483 wonderful original architectural details from reader houses

wall panelOh, how we love thee:  The original features — big and small — in our homes. They managed to avoid the curse of the previous owner update. Or, maybe you found a time capsule whose first owner who knew they had something good, and didn’t change a thing.  Yes, we neeeeeeeded to see the original “they don’t make ’em like that anymore” architectural details and features in readers’ old houses — and you gave us 483 photos, to be exact! There is some FANTASTIC stuff in here! Uploader is now closed — thanks, everyone, for playing.  Time to gawk!  Above: Close-up of the room divider in Andy A’s 1962 house. Oh my! See? We bet you’re gawkin’ already. :)

To see the slide show, click on the thumbnail, it will enlarge, then use the arrows just below to move forward or back. You can start or stop the show from any slide.

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  1. Melissa says

    Love the kitchen in slide 129 & 130! Beautiful. What kind of wood cabinets and what material is your countertop?

  2. Kathy Merchant says

    Love the milk door! How about an upload some day of the secret finds we have discovered! I opened the cupboards in the bathroom to discover the original wallpaper where minor remodeling to add the cupboards had gone right over the top of the paper. Then in the foyer you can see where they nailed paneling right over the top of another kind of wall paper! In the attic crawl space you can see the original paint color of the house where an addition was made where the car port used to be! What surprises have other readers found?

    • Mindy says

      Great idea Kathy! I remember my husband and I getting all excited when we found a slit in th back of the medicine cabinet for shaving blades!! We too have found fun wallpaper covered up. I think our best find was the peeing boy statue hidden under decades of brush!

    • Kelly Wittenauer says

      Hidden treasures are fun. We found a note from a teacher about a child’s poor performance in school, hidden along the top of a concrete block wall in the basement of a house we owned. When we mentioned it to the long time residents next door, they said that was the name of one of the adopted sons of the original owners. The boys would play in the unfinished basement when it was cold or wet outside.

      • Mindy says

        Kelly speaking of your place-it is beautiful!!! i would love to see more pics. It looks so warm and cozy-what a great house!

        • Kelly Wittenauer says

          Thanks, Mindy. Not sure if you meant the 70s house we now have for sale, or the late 50s house we had to move away from in 1998. Probably the later, so I’ll post a few more picks I have of it. Hope those who’ve owned it since us have kept the beauty intact.

          • Mindy says

            Hi Kelly! When I wrote this comment I was looking at a pic of your 70s house-not realizing you had pics of 50s home as well. Wow you are so lucky to have owned two beautiful homes!! Both of them look really neat with a lot of character!

      • Marty says

        I found a 36″ wide base cabinet that must have come from the kitchen in the back of the garage. Moved it back in, but my ultimate plan is to put wheels on it and make it a floating island for food prep.

    • nina462 says

      Pam has done this once or twice – listing found items. We should do this again. I found the original blueprints tucked away.

    • Rick says

      I love the detective work and lucky finds of an older home. Mine is “only” c 1978 and has slowly evolved into a very welcoming home. We have found that doors and casing were added very soon after the house was built, maybe when first wall paper went up to have a logical place for each room to end. We found pieces of prior wallpaper under switchplates and vent covers and behind the lower part of the fridge.
      I love the time capsule homes but have to admit that sometimes the years of updates that get the personality of the home and respect it makes for a lovely home.

  3. Rinke says

    Such fun, all those pictures!
    In the Netherlands the 50s were far from the romantic(-ized) American Dream. There was not much after the war, so every material was used to make things look pretty yet modest.
    When we bought our current house, it was packed in texture paint and laminate, but when we took those out, there were soft colored walls (blue, pink, mint and yellow), concrete enamel ‘wainscoting’ and terrazzo floors in the hallway and kitchen.
    Except for the rounded casings around doors and windows, most original features were either gone or severely damaged. So was wiring and plumbing, so we carefully took out only what was broken/unsafe (800sqft took us 9 months) We’re now trying to give the house back it’s glory, but with mostly new materials.
    I can always find inspiration here, thanks Pam!

