The 10 Most Endangered Features of Midcentury Homes: 2012 report

10 most endangered retro house featuresWhen I first started the blog almost six years ago, I kind of bumped into launching a “campaign” that called attention to the death-by-evil-glee sledgehammering threat to vintage Mamie pink bathrooms. This campaign came together almost as a lark… I started the Save the Pink Bathrooms website, like, to see what would happen. And wouldn’t you know it, there was lots of news media attention to the issue ever since. A whole New York Times story even. As a result: I think the attention really made a difference, shifted the tide of ‘fashion’, and that today, there is significantly greater recognition that there is nothing inherently wrong with the color pink for bathrooms — and by association, vintage green or blue or yellow, etc. — and that original colorful vintage bathrooms in good condition are worth preserving. I think we can declare the campaign victorious, although we still must keep spreading the luv.

Which got me to thinking (which sometimes happens when I take a vacation week, can’t ya see the smoke from Massachusetts): What else now? That is: What are some of the other lovely but kind of still pooh poohed features of midcentury homes that we can shine our spotlight on. I brainstormed and came up with a nice round list of the 10 Most Endangered Features of Midcentury and Vintage Homes. So here is my list, in David Letterman count-down order. I count down to the final item — #1 — as the feature I’m most worried about, based on the criteria: overall cost-value + difficulty replacing, roughly speaking.

jalousie windows#10 Jalousie windows:

Number 10 on our countdown list is jalousie windows. I tend to believe that jalousie windows were used in millions of homes, often in the three-season porch, but sometimes even as main windows — as in Dawn’s house, above. I am no expert on the whole issue of jalousie windows. I need to do more research — and I welcome your help on this. I think there may be super-valid energy-efficiency reasons to replace your jalousie windows if they are the windows in your main living areas.  On the other hand, if you have them in a three-season room, maybe lean toward preserving them rather than replacing them?  I think they are interesting… coolio.

wood paneling#9 Wood paneling:

Wood paneling, along with knotty pine (#3 on my Most-Endangered list) is one of those things that get the scrunched-face “it’s so daaaaaated” complaint from so many folks on home decorating TV shows and in more mainstream design media. But, slap yourself in the face and step back from the ceaseless dictates of current fashion: There is nothing inherently displeasing about natural or finished wood walls, if the paneling is good quality. Au contraire. Our ancestors lived for hundreds of years with wood-paneled walls. It’s only in more recent history that the invention of drywall made smooth, painted walls affordable to the masses. Yes, there is poor quality wood paneling out there, in droves. But there is also plenty of beautiful, quality old paneling worth saving from the dumpster. Above: Wood paneling from States Industries.

tile countertops in kitchen#8 Tile countertops, especially in kitchens:

Tile is durable. Tile resists water. The grout can be cleaned — or use epoxy grout if you’re starting from scratch. Tile countertops have been fashionable in an on-again, off-again fashion from the 1940s on. I think they are charming. Above: Tile counter tops in Karen’s kitchen.

wood kitchen cabinets#7 Wood kitchen cabinets:

1950s and 60s wood kitchen cabinets may not have the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses appeal of brand spanking new (particle-board-laden) wood cabinets today, but they were often — usually? — made just fine. Better, even maybe. If you have ’em original, heck, they have lasted 50 years and could likely last 50 more. Or forever. New kitchen cabinets are one of the most expensive parts of a kitchen renovation — and way overpriced, I think. And remember: Replacing a ‘dated’ kitchen with an all-new 2012 kitchen means: You now have a dated-2012 kitchen that will be out of date in 10 years, probably less. This marketeering cycle is ceaseless, ridiculous. The wood cabinets that are/were original to 20+ million midcentury modest houses across American likely suit the “unpretentiousness” that runs throughout their entire design… so, why not go with the flow and instead of spending $ thousands on new cabinets, use the money for other stuff, starting with maybe: Ensure you have a solid, 6-months of living expenses emergency fund, pay down credit cards, save for retirement, pay down the mortgage and in general, avoid the terrible stress of debt. Above: Nancy’s original wood kitchen cabinets.

pam with vintage wallpaper#6 Vintage wallpaper:

If you are new owner of an old home, please please please don’t rip out the vintage wallpaper. Not right away, at least. The old wallpaper may shock you initially. But once you dive into this website, and see other rooms full of the vintage-originals, you may start feeling the wallpaper luv. Vintage paper often had precious designs, and it was printed with rich, vibrant inks — lots of the wallpaper I see today just does not have the same printing quality, not at cheap prices, at least. Reflecting both its quality but also its increasing rarity, vintage wallpaper today also is quite valuable — $100 a roll or more if you try to buy New Old Stock today! I have always heard dissenters say, “Oh, wallpaper is so personal” — which is what can make it hard for Incoming Owner to like Outgoing Owner’s wallpaper choice. I understand this, for sure. But, when it comes to the original vintage wallpaper in a 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s or 70s house, golly, I usually always like it what I see. The stuff had amazing character. Live with it a while, give it a chance, before you start strippin’. Above: I love vintage wallpaper, ‘most all of it. I put 300 squares of it, 18 different design, on my office walls!

vintage laminate#5 Original laminate counter tops:

I put original laminate counter tops significantly higher on the Endangered List than tile counter tops, because the vintage laminate patterns so often found in original 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and even 1980s kitchen are impossible to replicate today. (On the other hand, you can get 4″ ceramic tile and bullnose in nice colors today, to replicate a vintage tile counter top.)  When it comes to vintage Formica and other laminate patterns, except for some boomerangs, mother of pearl and dogbones, charming decorative designs are simply not available. In fact, we are besieged by low-chroma, greiged out colors of laminate today, almost everywhere we turn. It is so drab and depressing: Resist the Greige Nation, I say!

Also, and this is IMPORTANT: The way back time machine laminate was better made, I believe. It was almost indestructible. It is awesome stuff. I do not have hard data proof of this. But I am sure. Don’t rip out your vintage laminate if it’s still in good shape. At least not until you live with it, and you are sure it’s time for it to go. Above: My vintage Textolite samples — which make us eat our hearts out!

house with awnings#4 Awnings:

Our parents and grandparents and great grandparents and so forth did not have window air conditioners or central air conditioners. Instead, they depended on window treatments — and often, awnings — to help control indoor air temperatures. Golly, if you are lucky enough to buy an old house with functional awnings — metal even? extra yay! — well, golly, you are lucky. Because you get temperature control for FREE. Hey, you should be able to sell carbon credits to the EU! Original awnings are not ugly — you read it here! Moreover, they are comfort-enhancing, money-saving, environmentally-smart features. (Note: I am not saying that putting up new awnings would necessarily cut  carbon overall — the cost/benefit would have to be analyzed. But, if you have ’em already, that’s sunk carbon, embodied energy, done deal, you’re preventing heat from entering your house, leverage the fact.) Above: I have several stories about awnings including 12 places to buy awnings today.

