Molly’s cross country kitchen cabinet crusade

“…I knew it’d either be an expensive disappointment
or a way cool kitchen with a great story.
I’m happy to report, it’s the latter.

rental-truckFasten your seat belts and get ready to ride along with reader Molly as she tells the stupendous story of how she pieced together two sets of vintage steel kitchen cabinets from Missouri, had them painted at her local powder coater in Illinois, then packed them all into a rental truck — along with friend Cindy — to make the 1,800 mile trek to their final installation location in her Palm Springs, California vacation home. The logistics, planning and amount of time Molly must have spent hauling vintage goodies in rental trucks has me feeling exhausted just thinking about it, but all of this excitement didn’t seem to tire her out one bit.

palm-springs-ranch-retroMolly writes:

About six months ago I was in the planning stages of redesigning a new kitchen for a mid-mod house we’d just purchased in Palm Springs, CA. I hit your site early and often for research and somewhere along the way you and I briefly interacted. You instructed me to take lots of pictures and I have! :-)

st-charles-metal-cabinetsI ended up buying two sets of cabinets that I found through your article “All the best stuff’s in St. Louis” – remember that? Like 24 or 25 full sets of cabinets were linked in that article. Remember the huge line of St. Charles in harvest gold? It had been a large round kitchen. I had no idea what I was going to do or need in this new house so I didn’t think I could go wrong buying all of it. Umm, well, there were some interesting things about it — for one the ROUND part of it was something — would I be able to get them unrounded? Indeed, I was because they had put inserts in them to get them to conform that way in the first place — but all those wood fronts . . . Yeesh. What to do? How would we arrange them? Could we use these? Would we have to build new doors on some of them to match the new white colors?

I had no idea and no plan. Just shot-gunned it — bought them all — $900 and figured I would figure it out later. They’re now a long WHITE island in my kitchen here. I had them powder-coated and they look amazing.

vintage-steel-kitchen-cabinetsSo why the Kelvinators too? I didn’t know if I’d have enough and the Kelvinators were in great shape. What if some of the St. Charles cabinets couldn’t be used? At $400, I’d rather have too many than not enough to choose from.

molly-in-uhaulSo — I made the six hour trip to Dexter, Missouri to pick up the St. Charles, hauled them back to my home in Illinois in a U-Haul and dropped them off at the powder coater. They had no idea what they were in for. Ha ha! Plus, I told them I’d be back the next day with ANOTHER set!

I turned right around and traveled down to St. Louis, picked up the Kelvinators, then dropped them off at the shop too. It took them a good two months to get through all of them.

When I went to pick them up in the Penske truck they had them all wrapped up in plastic and on pallets ready to load — I hadn’t even got to see them! Argh! What an adventure. Kind of nerve-wracking really. I just trusted it’d all be ok — naïve — but then I’m kind of a go-with-what-will-be kind of girl anyway, so it fit. I believed in good karma for this one, you might say.

kitchen-remodelmcm-kitchen-remodel[At the 'new' Palm Springs house] The beauty of it was that I had a wide open space . . . So much potential. I knew I wanted a long island for entertaining, we’d need two sinks – his and hers – and I wanted a special lighted art wall. With all those cabinets it wasn’t hard to come up with a nice arrangement.

mid-century-modern-kitchenThe line of Kelvinators forms the back wall — and they look just as great. They’re all topped with Wilsonart blue boomerang counters and are outfitted with a snazzy band of retro aluminum edging from Eagle Mouldings.

modern-kitchenvintage-kitchen-cabinetsI wanted the Big Chill line of appliances but come on — I just couldn’t justify that much money for appliances in a vacation home. We went with the GE Artistry line that I’d been introduced to ON YOUR SITE — thank you, again, Pam!!

My contractor was SO DELIGHTED with the quality of the cabinets. He’s lived and worked in Palm Springs for twenty five years but has NEVER PUT IN cabinets like this — he’s taken them out of a few long ago, but hasn’t seen anything like these in a long long time. Again — all the best stuff’s in St. Louis, as you said!

rental-truckI point everyone to your site when I’m asked how I came up with this whole scheme. I drove these cabinets 1,800 miles out here myself – with my friend Cindy. She couldn’t stand the thought of me doing this alone, so she took time off and rode along with me, bless her heart — in a big ole Penske truck.

