in 2007, the couple have something most folks don’t: a meticulously crafted reproduction of a 1700s English Cotswold cott

age, complete with antique furnishings and perfectly placed, period-appropriate accessories.

Gaye Rolstad, a longtime antiques dealer and collector, had designed and decorated numerous homes before this one, so she knew what she wanted and how to do it.

George Rolstad, a retired art and industrial arts teacher, had the carpentry skills to help with the major interior and exterior overhaul.

“I like try to re-create history and design. That’s what we did in this house,” Gaye Rolstad said.

Indeed, there is a feeling of history here, starting with the home’s two front doors, imported from France by Left Bank Antiques of Anacortes.

More than 200 years old, they are just the thing to go with the home’s stucco exterior and steep-pitched roof. Small dormers, rather than huge picture windows to take in the view, contribute to the home’s historic look.

Rustic beams, more than 150 years old, salvaged from old factories and barns, adorn the home’s ceilings.

Pine flooring, made of planks almost 12 inches wide, are held in place with hand-forged nails.

Antique wooden furniture from England, France and America fills the house, defined by an informal, European-country style.

In the kitchen, a shallow, wide white farmhouse sink from 1910 features double drain boards and an old-style reproduction brass faucet.

In the middle of the kitchen sits one of the couple’s most prized antiques: a pine settle table from Pennsylvania that dates back to 1740.

It can be used as a dining table for six to eight, but it also converts to a bench, an essential feature during simpler times when the table top was tilted upright and used for back support as well as keeping the warmth of hearth fires close to the family.

“In primitive days, they didn’t have very many pieces of furniture,” Gaye Rolstad said. “They would use it for their work table and kitchen table and eating table as well.”

Each dining chair is upholstered in a red-and-white check by Pierre Deux fabric, also used in a valance over the kitchen sink.

“Style reflects lifestyle, usually, and we’re not formal people,” Gaye Rolstad said. “It’s the way we are. We’re just kind of casual people.”

Custom cabinets, built to look like furniture, feature a deep buttery yellow paint color echoed in the elegant wooden range hood built by George Rolstad.

Brass chicken wire covers the pantry door as well as the diamond cutouts on the cabinet doors beneath the sink.

White appliances, though modern, seem to disappear into the historic elements of the kitchen.

Gaye Rolstad had the white refrigerator, microwave and wall oven built into a single wall of cabinets, allowing visitors’ eyes to focus on the quainter side of the kitchen.

Two antique cupboards on the opposite wall — a rare L-shaped, hand-carved Swedish cupboard from 1820 and a hanging corner cupboard from England from the 1860s — are filled with Gaye Rolstad’s collection of hand-painted English Ironstone dishware.

Countertop workspaces alternate between slabs of reclaimed maple butcher block and salvaged granite slab, honed to a dull finish to look like old stone, full of character.

Gaye Rolstad is happy how their home turned out. She grew up in Millington N.J., in a home built in the 1600s.

“I think that’s how I was born into my love of old materials and old architecture,” Gaye Rolstad said. “It goes away if we don’t preserve it.”

Take the tour
What: The third annual AAUW Dream Kitchen Tour presented by the Whidbey Island branch of the American Association of University Women will feature six kitchens of varying sizes and styles, including the Rolstad home featured here, plus a beach house with a his-and-hers kitchen with separate prep areas, sinks, cooktops, dishwashers and warming drawers.

Proceeds will support educational projects and scholarships for the young women of Whidbey Island.

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday

Where: South Whidbey Island

Cost: Tickets, which include maps and directions, are $15. They are for sale at various businesses on the island, such as The Star Store in Langley, 201 First St., Langley (360-221-5222). On the day of the tour, tickets will also be for sale at the tour’s hospitality center at Trinity Lutheran Church, 18341 Highway 525, Freeland (360-331-5191).

Information: See www.aauw-whidbeyisland.org or call 360-914-0297.

Sarah Jackson: 425-339-3037, sjackson@heraldnet.com.

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