knotty pine kitchen#3 Knotty pine paneling:

knotty pine websiteWith so many first-time home buyers finding their way into old homes, I think I’m seeing increasing chatter about knotty pine and what to think of it. Right now, knotty pine is like pink bathrooms were five years ago: Original vintage knotty pine is in great danger from folks who are not getting enough information about the history of this material and aesthetic to make their own decisions whether to love it, or not. To me, knotty pine is a sentimental, wonderful wall finish. Totally cozy. In particular, I love Pickwick Pine, which I believe ws the most popular paneling style in midcentury America. If the knotty pine is the original 1940s or 1950s stuff, the wood is likely really good — old growth good, maybe even. No need to paint it just because it’s not today’s fashion. I’m telling you — just like pink bathrooms — it will be a benefit to your vintage house, down the road, if it still has its original knotty pine den or bedroom or whatever. Oh yes, read more on my website, Above: Eartha Kitsch’s world famous knotty pine kitchen (which just recently underwent a gawdawful plumbing surgery, ugh, our thoughts our with you, EK.)

steel kitchen cabinets#2 Steel kitchen cabinets:

You know I love vintage steel kitchen cabinets. I have them in my kitchen. My five-year hunt for my 1963 Genevas is what led me to start this blog… and led me, after four more years, to make a full time living from it. We now have 300,000 unique visitors every month. Yes: 300,000 a month! Oh, I digress with my little bootie dance. STEEL. Do you know what steel is? It’s what they make cars out of etc. etc. Crikey, if you have steel kitchen cabinets, you are Set For Life. Note: I am thinking, that if I did not buy the aqua cabinets that made their way into my kitchen, they would have ended up in a landfill in Staten Island. I kid you not. Above: A 1948 St. Charles steel kitchen from my A Short History of Steel Kitchen Cabinets.

original windows#1 Original windows:

Okay, windows are not a super sexy topic. But they make #1 on my list because Americans have been fed a bunch of baloney that they need to replace their windows to (1) save on their fuel bills and (2) that new windows are ‘better for the environment.’ I advise to PLAY THE SKEPTIC and ask anyone trying to sell you new windows using the save-money-save-environment pitch to: SHOW ME THE DATA. Ask for a third-party validated cradle-to-cradle Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to back up any environmental claims. Ask for a financial payback calculation regarding the money claims — and be sure to calculate in replacement costs if/when the new windows themselves need to be replaced in 20 years.

Most all the research I have ever read indicates: New windows will likely cost more to purchase and install than you will ever save in improved fuel bills. Also, even in the absence of an LCA: If new windows end up costing more, I posit that new windows also are not good for the environment — they are bad for the environment. This is because: Money is a pretty darn good proxy for carbon — meaning: Every time you make money, and every time you spend money, you are fueling consumption, which causes economic activity that emits more carbon. Using my logic, the only energy efficiency steps that really make net improvements to carbon emissions are those that have a demonstrated financial payback. Insulation usually pays you back pretty fast in terms of recouping what you spent in saved energy costs. But other fancier technologies usually don’t. Or don’t, yet, at current costs unless there are significant taxpayer-funded incentives. Want to approach improving the energy efficiency of your home in a no-baloney way: Consult the Energy Efficiency Pyramid (windows: now dead last in the things-to-do list!)

Note, my discussion is in regard to reducing carbon dioxide equivalents, not other environmental concerns or public policy reasons, which may prove to be valid reasons to make a change… and, I don’t have comprehensive data to validate my theory  per se. Another note: New windows may well improve your “comfort” level, helping to eliminate drafts and such (although you can likely accomplish this with storm windows and/or Window Quilts or other serious window treatments.  And, there may be very valid safety issues: Old windows may not feature tempered glass — and old windows may be painted with lead paint — consult with a professional on these issues. All this said: From my experience seeing advertisements and the like, I think I keep seeing replacement windows that are being sold with the spiel that they will “save money” and “help the environment.” It is these two claims I question: MAKE THEM SHOW YOU THE DATA.

On top of all this, new windows are getting a reputation for failing after 20 years. I don’t really understand the complaints. But if they are true: Then you need new windows. Which will lead to more spending — obliterated “savings” — and more manufacturing/consumption/greenhouse gases.

Conditions may differ house-to-house, so it’s critical to do your own research on this issue with Eyes Wide Open. If leaky windows are an issue, some more cost-effective ideas may include: (1) Caulk, (2) Window Quilts, (3) Exterior storms. Be skeptical, do lots of research that taps smart professionals, and demand data.

Above: My longer story discussing why you should consider keeping your original windows.

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  1. Susan says

    Thanks for this article! I bought a 1952 house two years ago and have been rocking my original cabinets. I can’t imagine spending $10K on new ones – who on earth has that kind of money? I have to say, though, that I have a love/hate relationship with my tile countertops – I like them because they stand up to much cooking abuse including putting hot dishes directly from the stove onto the countertops and cutting directly on the (sanitized) surface. I hate them because the grout is hard to keep clean and because glasses break immediately when accidentally dropped onto them.

    Anyway, kudos also for your call to keep original windows! I am on my city’s historic preservation board, and when we have hearings to approve/deny construction plans for our historic districts, we always emphasize the importance of keeping original wood windows. Original windows are one of the basic tenants of historic preservation :-)

    • Zoe says

      Not to be a complete jerk (I’ve already commented too many times on this one post of Pam’s, but it’s such a great post, with so many great comments), but it’s actually “tenet,” not “tenant.” Sorry! Can’t help myself. (My dad was an English teacher!)

  2. Kristi says

    Well, Pam, I think you’ll be happy to hear about what happened today. Apparently, my beloved LOVES the knotty pine in our kitchen. We were buying paint (because thank God we are at that point finally with renovating our 1954 house) and I was saying that according to what I’d read, we’d need to cover the knotty pine with at least 2 coats of BIN before painting. He got this crestfallen look and said “we…we’re painting that wood?” Yes, I said, because it’s full of holes that have been patched with plywood and when the carpenter who replaced our rotten sub floor and installed our countertops priced replacement stuff of the same quality and material, he informed us that the same knotty pine now sells for…100 bucks per linear foot. I never thought he’d be so emotional about wood. It reminds him of his Grandpa’s house, apparently. (It reminds me of mine, too.) So we took a look at what we had to work with and realized that if we paint the cabinets and the wall behind them, and use a piece of furniture or something to cover the patched spots near the sink area, we’ve got over half a room of intact knotty pine that there’s really no need to paint over. Saves us money, makes him happy, makes me happy, everybody wins. According to the guy at the paint store, washing the walls with TSP and treating them with a good wood sealer will kill the smell they have without damaging them.

    I would kill to have metal kitchen cabinets, but the ones that are there are solid wood and in good shape other than a botched half paint job the former owners tried. And when I saw the original Linoleum, which looks really similar to your countertop sample up there with the little sparkly stars and flecks of bright color on a yellow background, all gunked up with glue from bad 70s vinyl installation and unsaveable, I almost cried. But, we found a place here in town that does industrial linoleum and are going to be able to get some Armstrong stuff that at least looks like it belongs in the kitchen cheaper than we could get smelly vinyl from Lowes.

    • pam kueber says

      Well, yes, this is exciting! Idea: Watch craigslist and your local Re-Store, maybe you can pick up a set of knotty pine kitchen cabinets same vintage as yours — and patch using the other set? Send me pics when you are done!