I knew it’d either be an expensive disappointment or a way cool kitchen with a great story. I’m happy to report, it’s the latter. Everyone shakes their head, smiles, and tells me how cool it is that I’ve saved a part of the past and brought it proudly into the present.

And, a new passion…

retro-desk refinished-vintage-desk retro-modern-houseYou’ve completely changed me. I have to credit you with helping me develop my own unique style — quite contemporary but warmed with vintage and kitsch. There are lots of mid mod blogs and there’s Atomic Ranch but you’re an entity all your own. You’re the daily dose, the clean steady diet of substance and stamina. Because of you, I now refinish mid–mod furniture.

broyhill-brasilia-china-cabinet mid-century-dining-roomI buy off eBay, frequent thrift shops, and estate auctions. I’ll just have to show you in pictures. I have two homes. This Palm Springs house is clean and sleek, but nearly 60 year old cabinets and refurbished Danish modern furniture give it that look. My home in Illinois is more traditional, but a $20 1950′s Lane coffee table and a $75 thrift store Broyhill Brasilia hutch are focal points on the main floor.

vintage-chair reupholstered-vintage-chairIf nothing else, I just wanted to say “thank you!” for your site, the incredible amount of quality information and useful resources you’ve provided here. I’d have never thought of this myself or even thought to do anything like this, but you’ve been a real champion for keeping those cabinets out of landfills and for making people like myself realize the potential right under our noses. My new kitchen is beautiful, functional, and downright special! You should be so proud of yourself for inspiring people like myself to appreciate and save bits of Americana piece by piece.

mid-century-dresser refinished-midcentury-dresser mid-century-mod-bedroomvintage-light-fixture-70svintage-light-fixturepalm-springs-mcm-ranchMolly, you are in inspiration… and thank you SO MUCH for the kind comments. To be sure, they made our day. Love back at ya!

All of that driving from one side of the country to the other in the name of reusing vintage steel St. Charles and Kelvinator kitchen cabinets is such an extraordinary story. Your finished kitchen looks fantastic — a wonderful mix of modern and midcentury that truly feels at home in your fabulous Palm Springs home. Kudos to you for a job well done on your new kitchen, your new style and your wonderful attitude and energy for restoring and refinishing your retro finds. Thanks so much for sharing your Retro Renovation journey with us!

Tips to view slide show: Click on first image… it will enlarge and you can also read my captions… move forward or back via arrows below the photo… you can start or stop at any image:


Get our retrolicious free newsletter.

Newsletter-sign-up-2NMAS

Comments

  1. lynda davis says

    Just wow! Such enthusiasm and energy truly paid off. What a special space. I bet GE might be interested in using your kitchen in an ad for GE Artistry. This site did truly help you realize the dream you didn’t even know you had until you just jumped in. I know this was hard, but you make it sound so easy and so much darn fun! Congratulations on a job perfectly done.

  2. miyapiya says

    Waaaah! A vacation house in Palm Springs?!! I am green with envy, you are living my dream! Beautiful house and furnishings Cindy! Anytime you need someone to ride shotgun with you I am close (in Wisconsin) and available.

  3. Penne says

    Great story, Molly! I’ve done my fair share of driving and hauling and wondering whether my impulse purchase will work like my vision, but your story tops all. I recognize the shop on Big Bend in Maplewood (St. Louis). Coincidence: Yesterday’s Mister Modtomic (on RR’s blogroll) features a Broyhill Brasilia china cabinet like yours.

  4. Kersten says

    I love this story! As someone who has also rented the truck for metal cabinets, I fully appreciate the effort. They are HEAVY! The outcome is fantastic!

  5. Jay says

    Great Job! The finished kitchen looks like it was always there – original to the house.
    Your Brasilia hutch was certainly a great score. I saw the same dresser/console in a consignment shop and I like how you painted and/or stained the drawer fronts for contrast.

  6. MCMDesignAddict says

    Exceptional! If they gave merrit badges for mid-century restoration and rennovation you would have definately earned one! I’d appreciate knowing the approximate cost of the powder coating of the cabnents as I have been hesitant to tackle such a project due to the possible cost.

