• St. Charles steel kitchen cabinets are restored to Frank Sinatra’s Palm Springs home, Twin Palms

    Frank Sinatra’s Palm Springs home, Twin Palms, was built in 1947. The kitchen in this mid-century modern gem originally featured St. Charles kitchen cabinets, but at some point over the past 60 years, folks removed the original cabinets. Today Retro Renovation is first online to showcase the all-new St. Charles kitchen cabinets that were installed in Twin Palms as a collaboration between St. Charles and the previous owners. This is not a period restoration. The house today is used for rentals, photo, film and TV shoots and special events, so it needed to have that flexibility. And, St. Charles is owned by the Viking Range Corp., so as you’d expect, it features those top-of-the-line, commercial-style products. To be sure, the update/backdate shows the relevance and adaptability of mid-century classics like steel kitchen cabinets to today’s kitchens. Read on for before and after photos of the Twin Palms kitchen, along with an interview with the kitchen’s designer, Andy Tobias.

    To launch the slide show, click on the first image. Use the arrows below the captions to move forward.

    Andy Tobias, a certified kitchen designer and owner of Tobias Design & Construction, designed the new kitchen, and answered my questions about it:

    1. What were you trying to accomplish with the new kitchen… what was the design intent?
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      Because this was a restoration/renovation project, the design goal was to create a kitchen that had all the modern amenities but would feel like it belonged in the house. The color palette selected for the cabinetry was a soft blue/green color called Sea Glass. This color complemented the rest of the house and was a color that would have been used at the time the house was built. Most importantly, the Sea Glass color brought the palette of the outdoor living space into the home. The kitchen was designed around some existing conditions such as ceiling duct work and the inability to move plumbing, so the footprint of the kitchen remained very true to the original design. However, with the addition of glass doors and open cabinets, a lighted shelf and the elimination of a pony wall, the newly designed space feels much more open and bright.
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    2. Why did you choose St. Charles cabinets?
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      I have worked with St. Charles Cabinetry for years and was brought on to the project after the brand had been selected for the space. With a long and very prestigious history, St Charles Cabinetry was a natural fit for this house. True to the original kitchen, St. Charles cabinets were used when the house was first built. Historically, it’s a great choice and, from a design perspective, the clean-line design of the cabinetry is a perfect complement to this mid-century modern home. Additionally, metal cabinets do not have the same expansion and contraction properties as wood, so in a dry climate such as Palm Springs, the product will perform perfectly and look great forever.
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    3. Is this your first experience working with steel cabinetry? What do you think of them?
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      No, I have been a fan of St. Charles for many years and I love them! They are environmentally friendly being made with 98% recyclable content. With a choice of either stainless steel or powdercoat finish options, there is no material waste going into the atmosphere or “down the drain” during the finishing process. The product has state-of-the-art components and is engineered for performance and durability. These cabinets are beautiful to look at, offer a wide range of interior accessories and design choices, and with 23 colors to choose from, lend themselves well to any project.
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    4. What do you think about the resurgence of steel cabinetry (including vintage) and its appropriateness for today?
      .
      I think the resurgence of steel cabinetry makes perfect sense because it’s very environmentally friendly and durable. The new line of St. Charles Cabinetry, now a division of Viking Range Corporation, gives homeowners both a contemporary look as well as timeless appeal that many designers and homeowners are looking for. The additional benefit of St. Charles is the modern performance updates in terms of hardware and finish function. There are many homeowners still enjoying vintage St. Charles cabinets installed decades ago, which proves that they stand the test of time.
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    5. Can you give me a specification list? What did you use for: cabinet color, appliances, sink, faucet, cabinet pulls, lighting and oh – the countertop.
      .