      • Kristi says

        The cabinets are solid wood and sturdy. The sides are solid wood and painted already by the previous owners. The doors are knotty pine, some painted (badly, with the knots bleeding through) some unpainted. It will be easier to just paint them all and will also not look as weird with my butcher block countertops as the naked wood. The knotty pine behind the cabinets and to the left of the sink area (where a washer used to live) have been cut open at some point and patched with plywood because there was apparently a plumbing leak. It won’t be that noticeable painted and covered with something like my china cabinet. The guy at our restore says something about the climate down here causes old knotty pine to almost fossilize, so that it becomes hard and difficult to remove without shattering to pieces. We dumpster dove a house down the block, same timeframe as ours, which is being gutted to be a flip, hoping there would be some knotty pine to salvage but there was none. We are still looking. I’ll send you pics of the finished product!

        • pam kueber says

          My favorite line of the week so far for sure: “We dumpster dove a house down the block, same timeframe as ours, which is being gutted to be a flip, hoping there would be some knotty pine to salvage but there was none.”

          • Kristi says

            Yeah, it was a pretty nifty little house. The old lady who lived there used to have the coolest yard sales. Then it was for sale forever and finally bought by one of those “We Buy Houses!” investment companies. They’ve been working on it for about as long as we’ve been working on ours. They had an open house last weekend (because the house is for sale again) and I went just to see what it was like. It was pretty inside, but just what you’d expect; new everything, builder fixtures, nothing unique. I don’t know what the house looked like before or what shape it was in, but now it looks like…every other house you see in every decorating magazine. (and will be “dated” in 10 years just like everything else)

  3. jay says

    The prevous owners of my house lived there for over 25 years and either through inertia, lack of interest or money left the house the way they bought it. i got everything original except in very worn condition. The baths were decrepit, I have remodeled one and the other one will be within the next few years. The house still had its 60 amp service with fuses. I have had to replace all the windows – yes vinyl tilt-in for ease of cleaning, the original windows were too rotten. and you couldn’t see out them. What else – the formica counters in the kitchen was void of finish, have replaced with new. I will keep the original wood birch cabinets, whats not to like about solid wood. Still have the original front door with the three staggered lights. New roof, furnace. My 1957 house reminds me of Money Pit but I love it!

  4. Michael says

    I just bought a house with jalousie windows in the front and back storm doors, as well as in one bedroom window. I’ve really enjoyed them so far… they have a nice sturdy quality that you just don’t feel when you touch and operate new things (same goes for my steel cabinets!). I hadn’t thought about insulation in the winter- the previous owners left behind the glass windows that replace the screen when it gets cold, so that should help. After reading these comments, I might also apply some of that removable seasonal window sealer when the time comes.

    My house also came with awnings on the back windows protecting window-unit air conditioners, and I’ve discovered a drawback that Pam might not have thought about: apparently, the space under an awning is an ideal place for pigeons to seek shelter from the rain. One of my first projects as a new homeowners was to scrub off the ‘vintage’ pigeon poo.

    Thanks for the list and the site, Pam! I’ve learned a lot here, and I think some of your best advice in this list is to wait and live with something and see if it grows on you. This is definitely helping me adjust my taste to fit my retro home (faux-terrazzo vinyl-covered staircase, anyone?).

    • pam kueber says

      Yup, exactly: STURDY QUALITY — that’s what is evident in so many of the original features in our old houses. Stuff was MADE TO LAST, and you can feel it every time you touch it. This is also why I am, generally, willing to pay a top price for a replacement item today: If it has that “quality feel”, the “heavy duty long lasting” touch — I am just much happier.

  5. Jeff says

    Well, I have several of these features, and intend to keep them! Jalousies, which crank out, are four horizontal panes, individually framed in aluminum, and in banks of three on each side of the breezeway, which used to be a three season porch, but is now a four season. Storm windows mounted to the inside cured this energy efficiency issue, once heat was added to the room, putting a three inch vapor barrier between the air-leaking jalousies, and the inner storm. Screens also replace the storms in good weather. The other features are original windows throughout, including seven giant thermopane plate glass windows, aluminum framed. Also have knotty pine, and turquoise appliances as original features. Glass doorknobs, bathroom flooring, and reeded glass inserts in all exterior doors. Recessed Kirlin lighting is another feature most loved around here!

    • pam kueber says

      Yes, inside storms/screens seem like the solution for energy efficiency, not so sure about the safety issue folks are bringing up…

    • Cynthia says

      Jeff, I luv luv luv turquoise appliances! It’s a color that both men and women like and looks so fresh and clean in the kitchen.

  6. Melissa says

    I grew up in a house with early 1980s fake wood paneling in the living room. I never liked that stuff.
    So, when I bought my 1963 house with wood paneling in living room, I kinda figured that eventually I would do something with it. But then I realized that this was real wood. And it’s just beautiful–my friends now comment on how warm my home is, and I know the wood is a big part of that. I’ve added lots of silver accents in my accessories to bring in some light, but there’s no way I’m going to touch this paneling.
    I also have original wood kitchen cabinet (but not knotty pine). During my kitchen renovation, I did have the contractor remove one layer of scallops (there were two layers of scallops). He had to remove one wall of cabinets, but he rebuilt my new cabinets to match the existing. You have to squint to figure out which is new and which is original.
    Some of my friends thought I was crazy to keep all that I kept, but it’s been amazing to hear all the compliments about the “charm” of my house. Patina makes a difference!

  7. Jordanna says

    We have original windows – and every single one is sideways sliding. Not a single double-hung. Metal frames, not wood. No mullions or anything cute, just plain plate glass, but at least its not very busy. A smooth backdrop, if you will.

    I love tile counters! I don’t have any at the moment but they are so classic and I love them.

    I am slowly coming around on wallpaper. I think I want some. At least a little. This place never had any. Maybe on some furniture if not on the walls. I would like new wallpaper but in a vintage style, that is not limited like vintage rolls because I’ll probably mess some up. And I don’t think I can do 100 a roll!

    Pam, have you done any articles on new-vintage-style wallpaper for the currently-paperless?

  8. Bird says

    (tried to post yesterday but I think my comment when into a black hole)

    Pam, this is one of my favorite posts ever, but I think the pink bathroom is still critically endangered!

    One thing you didn’t mention about replacement windows, inserts in particular, is that you can end up with smaller windows and less light. That was what I discovered when I measured my own 6 over 6 wooden double-hung windows, versus an Andersen replacement insert. With an insert, you will have less glass area than in your original window becuase of the size of the insert’s frame.

    The 6 over 6 windows are integral to the look of my 1948 Cape. We talked about replacing them and even priced out the inserts, but in the end, I couldn’t do it. Fake mullions– yuck.

    The two killers of exterior charm and character in old homes: vinyl/aluminum siding and replacement windows.

