Timeless retro cottage kitchen design ideas — and other terrific interiors — from the Carmel Cottage Inn

red white checkerboard floorOh my goodness: The four kitchens among the five little cottages that comprise the delightful Carmel Cottage Inn are not only charming — but they are chock full of timeless kitchen design ideas — several of them quite affordable. Yes, I would call these interiors “cottage style” — a style that is hugely popular in the U.S. and has been for decades. So cheery and comfortable! But, these houses also have many classic elements of simple ranch style that carried over to mid-century houses. When Cheryl, the owner of the Carmel Cottage Inn, remodeled and redecorated, she kept the look pretty simple… pretty “humble”… but with carefully selected, high-impact $plurges… all in line with the vintage style of the original architecture.  Let’s see some more terrific design ideas from the five renovated cottages at the Carmel Cottage Inn:

When I first wrote to Cheryl, I was admiring this first kitchen, shown above — with its classic Early American style black wrought iron strap hardware. I also asked her for a few sentences on the designs.

Cheryl told me:

We purchased the five vintage cottages (ca. 1910-1941) and restored them as full time vacation rentals with the emphasis on comfort and cottage experience. We wanted them to feel like they should have always looked this way, so we took out the 1989 kitchens in the two largest houses and copied the original cabinetry from the smaller cottages. We love our retro appliances, so do our guests. We have actually heard people squealing with delight when they find them in the kitchen.

Four colors of checkerboard floors:

white green kitchenIn one story, we get four varieties of checkerboard floors! These floors work really really well as part of Cheryl’s harmonious, graphical design. We get a lot of folks here on the blog interested in doing checkerboard floos. Here’s my design-analysis breakdown of why Cheryl’s design turned out so great:

  • She has kept her palette simple — checkerboard-color+white floor, white cabinetry and one other punch of color. In this case, the pastel punch comes from the Big Chill appliances, which because of Cheryl’s design restraint, stand out like works of art… almost like color blocking. And hey, if you’re gonna buy Big Chill appliances — which are expensive — you’re going to want to make sure they shine!
  • (2) The dashes of black — in wrought iron hardware, the appliances and liner tile — complement the strong graphical nature of the checkerboard… and keep your eye moving around the room.
  • (3) The small checkerboard pattern curtains repeat the check motif, but smaller.
  • (4) Take 1-2-3 together, and this is very “graphical” kitchen — carefully edited to work with the dominant graphic element, the checkerboard floors. Warning: Put too many colors, too many “busy” “competing” design features in a kitchen with a checkerboard floor, and you risk design chaos.
  • Dashes of creamy beige (the counter tops are Corian) and the wood tones warm the space up.
  • Cheryl repeats this formula kitchen to kitchen — which provides harmony within her inn and her brand:

early american kitchenNotice how the backsplash is one with very inexpensive white  4″x4″, 6″x6″ and black liner tiles:

big chill stove

backsplash tileThis backsplash done all with inexpensive stock tiles: Brilliant design idea for humble retro kitchens!

cottage kitchen


Resource list for the Carmel Cottage Inn kitchens:

Other beautiful design details from the Carmel Cottage Inn:

wagon wheel lightWagon wheel chandelier — hurray! And, it looks like a super nice one. Cheryl told me, “I had been looking for a wagon wheel light. This was a gift from our electrician, Scott Eagle.”

And notice the Dutch door on the far right. 🙂
wagon wheel pendantTo coordinate with the wagon wheel chandelier, a pendant. Beautifully done! People, you can get these things CHEAP on ebay!

braided rugLikewise, I am a huge fan of braided rugs. So pretty… versatile… affordable… durable… retro!  Cheryl said hers came from Yankee Sturbridge Workshop. I also recommend you check Thorndike Mills, Capel, and vintage (abundant! — demonstrating just how durable these are.)


