Greg and Tammy’s red farm kitchen remodel — full of retro charm

“…Like so many others, we are on a tight budget.
Buying our items patiently and doing all the work ourselves,
we spent less than $2500 on our project.”

country kitchenUsing family heirlooms, vintage finds, the color red — and some crazy mad electrical engineering skills, Greg and Tammy have cleverly transformed a circa-1980s kitchen in their 1913 farmhouse into a charming colorful retro kitchen. All for less than $2,500. You’re going to love the vintage appliances — a Kelvinator Foodarama and a Tappan Holiday oven range, just to start… And, I love in particular how Greg and Tammy kept hold of their 1980s laminate kitchen cabinets — you surely remember this style: the kind with oak strops across the top or bottom? A dash of red paint on the oak — and voila: Retro! — with no need to throw out perfectly serviceable kitchen cabinets. Looks great. Greg writes:

We have always enjoyed your site; lots of great ideas!  We are finished with our 1950’s retro kitchen and thought you might like to see it.

greg and tammy's 1913 farmTammy and I have been married 25 years this summer. We have been interested in antiques for years. Started collecting 15 years ago, just what we liked. We got serious when we bought our farm 5 years ago. The house was built in 1913. We could have done the house in many styles, but we fell in love with the 1950’s styles especially kitchen items.

familyThe first item we picked up for the kitchen was Tammy’s grandmothers red formica and chrome table. In one of the photos (above) is a pic of the same table at Christmas 1959 with her mom and Dad and family.

tappan holiday stoveNext was the 1957 Tappan Holiday Stove. There is hardly a scratch on it, bought for $60 at a Ohio antique store. Works perfect. Has Visiguide, timer, perfect running clock and the Tappan boys standing guard.

a built in oven painted red and converted to look retroWe missed out on an antique wall oven on Ebay so converted our mid-1980’s Tappan wall oven to vintage style. I bought a early 50’s Tappan Deluxe “stove topper” off Ebay for $30.00. I carefully cut it down, notched the backing plate on the existing stove to mount. Had to rewire existing knobs to fit properly. Sanded the front glass and painted safety red. Used chrome automotive wheel well  trim. Used an early 1950’s Tappan stove top and modified it to fit the stove. Had to do some rewiring, scuffed the glass, painted it red. Used auto wheel well chrome for sparkle.

kelvintator foodarama refrigeratorThe highlight of the kitchen has to be the 1953 Kelvinator Foodarama. Bought from the original 85 year old owner. Worked perfect, but paint was tired and had received a couple of dents when the owner had it moved. Tammy obviously loves red, so I painted it with automotive base coat/clear coat paint. It is a tank and built a ramp and platform to get it up on our deck. A heavy cart w/casters was constructed to roll it around.

country kitchen trimmed in red
red country kitchenThe counters/cabinents are 1980’s laminate, but chrome hardware and a dash of red paint makes them appear like ‘50’s metal cabinents.

retro red country kitchenretro farmhouse kitchenvintage sunray stoveThe really old stove is my great grandmothers Sunray from 1920-‘30’s. She bought new and used till moved to our family cabin in 1948.

vintage toaster and other appliancesvintage telechron clockAccessories include, GE Telechron kitchen clock, vintage toaster, Sunbeam can opener, Hamilton Beach Blender, (all work daily!)….

red spice rack vintageVintage spice rack…

red kitchen cartThe red cart is Tammy’s grandmothers, repainted w/the fridge…

red dishwasher panel1980’s Tappan dishwasher given vintage treatment with paint & pinstripes…
vintage hoosier cabinetVintage cupboard with sifter…

retro cheerleader adOriginal 1950’s Gem City Ice Cream cheerleader ad. Kelvinator glassware. Tammy loves the red handled kitchen utensils.


(Greg and Tammy also sent me a photo of this dollhouse — same as their house. I didn’t get the back story — did you make this, Greg? -Pam)

Thought I should mention that, like so many others, we are on a tight budget. Buying our items patiently and doing all the work ourselves, we spent less than $2500 on our project.

Anyway, that’s the basics!


Greg & Tammy

Thank you so much, Greg & Tammy, for sharing your kitchen with us (and for letting me torture you over photos). You know what I also love about this project? Your mix of the midcentury retro with the even older antiques — like the Hoosier cabinet and Grandma’s Sunray — works really well in also paying homage to the 1913 provenance of your house. The fact that you also accomplished this with 1980s kitchen cabinets left intact: Even more so a classic example of the Love the House You’re In design ethic. What a fantastic job … what a cozy happy kitchen … what’s for pie today, I’m coming right over!