  9. Janet says

    Bird, I live in a 1941 cape with the same windows and I SO agree with you. We are renting with intentions of buying and for years now the landlord said he was having it sided and new windows put in. We vehemently object to this and hope that it does not happen. I LOVE the old windows, even though they are supposedly NOT energy efficient. Therefore I am very glad to see all the comments on that fact not necessarily being true. I spent quite a bit of time repainting and repairing them so I certainly hope that the don’t get replaced. I hate the look of newer windows on an older house. I think we are going to replace the old clapboards with new, and redo the sheetrock, so proper insulation should fix our energy waste problem. Our last house was newly built and one complaint we had was it was TOO tightly sealed. No draft/air flow at all. I rest my case.

    • Bird says

      Janet, we have newer, triple-track storm windows, but even with the storms closed, you can feel the cold drafts coming through the window area in during a Massachusetts winter. We bought double-cell cellular shades, and close them at night in the winter. It makes a big difference in the drafts. But still, our house is very expensive to heat in the winter, cuz… there’s no insulation in the walls!

  10. Janet says

    Yesterday all four of my attempted posts did not send so I am not going to reply or these comments will get lost way back at the beginning. My husband is a carpenter and one of his jobs at the apartment complex where he works is the ongoing task of cutting down cabinets for over-the-stove microwaves and to repair the seriously damaged ones. He has managed to remake many of them and hardly anyone can tell. A good carpenter who has been at it for many years should have the experience to duplicate the QUALITY cabinets of the fifties. The ones in my 1948 cape were replaced in the seventies and are awful. The cabinets themselves are good wood but the drawer fronts appear to be plastic with those hideous plastic Mediterranean looking trim pieces all around. Then they painted the wood cainet frames to match the brown plastic. The original off-white farmhouse style cabinets are in the basement and I would LOVE to rip out these ugly ones and put them back. They still have the old sink in them and the same funny soft linoleum looking countertop which is long-ago ruined, being used as a basement workbench. So I would recommend finding a good (and probably older fellow) carpenter to make replacement cabinets.

  11. Janet says

    Morgen, so you are looking for a green toilet? I saw one just yesterday on Craigslist; the ad said it was blue but it sure looked green to me. Do you know who made it and what the name of the color is? Did I see an article here on the colors from the major manufacturers like Kohler and American Standard? If you don’t know what color your pieces are, how do you tell? There must be alot of shades of the pastel greens, blues, yellows and pinks. I don’t know about Florida, but up in Maine there are dozens of salvage yard type antique and junk stores and there are alot of toilets, sinks and tubs there. You don’t see alot in color; the vast majority of it is white. I would LOVE to open a RETRO store with all kinds of appliances and kitschy 50’s to 60’s bathroom and kitchen stuff. Here in New England, it seems to be you see mostly older vintage stuff and antique farmhouse things.

  12. Kristi says

    As for windows, I’m happy to read all these comments about people keeping original windows. (Sorry to keep writing a book about my old house.) We have the original windows, and I really like them, but the problem is that many of them are stuck shut. I thought they were painted shut, but it seems to be that the metal tracks that they run on are bent and warped. I thought that they were plain old windows with weights inside, but they’re not, they have a groove in the wood that slides up and down on a metal track that mounts to the window frame. My dad told me that many companies can rehab old windows, but everyone we’ve talked to has suggested that they should be replaced.

    It’s always Oh, replacement windows are so cheap these days…which is true, they are, and they look like what they are…CHEAP metal and vinyl windows. As for the windows being inefficient…I’ll admit we haven’t gone through winter yet, but as for keeping the house cool in the summer they seem to be just fine. Our thermostat is set at 78 and you could keep meat in that house. I’m going to have to research and see if I can find any resources to tell me how to fix the windows I have.

    • pam kueber says

      Kristi, Have you had the local environmental agency come and do an energy audit of your house. Often, these are free. And they give great advice.

  13. Noir says

    I inherited my 1954 ranch(ish) house from my grandparents, and it has all the original windows. I had thought about replacing them, but after reading this I’m going to look into restoring the ones that I have :)
    Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the original kitchen or bathrooms, my grandparents remodeled in the early 70’s. Getting ready to bring the house back into the 50’s now.

  14. FranceeDay says

    Great article. I love my 1951 ranch house – original windows, original steel kitchen cabinets (Youngstown by Mullins) with laminate countertops. I believe the bath is original too. Agree with you too about the window hype. I’ve even heard a few stories of new windows being more drafty than the old ones.

  15. Greeney says

    I LOVE awnings! I hope I can convince my husband to agree with the purchase of awnings instead of air conditioning. ACs are serious fire hazards and I don’t want one. Awnings are completely SAFE. We are moving to another city, and no matter what type of house we buy, it will have awnings.

  16. says

    We’re in the middle of the window dilema. We have triple storm windows (I believe everything is Pella) and I’m not sold on replacing them, but we’re having a problem with the screens constantly falling out. They’re only held in their tracks by two little metal pins. I have cats and a toddler, both of who’d love to escape. Do you have any sources for screen replacement?

  17. Brian says

    I started moving in today to my 1958 ranch in central Mass. that I just bought from the original owner. While some things have been updated over the years, there are tons of original features that remain. When I first looked at the house a few months ago I was thinking about all the changes I would make. Then I remembered reading about this website on the NYTimes and I have become a convert! I’m not going to paint the wood cabinets, not going to take down the awnings or replace the original windows. I am going to strip the wallpaper, though. It’s not worth keeping. The jalousie windows are definitely staying. I’m even going to keep the wagonwheel light in the kitchen. Thanks for the great resource! (ps–I have some pictures if you are interested)

  18. Jamie says

    My husband and I are in negotiations to buy a 1972 multi-level home. As excited as I am to Finally Get A House….the 70’s are just about my least favorite “retro” decade. This house has dark-stained oak narrow trim everywhere, an massive brick fireplace with BLACK grout (just to make it extra dark), honey colored oak cabinets in the kitchen, knotty pine bathroom cabinets, a harvest gold shower/tub, a caramel-swirl colored bathroom counter with a seashell-shaped sink, dark paneling in the basement family room, and more DARK knotty pine in the sunroom. Wallpaper everywhere, but thankfully no plaid. And, as is typical with 70’s homes, everything just feels….dark. Not enough windows, too much dark wood!
    Now, I understand that to many retro purists, these is a time capsule house, and my plans for it are just sacrilege. But…I really hate knotty pine, especially when it’s dark stained. I prefer the lighter, more cheerful colors of the 50’s.
    So, my plans are this:
    -Paint all of that narrow oak trim a fresh white.
    -Remove all wallpaper. Paint cheerful colors.
    -Paint the fireplace white, replace the aging industrial woodstove with a cute small, classy one. Add a nice wide mantle.
    -Replace all of the carpeting (including the bathroom) with either tile, hardwood, or wood laminate (we’re on a budget….so laminate will go in lower-traffic areas).
    -Paint over the knotty pine bathroom cupboards. This is a long, narrow bathroom with one window…it needs lightening! The harvest gold tub and caramel sink can stay…for now.
    -Paint those blah kitchen cabinets white, add chrome details, throw in all my colorful vintage things, make it a faux-50’s kitchen.
    -Paint over all the dark knotty pine in the sunroom. It’s a SUN room, it should feel well lit!

