A 1965 kitchen updated with red checkerboard linoleum floor tile

1965 with new linoleum floor

There is just something so… likeable… about the ubiquitous maple and birch kitchen cabinets that filled American homes for– how long? — from 1935 (or earlier) through to 1970 or so?  These cabinets are both warm — and durable. They are also classic, mid-century unpretentious: They say “I’m vintage… I’m original” — but not in a flashy way that may wear you out over time. I *know* the desire is strong to want to repaint these wood cabinets when you first move in. Hey, I did it once, in the very first home I owned, a 1938 mid-century modest. But as shown in Donna’s kitchen today, if these cabinets are still in good shape — they can be gleeming lovelies. With some modest updates — in this case, a new checkerboard lineoleum floor — this kitchen is ready to do its cheerful duty for another couple of decades. Read on for Donna’s story…and some more great photos of this sweetheart kitchen.

vintage 1965 maple kitchen cabinets

Donna writes:

Hi, Pam!

I have finally taken photos of our new red, light- and dark-gray checkerboard Marmoleum kitchen floor, complete with Capel braided rugs, as well as two or three of the common but classic kitchen elements that ‘sold’ us on our 1965 rancher.

scalloped wood valence

I always wanted a scallop and little shelves around my kitchen window; I finally got them.  They’re simple touches, but we’re so glad they weren’t destroyed with an update; yay!

Vintage kitchen with indoor-outdoor carpet “before”

When we moved in, we tolerated mid-70’s dark blue indoor/outdoor carpeting in our kitchen.  It was oppressive (and smelled like the previous owner’s golden retriever on humid days), so new flooring was high on the list of must-do’s.

marmoleum linoleum

Our new Marmoleum is Bleecker Street red and Silver Shadow light gray checkerboard, with a Volcanic Ash dark gray border to help ground it.  We’d initially intended to do a black and white check, but absolutely fell in love with the way the red warmed up and complemented the original cabinets.  The grays help pull our drab mid-80’s gray countertop and ceramic backsplash into the room and look a little more like they belong there.

1964 kitchen with lineoluem floors

The rugs are Capel Gramercy in Songbird.  Their colors are muted compared to the tile, which helps keep the flooring from overpowering the room.

kitchen cabinet corner shelves

Pie birds, kitchen & stuff!  I’ve included a pic of one of the backsplash tiles.

We really do not like them, but, as with the countertop, the backsplash looks better now that we have the new flooring because the reds & grays tie together.

vintage dutch kitchen clogs

The dutch clogs were always hanging in my grandaunt’s kitchen, and the trivets were my husband’s grandmother’s.

I’ve settled on some 30’s repro fabric to make kitchen curtains; don’t like the pictured embroidered sheer that came with the house.  The 30’s repro’s are red, yellow/gold & aqua: a classic color scheme in my book, and pie birdsperfect for our red floor.

How we ended up in the house is really a very simple story.  New homes lack personality.  We ended up in our perfect house because we wanted an older home with character.  We both grew up in the 60’s and wanted something that vintage or older, plus, it’s flat!  We intend to live in this house the rest of our lives, so flat was tops on our requirements list.  Once we’d begun looking at 50’s/60’s ranchers, it was all over!  We loved what we were seeing and knew we wanted to be in this neighborhood, where every house is a little different from every other.  We chose this particular house despite its blue indoor/outdoor kitchen carpeting, its purple bathroom, and its overdose of mid-80’s mauve & cream because we gleefully looked past the decorating to see its good retro-able bones.  We also liked the many mid-60’s touches that remained, such as the ceiling fixtures in all three bedrooms – atomic pattern on the shade and pindots on the metal rounds that make awesome patterns on the ceiling!  Just plain fun!

You’ve seen what we’ve done with the kitchen.  Though we initially talked about completely re-doing the purple bathroom I found the perfect MelinaMade “Jetson White” fabric for it, again thanks to your site!   Now I have to confess the purple is beginning to grow on me, especially since I know the tiles are original.  I haven’t sewn the curtains yet, but the tide is already turning in favor of keeping the purple.  The vanity was replaced in the 80’s, so we’re planning to replace it with something MCM at some point.  As for the mauve & cream: it’s GONE!  We’ve painted the living & dining rooms a butterscotch-y gold, probably more bungalow than rancher, but we like it.

Donna and DH

Without your site, we never would have known we could get all this cool stuff to make our home quite possibly even more gorgeous than its former glory.

With many, many thanks!


Thank you, Donna — what a beautiful, beloved and lovable home you have. The floor looks fantastic… as you note, the red bouncing off the cabinets looks waaaay better than the blue-green indoor/outdoor casting its harsh light. Great choice — and a good lesson for everyone to remember to watch and plan for how colors reflect and influence each other. Finally — as you already know from my email — I’m chasing after you to see that purple bathroom! xoxo pam


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  1. tammyCA says

    The kitchen window reminds me so much of my childhood home. The warmness from the cabinets are just something that always makes me feel embraced. I struggle with painting the oak ones in our kitchen, should I or shouldn’t I…they have that wood warmth at least. They were put in by previous owners and I wish they had left the originals in place…but, they actually put the 1954 originals in the garage so they serve as our tools, storage cabinets. The cute scallopy design on them always makes me smile. Man, if we had the $$ I’d put them back in the kitchen.