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  1. says

    I love it. Especially how they decided to work with the existing cabinets and my word…those appliances! Wow! It’s also so wonderful that they have her grandmother’s table and a photo to boot. Such a happy place and a very smart remodel. It’s such a pretty house and with an equally pretty dollhouse to boot. Congratulations and kudos to them!

  2. ChrisH says

    Very cool. Especially how you installed the stove topper.

    We used to have a range similar to your Sunray. It was hooked up and working, but it was kinda scary so we don’t use it any more.

  3. lynda says

    I know that this was a lot of work. It all looks like it was such fun to create this kitchen. What great memories. Great job.

  4. says

    I can’t get over how amazing the appliances turned-out. I really like the great mix of eras you have going on, which gives everything a real “over time” feel. Your kitchen is just so inviting and warm. You should be very proud, especially given the total cost. Love it 😉

  5. Wendy M. says

    Thank you for sharing pictures of your home…the kitchen looks great! I’m especially impressed that you did it on a tight budget- it’s inspirational to see what can be done if you are both determined and patient.
    I hope you enjoy many more happy years in your home!

  6. Jennifer says

    This is literally what I want for my future retro kitchen, except in yellow (red is for the living room in my future home, but I LOVE the red, my favorite color). I especially love the hoosier cabinet!!! I was SO HAPPY to see it, because I really want one, even though it doesn’t go with the period, so I’m going to do a mix of periods in my home, just like you.

    LOVE the fridge! My goodness that is a beautiful beast. Does your husband have experience painting automobiles? Because he did an amazing job on it!!

  7. JKaye says

    Wow, that kitchen makes me want a Bloody Mary. What a fun place and I’m really impressed by the amount of work put in to achieve the desired affect. I don’t think this post states where Greg and Tammy live — is this in the Midwest somewhere? If they have a blog, let us know, because I would love to see more of what goes on at their place. The house is quite charming.

  8. Marion Powell says

    One thing you might be interested in researching (like you don’t have enough to do) is Telechron clocks. There’s a great web site That has everything you could ever want to know about these clocks.

    There are pictures of clocks from 1917 to 1959. After that the quality went down. I think you’ll be hooked looking at all the styles over the years and especially the war and retro years.

  9. says

    Great job. I am a retro red and white kitchen gal myself. So I absolutely can appreciate all the details. I am especially impressed with the red auto paint on the vintage fridge. It gleams!

  10. Lynn-O-Matic says

    My parents have those same laminate cabinets with the oak strip, except sadly theirs were installed in the late 1990s. They have HATED them since. Your method of dealing with the oak is brilliant. My parents’ accent color is cobalt blue. I’d better get over there and start giving those cabinets a facelift! 😉

  11. wendy says

    WOW that is fantastic!!!! I love everything, but the idea to paint the oak strips on the cabinets is brilliant!!! The appliances are fabulous too! Thanks for sharing your story.

  12. Greg Pearson says

    Hi to our retro friends! Thanks for all the great comments! We are tickled with how it turned out. We didn’t really start with a set plan, it just kind of evolved. Tammy had toyed with the idea of painting the oak strips red for a long time. She hated the cabinets; we had the same thing in our previous house. We considered tearing them out, but there are a ton of them, including two “lazy Susan’s”. Our first step was the red formica table. A few weeks later we found the stove and the red painting began! It transformed the cabinets; not steel Youngstown’s, but pretty cool. The wall oven was next. As Pam noted, there was some hardcore electrical involved; work only within your capabilities. It works great including the original clock & “Oven On” indicator. As some of you have guessed I have an autobody background which came in handy painting the fridge and oven.

    Would be glad to give advice to anyone tackling a similar project.

    We love the ‘50’s kitchen stuff; it is fun, bright and full of cool gadgets. Today’s stuff is soulless stainless steel and granite counter tops; blah, blah, blah, you see miles of it on HGTV. There is no fun to it. This was a great experience. Tammy has a great eye for style and color; I am just the worker bee. She is the love of my life and we celebrate our 25th Anniversary this August.

    Here’s to all you Retro lunatics, and a big “Thanks” to Pam for the great website!

    • Laura M says

      Greg, what an inspiration! Would you recommend the auto paint for metal cabinets? Is it feasible for someone without your auto-body background? I’m considering Rustoleum but want the new coating to be as durable as possible. Any tips would be appreciated!

      • Greg Pearson says

        Hi Laura M.,

        My first thought is, yes you could, but only if:

        You are REALLY good at spray painting now, (w/spray cans). Your work comes out really nice & glossy.

        You REALLY understand mixing ratios. This gets tricky… primer, paint and clear all have reducers & hardners and they have to be mixed right. The materials are expensive & easy to screw up.

        You will have to have a professional quality spay gun and an adequate air compressor. You have to wear a professional respirator, this stuff is dangerous.