The fireplaces are spectacular and, again, the decorating is restrained to spotlight them as if they were works of art. Which they are!

attic renovationThe attic renovation is lovely.

tile counter top bathroom vanitySimple tile used on this bathroom vanity.

storybook ranchLovely hardscaping and gardens for this little storybook ranch house.

cottage styleNotice the shakes on the cottage — both siding and roof. But, the house also has wide clapboards. This mixing of siding materials was common on small ranch and cape cod houses in midcentury America to add visual detail. Vertical batten boards also were used in the mix. BUT no narrow clapboards, please! Use the fat ones. 8″? I’m not sure. Can someone measure? (I have brick.)

curb appealAt first I thought this roofing was real cedar shake. But, no. Cheryl told me it was composite, Landmark by CertainTeed.

If I hit the lottery, I am going to get a cedar shake roof. Still, hers looks pretty darn nice!

balconyAnd, when we hit the jackpot, we will expand into the attic — and carve out a bit for a balcony, where we will also put our telescope. Thank you, Cheryl, for permission to show all these wonderful photos of your place — gorgeous, and so many great design tips here! Next time I’m out thatta way, I’m coming to stay for sure! xoxo

Link love:


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  1. nina462 says

    Gorgeous! Need a pop of cherry red or bright yellow, but otherwise just Gorgeous. Maybe some red geraniums on a windowsill 🙂

  2. Annie B. says

    The website’s photos show black strap hardware used for the bathroom towel bars and tissue holders. Ingenious idea. Looks great with the white tile.

    This decor is truly exemplary understatement: “cottage”, but “modern”, too. The color palettes say, “sweet, easy, restful”.
    I’d like to book the Log Haven for the next decade, please.

    Wonderful post, Pam and Cheryl. Thank you!

  3. Robin, NV says

    These cottages are wonderful. I wish I could use the same restraint in decorating my own home. I love the staircase in Log Haven.

    About braided rugs – I’ve been making them for years. The store bought and catalog bought ones are often made of yarn and not strips of wool as is traditional. But in the past 10 years, supplies of wool cloth have really gone down and the selection of colors is not good. Because of this, I’ve made braided rugs out of denim and cotton. I’ve also toyed with the idea of making one out of chenille as a bathroom rug. I have a braided rug instruction book that showcases braided rugs in lovely 70s interiors.

    • tammyCA says

      That’s true. There are still some around..there is a house two doors down from me that still has its original ’54 shake roof.

    • Ann Walker says

      Where we live in southern California, shake roofs are illegal, and existing homes with shakes have a moratorium upon which to replace them. They really are huge fire hazards wherever you live!

      • Heart says

        Yes, unfortunately homeowners insurance in CA has practically outlawed shake roofs (sadly). I used to love the old rolled edge shake roofs on the bungalows. Cheryl has the right idea with CertainTeed, as close as we can get.

        Great job Cheryl, thanks for the inspiration Pam.

  4. Susie in Maryland says

    Oh I am green with envy over those green Big Chill appliances! I have never liked stainless, and someday I hope to replicate this kitchen in my dream home! I just wish more manufacturers would include colors in their lineup and price them more reasonably. When I was a little girl in the late 50’s, my mom had periwinkle-colored appliances! Those were the days! 🙂

    • tammyCA says

      I was watching the old Mary Tyler Moore show tonight and I swear her phone was lilac or periwinkle, but I didn’t think they had that color back then. It was pretty.

  5. Adrienne says

    Oh- a taste of home today on the RR blog! 🙂 I used to live down the street from there. Wonderful to see the upgrades to the old houses. Mold and mildew is a huge problem in Carmel (and the Peninsula in general) so it’s nice to see the hardwood floors and the area rugs. Much easier to keep clean!

  6. Kay D says

    We stayed in a Wisconsin cottage that had tile I have not seen before. It was a 4×4 about the mint green of the Big Chill appliances but had a white wave or swirl pattern in the glazing. Have looked on the tile links but have not seen it. Any idea what the pattern is really called?

    Must say, we thoroughly enjoyed our experience and Carmel Cottage Inn looks like it should be on my list of places to stay.

