Stained glass and wood complement this farm kitchen's comfortable country touches.
By Barbara Schuetz
Three years ago, a kitchen remodel hadn’t even crossed Darlene Van Blarcom’s mind. She and husband Jim were more concerned about the leaky basement in their 1850s farmhouse. It badly needed repair, but contractors recommended something more drastic: tearing down and rebuilding about a quarter of their home.
“They said if we wanted the house to stand another 200 years, it needed a good foundation,” Darlene recalls. “We had two weeks to decide.”
The Van Blarcoms, who own a dairy farm in rural Columbia Cross Roads, Pennsylvania, gave the go-ahead to not only build a new basement but also a garage, bath, laundry room and impressive 650-square-foot kitchen.
Working with designer Karen Beach of Chapel Lumber, the couple drew up a list of “must-haves” for the new kitchen. “We wanted a big island for eating and working,” Darlene says. “We also wanted a view of the farm.” And the kitchen had to accommodate a 7-foot stained-glass piece she found at an antique show, the original wood-burning cookstove and a roomy walk-in pantry
The kitchen project took five months to complete. During that time, Darlene and Jim were able to live on the other side of the 16-room house, which has a second, smaller kitchen that’s handy when friends or family come for extended stays. They have three adult children—all involved in the dairy farm—and six grandchildren.
“As with any farm family,” Darlene says, “the kitchen is the heart of the house with lots of people to feed.” And she certainly does her share of cooking—from feeding field-workers to entertaining more than 200 people at their annual Fourth of July pig roast, complete with a campsite for guests who stay three to four days.
“We entertain a lot,” she says. “And most everybody ends up in the kitchen.”
Folks are naturally drawn to the large island, which measures 11½ by 5½ feet. In contrast to the cherry beadboard cabinets, the island is painted a fresh “linen” color, with cherry accents that tie the two tones together. It easily seats five or more for a casual meal and even has a special spot for Jim. “We angled the island so he can sit there and look out the windows at the farm,” Darlene says.
One side of the island serves as her baking center with a built-in stove and roll-out shelves for supplies. Darlene chose drawers instead of cabinets for easier access to pots and pans. One drawer has sliding trays on different levels for silverware and utensils. Two pop-up electrical towers have three outlets each—great for plugging in multiple slow cookers. The towers are also a favorite of family members who gather around the island to plug in their laptops.
The nearby wall oven has been a welcome addition, especially during cookie-baking sessions with friends and family. And everyone warms up to the cookstove on cold winter days. When the couple bought the house in 1975 from Jim’s parents, the antique stove was in the pantry. It now has a more prominent spot in the kitchen. “It can still cook a chocolate cake perfectly in 15 minutes,” Darlene says.
Her treasured stained-glass piece tops a wall separating the kitchen and living/dining area. Below it stands a beautifully crafted Hoosier cabinet with additional storage. Small cupboards frame the top of the windows that overlook the farm. Area artist Chris Long made stained-glass inserts for the cupboards’ doors that mimic Darlene’s antique piece. He also created the unique backsplash over the beverage center, installed with the grandkids in mind, with an extra sink and a two-drawer refrigerator.
The colorful stained-glass backsplash tells the Van Blarcoms’ story, spotlighting the farm’s 19th-century barn, the new barn, and their grand champion Jersey, named Adventure. The sunflowers in one corner represent the flowers Jim planted for the farm weddings of their two daughters.
“The mural is the most personal part of our kitchen,” says Darlene, adding that the room is in use all the time. “For me, it is more efficient, and it’s easier to socialize and bring the family together now. It makes us feel blessed.”
Farm Kitchen Photography by Lance Cole