    I can see dumping $1500 into this house in just paint alone….But, it will be an adventure!

  19. Pat says

    As to your idea of keeping original windows vs. paying for new ones, which will never pay for themselves…I’m right there with you. I’m a self-employed painter and I can tell you I’ve been in MANY 5-10 year old homes where the newer vinyl windows are just about shot.

    Recently my Wife and I purchased a 1961 Cape Cod in Michigan from the original occupant. It is all original except for the furnace, a/c and some plumbing. Original sub-divided windows are in perfect condition. They slide with ease as well. They look to have only been painted 2-3x, much of which has peeled away while being trapped behind the original storms. The interiors look to have been painted only a couple times as well. I’m wanting to save them, but the single pane glass and leaky storms make for a cold situation. Here is the solution…re-glaze the glass, paint and buy new Low-E Glass Storms. They are a fraction of standard windows overall cost since there is very little installation. A homeowner with a screw gun could install them. I even saw an episode of This Old House discussing the subject of keeping original windows. Look up Larson Storm Windows.

      • CarolK says

        Replacement storms are the way we need to go on our house. We’ve got all the original windows and really crappy storm windows. Most of the windows are in decent shape although some do need some restoration.

        We also have some wood paneling in the den/ kitchen area that was painted over and possibly wallpapered over when we moved into the house. I want to keep the paneling and just re-paint it. Why spend the money on dry wall when we can just paint?

  20. Mandy says

    Hey don’t forget vinyl laminate flooring and textured shag carpet! It all goes part and parcel with the original laminate countertops! 😉 I just found your site today. Where have I been? I love it..thanks so much for sharing! I’ve been wondering where all of you are like me who wouldn’t think me completely off my rocker for loving my vintage..Found.

  21. David says

    Pam, I’ve been following your site off and on for a few years, but only now have I felt the need to weigh in. I am in complete agreement with you about replacement windows and am so glad that this made your top 10. Most common replacement windows really diminish curb appeal and often do a poor job of imitating actual mullions. Like most of todays building materials, plastic versions of windows (and siding for that matter) are much cheaper to manufacture than milled wood and they bear little resemblance to wood itself. The cost savings is passed on to the builder, but not usually to the homeowner unless the homeowner is a do-it-yourselfer who buys direct from the manufacturer. Newer, economical materials help builders increase their profit margins, so builders have helped propagate the marketing hype over vinyl’s benefits to the homeowner. When I remodeled a 1963 rancher several years ago, the contractor tried to convince me, among other things, that I would be saving myself the ongoing maintenance headache of scraping and painting. In reality, a quality paint should last a couple of decades, so the constant scraping argument is weak. Besides, when I get ready to change the house color, I prefer being able to paint the window trim to match rather than having permanently white or brown windows that stand out in contrast. The same is true of having natural wood interiors that match the mouldings. I could go on, but I’ve said enough. And I won’t even get into vinyl siding or steel entry doors with the white raised plastic window trim.

    • says

      David, I purchased a SoCal Storybook Ranch (“Cinderella”, built in ’56, sold new in ’57) that had ALL but one of the original “Soule Steel Co” Aluminum TDL casement windows replaced w/ cheesy white aluminum gridded units, some smaller than the ones they replaced. I struggled w/ a solution as I’m in process of “restoring” our home to it’s mid-century glory. At the depth of my quandary, I noticed a home down the street in my tract (which had been boarded up for some time) was in the process of being “re-habbed”. I contacted the workers there & made a deal for the original windows they were replacing — $200 for 6 units, including one that is 12″ wide x 4′-4″ high..! They even delivered them down the alley to me..! My quick thinking REALLY paid off. I plan on upgrading the single-glass panes to insulated units, but will keep the original style. I also need two wood “diamond-lite” windows for the front bedrooms, but have found a local window shop that will build me 2 double-hung sash sets (I still have the original jambs/frames) for about $1K. My original custom window cost was going to be about $20K..! So, NEVER give up — I’m glad I didn’t throw in the towel..! 😉

  22. says

    Hi Pam, I just wanted to weigh in on the subject of replacement windows. I recently had the exterior of my Weldwood-sided circa-1952 home repainted. Prior to purchasing the home, the investor who purchased the home before me replaced all the original wood double-hung windows with white vinyl windows. Since the original trim color was hunter green I was dismayed by the appearance of the windows, which really looked ugly and cheap and very much out of place. My painter suggested painting the frames and the faces of the windows with the same Sherwin-Williams Emerald house paint that we used on the shingles and trim. After sanding down the surface, the windows and the trim were carefully masked and given three coats of paint…..the result is amazing! The original color of the windows versus the godawful white vinyl is day-and-night. My painter spray-painted the aluminium screen frames with a closely-matched color….the final result is absolutely fantastic! I would encourage anyone coping with white vinyl replacements to consider painting them with a high-quality paint after a thorough surface preparation.

    Thanks again for providing an invaluable source of information for those of us who cherish the style and craftsmanship of American mid-century design.

  23. says

    Hi, I just found your site while trying to find articles about the old 70s faux stone shell-shaped sinks and if there is any way to seal and restore them when the finish starts to wear and crack and I came across that part about jalouise windows! Even in my house I love my jalouise windows, they’re SO uniquely retro and remind me of my grandparents house and while we may (unfortunately) have to replace the one in the bathroom because the workings are hopelessly broken and it is eternally stuck halfway open (my dad looked at it since he grew up with them but fixing it was beyond him and I can’t find anyone who specializes in it). But I want to correct a SLIGHT misconception about them being totally un-energy efficient inside the house. With a little bit of effort they can be great for people in certain climates. The big thing with the energy efficiency problem is that they never totally close all the way, however with some clever use of very thinly cut weather stripping between the panels and the effort of attaching a small piece of metal strapping to the outer edge of the bottom window pane frame that can be then attached to the outside of the frame or the side of the house they can be tightly and securely closed during undesirable weather. Also, if you live in a house that hasn’t been upgraded to AC and still uses an evaporative/swamp cooler during the summer they are invaluable as swamp coolers need very slight venting in the house to circulate air!

    As for a lot of the other things mentioned in this article, I wish I had gotten to my house before someone had painted the paneling and cabinetry, but at least they’re staying original (well maybe not that broken one in the kitchen that needs to be removed because it’s in the back corner and no one can reach it anyway) and they’re staying where they are! I’m on the fence about the old laminate counter tops, they’re kind of neat looking but someone (before I bought my house) painted all of the kitchen cabinets the same color as the counter so my kitchen is creepily monotone, however reading this has made me consider repainting the cabinets instead of replacing the laminate.

    And don’t even get me started on knotty pine cabinets, they were my main goal to find in a home and I couldn’t find them anywhere (well I found one, but it was way overpriced and needed so much work that I couldn’t have afforded it even if they were giving it away). But I would like to add 2 more items to the list lath & plaster walls and parquet floors! While house hunting I was SO saddened by the amount of sloppy and half finished remodels that had centered around trying to hide these wonderful elements. Oh and if you really want to see a lot of this old stuff still in tact try touring homes in the inland empire in California, especially higher end mobile home parks (called mobile estates) in the Yucaipa area, I’ve never seen so many time capsules, I actually saw a 1964 mobile home with all of it’s original real wood paneling and everything still in tact and looking new it was amazing!