      • St. Charles cabinets in sea glass finish
      • St. Charles “square bar” cabinet pulls in stainless steel
      • St. Charles frosted glass wall cabinets
      • 24”W. Viking Professional dishwasher with sea glass door panel
      • Viking Professional convection microwave in sea glass finish
      • 36”W. Viking Professional freestanding bottom-mount refrigerator/freezer in stainless steel
      • 30”W. Viking Professional Ultra-Premium Premiere single oven in sea glass finish
      • 30”W. Viking Professional warming drawer in sea glass finish
      • 36”W. Viking Professional built-in cooktop
      • 15”W. Viking Professional ice maker in stainless steel finish
      • Dupont countertops
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    6. Okay, big question, how much did the cabinets cost?
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      Individual projects costs are typically not disclosed. We can confirm that St. Charles Cabinetry is priced similar to premium-custom cabinetry brands, and the company works with homeowners to customize cabinetry to fit the family’s budget.
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    7. Why no paint or wallpaper (we love wallpaper – a googie design from Bradbury & Bradbury would be fabulous!)?
      .
      We worked with the homeowner and the interior designer for the rest of the space, and kept the kitchen clean and minimal – similar to how it looked in the past. Typically in the kitchen, I prefer to recommend a backsplash material of tile or stone, because it’s easier than wall paper to keep clean.
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    8. What was the hardest thing about this project? What was the most fun thing?
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      In keeping with the home’s original footprint, we were working with some pre-determined spacial constraints. The benefit of using St. Charles is that it is custom cabinetry, so you can configure it to fit the space you need. Because the space was small, we used multiple glass door options for the wall cabinets. We also utilized the St. Charles lighted shelf accessory for the range wall to help give the space a “lighter” feel. Ultimately, I think the space turned out beautifully and blends with the aesthetic of the rest of the home – both inside and out. The best part of working on this space for me was the history of the house. In my mind I was designing a kitchen for Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner – how fun and special is that?
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    9. Tell me about yourself – and why you were chosen for the job.
      .
      I’m the owner of a design and marketing consulting business called Tobias Design & Construction. I’m a Certified Kitchen Designer and have been part of the kitchen industry for 35+ years. For several years, I held corporate positions as the Director of Marketing for high-end custom cabinet manufacturers; Rich Craft Cabinetry and Heritage Custom Cabinetry. I have won design awards, have had many projects nationally published, and have had the good fortune of working with some very prestigious clients during my career. I have also worked with manufacturers over the years, including Viking Range Corp. and St Charles Cabinetry designing national show booths and displays, dealer showroom displays, and doing special project design. I don’t have a website, but you can reach me by email at andytobias24@comcast.net

    Thanks to Andy for the Q&A — and for the gorgeous kitchen that would make Ava Gardner proud. And, thanks to St. Charles (thanks, Keri!) for providing the photographs for this story and the opportunity to feature this wonderful retro renovation tale!

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    Comments

    1. Wow, what a difference…a very pleasing difference.

    2. MidCMitzi says:

      Such a pretty color!

    3. TappanTrailerTami says:

      Love the cabs – but, the finished product is now at war with my lack of even one “minimalist” bone, so I would strongly have to fight the wallpaper urge, the knick knack urge, the splashy accent color urge…….LOL.

      The layout is extremely well done also, evidence of what a little thought can do to improve a space functionally.

      Kudos!

    4. I love the kitchen and the color. I matched a Martha Stewart “beach glass” paint chip (using Ben Moore paint) to paint the kitchen in my former home – very similar to the sea glass.

      I saw this home featured on a television special. One thing I found interesting was the pool. They mentioned the overhang covering the walkway had squares cut out so it would create a shadow pattern on the cement that resembled a “keyboard” to go along with the piano-shaped pool (as you can see in the photo). I thought that was cool!

    5. RetroSandie says:

      Andy did a fantastic job. The kitchen is much more pleasing now being light and airy. A very cool project!!! :)

    6. Marion Pickering says:

      I LOVE your site! I had no idea the mid-mod thing was an entire movement! I’ve become passionate about these homes because they use space so thoughtfully. But when I think about restoring or decorating one of them my head starts hurting because it seems so impossible to make them aesthetically appealing or have any integrity of style after all the years of previous owners trying to turn them into Victorian or country wonderlands. Your site has given me so much inspiration I can’t wait to get started! Thank you!

      • pam kueber says:

        Thank you, Marion, and welcome. Dig in, and let us know what you decide to do with your house. :)

    7. Love it! I saw that same show that mentioned the piano key pattern on the the walkway overhang. There is also a built-in toothbrush holder in the bathroom just like the one in my own bathroom. (It’s my brush with fame.) This house captures my imagination like no other. Just imagining Frank and Ava and the rest of the rat pack hanging out having cocktails gives me goosebumps.

      http://www.flickr.com/photos/31108567@N06/3225948646/in/set-72157612936178919/

    8. Oh yeah! I can see these in my kitchen. Love the fact you can match the appliances to the cabinets.

      • pam kueber says:

        I can see them in your kitchen, too, TroySF. I also like the fact that Viking lets you have enamel-painted appliances. That’s few and far between.

