Wallpaper the backsplash? Deb wants our help with her Retro Design Dilemma

vintage-kitchenDesignDilemmaReader Deb and her husband are in the final stages of their DIY vintage style kitchen remodel. It’s coming together just beautifully — but now, they are stuck on a final design decision: Shoudld they add adorable 1940s style Bradbury & Bradbury wallpaper to the backsplash? Or will it be too much? They want to hear from the ever-helpful tribe of Retro Renovation readers. To wallpaper or not to wallpaper, that is the question. Read on to hear Deb’s story and to weigh in. Pam and I will hold back and post our photoshopped ideas at noon.


Deb writes:

Hi Pam,

We’re in the final stages of our kitchen redo (having done all the work ourselves except for the sheetrocking) and we can’t agree on whether to use this wallpaper from Bradbury as our backsplash or not.

apple betty wallpaper bradbury

“Apple Betty” by Bradbury & Bradbury

I love it but my husband thinks it is too busy and takes away from the nickel outlet covers (which he has some strange attachment to lol).  Behind the stove will be new/old fan with a sunburst stainless steel panel. Is this all too much? The wallpaper would be vinyl coated for protection and used only under the cabinets.

Also, I want to let you know that your explanation and pics of doing the metal edging on your counter tops helped immensely when it came time to do ours.

The floor is Armstrong Linoleum Tidal Wave and the counter top is Forbo Bleeker Street Lino.


Kitchen before with original Youngstown “Diana” sink unit.

The original kitchen had the washer and dryer under the counter and a “Diana” Youngstown sink unit. It was too far gone to save but I did manage to pry off the the Diana emblem and will be putting it on my new sink cabinet. I know I said that we did it all by ourselves but that isn’t entirely true. We had the floor installed and we bought the RTA cabinets from Barker Cabinets in Oregon. Barker also has slab front cabinets and they are a joy to do business with. Shipping took seven days from Oregon to upstate New York.

The walls are a very light blue. We have a Big Chill fridge in Buttercup yellow (ebay) that hasn’t been put in yet. The woman I bought it from in New Jersey, had won it in a raffle and could not fit it in her kitchen.

red-laminate-counter-topsIf anyone wants to know the particulars of putting in linoleum counter tops and stainless steel edging, my husband is willing to share what he did. It’s taken 1 year and 3 months of no vacations, working every single weekend and a lot of evenings to get to this point. And best of all my DH and I are still talking to each other.

sunburst stainless steel backsplash

Stainless steel sunburst panel

Pam asks: What are you doing over the stove?

A Nutone exhaust fan (new old stock) and a stainless steel panel with a sunburst design.

So readers — now we need your thoughtful opinions — what should Deb do with her kitchen back splash?

Through the magic of Photoshop, Kate made some mock-ups of Deb’s kitchen to help her visualize how it would look with the three variations wallpaper and the sunburst stainless steel backsplash:

1. Sunny Day Combo:

vintage kitchen

For the first mock-up, we put the stainless steel sunburst backsplash over the stove and Bradbury & Bradbury Apple Betty wallpaper between the cabinets and counter top. This looks pretty nice… but we feel like the drama of the stainless steel backsplash might be overwhelming the rest of the kitchen design, which is so lovely. Hmmmm….

2. All wallpaper:

vintage kitchenFor the second mock-up, we extended the wallpaper all the way behind the stove and up to the ceiling. Deb wasn’t planning on having the wallpaper extend this far up, but if the stainless steel backsplash is not used, it would be a more finished look to have the wallpaper extend all the way to the ceiling, instead of being cut off at under cabinet height. We’re kind of digging the vintage charm starting to come together once this wallpaper is added…

3. Add a shelf to the combo:

vintage kitchenDeb could also add a shelf for knick knacks — made using the same red linoleum and metal edging from the countertops — an idea that is similar to the shelf in Pam’s kitchen:

shelf in pams kitchen

Note the shelf in Pam’s kitchen, above the stove. It is  about 6″ deep, edged with stainless steel like the countertops (but a different size of SS.) I never did anything but paint my backsplash. Some day soon I think I will tile it; I have been mulling the issue… for years. As you can see, I adore wallpaper in a vintage style kitchen. ADORE.  – Pam

4. Shelf plus stainless steel backsplash

vintage kitchenIf Deb’s husband still isn’t sold on the wallpaper, this option is for him. Combining the sunburst stainless steel backsplash with the shelf provides a more toned down look, while still allowing space for Deb to display vintage knick-knacks. Maybe paint the backsplash the same yellow as the refrigerator coming in… or tone the yellow paint down a bit… or, a shade similar to that of the floor might work, too.