  24. says

    “…so, why not go with the flow and instead of spending $ thousands on new cabinets, use the money for other stuff, starting with maybe: Ensure you have a solid, 6-month of living expenses emergency fund, pay down credit cards, save for retirement, pay down the mortgage and in general, avoid the terrible stress of debt.”

    Pam, I LOVE seeing financial responsibility touted on a retro home renovation site. Unexpected, and combining two interests of mine.

    • Becky says

      Amen! I read that one to my husband! He’s a big fan of leaving things alone (especially the bank account). Ha ha!

    • pam kueber says

      Before I had a house and became a preservationist, I was plain old frugal. The two go hand-in-hand quite nicely — as they both speak to a common sense abhorrence of waste.

  25. Rod says

    One thing you have forgotten is the taplite round light switches by honeywell. you have not been able to find those since the 80’s. however, I do have some replacement and the covers for the switches

  26. says

    Holy cow! How in the world did I miss this post last year? WOW. Those are my windows up there! What I thought were Jalousie but apparently are Awning windows!!! (I did have jalousie on my door, and as another reader mentioned, the entire glass fell out and broke one day so we had to replace the door. I totally miss that door) VERY unsafe…

    Awning windows! Who knew??

    Well, we did end up replacing our windows. All 21 of them. OY!

    And after our first winter with the NEW windows, I fear you are correct. We did not notice much difference at all in our engergy cost. I am very disappointed. I still dont know how I feel about this 9 months later. I miss my awning windows…Ahhh Regrets!

    Not having central air they were GREAT to get airflow going. The casements are okay…I just really miss my windows!

    One pro: SOUND. These new windows are WAY quieter. Inside. And out. I have had several neighbors tell me they cant hear my dogs anymore.

    An unexpected con: I have BEAUTIFUL Italian marble window sills in all my windows. DEEP. I used to be able to put things there. With the new windows thickness, my 6 inch sills are reduced down to 3 inches. Never even thought about that, but I miss seeing ALL of my sills.

    On an upnote we did recycle our aluminum windows AND we gave our neighbor, also an original owner, several extra cranks and hardware sets for HER Awning/Jalousie windows…I do belive she is now the last one in our neighborhood with these types of windows…

    All others have been replaced…Endangered indeed!

    • says

      Awning windows — if you still have those that you replaced or know where i can find them, I am trying to restore a 3-season room and the windows may be beyond repair. Thanks!

      • pam kueber says

        I think that awning windows are pretty standard issue… ? If you mean Jalousie, use our search box — we have several sources for those.

        • says

          I have the same windows as the set in the picture (#10) except mine have four panes each and I have six sets altogether in the “Florida room”. All the sources I’ve seen are the frameless sort. Here’s a link to a pic:

          These awning windows make a lot of sense for this room, which was designed as an exterior space but they added the windows probably after the first nor’easter or winter. They offer a reasonable break from wind and rain but a low profile when fully open. They can stay open in all but the coldest months and extreme weather because, unlike casements, they ddon’t let much rain in and are less stressed by winds. These ones, after 60+ years service, need serious restoration or replacement in kind. f I cannot do that, I might switch to sliders. Thx

  27. Karine says

    Our home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (build in 1953) has many original cool details… We are preserving one of these details thinking that it probably is there for a good reason, but we have NO IDEA which…..The windows are set about 6″ into the walls towards the outer part of the house. On the left and right sides of the wide living room windows, in the walls forming the window casings, there is a groove starting from the base of the windowsills (almost touching the old original tile windowsills), going straight up to about 4 inches from the top edge of the casings. The grooves stand parallel to the windows, 5″ away from the glass closer to the inside part of the walls. They are about 1/3″ deed into the wall and about 2/16″ wide. Does anyone know what these are for? Sorry for the confusing explanation… I hope I am making sense! :-)…. Anyone?

        • Karine says

          By the way, thank you Uncle Atom for trying to help us figure out what these grooves are. For new readers, please see my question above from Nov. 2nd. I would really love it if someone could enlighten us on the window “grooves”! Thanks again!

          • Marie says

            I am not sure, but could this have been for the ropes used to open the windows that I have seen in older homes? The ropes eventually would wear out and need to be replaced and they were wonderful when they worked right. Opening a window with them is effortless.

            • CarolK says

              Nicole Curtis replaced the window cords on an episode of Rehab Addict. She just used clothesline that she got from the hardware store. She hasn’t done any midcentury homes yet, but I do love how she tries to preserve and restore homes.

  28. Jeanette Taylor says

    I am buying a 1950 home. Most windows are replaced, but Florida room has awning windows in good working order. There are 2 jalousie doors in this house. Glass panes are topped with metal mesh (probably security and privacy) and a screen. My inspector says they are an invitation to break-in and theft. These people were trusting as there is only the doorknob lock on both of these doors. I need advice on whether to replace for safety…they are in perfect condition.
    My dad was a GE dealer for many years. Their home will soon be on the market with the full set of GE metal cabinets in wood-tone brown. It had the appliances, but finally all were replaced with almond color. Everyone who looks at house plans on replacing. After reading this, I will encourage new owner to at least give these to a charity who can resell. They are sturdy and beautiful…very “Jetson” looking.

    • pam kueber says

      Jeanette, to answer questions related to safety, I recommend you get your own properly licensed professional to help you assess the situation.

  29. David says

    It’s been a while since I commented on this thread, but I had a recent experience that seems to fit the theme pretty well. I have a few extra pieces of mid century furniture that I am looking to sell and since there is growing demand here in the DC area, I decided to check with a few local consignment shops and see what I could do. The two pieces that I have are a credenza and a matching china hutch. I was surprised by the consistent responses about the china hutch. Absolutely no one wants them anymore. One dealer seemed more interested in my house and asked if it had a mid century living room with a fireplace. I told him yes and he said that the china hutch is more valuable as firewood than furniture and I should at least get that much use out of it. It’s a beautiful piece and I felt insulted as though he just told me my child was ugly, stupid and should be dropped on someones doorstep. The more time I spent looking for fifth, sixth and seventh opinions, I kept coming up with more of the same. The reality is that no one has an available wall or need for a china cabinet anymore. Using a dining room for entertaining dinner guests, serving Sunday dinners or holiday parties just doesn’t fit into the ultra-casual culture of today’s family dynamic. As I thought about that, I realized that in the last ten years of friends’ weddings, I have yet to see one couple include china on their registry. In fact, a recent one included a request for an Xbox 360, but I digress. Then it occurred to me that it isn’t simply the china hutch or the china that has become extinct; the actual dining room itself has become extinct. In fact, if you’re shopping for homes in an older neighborhood and have digested enough hours of HGTV, you too will become programmed to look at that wall and, in a Pavlovian response, realize with contempt for the builder that it’s the first thing that must go. I know this from experience because I bought a 1960’s rancher and had all these great plans to grab a sledge hammer and turn my separate entry hall, kitchen, dining room and living room into one massive space when you walk in the front door. Instead of rooms, It would have areas or “zones” decorated with whatever they told me was hot that year. I watched many DIY episodes teaching me that this is the only logical and tasteful thing to do. Seeing young couples on TV convulse at the appearance of vintage modern architecture and watch the episode’s transformation from mid-mod to 19th Century Tuscan or French Country almost reinforced the notion that I needed to gut my space if I wanted to have a home to be proud of. So I moved in and a sudden budget change meant postponing these ambitions. What I discovered over time, is that our home is not only functional, but actually perfect, as is. The architect wasn’t really a moron after all and the family that had to “deal with” this brick veneer dinosaur for nearly 50 years really cherished it and lived quite comfortably. I love my family dearly, but there are times we all need our space, not just “zones” in the same big room. We truly love this house as it is and we USE our dining room. Many friends have questioned the logic of having a dining room since we also use the table in our eat-in kitchen (E-I-K: another feature on the brink of extinction). It has made perfect sense to us as we use the dining room for most dinners but all other meals and snacking in the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, dinner around the dining room table is not a hugely formal affair, but it does provide the best venue for teaching the children proper table etiquette. I just wish I could impress it on so many young homebuyers to just pause before diving into a demo. Sometimes a demo, or at least some type of modification, is necessary, but I strongly recommend waiting. If I hadn’t, I would have spent many thousands of dollars on a reno that would not only disrespect the design of the house but also require an ongoing investment to keep up with the current trend.
    Thanks for letting me share this novel!

