Nancy’s metal kitchen cabinets get a fresh coat of paint — and lots of new red accents

retro-kitchenReader Nancy has shared much of her home with us in the past — most recently the interior and exterior of her newly constructed retro inspired pool house. This impressive before-and-after is in Nancy’s main house — where she restored her original aqua St. Charles metal cabinets and, to dial up the playfulness, added lots more red. There’s just something so… cheerful… about this color combination.

Nancy’s retro kitchen renovation — BEFORE:


The St. Charles kitchen cabinets original to Nancy’s kitchen — with their original two-tone paint jobs — were in tough shape after years of use by the previous owners. So, we get to hear the details of how her contractor chose to repaint them — same color scheme, only all new and purty. Please note: Precautionary Pam warns there can be lead in old paint — if you are thinking of refinishing, be sure to consult with a properly licensed professional to take the right steps.

Nancy also gives us her resource list for new flooring, countertops, edging, etc.  Oh, and lots of photos, too!

Nancy writes:

We LOVE our kitchen!! I feel like our granddaughter spent the first 2 years of her life on the large island in her bouncer!  The kitchen is so nice & roomy that all of the family can cook in there together! We love having theme meals with everyone in charge of something. To me that is what a kitchen is all about.  The person that said the kitchen is the heart of the home got it right! I also think the original colors that were selected for the kitchen are very beautiful.


The original St. Charles metal cabinets were painted light aqua and dark aqua, and we used the bottom of the drawers to repeat those same colors once they had been cleaned  (with the age and all the light in the kitchen our original colors had faded).

Kris (you remember Kris, built the pool house) reported that this is the process he used: Removal from kitchen…Removal of all hardware…  Labeling all cabinets, doors, and hardware… De-greasing every piece… Soaking all hardware in lubricant… Three-stage sanding – heavy, medium and fine… Priming with Nason single stage automotive primer… One coat Nason full thane urethane single stage automotive enamel, colors manually matched… Final wet-sanding/buffing of all painted surfaces… Polishing/cleaning all hardware… Re-installing all pieces. What a job!! I hope someone takes the time to do this again in 50 years!!



Nancy’s retro kitchen renovation — AFTER:

mid century modern kitchen

The original flooring was the asbestos, off white tile that was very much in need of being replaced. I love color, so had to add some to the floor to make it easier to clean. We chose Azrock by Tarkett. If it works for Pam, I thought it would work for us, and it has! The colors: The checkerboard is made from “red pepper” and “cloud white”, with a black “midnight” border.

The original counter top was the ivory linen formica that really was in pretty good shape for the age.  But, since everything was being pulled out we decided on Arborite, and the color is Red Xabia. The edging is from New York Metal (as per the resource list from Pam).


The ovens are original and wonderful (maybe more wonderful to look at than use but who cooks that much anymore)!!  They are L&H brand which was the earliest Thermador. I had to have them removed and shipped them to Georgia, where they were fitted with modern elements that could be easily repaired. The cooktop is also Thermador.  I was able to find some replacement burners on line.

blue red kitchen

midcentury kitchen

red kitchen counter tops

Sinks are the origional Elkay’s and really in amazing shape for their age & use! The faucets were replaced by original owner.
The curtain is from my vintage barkcloth collection.

red refrigerator

The fridge is a Re Store find. It is a Northland that Kris built in and made front panels that were painted when he did the cabinets.



Over the cabinets I framed a set of vintage Vera napkins (the blue) and a vintage set of cocktail napkins I got from Etsy.

Our dishes are vintage Red Wing Tampico pattern.  I love their unusual shapes, the form is just beautiful!  Also, the way they are painted you almost have a summer side and then a fall or winter side.  At least I turn them for the seasons.

Kitchen table and chairs are vintage and from our favorite guy- Adam Henderson on Etsy (Dead50sModern).