    • Diane in CO says

      I’m currently at our cottage in Wisconsin; where was the charming place you stayed? Had it been renovated or was it the original decor? In Door County by any chance?

      • Kay D says

        We were at the Bailey’s Sunset in Bailey’s Harbor. The mint tile and CVT flooring appeared to be original…a mint and brown combination. Other features had been “updated” but it still had a nice retro feel.

        • Diane in CO says

          Yup, in Door County as I thought it might be….. Bailey’s Harbor right across the Peninsula from us – we bike over there all the time. How cool!

          There are still a few of the “old school” places to stay on the Peninsula; not totally “condominiumized” yet Thank Goodness!

          Hope you had fun and will come back again. 🙂

  7. Lauryn says

    Oh, how lovely! I have always wanted to go to Carmel … maybe this place will have to go on my dream vacation list. And I love the backsplash with the fine black tile; we never did put a backsplash up when we redid our kitchen, mostly because I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and this gives me some great ideas.

  8. Kathy Merchant says

    I really like the use of cream color paint to give a little vintage feel but still fresh and clean looking. The checkerboard floors are so fun. I need to redo my kitchen floor and thinking of CVT tiles-linoleum look but have a very small tiled area so checkers might be too much pattern. Does anyone know where you can have a square or two of CVT tiles laser cut with a shape/design set into the middle? I saw something in one of my favorite kitchen redo’s but I don’t know who would do that kind of work. I remember the article on RR about vintage floors with shapes in them but what about now?

    • says

      I still think you can do a checkerboard floor. We are about halfway through adding a tone on tone (ecru and dark beige) VCT floor in our tight gallery kitchen… imagine an alley with three full tiles and halves on the sides. And it actually makes the room look more spacious! We are putting them over old peel and stick green tiles that look to be from the early 60s which have yellowed a bit too much.

      The checker board floor works perfectly with our Chambers B stove and linoleum counter with steel edging.

    • Michelle says

      I just painted a checkerboard pattern on the floor of my half bath, which is no more than 10 square feet. It looks amazing! There’s very little else going on in the room (because, 10 square feet) but I think the look would translate just fine to a slightly more generous space.

  9. says

    It’s interesting to see this because we are contemplating a checkerboard floor for our kitchen. I’m still not sure I dare commit to it. I’m worried I’ll be sick of it after a number of years, but we plan to stay in our house a good long time. I liked the ivory and light blue–it seems it might be less overwhelming than the black and white.

  10. LibbyK says

    We put CVT (Cloudburst) in our bathroom and the same for the laundry area. We’re working on a color design for our kitchen…we want CVT because the rest of the house is the original maple hardwood floor…our house is over 100 years old. Thanks for sharing!!!

  11. tammyCA says

    Gosh, I love these! This is the type of place I would choose to stay & it’s very much my style. That attic room with all the windows…wow! I’ve only been to Carmel Valley years ago but it was lovely.

  12. says

    Just want to comment on care for the vinyl composition tiles that are used to make the classic checkerboard patterns. We love this floor. It is durable and versatile with a great color line. Make it easy to care for with a beginning two or three coats of Armstrong Shinekeeper. Use Armstrong Once and Done as a cleaner and you will not remove the finish as you wash. Add another coat of finish when you notice that it is picking up scuffs.This floor will last for years, and is one of the great values in flooring.

  13. Vicki says

    I was to use VCT in the kitchen workroom of my very old house. Presently there is rather ugly vinyl which has a black and while checkerboard pattern. The white is designed to look like marble but it really misses the mark. I want a different design perhaps to go with aqua. Any suggestions?

  14. Deborah says

    These pictures sold me on the idea of vct on the floor. That’s what I’ll do with my kitchen and bathroom. Nice thing is, done I’m a pay-as-I-go type the relative inexpense puts the project into a reasonable reach.

    Home Depot has similarly styled cabinet hardware in black coated steel at a ridiculously inexpensive price. It looks just like the original hardware in my friend’s perfectly preserved ’53 ranch.

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