      • Kathy says

        Cheers for David. Frugality is the best form of historic preservation! Doesn’t make good TV though. Even “This Old House” has been into smash and replace lately.

        Karine, without pictures, I’m wondering if the old grooves are for interior storm windows or some type of shutter window treatment. Can you track down some old timers in the neighborhood or previous owners to give you a clue?

    • Xefi Rah says

      I agree. The open concept has gone too far for my tastes. I had the architect do a built-in dining hutch just like the one my husband’s family had in their 1950’s home. Our house doesn’t have a formal dining area; we eat a dining area outside the kitchen.

    • Laurie says

      WOW David! I cannot believe someone considered a china cabinet more valuable as firewood!
      LOVE mine. A dining room without a china cabinet looks just sad and naked to me.
      I also see it as a decorative tool. Love to dress it up during the holidays. The top gets draped in garland too.

      Love my kitchenette as well. I live next to a school bus stop. My little boy is a bus rider. Can’t count the times other boys show up in the winter wanting to wait here, and magically….. just in time for breakfast. LOL My kitchen table gets plenty of use.

      Do not understand people. The open concept is horrid to me. Looks ugly and sterile.

      Wondering if the china cabinet disdain is a cultural thing. I’m from the South where we still prize our inherited china. And we like to show it off too! What better place than a pretty cabinet!

      I even have a few georgious Russian plates in mine, to show off my other heritage.

    • Dana says


      I totally agree with you on all counts in your comment. It is so disheartening to see the attitudes of buyers on these shows where they will not consider any plan other than ripping out walls and gutting all the character out of a house. Wouldn’t it be great to see a show where mid-century houses are preserved, and their great features highlighted? Beautiful homes are being ruined in the name of fashion and it’s hard to bear sometimes. I have also lamented the total decline in interest in good china and the idea of building a home filled with heirlooms (both handed down from older generations, and new items that will be handed to new generations). It’s a loss of the concept of tradition in general. Thank heavens for this site where like-minded home-lovers can meet! Thank you Pam!

      • CarolK says

        Reading the shelter magazines, some interior designers are over open concept and wish quite frankly that it would go away. They find open concept design rather unlivable.

        I don’t understand not wanting to have good china either. You’ve got to eat; why not use something pretty to dine on?

        My latest horror happened just last week when I was watching “Flea Market Flip”. One team spray painted an antique hall tree black. The other guys were horrified. They said “Don’t they realize that’s mahogany that they’re spray painting black? That beautiful hall tree looked so ugly with all that black paint on it. I was glad that they lost for doing that to that piece of furniture

  30. Michelle says

    I have one den, one playroom, and an entire upstairs (2 bedrooms, hallway, and stairs) in knotty pine paneling and I wouldn’t trade it for the world!!! I do have a Mamie pink with green tile board bathroom that is in desperate need of change because of the lack of storage and age. Not to mention, the room has gotten the western sun for over 50 years and the pink fixtures are more peach now! My parents had done renovations over the years (my grandparents built the house), but nothing has been completely changed. The den has a red tile floor (it has a white border). The kitchen has the original wood cabinets and one counter of white formica with green shot through it. It looks like the picture above. Up until the early 90s, the original porcelain sink was still in the house, but they did put in a stainless with butcher block counters. I will be making changes, but will be keeping as much of the original feel/pieces as I can. I told my hubby not too long ago that if the bathroom had been the blue that my Aunt had, I would NEVER change it!! I do love my 1950s house and hope that anyone who has a chance will love one too!!

  31. Jacki Anderson says

    I’ve lived in our 1965 ranch since 1996. The “knotty pine” is what made me fall in love with this house. Both my kitchen and den have beautiful knotty pine and my kitchen lamintate counter tops are original. While I did have to totally re-do my small master bath due to water damage under the floors, and a somewhat never finished shower stall, the main hall bath has all the original tile on the floor, counters, and up the walls, and original wallpaper. My only concern is that one of the sinks (double sink counter) has some cracks/rust damage that gradually gets worse and the way the sinks are set below the counter with small tiles framing them – if I have to replace the sink the whole counter-top/tile will have to go too! I’m hoping I can find replacement tile to match if I ever get to that point. Recently, my daughter, in a house cleaning/painting mood, attempted to talk me into “brightening” up the kitchen by painting the knotty pine, but I cannot bring myself to do it. She’s almost 21 and I’m hoping she’ll be out of college, working full-time and on her own soon, so me and my knotty-pine can live happily ever-after. Whether my daughter likes it or not!!

  32. Alan says

    I have a house built in 1954 and am the second owner.i replaced most of my windows 5 years ago. They were the old awning type windows very inefficient energy wise , I may have not seen a savings in bills but I can cool the house quicker and keep it warmer in winter I don’t feel the wind blowing thru the cracks. Plus the hard wear was breaking down.
    The orgial wod cabinets are still here and we are trying to get rid of smell from the wood.
    The Florida room ceiling is tounge and groove wood, down the stret from me that is finished that way.
    And these houses can survive a fire and just need cleaning and som new rafters.

  33. Morgan says

    We have another original endangered feature in our new (old) house: push button light switches!!! Our 1961 house is almost entirely original. There is something satisfying of turning a light on or off and hearing that click on the basement switchboard. Love it!

  34. Xefi Rah says

    Original windows must be replaced in order to get a mortgage in many markets- Low-emission glass must replace the old and the metal post-war frames do not insulate. That said, the replacements should be glazed to match the original windows. It irks me to see ‘colonial pane’ windows in a modern ‘picture window’ or Chicago window opening.
    Park Forest, IL is where I first had metal cabinets. They get bent and no longer close!!! Replacing them with wood is fine *but* I like to keep the ‘feel’ of metal by painting or staining mid-century- styled wood cabinets. It is awful to see 70’s style ‘Mediterranean’ panels in a lovely ranch-style home!!!

