• “Cusheen” vinyl counter tops — a 1950s option for Youngstown Kitchens

    retro counter tops cusheenPoking around my vintage marketing materials last week, I bumped into yet another counter top material used in post-World-War II kitchens. I have a complete Youngstown Kitchen salesman set, and in the presentation binder, Mrs. America got a look at “Cusheen” vinyl counter tops, available in 10 colors. 

    cusheen retro kitchen counter topsThere are no dates on my sample set or the presentation flip board that goes with it, but I will estimate this material is circa-1950. When I research vintage counter tops from the 1940s and 1950s, I mostly see reference to linoleum (used in the 1940s and earlier) and then, laminates, which began to grow in popularity after World War II. But vinyl? That’s pretty rare, I believe.

    cusheenIn a different 1952 catalog from archive.org, shown above, “Cusheen” is presented as an alternative linoleum. The text says that Cusheen is a “vinyl cabinet-top material, six laminated layers, bonded to sturdy steel subtops. Available in sizes for all Youngstown Kitchens units.” Warning, dear readers: Who knows what was baked into this stuff? Vintage nastiness such as lead and asbestos can be in the layers of our vintage houses — so be sure to engage with your own properly licensed professional(s) to assess what you have so that you can make informed decisions.

    youngstown kitchenInterestingly, there is no mention of laminate in these Youngstown materials. By ’52, laminate would have been coming on strong. I surmise: Youngstown wanted to maximize their profits. They could make money on the counter top only when a homeowner bought their factory-produced counter top — which appears to have been designed specifically to hold the thickness of linoleum or Cusheen. Indeed, Youngstown’s counter tops were beautiful creations — note how the shiny front edge flows right into the counter top and then into the shiny metal backsplash; it appears to me that the counter top steel base could be all one piece?

    Youngstown kitchenThese Youngstown Kitchens counter tops also were designed to be modular. You could add to your kitchen piece-by-piece, base cabinet and matching counter top included. Click on the photo above — it will enlarge — and you can better see the metal connector strips joining the different pieces of counter top. This connectibility concept enabled Youngstown to sell cabinets one at a time to thrifty homeowners wary of taking on credit.

    Youngstown Cusheen counter top

    Above: Readers Brian and Keri restored their vintage Youngstown Kitchen cabinets — they had these old-style counter tops. I wonder if the original material was Cusheen?

    Now that I know about Cusheen, I think I have it — or something like it — on a vintage dinette I recently bought at the Re-Store. The top of the dinette has a softer, somewhat cushier feel than laminate… it is not as “tappy”, either. I always wondered about the surface of the dinette. I like it. It is… buttery.

    I wonder why Cusheen — and other vinyl counter tops — never made it in the market place.

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    Comments

    1. I’ve installed vinyl flooring as counter top material on numerous occasions. My guess as to why it went out of style is it’s lack of durability. I can be cut with a knife, or burned with a hot pot quite easily.

    2. Janet in CT says:

      I have always wondered what that material was! I have the original off-white painted beautiful cabinets from this late forties cape in the basement that shamefully were replaced in the seventies. They don’t look exactly like the Cusheen but are similar. From what I can see, the material was not as rugged as the formica. It has dings and dents and scrapes in it, and in several spots it is burned as if someone set a hot pan or casserole directly on it. It looks similar to Brian’s but is a saddle brown with darker brown design like cracked ice formica. My mother had the exact same thing on her knotty pine cabinets. The surface of hers was also all beaten up, and although I don’t think old formica looks poor for the most part, this stuff really looks unattractive when it ages. Very interesting and good to see you found one of the sources of that odd countertop!

      • I think you are probably right. This soft material probably didn’t prove to be as durable as the harder plastic laminates when it came to counter surfaces. No wonder Formica and other plastic laminate brands are still going strong – affordable and durable.

    3. Am I just a weirdo? What is going on in the second kitchen picture??? Looks like Mom is totally flirting with the grocery delivery boy! Am I imagining that????? LOL LOL LOL

      • Roundhouse sarah says:

        Oooo mom is totally getting her flirt on! And sadly enough, her son knows what’s up… I think an entire story could be written around that scene.

        • Roundhouse sarah says:

          Upon further inspection, that may not be mom after all but instead the older teenaged sister.

          • I wouldn’t be too worried…looks like they’re drinking chocolate milk!

          • Yes, it’s Sis for sure!

            • Oh good! Otherwise, I was going to say that Anne Taintor would have a field day with captions! Even so, sis could say some stuff to the little brother — I’m thinking threats made so he won’t tell their mom! :)

              • Mary Elizabeth says:

                I did notice that flirtation with homeowner/teenager and grocery boy scenario right away. Maybe because I do get my groceries delivered from three different sources–a local farm sourced delivery service, ShopRite and Peapod. But the first source is delivered by ladies, and the second two are friendly, but super professional.

                I chose a Wilsonart laminate countertop for my knotty pine kitchen that is very similar to the green Cusheen with the white streaks.

      • I thought the same thing at first, Dad’s at the office slaving away while Mom makes footsies with the grocery man. Shows how the times have changed. I then realized that it had to be the daughter! What a laugh!

        • Sis quickly put on the apron when she saw the delivery boy coming up the drive to look like she was working in the kitchen. Brother looks like he knows what is going on and warned to keep quiet.

          rick

    4. I double clicked on the photo to see it in a larger size. I still think it’s Mom. And she has a cougar problem.

    5. Ha, we were all thinking the same thing when we saw that picture…I thought at first “is mother flirting?” then guessed it was Sis.
      It’s such an adorable kitchen…I am partial to all those rounded shelves.

    6. Oh, it’s Sis, but only because mom is in the garden shed with the mailman. ;)

    7. Our minds travel similiar paths, but I thought it was Mom and Dad flirting in the kitchen. And there’s junior wishing they would go get a room.

    8. My parents had a Youngstown base cabinet in their kitchen for years and it had that material in a marbleized dark red color. Mom was going through her “Mexican kitchen” phase before she went modern with a dark green/yellow kitchen (complete with checkerboard floor). My folks bought that one Youngstown unit because that was all they could afford at the time. Us kids never heard the end of how our parents regretted that choice of countertop, because it was a high-maintenance nightmare and was easily damaged. Us kids kept complaining about how the countertop gave off a “weird smell” – god only knows what was in that material! No regrets the day we tossed that unit out for the garbage.

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