  4. Alisha says

    Thanks for sharing all these homes. They all make me want to kick myself. The first house my husband and I bought was a 1963 log home. TINY but awesome. Well being our first house, we had to make it our own, we were early 20’s. So out with the cool old Norge with the swing out shelves, out with the original GE range, paint over the original knotty pine cupboards with cool amber glass inserts, and out with the sparkly formica countertops. Needless to say, someday maybe we’ll bring it back to it’s wonderful old self. Thank you retro renovations for giving us all inspiration to us all!

  5. Mindy says

    Jennifer in PA I looooooove your kitchen and all the woodwork! It is stunning! I would love to see more pics of your house.

    • Wendy M. says

      Dawn- thanks! The cart is from ’55 and the original owners (we bought from them) had this storage area specified on the house plans. She taught home design at the university here and I still marvel at how she designed the house- everything is so well thought out.

    • Dawn says

      Thanks Guy

      Every person who comes to our house sits here! Those chairs were left by previous owner and I am desparately searching for replacements since they get alot of, umm, butt traffic. LOL.

      For a breakfast bar it sits very low, just table height, but most of the homes in this nieghborhood have them. The builder put them in every home he designed.

  6. Kat says

    Andy A., you lucky devil! How excited were you when you peeled away the wallpaper on your divider to find those gorgeous panels? Your home is just dreamy.

    • Andy A. says

      Hi Kat, thank you, I’m glad you like the polka dots. At first, we weren’t sure about them since they were such a change from the gold flocked paper we were used to, but we love them now. We realized there was something behind the paper when the change of seasons occurred last fall. Bright sunlight through the living and dining room windows revealed dots behind the paper, but not clear enough to see any details at all, just the turquoise spots showed up and we couldn’t see the color, just the shape.

      The seller’s daughter came by (we’ve become friends with the family), and we mentioned it to her, and she told us there were turquoise polka dots behind the wallpaper, and that her Mother papered over them in 1965, because she wanted a more formal look.

      • MGentile says

        Andy, what is the material of the polka dot room divider? Is it glass, plastic, lucite??

        The same pattern (and probably material) were used in various places in the Riverside (CA) Main LIbrary that was built in 1965. The stairwell had panels of this material, which were later covered up with beige carpet (ugh!).

        Thanks and congratulations.

  7. John says

    Jorge, have you used the indoor bbq? that seemed to be a popular feature, ive seen it in a lot of magazines from the era, and of course on the brady bunch.

    • Jorge says

      The indoor BBQ shows no sign that it has ever been used since the house was built in 1959. I keep planning to use it, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

  8. tammyCA says

    Bar8, your 1936 staircase is like the one in the old ’43 movie I watched today “Since you went away”..a favorite movie about the home front in WWII. Love those old movies with great pre-war house sets…the kind of house I wish I had.
    And, your door is like my front door..mine also has the X panes of glass on top.

  9. Janet in CT says

    I am ever so entertained and thrilled to see all the photos people have sent in. I love the formica vanity (and that floor!), Lori’s aqua kitchen, Mike in FL’s kitchen, the doorbells, the pull-out cart, oh- I love it all! Once again, my sincere thanks to you all for sending them in! And WHO has that fabulous car parked in the carport? That was a treat to see too!

    • Robin, NV says

      Hah! If you’re referring to my carport, that’s my Subaru. A beautiful car but hardly fabulous. Thanks for the compliment though.

      • Janet in CT says

        Robin, if yours is the white car, not the one! This is an older sixties car from the looks of it – maybe a Ford? Dark colored fastback but hard to see. Not sure where you live but carports seem to be kind of short-lived around New England – too much snow! But I do remember alot of them around when I was young but few survived.

