Catherine & Jonathan revive their vintage Geneva cabinets in this retro fresh remodel


Jonathan and Catherine

Jonathan and Catherine

Reader Catherine and her husband Jonathan loved the original steel kitchen cabinets and tiled walls in their 1950 Cape Cod kitchen, but the room was feeling tired and needed some freshening up. After seeing Pam’s story recommending Azrock flooring as an authentic 1950s style floor choice, Catherine knew it was the right fit for her kitchen. After installing the new floor, painting their original Geneva cabinets, and adding new butcher block counter tops and a stainless steel sink — Catherine and Jonathan’s kitchen is ready for its close up.

kitchen-remodel-beforeCatherine writes:

Hi! A while back I saw a recommendation on your website for Azrock flooring for authentic 50s kitchen rehabs. You also stated that you’d like photos of completed renovations using this kind of flooring.

butcher-block-counter-topOur kitchen renovation, using Azrock Raw Silk, is complete– and it looks great! We also spray painted our original Geneva cabinets in the kitchen to coordinate, and added a butcher block counter top plus drainboard sink (both from IKEA), to complete that 50s feel.

The house was built in 1950 (a Cape Cod, probably what you might call “colonial-revival”), and I believe all the tile in the kitchen and the bathroom is original to the house.  The walls are all plaster, so it would be an incredible feat to even try and rip the tile out to recreate it.

azrock-floor-tilesThe tile in the kitchen is pure white, and the 4×4 backsplash extends throughout the room.  The man we hired to spray paint the cabinets said that the cabinets were originally white in color.

There were one or two broken tiles in the kitchen when we moved in. We weren’t able to find a 4×4 tile the exact same shade of white in the store, but when we moved the cabinets out to paint them, we just carefully removed one of the intact tiles behind the where the cabinetry had been and used that as our replacement.

vintage-kitchen vintage-retro-modern-kitchen vintage-modern-kitchenThanks for all the wonderful suggestions on rehabbing we’ve received from your site.  It’s been an incredible resource of ideas for us!

cabinet-pull-vintage(Also, we live in a St. Louis suburb, so finding missing hardware for our Geneva cabinets online locally here hasn’t been a problem either…)


vintage-modern-kitchen-whiteCatherine and Jonathan — you did a great job breathing new life into your kitchen. Everything looks terrific — including vintage Geneva kitchen cabinets, the counter tops, the floors…. and it is very cool to see those original, ceramic tiled walls — we don’t showcase those often enough. Thanks for sharing  your results with all of us.


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  1. Catherine says

    It’s so exciting to get your kitchen redone! Were your Geneva cabinets originally white in color? If so, they may have been produced in the same year as ours were produced (1949/50). We didn’t have our cabinets rebuffed before they were repainted, but I can see how that would look great, especially if they weren’t painted properly before by a previous owner! You’ll love having the metal cabinets. They are so easy to clean. We had wooden IKEA cabinets in our last house, and though I liked the style, these are so much sturdier and easier to clean.

  2. Michele says


    Sorry for the over-exuberance, but I am trying to figure out how to help my poor kitchen cabinets. I have 1950’s Homart cabinets that used to be white enameled steel. Until recently, I hated those things and wanted them gone, but before you bring out the pitchforks and torches, let me explain:

    The previous owner painted my cabinet fronts in white flat paint. White flat paint. Over steel. In the kitchen. It’s absolutely awful. I can’t keep them clean to save my life and whatever beauty they had is lost under a bad paint job. Now that I’ve seen what steel cabinets should look like, I’m heartbroken that the previous owner did what she did. I don’t understand why she did it, either. The tops weren’t painted, so the faces were painted in a white that matched the existing enamel.

    We’re on an extremely tight budget and have other repairs to make to our 1920’s house (I’m up to my ears in plaster at the moment) so I can’t afford to send my cabinets to an auto paint shop for a strip-and-paint job or I would. I don’t know if I can remove the paint without damaging the enamel, so I was thinking of painting over just the cabinet fronts in a glossy aqua/peacock blue. We want to make the cabinets the focal point of the kitchen.

    That color inspiration came from something we found behind the cabinets through the cutout under the sink. It looks like there is a large sheet of linoleum behind the cabinets. I can tell it’s flexible because the bottom of it is curled up a bit under the sink. If I hadn’t been getting to know my cabinets, I never would have seen it because the part that should be exposed between the upper and lower cabinets (functioning as a backspash) was painted over in mint green flat paint. I’m not sure if I can safely salvage that, either. It’s such a shame, because I love that color.

    Do you think spray painting the cabinets is something I could attempt or should I pull in our family friend who is a second-generation professional painter?

    • Catherine says

      The peacock blue color for your cabinets sounds lovely. I think I saw a pic where Designer Nate Berkus painted his steel kitchen cabinets that color. That being said, I think it would be wise not to try and remove the ugly flat white existing paint on them yourself. If you are reluctant to hire a professional spray painting company due to the cost, I’d consult with your painter friend to see what they would suggest and whether they have ever painted metal cabinets in the past. I would not let anyone paint my metal cabinets if they had not painted metal cabinets before- this is definitely a different kind of paint job than regular interior painting. And I’d encourage you to at least get an estimate from a spray painting company before proceeding. For us, we were surprised by how low the spray painting cost estimates turned out.