We have so much natural light that I thought a glass collection would be just the thing to finish off the room.  I found these through another very nice Pam on Etsy and just love the beauty they bring to the room!

Thank you, Nancy! Wow, you have completed a lot of work on your house in a relatively short time. Are you done now???

Resource List for Nancy’s Kitchen Remodel

dogs-eatingNancy found the raised dog feeders on Etsy — though she doesn’t think they are available anymore.


Her dogs Buster and Betty — who are brother and sister — love the new kitchen.




The combination of color and whimsical accents — like the pirate ship basket on the table above — make Nancy’s kitchen a cheery and fun place to gather. It seems she has thought of every detail — and used both vintage and new pieces to make the retro kitchen of her dreams a reality. Thank you, Nancy for sharing yet another part of your lovely home with us!

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  1. Janet in CT says

    Bravo, Nancy! It looks wonderful! So you took out some newer wall ovens? Also noticed that you replaced the Big Chill. Was that because the new fridges stick out so far and are so much deeper? That Northland looks perfect there. I like it when people use older appliances – they so suit the older kitchens. I love everything you did!

    • Nancy B says

      Thank you, Janet. No, the L&H ovens have been the only ovens in that spot. They were not working so we sent them to Georgia to be repaired & updated. The Big Chill was very low & just ate our food. We could not find anything in there. So, we moved it to the pool house & found this Northland which we love.

      • Jay says

        I was going to comment along the same line as Janet. The first picture on the post showed what clearly looked like new wall ovens. An illusion perhaps? The stainless wall ovens are beautiful as well as the rest of the kitchen. You sure have an eye for what works visually. Kudos for restoring the cabinets to their original glory, most people would yank them out. As a collector of colored glass I am envious of your great display area with the light flooding in.

        • pam kueber says

          Nancy had the stainless steel double ovens completely restored a couple of years ago… Link is in the story, I think!

        • Nancy B says

          LOL!!!! Shows you I haven’t looked at these photos as closely as you have!! You will love it! I had totally forgotten about this part of the renovation! When we first moved in the built in L&H didn’t work. Construction friends had pulled this double oven out of a home & it worked fine. So, until we could get the L&H units going, we used that built in double oven plopped on the floor in the middle of the kitchen!!

    • Nancy B says

      OMG! As I was reading Jay’s post following yours I went back to look at the photos! And, just like child birth, I had forgotten about having that oven in the middle of the kitchen until we could have the L&H repaired!!

      • Janet in CT says

        Oh so glad to hear that. I thought that I was losing it! When you sent them out for repair, did they rewire them? My husband worries about our old mid-fifties GE, that the wiring may be shot.

  2. Annie B. says

    Oh, what a kitchen. It reminds me of clear blue skies and valentines. Every little thing is just perfect.

    Is that an aqua Butterprint patterned Pyrex water bowl for B & B?

  3. Mandy says

    Love your kitchen and its sooooo inspiring. We need to replace our kitchen and are constantly looking for ideas and encouragement to be brave with colour. Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. Alice says

    wow! Cheerful color combo is right. I liked the before picture, but the red touches just warmed it right up….nicely done!

    My heart raced when you mentioned you found replacement burners for your Thermador range online. Could you please share the source? I think you and I have the same range and we have burner that is out and I am running in to roadblocks trying to find a replacement…any direction you can point me in will be appreciated.

    Did they guy that repainted your cabinets do it in an autobody shop?

    Thanks for sharing and for providing so many great details!

    • Nancy B says

      Alice- Thank you for the positive comments! We did love the kitchen before but the color changes make it easier to keep & also very cozy! I found the supplier for the heating (1-800-269-2609). They were very helpful! I hope this will help you!

  5. Chris says

    Nancy — I love both the before AND the after! What a happy place to drink coffee!

    I’m in NW GA. Is it ok to ask the general region you are in? (I know we aren’t supposed to be specific.) It’s just fun to see what folks are doing in my home state!