        The painting is the easy part, getting it ready is tricky. The modern base coat/clear coat paint is EXTREMELY tough and glossy. It is very scratch resistant. Rustoleum and Plasticoat are the two best spray cans out there, but they don’t come close to automotive paint. They are thin, (in comparison) and not as nearly as tough because they air dry without a hardner.

        Now a disclaimer from the boss; Tammy says this stuff is difficult and does not recommend anyone without experience tackling a big job. She has been watching me paint for 30 years and wouldn’t try it herself.

  13. Jeffrey from Village Green says

    Yeah !! You did a good job of combining 1950s items with others from earlier periods. That helps to tie it all in to the 1913 vintage of your home. Great fun colors , too. Congrats !!!!!!!

  14. TappanTrailerTami says

    This is a fab kitchen! Tappan stoves are the BEST! Food-A-Rama’s are also the BEST! And to think you have both (insert green envy here).

    I also love the re-do on the cabinets, great idea, and what a huge savings of money not having to replace them.

    But, my favorite part of this whole post is Greg’s comment about Tammy (in the comment section):

    “She is the love of my life and we celebrate our 25th Anniversary this August.”

    Happy Anniversary to both of you – I love to hear of people who “made it”!

  15. Just another Pam says

    Truly beautiful kitchen, welcoming, homely, and a tribute to your talents and the house. It reminds me of the big ol’ farm kitchens down east when I was a kid, such a wonderful place to be I was in my teens before I realized the people even had a living room. Not that it mattered, why would anyone want to be there when you could be in the kitchen?

  16. Janet Gore says

    Your idea for the cabinets jumps out at me as a solution to my daughter’s limited cabinet budget. If, and until, she can afford new doors for her cabinets, this would be perfect. And red is her accent color. The kitchen is fun … and that’s great for a real, working kitchen. Congratulations!

  17. Chris says

    Ohmigosh! I am oooo-ing and ahhhh-ing and gasping and squealing!

    And that FRIG!!!!!!!

    I think I might have passed out for a minute or two!


  18. says

    I love the Kelvinator Foodarama, the paint job turned out spectacular on it! i really like the idea of making it movable to take it out where visitors and guests could be congregating.

  19. says

    I absolutely LOVE to see what “regular” people can do to their homes, operating without an extravagant budget! The oak trim repaint on those cabinets is brilliant, and it never occurred to me to “retro-fy” an existing 1980s appliance. GREAT job!

  20. Patrick Coffey says

    OMG Your kitchen is awesome….but…..2 things you should know first off that blender in the picture is a Waring Blendor (spelt with an o) NOT a Hamilton Beach. I have that same blender in white and turquoise. Second your Food-A-Rama is from 1955 NOT 1953 the ad in the provided link below shows the Food A Rama you have. Another way to know for sure is to check the model tag. If it says it was made by Nash Kelvinator then it was made before May 1 1954. If it says it was made by American Motors then it was made after May 1 1954 when Nash and Hudson merged and became American Motors……..PAT COFFEY

    • Greg Pearson says

      Thanks Patrick. We have seen that same fridge referred to as a 1953-’55, (including by the owner). Were they produced before ’55? It definetly has the “American Motors” logo label on the back. Works out great because I have had an affinity for AMC cars over the years. I have had 4 1968-’69 AMX’s, a ’72 AMX, a ’71 Javelin, ’76 Hornet and Gremlin. Thought it was funny that AMC made their cars in Kenosha, WI and their appliances in Detroit! AMC was always different!

  21. Patrick Coffey says

    Greg, I do not believe they made Food-A-Rama’s before 1955. In the ad in the link it says “a new star is born in food keeping” and “from Kelvinator comes a new concept in food keeping” so that would lead me to believe that 1955 was the first year for the “Fabulous Food-A-Rama” by Kelvinator. Red is my favorite color too and I really like the way your kitchen turned out….it is very impressive

  22. Jess dg says

    Holy cats am I ever STOKED to see those cabinets. I just bought my first house and the cabinets are the same as these. However, this house will be a rental in the future, so while I am definitely doing some tweaks and colours to make it mid-century, I definitely don’t want to spend a bunch of moola on new cabinet doors. I thought about painting the oak parts, and putting pulls and handles on the doors, but wasn’t sure if it would look good, or goofy. I am so pumped to see that it looks fantastic and I am now going to forage ahead! However, my kitchen colour is pitaschio green ;o)

  23. Debbie Sanders says

    I love the painted oven and am very tempted to paint my stove turquoise to mimic those retro ones that are very expensive, can this be done or is this a painting no-no?

  24. BMT says

    We have one of those kitchen carts, it came with our house. It’s in my basement waiting to be stripped and repainted. I love seeing that someone has another one.

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