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By Estelle Bond Gurelnick


There's kitchen gold in junkyard mountains. It may be the penultimate recycling project. Would you believe a built-in island cooktop made from a street grating inserted over burners from an old stove? Or faucets from the janitor's slop sink of a bank building demolished in 1973? That's only the beginning, folks, and what's more, the result is a totally renovated kitchen worthy of culinary royalty.

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BEFORE: A Kitchen not even a mother could love.

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AFTER: Colored Tile counter topped by spice cabinet and old clock replaces former wall in Langenbach's new kitchen warmed by remnants from the past.

Who better, when the facts come out, for such a job than Tamara and Randolph Langenbach, both passionately interested in preserving worthwhile relies of our New England architectural history. Tamara states it succinctly: "Our concerns about preservation are part of our life. We're not trying to be clever about re-using things; we just consider the way we live inseparable from the way we think." Tamara K. Hareven, associate professor of history at Clark University, met Randolph Langenbach photographer and architectural designer, in the course of mutual but separate research into the industrial history of Manchester, N.H. In December 1973 they were married in the Old Schwamb Mill in Arlington, and now both are writing books on Manchester, he an over-all architectural view from the' 19th century to the present and she on the family patterns and adjustment of immigrant workers to industrial life between 1880 and 1940.

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Ran and Tamara Langenbach: "when we work in this kitchen, were surrounded by a sense of history, things that are meaningful to us.  Food is more than something one eats; it's part of a ritual. Now we have the kind of kitchen that makes that possible."


Their own home is an ordinary three-decker in North Cambridge, the bottom floors for rental income, the top floor now transformed by Langenbach's skillful reworking of space within a tight budget. First to go was the wall between kitchen and living-dining room, with the separation now defined only by a useful and decorative tile-covered counter topped by a spice box and an old school clock. Next, Langenbach tore out the existing kitchen ceiling; exposing roof rafters in half of the room and plastering the rest for a clean look interrupted only by built-in lighting. Thus, by adding six to eight inches to the kitchen's height, the long living-dining room projects as a horizontal space while the kitchen has unexpected verticality. What then went into the kitchen is as fascinating as it's unpredictable:

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Close-up of cooktop shows how street grate ingeniously covers old stove burners. Spices and cereal store in old textile tool cabinet over sink.

(1) The cabinets above the sink and under the stove are rescued tool cabinets from a 19th century textile mill.

(2) The faucets are from the janitor's slop-sink of the N.E. Trust Co. (McKim, Mead & White, architects) demolished in 1973.

(3) The cupboard door over the oven is from an old display cabinet at the Harvard Zoological Museum.

(4) Burners for the cooktop were salvaged from the kitchen's original stove, now covered by a former Manchester, N.H. street grating.

(5) The oven was salvaged from a burned house.

(6) The counter top-total cost $10-is used maple flooring.

(7) All exposed wood around the windows and under the counters is the rough-sawn original studs and rafters from walls and ceiling removed in the remodeling.

(8) The wainscoting was rescued by removing it and reversing it to expose the unpainted wood.

(9) The original straight-grain fir floor was restored by removing three layers of linoleum.

(10) The breakfast table consists of a marble slab from the N. E. Merchants' National Bank (McKim, Mead & White) demolished in 1970, resting on a sewing machine base.

(11) The beam in the ceiling is from a Boston waterfront warehouse.

(12) The kitchen windows are just about the only thing that is new.


Says Tamara: "Ran notices the beauty in things that have been thrown away or neglected, objects that once had their own dignity before being relegated to junkyards and garbage heaps." What's refreshing about the Langenbach salvage operation is that it's not an attempt at restoration but rather a contemporary design enhanced by the quality and texture of old wood and materials that contribute character, continuity and economy.


Since the Langenbachs both like to cook and to encourage guests to join them during meal preparation, they deliberately kept the flat's original pantry, now redesigned so that all the dirty work is done in there-"like an English scullery." Even the dishwasher was shoehorned into the pantry, a device that keeps the kitchen quieter and permits postponement of clean-ups, "perfect," says Tamara, "for procrastinating housekeepers."


Langenbach's interest in the Amoskeag Millyard in Manchester dates back to his undergraduate days at Harvard when he started an exhaustive photographic and research documentation of the once largest textile manufacturer in the world, collecting along the way three tractor trailers of abandoned architectural remnants from buildings slated for destruction.

Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, an exhibit detailing Ran Langenbach's design and social history of the Amoskeag Mills, including photographs, doors, windows, structural and architectural details, even a two-story cast-iron staircase, opens today and will run through Dec. 2 at the Currier Gallery of Art in Manchester, an easy hour's drive from Boston. Museum hours are 10-4 Tuesday through Saturday, 2 to 5 on Sundays, and the show is free to the public.




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Randolph Langenbach

M-Arch (Harvard), Dipl.Conservation (York, England)

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