    9. Palm Springs Stephan says:

      Since I live in the immediate area, I will have to go by the house and have a look at it. But at $2600 per night “in season,” I will have to pass on going inside!
      The website for the house is a bit misleading when it states that Sinatra “brought allure and sex appeal to the formerly sleepy” town of Palm Springs in 1947. The implication that Sinatra somehow singlehandedly “made” PS a chic hangout for the Hollywood elite is simply not true. As a professional historian, I know that PS had already been very popular with the Hollywood “in crowd” for over 15 years. The Desert Inn and the El Mirador Hotel were both hot spots for stars to lounge by the pools, and they played tennis at the Racquet Club, which was owned by stars Charlie Farrell and Ralph Bellamy. The list of stars who routinely wintered in PS before WWII includes Jackie Cooper, Shirley Temple, Walt Disney, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Edgar Bergen (and Charlie McCarthy), Jack Benny, Marlene Deitrich (whose daughter, Maria Elizabeth Sieber, attended PS High School), and a long list of others. The radio shows “Amos ‘n Andy” and “The Jack Benny Program” were regularly broadcast from the El Mirador Hotel in winter in the late 1930s.
      And along with all those stars came their sexual escapades (Cooper and Fairbanks, especially), gossip, and “allure.”
      Frank Sinatra and his “Rat Pack” were late-comers to Palm Springs. If anything, Sinatra is better known locally for transforming the nearby city of Rancho Mirage into a popular golf resort community in the 1950s. But his influence on Palm Springs was minimal.
      (Can you tell I am not a fan of Sinatra? LOL)

      • pam kueber says:

        Thank you, PSS. I will correct the post. I was kinda thinkin’ that maybe the website oversold it… Thank you for the important clarification. It is good to hear from you and to know you are still keeping tabs on me and my shenanigans. I am going to try and make it to Modernism Week next year, so we can finally meet!

    10. The cabinets are perfect. Stewart Williams was the architect of the Twin Palms house. I recently attended a lecture by Michael Stern who worked with Julius Shulman and recently published the book Julius Shulman: Desert Modern (There is also an accompanying documentary movie that was shown on PBS).

      Sinatra wanted a more traditional home, but Williams talked him into a modern home. Apparently Williams did not intend for the pool to be in the shape of a piano, nor did he intend for the trellis shadow to make a keyboard. He designed the pool to flow with the outline of the house and the trellis was intended to frame the wild desert view which has now disappeared because of development. The resulting piano image was just a nice coincidence.

    11. Don’t be a Clyde, Pallie! Just imagine Frank, Dean & Sammy
      drinking scotch in that kitchen!!! E-O-Eleven & Ring-a-ding-ding!

    12. That’s a stunning kitchen – I’m so glad that St Charles is back in business!
      (And those old 90′s cabinets aren’t Wenge – More likely, Cherry Veneer or Cherry-Stained Maple)

    13. This is one fabulous house!! Used in lots of shoots for tv shows, etc, I believe it was also used in several episodes of the much loved “MadMen” show. I LOVE this house!

      The kitchen is TDF !

    14. Amy Hill says:

      Mid-Mod kitchens when done well, like this one is, really are so much more pleasing to the eye than what is currently being sold to consumers these days on television home improvement shows. This kitchen is perfect. I wish I could afford those high end appliances!

    15. error 404 says:

      I like the original design white white cabinets. Interesting that they chose to redesign again, rather than restore.

    16. Jennifer says:

      I went to the St. Charles website but didn’t find any pricing information. I live in a 50′s ranch with original metal cabinets in the kitchen and would love to replace them (they were not well cared for) and still have metal cabinets and the same retro feel. Do you have any other information on the cabinets?

      • pam kueber says:

        Jennifer, like other high-end cabinet companies, they won’t give out pricing. I really really dislike that business practice — so lacking in transparency, which is the new consumer watchword. Alas. So, you have to go to a retailer and talk to them… Also be sure to check out the Forum, which is all about connecting buyers with sellers of vintage steel kitchen cabinets. We’ve identified 70+ brands so far. It’s a real retro-wonderland: http://retrorenovation.com/forum/ Good luck.

    17. frederick j. masters says:

      I use to install st. charles steel kitchens back in mason city iowa quit a few years ago the were made to last a long time its gives me great pride that the continue makeing them . I tryed to find st charles st. kitchens in our yellow pages no luck thanks to the computer I found them again !

    18. Great kitchen … I’m not usually a fan of cooler colors in the kitchen, but the sea glass color really suits that space and the kitchen has a lovely feel to it. Being a musician, however, it’s the PIANO POOL I really love! THAT is opulence and decadence I will probably never experience in my modest little home but I love that someone had a pool like that made. Maybe a ukulele shaped gold fish pond would be more realistic??

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