Robert and Caroline’s mid century home with dreamy St. Charles kitchen cabinets


Robert and Caroline

Robert and Caroline

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.

mid-century-houseSarah writes:

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.


Model of the home 1953.

[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.

retro-courtyard-mid-centuryasian-statue-mid-centuryThe 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.

modern-traditional-living-roomvintage-mirrors-entry-wayThe 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

mid-century-steel-kitchen-cabinets-whitemetal-kitchen-cabinetsThe 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.

retro-metal-kitchen-cabinetsBut after 60 years of daily use some of the original paint was worn down to the primer, especially around the handles. And the peel n stick vinyl floor was peeling up and needed to go.

painting-vintage-kitchen-cabinets painting-vintage-steel-kitchen-cabinetsBecause 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.

vintage-aqua-kitchen-cabinets 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.

mid-century-steel-kitchen-cabinetsvintage-aqua-kitchen-steel-cabinets vintage-curved-kitchen-cabinetsThe floor was sealed and a matte coating applied.

mid-century-modern-kitchen vintage-steel-kitchen-cabinets

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.mid-century-modern-aqua-kitchen

vintage-meadowcraft-patio-set meadowcraft-vintage-chairThe vintage dining set is the same table and chair set that was in the kitchen on The Golden Girls.

aqua-kitchen-vintage-sputnikThe 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!

Bathroom Remodel

vintage-bathroom-beforeThe 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.

vintage-decorative-liner-tilesThis 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.


Sarah’s bird Basil also helped select the liner tile.

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.

colorful-groutWe sampled several colors of grout but went with light gray.

building-shower-niche vintage-white-bathroom vintage-tile-shower vintage-liner-tile-shower-niche vintage-subway-tile-shower vintage-modern-bathroom 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.

yellow-retro-tiled-bathroom vintage-yellow-tiled-bathroom vintage-yellow-tile-bathroomThe bumble bee yellow bathroom is a twin of the redone bathroom, same size and layout. One can’t help but perk up in such a sunshiny space!

mirrored-bath-vanity-retro-mod retro-mirrored-bath-vanityThe master bathroom has the most amazing mirrored vanity. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

retro-mirrored-countertopAnd when you open one of the fabulous mirrored cabinets you will find a bottle of Windex because it is a daily necessity.

vintage-white-and-green-bathroomIt also has a white princess tub and coke bottle green hex floor tiles.

vintage-green-bathroom-sink vintage-mirrored-bathroom-vanity vintage-wallpapered-bathroom vintage-wallpaperThe 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.

mid-century-slate-entryway vintage-light-fixtureAlthough 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.

vintage-ceiling-medallion retro-modern-living-room mid-century-modern-sofaMega 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.

Resource list:

  • 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

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  1. Jody B. says

    Your house is awesome, Robert and Caroline!!! I know you’re enjoying it! That kitchen is a dream!
    I fell in love with your living rooms couches! May I inquire where you got them? Are they from the Thrive company? And what is that color called?
    Thank you. :)

  2. Nancy says

    That kitchen is simply astonishing! I’m in amazement at how the aqua, which I normally consider a ‘cooling’ color, warmed up the room.

    (Love the chandelier too! Looks great with the new color scheme.)

  3. Lola says

    These picture are fantastic. But the kitchen! As someone who tends to bump into the sharp edges of my kitchen counters, I am swooning over the rounded corners. As for the color, I tend to go for monochromatic kitchens (i.e. all white), but the blue is amazing. It all works!

  4. JivenMama says

    “Scintillating!” Your re-do (not remodel, thank goodness) is a spectacular success, absolutely beautiful! My bar has been raised. I’m also thinking about taking my 42”, un-replaceable, brown stove fan to an auto body shop to get a coat of turquoise, so thank you for the tip on the paint.

  5. Paul Vivian says

    I have always appreciated mid century modern from a distance, fun to look at but not my taste. What an eye opener you have provided me. I can only say what has already been said so often. What a superb job you’ve done. All I read or see in print nowadays looks the same, this seasons predetermined new colours, (mostly neutral as near as I can figure) what’s hot and what’s not. No matter what publication, the magazine meets the industry’s style standard.

    It is rare to meet people who set one.

    Look at the enthusiasm you have generated! Outstanding!!!

    I have one question if you have the time to answer, the beautiful console tables in the foyer and the equally rounded cabinet in the living room have a distinctly Art Deco feel to them. Was the round cabinet in the living room with the glass doors also original to the house?

  6. Roundhouse Sarah says

    No, the round curio was something my parents got years ago. they’ve had it as long as I can remember.

  7. Martina in St Lu says

    i just bought this EXACT same kitchen configuration out of a demo here in lovely St Louis!! the only difference was/is red formica countertop w/ the stainless steel trim (and a bit more rust). they are sitting in storage at the moment awaiting for my own kitchen renovation. i was debating powder coating so appreciate your explanation for not doing it – saved me some research ;) makes me wonder if this was a ‘standard’ St Charles kitchen. can’t wait to have my own St Chas kitchen one day!

  8. Ross says

    The third image from the bottom?

    The ceiling fixture is by the famous and fabulous Lightolier Company. I have lusted after this fixture for a long time but have never found one.

    It was in a 1952 catalog, called SCULPTONE, and was $89.80. I know, you laugh, but that was WAY expensive.

    Stunning house; stunning update. Me want!

  9. Michele DeGroat says

    Have the same St, Charles cabinets circa 1962 originally turquoise. the kitchen featured is fabulous and I have the same vision for mine – just lacking the manpower and the money for now. So inspiriing to see someone express my vision whereas at the moment it has been residing in my head until (if possible) a later time when funds can be found.

  10. Marilyn says

    I love what you did to this house….it is beautiful…I have a question…I really like the tile you used in the kitchen…I was surprised when stated that you sealed then put a matte coat on it…what did you use as a sealer and for the clear coat? I’ve never heard of that for a tile floor. I am considering it for my new kitchen remodel. Please let me know…Appreciate it….envy the house…thanks for sharing…

  11. David Dmitrasinovic says

    Refinish quality on the kitchen cabinets is outstanding. Any idea what the PPG paint code is? It should be a 5 digit number, and I am guessing matched to an automotive colour. Cheers!

  12. Alice says

    Fantastic house and careful, thoughtful and cheerful “refreshing”!

    Two questions:
    1. What type of work was done to prep the cabinets – like dings and uneven paint surfaces?
    2. Were the inside of the cabinets also painted?

    • Roundhouse Sarah says

      The doors and drawers were taken out and painted at the painters auto body booth. So I can’t say how he fixed problems like that. But since they were car guys they had the tools and experience to handle dings, bumps and what not.
      No we did not paint the interior partly bc the original color was white and it was in decent shape. But if the original color would have clashed with the aqua we probably would have painted the interior. Plus it costs more bc you will need more paint and it will take more time.

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