  7. Mary Elizabeth says

    Molly, you give a whole new meaning to the term “road trip”! Your passion for the project is just amazing. You are becoming a truck-driving retro goddess. I loved those harvest gold cabinets when I saw them and wished I had another kitchen to redo. It’s so nice to see them put to use.

    I totally agree with you that Pam and Kate and this site are truly inspirations for those of us finding our way through the maze of midcentury renovation and decoration. And _Atomic Ranch_ doesn’t quite cover the same wide range of midcentury style and information, although it can be a great source of ideas.

    Enjoy your just deserts in your lovely house. I love the idea of “his and her” kitchen sinks.

    • Robin, NV says

      Those harvest gold cabinets are my favorite find on this site. I loved the two tone color scheme and would like to replicate it someday if I ever start a kitchen from scratch.

      That tri-colored credenza is awesome. Wish I had the vision to redo something like that.

  8. Andi says

    What a great story of the “power of positive thinking” and what a fabulous result! I love the kitchen, it looks amazing. I agree with Lynda who said GE should use your kitchen to advertise their Artistry line. WOW!! Congratulations!!

  9. Molly Evans says

    Oh my gosh, you people are so very kind! Thank you for your sweet comments and high fives. Much appreciated; truly. :-)

    Lynda and miyapiya, yes it was alot of fun — and alot of work. My contractor and his guys put in a lot of heart and sweat into this for us. I think they liked a homeowner willing to get her hands dirty along side them and to do something out of the ordinary. Laminate counter tops? What? And yeah, the road trip was fun too — I might never have otherwise seen the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX in this lifetime:

    https://plus.google.com/104708210770470367604/about?gl=us&hl=en

    How many others can say they too watched the sun rise over the incredible Sedona, AZ landscape . . . from the driver’s seat of a 32 ft Penske truck?

    Yeah.

    Stacia — that’s a Modular Arts product — it’s 3D drywall, essentially. They come in tiles and seams have to be mudded, sanded, and then everything sealed with primer and paint. It’s got definite wow factor though. http://www.modulararts.com/tiles/designs.html

    Penne – yeah, I love that place! Couldn’t help myself — in St. Louis — doesn’t matter that I’ve got a U-Haul trailer stuffed to the doors with metal cabinets. I’ve got a couple free backseats in that Escalade!

    Anastasia, Kersten, and Jay — thank you! Yeah, Jay, I love that Brasilia cabinet — perfect display for Holt Howard pieces. <3

    MCMDesignAddict — as I'm sure you know, every place and every region is probably going to vary but I paid $2800 — but I had a LOT of cabinets. I don't even know what it came out by the piece but they did everything I took in — I have some perfectly white metal "things" now — no idea what they are, go with, or what they had to do with the cabinets but if it was metal, they ran it through. I kind of think if I had planned it out perfectly and took them just what I needed, the bill likely would have run . . . $1500 – $1800? Just an experienced, not educated, guess.

    Mary Elizabeth — Amen, sister! :-) And thank you!

    Robin — you do! See one, do one . . . teach one! All I did was take a cup of the one color, painted the bottom drawers, take a 50/50 mixture of the "one" color and white, paint the middle drawers, and then dilute secondary mix by another 50/50 with white to paint the top drawers! Just do it! It's just paint! It's good for the soul! :-)

    Thank you again, Pam and Kate! This was fun!

  10. Jennifer Kepesh says

    Absolutely fabulous! I love that you decided, I’ll figure out what to do when I get them to the house. I am so impressed with the beautiful examples of refurbishing furniture as well. I completely agree with your compliments about this website–it’s been a big inspiration for me as well.

  11. PF Flyer says

    Wow, I drove by her house this March when I was out in PSP touring neighborhoods. More pix please when you are finished.

  12. Molly Evans says

    Ha ha PF Flyer! Did you see me out PAINTING it? Whew! And it IS finished! I could flood you in pictures! Jennifer and Andi — you too, thank you. I love this community spirit!

  13. Janet in CT says

    How marvelous is this kitchen! And I also love the refinished furniture! You did a wonderful job, Molly, and are an inspiration to us all! I do have one question – what are you doing with all the extra cabinets? You could put them on the forum here as I am sure others here could use them. I have original birch ones in my 1957 ranch or I would definitely install metal ones. I do have one suggestion – your fridge should have reversible handles and hinges. I would definitely change it so that it opens towards your countertop work area. I don’t know why installers and retailers don’t ask or suggest it. Keep up the good work!