        • Robin, NV says

          Oops! I see the one you were referring to. Looks like a ’67 or ’68 Mustang Fastback. My dad had a ’67 Mach I. Pretty sure my Subaru would do better in the snow . . .

          Pam – we need a carport uploader! They’re an endangered species.

          • Janet in CT says

            philq, that’s exactly what I thought it was too! Suits the carport perfectly! By the way, I in so in love with your kitchen with the aqua countertops and the aqua GE wall fridge! Just what I want!

            • philq says

              Thank you, Janet. When we bought the house, we were going to gut the kitchen…now I have fallen in love with it, quirks and all!

  10. Sara says

    Loving these pictures! There are so many I love, but Lynn in St. Louis, your vanity is amazing!!!! Good thing your home isn’t owned by someone who might go on one of those TV shows where they gut their “ugly” bathroom. Thank heavens you appreciate the unique beauty of your fabulous bathroom.

    • Lynn Reina says

      Sara, thank you very much. We love our 1960 ranch. Pam actually did a story on the bathroom last Spring after we bought it. Look for the March 13, 2012 story “Wilma Flintstone’s1960 bathroom vanity”

  11. MsKittyMuses says

    All of these pictures are making me so jealous! The house we ended up buying last summer had very few interesting architectural details compared to a lot of the ones we saw, but it’s the one that worked out and we love it anyway!

    There is a lot of inspiration (and motivation) for us here, since we’d like to add in some more interesting touches. Thanks to everyone for their uploads!

  12. Drew R says

    Lisa Harm!

    I am pea green with envy! Your Western Holly built ins are gorgeous as is the floor!

    I am originally from Lincoln (LHS ’88, Wesleyan, ’92) and I am psyched to see Nebraska well represented!

    Take care

  13. Jay says

    Now I know what my MC Modest ranch needs – brass tubular door chimes, slate flooring, built-in planter / bookcase / room divider, soffit lighting, etc. etc. I just need a bigger house to fit it all in. My head is spinning from all these great pictures.

  14. tammyCA says

    Yea, more awesome-ness to view! Who’s 1942 cottage?…I want to hug it! So sweet. Love all the original, unique features and everybody embracing that…and, oh boy great vintage colors and warm woods!
    All those door bells rock…I remember now those from years ago…and, the basement bars. Can remember relatives & neighbors homes with the basement bars. There are no basements out here but I often see cool original built in bars in Estate sales.

    • Beth Cochems-Budris says

      It’s mine! Thanks.The picture next to it of the kitchen with the white cabinets, red Formica counters and yellow sink is mine too.


      • tammyCA says

        Aw, lucky you. I collect vintage 1940s cards with cottages and yours looks just like some of them. :) I sure love charming little houses.

  15. Susan says

    LOVE LOVE Loving these!! Have put up pics of our house built in 1971 in New Zealand – but has lots of mid century features (possibly because it took NZ architects 20 odd years to catch up with European designs). #thisblogrocksmysocks

  16. Wendy in St. Louis says

    Oh wow, what FABULOUS pictures! I was actually getting ready to throw a big ole’ pity party for myself, wondering why I didn’t hold out for a house with some of these drool worthy details. The main floor of my house is rather mundane. But then…d-oh! I have a great knotty pine basement! (If it was “finished” it was called a ratskeller in St. Louis. Lots of Germans here!) So I DO get to upload pictures!

    The pity party has been called off, but envy still abounds.

    • Diane in CO says

      Wendy, glad you cancelled pity-party. Your ratskeller basement, with fab bar and great checkerboard floor, is wonderful. The decorative vinyl tile with the playing cards is one of my favorite pics. You should have a lot of fun throwing poker or canasta parties down there, serving retro cocktails and little ’50’s canapes — or have a sock hop!

