By now, most of us have seen the inspiring photos from Sarah’s Gilbert Spindel round house, but did you know: Sarah’s parents also became new owners of a marvelous 1953 mid century ranch house last year. The house boasts many of the original details, including furniture and decor left by the original owner. And, when the kitchen and bathroom needed some attention before Robert and Caroline could move in, Sarah was able to give them some great decor advice and also point them in the direction of the many resources available here on Retro Renovation. The result: Another retro remodel well done.
It all started last Christmas, when my parents and I were invited to a new friend’s house for a party. Immediately my Mom and I started drooling over the architecture and period details in the house. The house was exactly my parents’ style. We joked with the owners that whenever they plan to sell in the future to give us a call. Little did my parents know that three months later that very call would come. Even though it was sudden my parents jumped on the opportunity. My parents ‘refreshed’ the kitchen and one of the bathrooms last year before moving in.
[The house was ] built in 1953 by Mrs. Helen Weber McGehee heiress to a lumber fortune. She had the house built with the best quality lumber, but insisted on planting no trees. Trees were simply for making money not enjoying. She only lived in the house for a couple of years before moving. She left everything. She took her clothes and a few personal mementos and left everything else! That is why a few pieces have been left behind from all of the past owners.
The house features a central courtyard with a beautiful marble statue of a ‘teaching Buddha’ that Mrs. McGehee may have bought or had commissioned along with the marble mantle in the formal living room.
The shell motif on the mantle is also repeated on the original table and mirror sets in the entrance. The previous owners installed the slate flooring in the home, it was originally wall to wall carpeting in those rooms. According to those who remember, the house was originally mainly painted and decorated in green.
Although the paint colors have changed over the years, luckily for having had four or five previous owners, no major renovations were ever made to the house. The house was in overall great condition, it only needed a little bit of TLC.
Kitchen freshening — original St. Charles steel kitchen cabinets
The kitchen is any Retro Renovation reader’s dream. 1953 St. Charles cabinets as far as the eye can see! This is a big kitchen by today’s standards, so I imagine that it must have been quite the show stopper in its day.
Because I’m a regular Retro Renovation reader, I knew exactly what needed to be done. One of our friend’s husband is an auto body painter and was up for the job, even though he had never painted metal cabinets before. He and his friend worked on the project on the weekends. The doors and drawers were removed and painted at their booth. They also worked on any dents or warps. The cabinet boxes were painted on site. Everything was taped off and overall it didn’t create much of a mess. We used PPG auto paint and it really shines just like a new car off the assembly line.
We used Armstrong’s Striations line in the “atmosphere” color for the floor. It’s streaky like vintage VCT but comes in the modern 12″x24″ size. We experimented with about five different ways of laying out the floor tile and went with a herringbone pattern.
The countertop is the original laminate or maybe cusheen? Its a very thick laminate and it has a slight give, that’s why I think it may be cusheen but I have no basis of comparison. The stove area has a stainless steel countertop. The backsplash is the same material as the countertop, maybe 3 or 4 inches high, then edged in aluminum or stainless, then a solid black glass the rest of the way up. (all original) Mom placed the remaining liner tiles on that edge just for decoration, they aren’t secured.
The finishing detail was replacing the old light fixture for the new chrome Sputnik chandelier — which was purchased from Practical Props — a company I also found through Retro Renovation. The kitchen has endured 60 years of use and is now ready for 60 more!
The house has 3 1/2 bathrooms. A bathroom for every bedroom, which must have been quite the luxury. All of the bathrooms were original and so unique but the brown and white bathroom left much to be desired. The brown tile seemed to have a permanent layer of hard water residue, some of the tiles were cracked and overall we weren’t fans of the color scheme.
This is also the only bathroom with a standing shower, so it was going to be used the most. We decided to just redo the tile work and to keep the new look in style with the other bathrooms in the house. We kept the tub, toilet, sink and medicine cabinet as well as the layout. We tossed around several design ideas and shopped around town and the Internet for inspiration.
While browsing the vintage tile selection on eBay I stumbled upon a massive lot of vintage sizzle strips in a multitude of colors and patterns. From that I thought it would be a really fun look to go wild with a crazy assortment of strips while keeping the rest of the look classic and clean.
The advantage of using the white subway tile and bullnose is that it’s easy to find and relatively cheap. We pulled ours straight off the shelf at Lowe’s. Now the bathroom is very customizable. Just about any color can be pulled from the sizzle strips for wall and towel colors.
And when you open one of the fabulous mirrored cabinets you will find a bottle of Windex because it is a daily necessity.
The half bath is a wild little nook with its harlequin wallpaper, blue fixtures and pearloid toilet seat. I love the one playing guitar! I’m not sure if the toilet seat changed color over time but it is a bit greener than the toilet.
Although my parents love their new house’s welcoming layout and abundance of natural light, they really appreciate their new neighbors and neighborhood. Their neighborhood boasts charming cottages, mid century modern gems and older southern style homes all under a canopy of large mature oaks. The neighbors switch off on hosting monthly block parties and are most often seen jogging and walking their dogs. It’s a retro neighborhood in the best way.
Mega thanks to Sarah, for taking all of the photos and sending in the back story of her parent’s lovely house. Robert and Caroline — what a gem you have. Your kitchen is just to die for — and the bathrooms are superb. Thank you so much for opening up your home to all of us for this spectacular tour. It is great to know that this special home has caretakers that appreciate and preserve the fabulous original details.
- Kitchen cabinet paint — PPG Automotive paint — Boxes painted on-site, doors and drawer fronts painted offsite in professional spray booth
- Kitchen flooring — Armstrong Striations flooring
- Kitchen starburst light –
- Bathroom wall tile — Subway tile off the shelf from Home Depot
- Bathroom flooring — American Olean Chloe from Home Depot
- Bathroom decorative liner tiles — ebay