  14. Sheri says

    Terrific job on the kitchen!! …..and I love the other pieces you picked up as well!! My husband and I vacation in Palm Springs several times a year and will probably retire there. Looks like you’ve got a very cool house to enjoy!! What area of Palm Springs is it in?? Wherever it is, I’m sure you’ll enjoy many many years of fun there!! Congratulations!!

  15. Molly Evans says

    Hi Janet, well . . . truthfully, the extras are in the garage and I’ll probably hang several of them in there as I always need storage for my paints and tools. I don’t think there’s enough left of the bases to make a new kitchen. I used all the Kelvinators and have only a few St. Charles tops left. I’m glad I bought two kitchen-fulls!

    And you’re absolutely spot-on about reversing the handles on the refrigerator. Good eye. I do have the hardware to do it and will . . . just hadn’t done it by the time I had to leave. That’s one of those follow-up things, but at least it’s on the list. :-)

    Sheri — Magnesia Falls Cove in RM actually. Palm Springs is more a region than a precise location, you know? Love it. Stayed in every town over the years through VRBO — found the house I loved in RM . . . bought it. Done. Happy!

  16. MCM Cory says

    Boy, do I feel lucky to be a St. Louisan! There are more and more MCM shops popping up here and I love to browse through them. I think I need to send this column to my girlfriend who lives in Palm Springs, to make the point that St. Louis DOES have Palm Springs beat… well, in MCM furniture, anyway. Weather, not so much! Beautiful job on the kitchen and am truly impressed with your effort in making it happen!

  17. tammyCA says

    It’s all terrific…keep up the good work on restoring the finds..love that orange chair & the fabric choices & I am crushin’ big time on the hanging porch lights…are they also vintage?

  18. Amy says

    Amazing! Seems you had a lot of fun on the road trip too! All around an amazing adventure! I love how much spirit you have. I’m so glad everything worked out perfectly for your kitchen. Your fun spirit shines through!
    This site has been a blessing for so many ppl. (I’ve been keeping notes for when we finally find our home.)
    I was wondering about the desk(?)in your vacation home. Is it a married piece of furniture? I’ve never seen anything like it. I adore all your finds,& how you restored them to true beauties. I’m curious about that desk. So unique!
    As another person wrote, when you’re finished, would you mind a home tour or more pics? You’ve done such an awesome job w/ the kitchen, it makes us want to see more=^_^*=

  19. Molly Evans says

    Thank you, thank you! You’re all so kind! TammyCA, yes, vintage. I loved it too — did you see the before shot? I took it to the same powder coater that did my cabinets.

    Amy — I know, right?!? Weird desk! I found it in a thrift shop in west central IL — all original hardware and it was uniform so I assume that’s how it was made. I didn’t find any sticker identifying it though. It was a weird piece. I took it apart to refinish each piece individually — solid wood / very heavy and it had veneer overlays on the sides. I had to paint that one side that was all chipped up and I balanced the color splash on the other side with paint in that little shelving unit. When there’s good wood I try to maintain that with stain rather than paint.

    And yeah, I have lots and lots of pictures . . . Where is it most convenient for me to post them to?

  20. Amy says

    Dear Molly,
    Thanks for writing back about your desk. I keep coming back to view it,&think I may have fallen in love. I’m a big fan of unique pieces which call to me, not necessarily the “big names”( although, of course I do adore certain architects &designers) More important than collecting “names”, things that make one think&use unique technique to make pieces mulitifunctional, while remaining as attractive as that desk, call to me most. You can tell it’s crafted well. Maybe I’m naive,& it is designed by a “name”. I still have so much to learn,(beyond the obvious big “names”)yet I’ve never seen anything like it!
    What a great find to include in your beautifully retrofinished home. It fits w/ the fun & adventurous spirit I sense you have tons of! You trip reminds me of something I’d do,&w/ your mention of the sights along the way, I can tell you’d be the BEST road trip companion!=^_^*=

  21. Rayne says

    I have three of that style Montgomery Ward dresser / chest of drawers and I also live in Illinois. :) Two came from my MIL who bought them new from MW and the third I found in a thrift shop still in good condition. The quality is great. I’m always on the look out for more because i just love the simplicity of the design.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *