Kathy makes a custom dishwasher panel from a vintage Betty Crocker cookbook cover

I featured part of Kathy’s kitchen recently — spotlighting how she found resources to fix her vintage GE oven and electric range top here on the blog. But golly, I saved more wowza from her delightful kitchen for this second story: Kathy crafted her own decorative dishwasher panel — using an enlargement she made from the cover of her grandmother’s vintage Betty Crocker cookbook. The dishwasher panel not only suits her kitchen design to a tee, but it reflects the kitchen’s historic connection with Betty Crocker, too. Read on to see how Kathy completed this easy DIY, and for a peek at the other side of her perfect wood-yellow-red kitchen.

Kathy writes:

The dishwasher was a recent project of mine. My dishwasher works fine but it is 20 years old, and I wanted to do something to make it fit in more with the retro look. Having a budget of next to nothing I had to get my creative juices going. I thought about spray painting it yellow to match the oven/stove, but I didn’t want to chance the mess or doing it badly. Then I thought of those huge magnets for sale in the country magazines that decorate the front of dishwashers for $55. None of their decorator designs really satisfied the retro look I was looking for. But, it gave me the idea of covering the front panel with a picture of something retro.  I thought about what would be fun and chose to pay homage to my grandma with a poster that I had made from her 1950’s Betty Crocker cookbook, which I still use today.

From the previous story, we learned that Kathy’s kitchen also has a wonderful connection to Betty Crocker. She told us:

…the original owner was a professional cook in the Betty Crocker test kitchens in Golden Valley, Minnesota at General Mills near my home.

This was also why Kathy wanted to rescue the stove — she wanted to retain that fascinating connection to Betty Crocker history. How cool — and what a great idea to carry the Betty Crocker homage to the dishwasher panel! Kathy continues with her DIY steps:

First, I had the cookbook scanned and made into a poster. Before cutting it to put on the dishwasher, I made a pattern first. To do this, I measured the dishwasher panels… I did the math to add the two panels together as one piece, so that my pattern could be split without losing some of the design… and then, I made a plain paper pattern.

Second, I laid the pattern on top of the poster to gauge where I wanted to cut my design… traced around the pattern with a pencil… cut out the pattern… and made sure to cut it a tiny bit smaller so it would stay within the edges of my dishwasher. Then I cut the poster into two pieces, one for each panel.

Third, I had the two pieces laminated at the local copy/office supply store, where the laminating is a little thicker and sturdier than normal office/school laminating. This made the new panels a little sturdier.  I had them leave a 1/4 inch of laminate all around the edges of each piece when they cut it for me.  The laminating was around about $10 for my project, but they charge by the size of your piece of paper so yours might be different.

Then last, I took the poster pieces home and had intended on attaching them with double stick tape since my original dishwasher panel is not magnetic.

But then, I discovered that my older style dishwasher’s panels have an edge over-lapping the panels — and my newly laminated pieces could slip under the metal edges without the use of any tape. A much better solution since there would be no gaps where water/mess could get under the new panel.  I used the end of a flat blade screwdriver to help slip the laminated poster under the metal edges.

I stepped back to admire my new retro look and was pleased at the kitsch I had created! I think this method could be used for posters, old wallpaper, children’s artwork, or even enlarge an old family photo to poster size at the warehouse club for cheap — and put grandma herself on your dishwasher!

Thank you, Kathy. What a fabulous project, and you know I love love love the Betty Crocker history. Also, your sense of design is awesome, in terms of color and scale, the decorative panel “works” perfectly in your kitchen!

Note: Before running this story, I checked with the PR folks at General Mills, owners of Betty Crocker, to make sure they thought that making an enlargement from their cookbook for a personal project like this was okay. They responded that they thought it was a fun project and gave me the green light. Thanks for the luv, General Mills!

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  1. lynda says

    So many very clever people on this site! This is perfect for her kitchen and crafted with perfection. Good job! I think she could have a business doing this.

  2. Elaine says

    That is just a perfect look for that beautiful kitchen. I love the creativity. Now I want one for my 20+ year old dishwasher. I hope I have a vintage cookbook in the right colors.

    • Kathy says

      Thanks Patty! The valances are from “Country Porch” but I ordered them from their catalog a couple years ago. I wanted that fruit tablecloth look but I have 3 windows and couldn’t find enough old tablecloth to make that many curtains.

      • pam kueber says

        Hi Kathy, Thanks for the info on where you bought the curtains — I had noticed them too and had meant to ask you. Perfecto!

  3. Kathy says

    Thanks for your wonderful blog about my dishwasher Pam! I hope this inspires others to love the “kitchen” your in! Even if you can’t do a big remodel, small things make your home personal and like no one else’s.