    • Kevin Wagner says

      Doug, Thanks! It was designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright apprentice Robert Beharka for his family. Bob began his apprenticeship with Wright in 1954, and supervised the construction of three Wright houses. The last one was the Fawcett house in Los Banos, Ca. During the construction he met a local gal, fell in love and stayed in little Los Banos to start a family and his own practice. This house he built for his family, the whole family took part in building the house, so it took almost 5 years to build. He was a friend and mentor to me, he passed away in 2010 at 84 years old. He was an amazing Architect.

      • says

        Kevin – I actually had a sentence in my first reply that cherokee red was a color typical of a Frank Lloyd Wright influence but removed it – should have known! What a great house. That’s awesome that you got to know him as well. What a great story to be able to share.

  17. LauraL says

    Loving all these details! Makes me appreciate my mid-century home more. Wish I had one of those doorbell covers with bells on it!

  18. says

    WOW! so much to look at! I am particularly fond of that mustard-color wrap-around fireplace! And the Gladding McBean Hermosa tile in Florida! will be looking some more later tonite and thanks to all for sharing :)

  19. jeannette bisbee says

    Please, please, please will the person who posted the picture’s of the amazing Gladding McBean turquoise tile kitchen from the 1950’s post more pictures. We have to remodel our kitchen next year, and that is exactly what I want our kitchen to look like……

    Everybody’s homes are so inspirational–a local home magazine in our area up in Ontario Canada said one of the newest design trends was ‘retro’ renovation…unfortunately, they did not use or mention this fabulous website….nor were the featured item in the article very ‘retro’, but, hey, at least its a start in the right direction….

    But, please, I have to see more of that great tile kitchen, so we can start making plans!!!

  20. Natalie MC says

    I went to an estate sale today at a house that had AMAZING bathrooms. They will all be gutted and redone :(. The downstairs one had beautiful tile work on the floors and wall. THE WALL PAPER! Silver foil in shades of pinks and blues with birds. SO FANTASTIC. I got a couple pictures before I left.

  21. says

    It’s totally the cats pajamas here with all this eye candy!

    We are in the process of redecorating our bedroom. So I came here to relax. Started to post pics. But forgot to add my handle/name on the pic of my accordion bedroom door and toile carpet.

    I will add it from here out when I post pics of my bath.

    How fun it will be to check back and see all the weekends posts!

    Silly me,
    Roxanne – Crete, Ne

  22. Janet in CT says

    To the reader who posted the photo of the pink bathroom with Morrocan print wallpaper, I think that is a marvelous look. Is that vanity tapered? You are so fortunate to have this look and I wish we could see more of it. I could not read the print under the photo so I hope that you read this and can add it to the comments. I am always pleased to see someone saved a pink bathroom! To my greatest chagrin, I did not save mine in my first home, a 1958 ranch, but that was 1978 and what did I know then?

  23. says

    Oh my god, the green bathroom with the ‘shark fin’ shower! I’d totally have bought the house for that room too!…and I’d be sleeping in that shower! Gorgeous!

  24. Diane of PA says

    Its just mind blowing that of all of the people that have uploaded photos no one has the same details.,everyone has something very different and unique! Keep em coming……….!

    • pam kueber says

      I KNOW! I agree, Diane — it’s just amazing what’s out there! So many fabulous details — including in mid century MODEST houses!

  25. Erin says

    Doug Camin, I love your split! (Reminds me a lot of ours!) Would love to see more! The scale of your furniture in here is really great!

    • says

      Thanks Erin! We lucked out on the furniture in the living room – the sectional couch and end table were purchased by my Grandparents in the early 1960s. The couch has always sat in the exact same spot, so there are old pictures and slides of family sitting on the couch (with different upholstery) that you can hold up and look at sort of like peering through a time machine. We keep a blog chronicling the work we’ve been doing and it has a lot of other pictures. You can click on my name here and it will take you there.

  26. Meg says

    I’m so blown away by the Batchelder stairs! Do you happen to have any pix of it facing forward? I’m trying to create one in my home from gorgeous salvaged tile, but I can’t find any examples of what an original Batchelder staircase might have looked like.

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