    • pam kueber says

      I’ve had my steel cabinets for quite a few years now without one ding or bend; both the doors and the drawers are doubled-up steel…. I guess if you ran into the door while it was open, that would be a problem — but that would be a problem with wood, too.

      A requirement to replace windows to get a mortgage? I’ve never heard of that… Can you tell me where, I’d like to check into that.

  35. Maureen Bajeyt says

    We had to replace the windows when we bought our house. All but one were not original to the house and about as sturdy as tin foil – one wouldn’t close completely. However, we did replace one original window – a huge picture window. It’s too hot where I live to have a large window that doesn’t open, so it was replaced by a smaller picture window that has two flanking casement windows, and they are vinyl. I know it’s considered a cardinal sin of MCM remodeling – but vinyl was less expensive than wood for us.

  36. Shannon Hudson says

    Ok. I had medal awning and have replaced them with black and white cloth awnings. My new front door is mid century. I need ideas for a fence to go in the front yard.

  37. Alan Crawford says

    There is a difference between awning type windows which are what are shown. And jealousies which are thinner and narrower.

  38. Julie says

    Love this article! I grew up in a house built in 1958; my parents were the second owners, buying in 1964. It had the pink bathroom, large formal DR, an entire wall of bulit-in wooden bookshelves, fieldstone fireplaces in the LR and basement ‘rumpus room’, knotty pine basement walls, wood kitchen cabinets, closets galore, gorgeous hardwood floors preserved by decades of carpeting, and a basement ‘laundry room’ that ran the entire length of the house. Two other wonderful ‘oddities’ were a door between the LR and kitchen that could slide closed between the walls, and a laundry chute– these made life a little easier and we loved them. Mom had to sell last year, and it truly broke my heart to think what must have been done by the buyers in the way of ‘improvement’– I haven’t been able to drive by it since her last day there. Your article and the comments have given me hope that perhaps the new owners might retain and grow to love some of the ‘dated’ features of our beloved ex-home.

  39. Scott says

    This article was fun to read (but aren’t they all here in RetroRenovationland? :-) ) and made me feel really good as 10, 7, 5, and 4 apply to my house.

    10. I have the original Jalousie windows in the basement. They close snugly and even here in Central Ohio the basement does not get super cold in the winter. Located on 3 sides of the house means great cross-ventilation so opening them for about 3-4 hours a nice day means instantly spring-fresh basement.

    7. Original honey-colored wood cabinets retained. The uppers are spotless, the lowers show some wear but are nice enough that I can’t imagine getting rid of them.

    5. While not original, I replaced my 1990s drab gray countertops with Stop Red Formica.

    4. My original front and back porch awnings were dented all to heck so I replaced them with new ones plus added two new ones over the front windows which dressed up my little Modest immensely.

    • pam kueber says

      Sounds great, Scott. I am doing another story on awnings in the near future — I’d love to see photos your modest refreshed! Send me an email if you’re game! Thanks!

  40. Carol says

    Keep old wood windows in good shape. My mom has the original divided pane wood windows from 1967. The bath window was large and in very bad shape on the inside due to moisture. I spent the better part of a week restoring the inside of the window. I used porch paint from Home Depot after making repairs. It was beautiful and when Mom came back from a trip she was so estatic, I thought she would cry. That was exactly 10 years ago and it looks as good as the day I finished it. It was definitely worth the work. You will freeze in the winter without storm windows. I know this from experience because one broke. That room was cold! With storm windows, nice and cozy and energy efficient. Mom has great energy bills and has a full basement with no insulation in the ceiling. She is by no means losing heat from the windows. All of the other windows are stained wood and still look great.

  41. JimW says

    Not to split hairs, but the windows in your first picture are not jalousied windows. They are aluminum awning windows. I grew up in FL in the early 1960s and they are extremely common the farther south you go in FL. In fact, in Miami, I don’t think they used anything else in the 1950s. They are much more energy efficient than jalousied – which leaked to the point in our house, that you could actually feel air coming thru closed windows, when the central a/c fan was pulling. Jalousied have much more narrrow slats that don’t seal well at all. You can get replacements for aluminum awning windows today at Lowes. They look pretty 1950s authentic.

  42. Joel Evans says

    I don’t know if I agree with the non replacement of windows. I live in the Pacific northwest and spent 4 years working for a contractor doing all sorts of restoration work. i have built turn of the century cabinets, repaired windows, made lots of victorian style architectural elements for period houses. The original cabinets I have built while look nice act like the old ones. Every environmental shift changes the way the doors and drawers fit. I think the only way to go is to toss the old cabinets and put some modern hardware on them so that they are useable and modern feeling with the old look. With old hardware they are old cabinets. The same goes for windows. The stick on weatherstripping stinks. Most new wood windows have weatherstripping that is integral to the frame that cant be applied after the fact. Get new windows built for you with thermal units in them… the trouble is that the thermal units are too thick to instal in the existing frame. It is still a compromise because they are notorious for sticking not opening and or leaking air around the outside. Storm windows could be a solution … but you cant tell me the production of the glass for a storm window isn’t co2 friendly… then you get condensation between the windows that causes the paint to peel off. I cant really say much good from what I have seen with single pane windows. Want a solution to your dilemma, don’t cheep out get wood double hungs or whatever you want. You can pull out the thermal units if they fail and replace them. Or get a new pane made if it is damaged. They are not drafty, no condensation, don’t feel like a hole in the wall, and have an authentic look. The labour to repair old wood windows is huge and they never work to the owners satisfaction. (if they actually open they rattle when its windy and your neighbors can hear everything your saying. Now i’m rambling.)

    • pam kueber says

      See this research also: Installing new windows would be the next to last thing you would do to improve energy efficiency. And, I recall that I was told, that now that prices for solar cells have dropped further, replacement windows to to the top of the pyramid, that is: The bottom of the list.

      Readers: Do your own thorough research…

  43. says

    Thank you for motivating me to save my old crank windows. Nicole Curtis reminded me of all the reasons I did not want to gut my solid wood cabinets, even though I would love to have a larger kitchen. Can’t wait to get this place renovated. I am gutting (more or less) the bathrooms. The old authentic 50s pastels were replaced late 70s with some hideous faux stone tiles. I am now on the hunt for some retro pastels I can blend with some glass tile to both honor the past and live in the present.

  44. Teddy says

    I agree with your argument about keeping original windows. According to the energy audit I had done for the 1969 experimental modernist house I am restoring, the inefficiency of the doors and windows is not primary to making the house more efficient (let’s face it, a restored house is never going to be a poster child of efficiency unless it is “remuddled”).

    The expansive window walls in my house are beautiful -commercial grade, custom made, and work amazingly well given their neglect. I am loath to replace them, because they will never look the same. But where do I find craftspersons who can restore them? I’ve been scouring the Internet and am coming up with nothing.

    Any suggestions for the New York state, Vermont area?

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