  4. Janet says

    Love this look! I don’t have a dishwasher in this house but I sure would do that if I had one! I don’t know about other makes, but many people don’t realize that the GE front panels are changeable. You can remove the trim and switch it out. The older dishwashers actually had two panels in the door; you could change it from white to black or from avocado to gold, etc. At some point I am not sure of, they changed it to one panel but it was reversible from black to white or almond to white, etc. I am sure if you checked with an appliance store they might take one in similar to yours, and I would think that they would be happy to give you panels off the junked ones to make different panels to change the look. I often pirated parts off of them such as wood chopping block tops or racks. I confess, I am a dumpster diver!

    • kathy says

      Janet, I think when I bought the dishwasher years ago you could get different colored panels. Your resourcefulness is great! Around here, dumpster divers were called “dump pickers” back in the retro years.

      • Janet says

        Kathy, I am almost SURE that the dishwashers with two panels above and below, like yours, had the two front inserts. At least the GE ones did. I know now most dishwashers don’t even have the trim but have a single wraparound front panel, so they are of course not reversible. But I would bet your trim comes off and yours is!

  5. dipsterdeb says

    Adorable! My mom just passed away 2 wks ago and maybe she wouldn’t mind looking over my kitchen from the dishwasher. Believe me, I can use all the help I can get in there! I am one who would rather paint it than cook in it. She was an excellent cook & I could use a few pointers for sure!

    • kathy says

      dipsterdeb: I’m so sorry for your loss. I think it would be wonderful to have something around the kitchen to remind you of your Mom. My next project is with that in mind… I am looking thru old photos and slides to find a few pictures of the women in my family cooking in THEIR kitchens. Then maybe I will make a display on the kitchen wall/backsplash of small frames with them. Grandma, Mom, Aunties, maybe even Dad making summer sausage in the basement at the farm…??? Good memories.

      • dipsterdeb says

        Hi Kathy,
        Was just getting back to this idea, when I read your response. I am also planning to paint over a large floral border in my kitchen, first with magnetic paint & then with chalkboard paint. The idea is to be able to decorate it with magnets, and/or writing/drawing. This would keep the fridge uncluttered. I did this with chalkboard paint in my son’s room so that I wouldn’t need to repaint the whole room because of a large insect themed border that he had outgrown. It already had an upper and lower edge so I just used painter’s tape along the lines and painted the middle with chalkboard paint. Now he’s able to write or draw whatever he likes on it. I just don’t know if the paper of the border will hold up to a coat of each paint. This idea could work for a back splash if you had magnets made from the photos. Then you could change them around as you pleased.
        Thanks for sharing your dishwasher project. I hope to complete it soon. Where did you have the poster made? Someplace like Staples or a photo printing service like Shutterfly?

  6. Michael says

    That is such a great idea– I’m inspired. Maybe a blow-up of a vintage detergent ad could work well in my own kitchen…

    • kathy says

      Michael, great idea! The possibilities are endless… ads, photos, page from magazine or book, rock n roll posters, wallpaper, owner’s manuals… I once photo copied a vintage baby blanket for a scrapbook I was making so maybe even fabric scanned and made into a poster would work!

  7. Karen says

    Kathy, that is pure genius! My cupboards are the same natural as yours and there’s no way I can get a dishwasher to match the brown original oven, so I am on this like a fruitfly on spilled jam.

    • kathy says

      Karen, this is a fun little project and I’m so glad it seems to have inspired retro readers. Just think, once you make the first one, you could make a different one to change it out for the holidays or seasons too!

  8. Martha says

    I love your idea. And I also love the upper cabinets in your retro kitchen. Unlike most of them, which have the closed-in soffit above standard-sized cabinets, you have even more upper cabinet space. What a great kitchen.

  9. TappanTrailerTami says

    This is just SO fun! And CHEAP! Yay! Inventivity is not dead in America, way to go Kathy. My mom has that same cook book….I had one also but after many moves, I can’t find it now. I’ll have to turn to eBay to get another I suppose.

    Great job Kathy, and thanks Pam for sharing this!

    • kathy says

      Tami: Oh, easier than that, go to local bookstore! General Mills reissued the old Betty Crocker Cookbook only a couple years ago with the vintage cover and old fashioned “colored” photos. They also reissued their cookie cookbook with the original vintage cover.

      • TappanTrailerTami says

        Thanks for the great tip, Kathy, I had no idea. No hunting for “good” bindings that way!

        Love love love your whole kitchen, not just the fab d/w!