  3. Jodi says

    Very nice. Im always glad to see that there are others who like the metal cabinets as well as I do. I have my grandmothers cabinets now from her old farm house. I went and got them about 2 years ago and we did the restore ourselves. My boyfriend paints cars and he painted them. I have such memories of these cabinets learning to cook with my grandmother. She passed away about 2 years ago and I really do wish she could have been here to see what I made from her old farmhouse kitchen in my home I know she would have loved this. I noticed in your posting that you said you were not having any problems finding hardware for yours. We have searched seemingly the world for hinges and the handles and the back handle plates with no luck. I live in a not so big city and maybe that’s why. If you are any any way able to clue me in to where I may find my hardware I would be forever greatfull. I have pictures of my hinges for reference. THanks again for your time.

  4. Carmella says

    I have been going crazy trying to figure out what to do in our kitchen. It is too small to get an island or round table with four chairs. Mostly, I’m stumped by a color scheme. We have lots of original Geneva white (not so much anymore!) metal cabinets, but we also have white Carrera marble on EVERY wall to about 7 feet, & then a strip of forest green Carrera marble along the top of the white about 2 inches high. These are the ONLY two colors in the kitchen. Our old appliances are also white. The very little counter space we have is an old black (splatter pattern) laminate. The floor is an old linoleum in white (or used to be) with black diamonds on the four corners of each “square.” I can do the floor last – but can SOMEONE, ANYONE PLEASE help with what to do? I know I sound desperate – that’s because I am. And, finally, of course, $$ is in short supply with both kids in college. I would be forever grateful for some help. Thanx in advance!

  5. Nick says

    Hi, I was wondering if anybody could help me in the right direction. I have the same exact style Geneva cabinets handles, was wondering how to buy some that’s not cracked maybe a reproduction due to mine have turned tanish. My cabinets are possible from the late 1940’s, we think at most like 1951, but pretty sure they are around 1947 due to remodel in home around that time. Might be older? don’t know.. I’m also trying to find parts for them. If anybody could help that would be awesome, thanks – Nick

    • pam kueber says

      If you are looking for the recessed white plates, there is no known replacement made today. You’ll have to salvage for them…

  6. Janine says

    Please! please! help me find new handles for my 1940-1950 Geneva cabinets. I would love to replace my handles. Mine are painted, and cracked. I have been looking for a long time.

    Thank you,

  7. Jodi says

    Nice!! I have gotten my grandmothers Geneva full kitchen cabinets and restored them and installed them into my kitchen recently. Love them! I have some hinges broken and am having no luck finding replacements new or used and need them so badly. the hinges are the concealed pivot hinges. I noticed you stated that you havent had trouble finding parts and i am reaching out to you in hopes you could help me find hinges? Please let me know i have been searcing for about a year. Your time is appreciated.

    • pam kueber says

      I don’t have the answer to this. I think they are called knife hinges.

      Your best bet might be: Start looking for extras and harvest the hinges…

  8. Kristy says

    We bought our 1941 house from the original owner and the bathrooms and kitchen are original (except for a newish fridge and dishwasher). The Geneva cabinets were originally yellow and the sellers painted them Benjamin Moore “buttercup”. We need to replace the Linoleum countertops – a blue swirl pattern that is very “tired”. Your butcher block looks great, but I don’t think we would be able to take very good care of it. It’d prefer to upgrade from linoleum and I do not like granite. Do you have any suggestions? Eg corian? Caesarstone? Thank you for any ideas! Oh and we plan to install wood flooring.

    • pam kueber says

      Hi Kristy, It sounds like you may be new to your old house. If so, take a look at this story, a “basic” >>

      For a 1941 kitchen, a linoleum countertop would be the most authentic. After that, laminate (although that did not go mainstream until after WWII). My personal concern about solid surface, quartz, etc. is that it is not in harmony with the “humble” nature of most of our houses; I tend to go for authentic-to-the-period-restoration options — that is the focus of this blog. See all our countertop research in the Kitchen Help/Countertops subcategory here >>

  9. Scott says

    You kitchen looks great!! I just installed a bunch of Geneva kitchen cabinets, too! In original aqua! LOL It may POP just a little when you walk in. hahahahaa Absolute black granite on top. White appliances including the original to this house 1951 GE double oven range. It looks cool as heck!! 😉
    Question, though. How can I adjust the cabinet doors? I have a few that are not in allignment, and 2 that won’t close, because they rub eachother.

    • Nick says

      You know, that is a really good question, I’d like to know also If anyone knows.. Far as I know I don’t think they have an adjustment, your hinge maybe bent.. I’ve never had that problem with mine, Ours has been in the same spot in the same kitchen since 1947 and my grandparents bought the home in 1968 and never moved nor remodeled, but yeah mine are very slightly touching at the top and a little gap at the bottom, so now I am really curious cause I’d love to fix that too lol.. So Yeah, Does Anybody Know????

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