    Thanks for sharing your happy, happy kitchen with us! :)

  6. bg says

    I wonder if all the catches on the cabinets were working or if your restoration involved a substitution of that hardware. We have a St. Charles kitchen, and we have been using magnetic strips to keep the cabinets closed b/c we have not been able to find another substitute for those catches. If you can give me an idea, that would be fantastic!

  7. Zoe says

    I love the before AND the after, but I think I love the before a little bit more! The red-and-white checkerboard floor was totally inspired, and I love the Thermador wall ovens, but I liked the ivory linen counters better than the red — for me it’s just a little *too* much red. But you love it, and that’s what matters — and it’s certainly appropriate to the house! Nicely done.

  8. Janice says

    Fabulous kitchen! I might even begin to like cooking if I had a kitchen like that to do it in! How much easier would it have been to rip out all those wonderful metal cabinets and replace them with something from a big box store? Kudos to you for restoring them to perfection even though it was probably more work and more expensive. I loved the Big Chill red fridge in the “before” pictures until I saw the Northland. What a great choice. Really, I love everything about your kitchen. Nicely done!

  9. Kimby says

    I absolutely love this kitchen, I was very excited to see the red metal apple canisters. I have the same set and they still have the 1966(year) tag on the bottom of them.

  10. texastechie says


    I made it to this website and to your renovation hoping for some counter top details!!! We are desperately trying to get an answer. We just submitted an offer on a 1950 house that has original bathrooms and kitchen. The kitchen cabinets are metal. They need to be painted but they are in great shape! The problem is the sink and counter tops. They must be replaced. The white sink is rusting underneath, and the formica is split and raised behind the sink and at corner seams due to water damage. The kitchen is basically a U shape. We opened lower cabinets and looked extensively, but my husband could not see a way to remove the counter top from the base cabinets in order to replace it. Can you offer any help?

  11. texastechie says

    Hey! I finally got back in the house. There is an oval plate on the sink base that says “St. Charles.” I almost missed it because it was painted over! Also, there is a stainless steel band that runs around the countertop and along the backspash; husband noted that these two are welded together at the outside corners. I sure hope they can be removed and replaced. I would hate for all those cabinets to be junk. The sink base does have extensive rust in the bottom, but rust elsewhere is insignificant.

    Also, he had planned to spray these in place before we move into the house, even though the chemicals for prepping and painting are way toxic! He and I both have fears of getting in over our heads. We have done kitchen remodels before but never with metal cabinetry. He sells automotive paint and chemicals for a living and has a vast knowledge of that part. We just don’t know anything about taking these apart or putting them back together. How smart is it to take them apart? Should we leave them in place to paint them? Or is it better to take them apart?

    Any answers you might have would be most appreciated!

  12. Ingrid says

    What color and brand of paint were used on the cabinets? I have a 1950’s metal cabinet with a red Formica top. I would like to repainted it to this lovely Aqua color

      • Ingrid says

        I apologize, I still don’t see the reference to the Brand of paint and color other than Aqua in the story or in the resource list.

        • pam kueber says

          This is right in the story: “Kris (you remember Kris, built the pool house) reported that this is the process he used: Removal from kitchen…Removal of all hardware… Labeling all cabinets, doors, and hardware… De-greasing every piece… Soaking all hardware in lubricant… Three-stage sanding – heavy, medium and fine… Priming with Nason single stage automotive primer… One coat Nason full thane urethane single stage automotive enamel, colors manually matched… Final wet-sanding/buffing of all painted surfaces… Polishing/cleaning all hardware… Re-installing all pieces. What a job!! I hope someone takes the time to do this again in 50 years!!”

          Please also read precautions – consult with properly licensed professionals

          • pam kueber says

            For a good aqua color, see our category Decorate / Paint.

            Go to Sherwin Williams Suburban Modern palette – holiday turquoise. Take a look at that…

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