  10. Janet says

    Just occurred to me; I am not sure this is a doable project if you don’t have a dishwasher with the removable trim. I haven’t looked at them in years and I don’t know if they make them that way any more, but you may be able to special order a trim kit that will work. I love your cabinets too, not just the way they are made, but the nice warm color! I collect the old recipe booklets that were given away with just about everything back then, like stoves or fridges or pressure cookers. Also I pick up the ones you could send for from companies who made baking soda or gelatin or whatever. Those often have really great colorful covers too. This is such a great idea!

    • pam kueber says

      My dishwasher, installed around 2002, has the trim edge. I ordered it for this reason. I put a piece of the side of steel kitchen cabinet on mine. I am pretty sure they are still around.

      Also, read closely, and you will see that Kathy originally thought of doing this with double stick tape. It was only when she looked close that she saw there was a panel. So: double stick tape it. Hey, I would even try Repositionable Mounting Spray – that stuff seems pretty strong.

    • kathy says

      Janet, just so it’s clear, I didn’t have to remove any trim or anything at all from my dishwasher. Also maybe newer dishwashers ARE magnetic and a fun home-made panel could be attached with craft magnetic strips. Hope that helps :)

      • Janet says

        Kathy, I did understand that you were able to install your new panel with a screwdriver as shown in the photo (I need those visuals, duh). I just think it looks so built-in and perfect framed at the edge like that. I did look and Whirlpool does still make one with reversible panels so it has the trim on the edges. Most of the dishwashers that I saw had wraparound front panels with no edge trim at all, and I don’t think they would look as nice as yours do with that framed edge. BUT as mentioned, there are other ways to do it that may work out just fine.

  11. says

    Oh my goodness, I LOVE this! Kathy, what a great idea—and it is so perfect in your kitchen! Best of all, it’s inexpensive and removable…as someone in possession of far too many vintage cookbooks, several with cute or pretty beyond belief covers…wow, I could have a new dishwasher with every season (no, I’m not crazy…)! Kathy, you are a brilliant lady. Brilliant!

    Also: Beautiful kitchen. You’d never get me out of it. Ever. 😉

    • kathy says

      Thanks Jen! I have a couple of fav cookbooks too! Obviously Betty Crocker but also Rumford Complete Cook Book 1934 ( no temps given, only hot, med etc oven…Hahaha), The HomeEc Teachers Fav Recipes, and The Road to Blue Ribbon Baking (Marjorie Johnson the MN State Fair famous baker).

  12. Lisa Collins says

    That cookbook is my favorite cookbook ever. What a neat idea! I too live in minnesota and love the Betty Crocker/MN connection.

  13. says

    Oh my, that is ridiculously clever and so adorable! I actually had to look twice to see if the cookbook cover matched the valences, they look so perfect together. I don’t have a dishwasher, but if I did, I think it would be getting some wall paper added to it. Thanks for sharing, Kathy. Your kitchen is just fabulous … something about it is just so comforting and lovely.

  14. Wendy says

    I was at a time capsule house once where they used contact shelf-liner to do something similar to their dishwasher and cupboards. It was really cute. I took a picture I will have to track it down and post it…

  15. laura says

    Sooo cute.

    I’m wondering if that ‘privacy film’ that they sell at home improvement stores would work too. You know that stuff meant to be put over windows where you need to obscure the view from outside but still allow light to come through? I just was looking at those yesterday and wishing i had a need for it somewhere in the house…

  16. Joe Felice says

    You probably could have unscrewed the metal edges on the sides to make installation of the custom panel easier. Older-style dishwashers usually had interchangeable panels, and they slid in that way. Some even came with different-colored panels tucked inside under the existing panel. I once installed a custom-cut piece of laminate in my parents’ dishwasher to change the look. But today’s taller, one-piece doors don’t have these tracks, and the edges are rounded, so I don’t think a custom panel would work very well. Double-stick tape? I think the heat from the appliance would cause the adhesive to loosen, but, at any rate, I don’t think a piece of anything laminated would look that good on the door’s rounded edges. I wish this were different, as I have often wanted to change the look of my panel to match the kitchen, and make the appliance “disappear.” I suppose one could take the door off and paint it, but I don’t think we’d be able to achieve this clever custom look. And to think: You can change it whenever you want!

  17. Lady Velour says

    WOW!!!!!!! I am THRILLED with this photo and I can’t wait to do this to my dishwasher!!!! I have a vintage inspired kitchen and this will be the crown jewel! Thanks for sharing! :)

  18. Gerry says

    The brand new Spring 2013 issue of Atomic Ranch has a cool dishwasher hack. Page 56 and 57. The homeowners repurposed their old KitchenAid dishwasher front onto a new “frontless” Whirpool dishwasher. Very clever and it looks great.

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