Junior League of Cincinnati's Kitchen Tour showcases some of Newport's finest remodeling designs

Event held Saturday in East Row Historic District
Posted at 5:00 AM, Nov 04, 2016

NEWPORT, Ky. -- Tips and treats -- this home tour has them both.

Uniquely remodeled kitchens in 10 historic Newport homes featuring a variety of old architecture will be serving up interior design eye candy and hometown food and drinks from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday during the Junior League of Cincinnati’s Kitchen Tour.

It will be like no other of the organization’s previous five kitchen tours, said Haley Elkins, League vice president of communications.

“This is the first time we’ve held it in a concentrated neighborhood that’s very walkable, where you really get to be part of a community,” Elkins said. 

Remodeler Ric Sims worked with owners Grady and Suzanne Gibson in 2015 to remodel the kitchen in their 1892 Queen Anne home. (Junior League photo)

The sponsors and businesses of the self-guided tour have come together seamlessly, and the league is expecting as many as 350 people to attend.

“Everybody’s on board, and people are very enthusiastic,” Elkins said.

Kitchen remodeler’s advice

Among the enthusiastic East Row Historic District participants is Mansion Hill Properties partner Mark Ramler. He will open his 1883-built Italianate home on East Fourth Street for the fifth time since he bought it in 2008 and gave it a whole new interior.

He started the project while studying for his master’s degree in architectural preservation at the University of Kentucky and ended it by designing a whole new kitchen at the back of the house. The lessons he learned along the way are classic ones he has used in the more than one dozen kitchens he has completed since.

“I went without a kitchen for a year,” he said. “We gutted it, took out two ceilings -- a drop ceiling and then the plaster ceiling above it.”

After the destruction and before the construction, Ramler stepped back and did what he believes everyone should do when remodeling an old home. He identified what he wanted to keep, which in this case was the 90-year-old porcelain, farmhouse sink under the corner window, the location of a second window and two doors and the original hard pine flooring buried beneath two layers of linoleum and a sub-floor.

The kitchen was the last room Mark Ramler remodeled in the 1883 house he bought in Newport in 2008. (Junior League photo)

“These houses are 100 to 130 years old, and you want to respect the space and not do anything too drastic,” Ramler said. “You don’t want to destroy something that somebody may want down the road.”

Next, he decided what he wanted to add: skylights and three-inch slats of bead board on the slanted vaulted ceiling he uncovered; leaded glass cabinets salvaged from a school in Mount Washington that he had purchased from Building Value in Northside; and another old cabinet that was salvaged from house in Price Hill by one of Ramler’s friends.

He fashioned full-size, cardboard templates of cabinets, appliances and an island to determine what layout worked best with his must-have furniture. And he got lots of advice, something he said novice remodelers should seek from a professional kitchen designer in the very beginning.

The key to every kitchen is to create a triangle with the refrigerator, stovetop and sink at its corners. Ramler did that and worked a large island into the layout without disturbing the flow. He carried the bead board from the ceiling to the island base, backsplash and a wall.

Little choices such as using three-inch, individual slats of bead board instead of large, prefabricated sheets gave Ramler’s kitchen a vintage feel. Installation is more taxing and they’re imperfect, but their deeper grooves add character that is picked up by the bright natural light that showers the room, he said.

Selecting the right paint color is also crucial to building a modern kitchen inside an antique house. This was a struggle for Ramler. He tried green, but didn't think it looked good. Neither did the yellow he tried next. The light gray he ended up with turned out to be perfect.

Those who tour his kitchen and the other nine will notice these details and can learn for them, he said, if they’re not too distracted by the treats that will be served there by Amy and Chuck Jones’ family business, Gigi’s Cupcakes.

It all starts at New Riff

The list of local businesses contributing to the tour includes New Riff Distillery, where everything begins with registration and ticket pick-up at 10:30 a.m. Chef Amy Tobin will host a pre-tour mimosa party at New Riff, from which tourists will drive into the historic district, park and walk to the 10 kitchens, using a color brochure with map and property descriptions.

Modern amenities and sleek design are featured in the kitchen of tour participants Travis Gettys and Julie Tarvin. (Junior League photo)

Food and drinks will be provided at each house by businesses that include Lil’s Bagels, Carnee’s Mindful doughnuts, Grass Fed Gourmet, Gild Collective, Oliver’s Desserts, Covington Coffee Co., Maverick Chocolate Co., The Spicy Olive, Breadsmith, Ohio Valley Food Connection, Bouquet Restaurant, Cincinnati Bakeshoppe, Grateful Grahams and Nutterbaby health foods. 

Eighty Twenty will be on hand to discuss interior design at a house on Monroe Avenue, and official tour stops include Press on Monmouth café and bistro and Wooden Cask Brewery.

Ticket sales fund programs

Tickets are $35 in advance at or $40 at New Riff Saturday. Proceeds benefit two Junior League program: GrinUp!, which promotes oral health; and its Refugee Connect network.

“We are very proud of (our volunteers’) efforts to create a fun, fresh event that raises money to support the mission of the League while highlighting the city of Newport’s beautiful East Row District,” League President Kendall Shaw said.