  2. Ericka says

    Love the cabinets! I have similar cabinets that I imagine used to have the same kind of hardware (the hinges are that style). I’ve replaced the tacky 1990s replacement handles with lovely chrome, and it fits. My cabinets also need some touch ups due to water damage, so if anyone has any ideas…

    And thank you for calling that thing a scallop or scalloped valance. Now I know what to look for!

    This is the bestest site ever. =)

  3. Donna says

    I just bought a 1961 house with the same cabinets and hardware…so Donna I love your kitchen. I wonder if you or anyone has ideas for cleaning the wood (lots of grease marks) without damaging them?

  4. Angela says

    Your kitchen is lovely! I have these exact same cabinets in my 1956 ranch, we are getting ready to do an update, we too have the indoor/outdoor carpeting that needs to go! Did you have to cut your cabinets down to make room for the microwave? My cabinets above the stove are 18″ tall, as are the ones above the fridge, so it really limits what size fridge I can have. We also have 3 doorways into our kitchen and I would like to change to flow using the same cabinets and having some more built to match if possible….I was thinking of tearing the cabinets out until I saw the pics of your kitchen. I hated to do it, so maybe there is another way! They are in great condition, except for the 2 doors beneath the sink, they have black stains running down them from the handles which we removed when we moved in 5 years ago, and now I can’t find them…

  5. gsciencechick says

    Love the red and white floor! Everything looks great.

    Now we need to see your purple tile bathroom!

  6. Janice says

    I love the red and white floor.. I have been looking everywhere for red ceramic and can’t find it. I am wondering if this type of floor is shiny or if it has to be waxed? My kitchen is very similar to yours and I have the same kind of cabinets as well.
    What store did you find this marmoleum tile?

  7. Karen says

    I am picking out a tile back splash for my kitchen, and not planning any colors other than a touch of gray and black, to go with mostly all white subway tile. Hopefully down the road the ladies that will someday own this place when I have to move on will like the neutral colors that will go with any kitchen colors they want in their kitchen. I happen to love red but tiles are so forever.

  8. Chutti says

    Really, really sweet kitchen. Love the way you went with the red and made it work. That’s the ticket.
    Marmoleum was very expensive for us here in CA, so we went with a combination of the AZrock/Tarkett and Armstrong VCT tiles-2 rooms worth was about $300. Blood red with a yellow and grey stripe, and the dark grey border. I love, love the border you made-it grounds the whole thing. And ditto on the totally period warm rag rugs.

    To Jay on freshening your cabinets:
    I had two homes with the birch cabinets so far-they are the BEST! Wood putty and a light sanding on problem areas will be fine. One of my homes was in a super moist wooded area, the other in an almost desert environment. Both did fine with the wood renew.

    Sand out any problem spots (mends, burns, discoloration, whatever).
    Do a major scrubdown-Diluted vinegar, Murphy’s-whatever floats yer boat.
    Get Zinnsner Bullseye amber shellac.
    Two very light coats inside and out will make everything seem absolutely brand new. It dries quick. You should be able to do two coats in a day. Be sure not to put any weight or contact on surfaces for 24 hrs though.
    When you first paint it on, it may seem uneven or at ‘different eras”. Because shellac is natural product, it will take on a patina in just a few weeks. I’ve covered some kid fire damage, and the color wound up even with everything else in less than a month.

    I found that a quick refresh of the shellac every 2-3 years kept everything glowing and easy to keep clean.

    Gorgeous natural homey kitchen! It looks like love.

  9. Nancy says

    Donna- I want a floor just like yours. But, we are having concerns with-needing certified person to lay it, expense, durability… Did you have a certified person lay yours? How happy have you been with the floor, is it holding up well? We have 3 dogs… Is there a lot of maintenance? Just would like your evaluation of marmoleum to know if that is the way to go.
    Would really appreciate your input!!
    Thanks so much!

  10. Chris B says

    Hi! Quick question for Donna, or Pam,
    I’ve been looking for materials for a red/white checkerboard floor for several years (!) and just stumbled on your lovely site and Donna’s beautiful kitchen. Donna, I ordered a sample of the Marmoleum Bleecker Street red (the only red they have, I think )and (in the very small piece they send as a sample) it looks like a very different red than your floor–very dark. I’m wondering if it’s just due to the small sample size? Perhaps you had the same experience but it looks different in large tiles once installed—Any thoughts? (I’ve also looked at Armstrong but no one seems to have red nonvinyl tiles for residential use).

  11. Holly Alexander says

    Does anyone know the artist of the two trivets? I didn’t know they were trivets; I have an old one (painted by a different artist, though), and because it has a hook at the top, I always just thought it was artwork. I Googled the artist of mine but found nothing. Mine also doesn’t have a “title” painted on it. I’d love to find more!

  12. Maria-Dolores Gasquez says

    Hi, realy lovely kitchen, I love it.
    I am spanish and I live in the south of France. I’m looking for a peace of red and white linoleum floor like yours, to put in my red and white combi Volks Wagen!
    Can you help me to find it (to buy it)? From emails or sites etc…
    It will be very kind of you.
    Thank you so much
    My best regards.

  13. Andrew says

    omg. that’s my kitchen. but 1950. where can i get the same floor linoleum with blue squares as opposed to red?

    Please advise !

    Thanks !

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