Pam and I both agree on this one — the Bradbury & Bradbury wallpaper that Deb chose is just perfect for the space. The pattern picks up the red from the counter tops, the blue from the floor and the buttery yellow from her Big Chill refrigerator. The space above the stove and fan is just calling out for a shelf to fill it — one that Deb could use to display some cute vintage knick-knacks. If it were our kitchen, Kate and I both are loving mood board number three.



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  1. Jennifer Czwodzinski says

    I love, love, love, the wallpaper. Your awesome vintage collectables really show up against the paper and your countertop and stove look great. I hope you go for the paper and share lots of photos afterward.

  2. Mike S says

    If a wallpapered look is what you seek, go with hand-painted tiles. They can be found already made, or one could have a local pottery shop make them. I’ve seen it done on HGTV, and the effect is exactly like wallpaper.

  3. Pat says

    I wish I could afford that wallpaper, I love it! But, I wouldn’t put it behind a gas stove, you would have a hard time keeping it clean. I guess you could coat it to protect it, but as expensive as that is, I’d go for something washable.

  4. Toni says

    Maybe it was location specific but tile was not the usual backsplash here in Iowa in that time period. Linoleum walls, either the stuff I can’t think of the name, or the same linoleum as was on the counter. My house had the same formica as was on the counters. The tile look wall board was 2/3 of the way up the wall with pink background wallpaper up the walls and on the ceiling. The wallpaper had worm tracks of white, gray, and black all over it. In the house where I grew up, the fake tile wall board was also 2/3 of the way up the wall with wall paper on the top and border separating them. That wallpaper and border were in the same family to what you are looking at.

  5. Michelle says

    I love the wallpaper…it really makes the oven and the countertops pop and brings the kitchen to life! I would go old school and nix the plexiglass. I’m not at all a fan of the stainless fan…it reminds me of an auto repair shop. The shelf? Your choice, I can go either way! 🙂 Love it, so cool!

  6. Kristy says

    Love love the tappan stove! Glad to hear it is holding up for you, I have one in storage for some day!

  7. Nina says

    I think the wallpaper as the stainless is a bit overpowering for such a small space. Rather than a shelf, since I notice the stove is a gas stove, a range hood is a handy thing to have.
    I grew up with red kitchen countertops very much like yours. Nice.

  8. Martha says

    Just found you today, having purchased YANKEE magazine! How nostalgic for one who lived the 40s. Cant believe the young ones liking this. Love the stainless canisters,, but they came later. White enamel with red trim was big in the 40s, though they may have started earlier. Some are still found at thrift and second hand stores. Now what about the mid 50s trend of Early American furniture made of hard maple? It still is sturdy after being used consistently ever since. Won’t wear out! I hope to see the final result of your kitchen.

  9. Toni says

    Old House Journal magazine December 2013 came today! Page 70 has that wallpaper and it’s big just like Deb’s photo shows. The kitchen is to die for! But mine’s done so no point in drooling over it. This is one issue I will be keeping though.

  10. Lory says

    I am interested in how your husband made the counter tops. Did he explain it and I missed it? If not, please ask him to. Thank you so much!

  11. Kathy says

    There are some examples on Houzz that features colorful fabrics, artwork and wallpaper in a backsplash, protected by a sheet of glass. If they have finished their remodel, with yellow tile or with wallpaper or the sunburst, I’d love to see the result!

  12. Jan Hare says

    I love the wallpaper. As long as you can put something protective on it, I think you should do it. I think everything you’ve done so far is wonderful and the wallpaper makes it just that much more special.

    I like the aluminum starburst but see that more in an aqua 50s kitchen. The shelf on the wallpaper is up to you; I’m 50-50 on it. I think whatever accessories you use on your counters will be enough; glomming it up with knick knacs on a shelf would be too much UNLESS you want to put your lovely dutch shakers on a shelf over the stove and maybe a match holder, which would fit right in. I realize I’m writing this so late that it’s probably already done and I’d love to see the finished product!! Great work!

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