Maile remodels a dark 1970s kitchen into a sunny 1940s delight


yellow kitchen inspiration

Color inspiration — from the women in her life

Maile’s tiny 1970s galley kitchen was dark, narrow and covered with years of grime — but that didn’t stop her from seeing its potential to be delightful. With a careful budget to overhaul the space — including moving a wall — Maile made a plan to maximize her kitchen, while adding some cheery color on the countertops and flooring. The result of her hard work is a functional and sunny 1940s-style kitchen that makes Maile want to bake the day away.

kitchen-before-renovationMaile writes:

My home is a double wide that was built in ’77. The elderly couple that lived here smoked… and the whole place had that ‘old, grimey’ odor. Anyway, as you know back in the ’70s, kitchens were so much tinier. This was a galley kitchen that had 24″ floor space between sink and stove.

Kitchen-remodel-demoremoving-old-cabinetsThe construction of the cabinets was just about a step and a half above cardboard, and there was such an appalling lack of space utilization. The faux wood paneling and tiny stainless two side sink made everything so dark.

70s-flooring-and-wallpaperSo keeping the budget to 16K, I punched the stove wall out two feet into the living room, added a garden window, and went with glass upper cabinets.

vintage-kitchen-jadeite-and-yellowI used Wilsonart Laminate 4916-60 Sweet Corn for the countertops, with stainless edging that my contractor got (not sure from where), Armstrong Marmorette NATURCote LP020 Sweet Grass (this is commercial grade, but extremely environmentally sound, and will require a professional floor layer as it is persnickety for the DIYer) on the floor. Thanks to Retro Renovation, I found the Hudee ring for the sink. I got the sink from a salvage store for just $40! It was a mess, but with Bar Keepers Friend, I got it bright white again. The paint is Behr, from Home Depot.

vintage-kitchen-retroI went with the 40’s because  my last home was my grandparents’ house in San Diego, built in 1939. I love the feel and products of back then.

vintage-kitchen-decorI’ve inherited many items from family and have collected items to finish out the look. They are my inspiration pieces.  Among all the items in the kitchen, I have something from each of the women who have influenced my life.  Every time I cook, they are there in spirit with me.  It’s always a good time!

vintage-stoveI have found a late ’40s vintage Magic Chef gas stove, but it’s sitting in the garage until I can get it retro fitted for propane, (an expensive proposition!) Waiting to build up the piggy bank.  The only guy in the area is quoting up to $1,500. Plus buying the tank, etc. When they remodeled, I had them do the gas piping. Looking forward to cooking with fire again!

vintage-kitchenvintage-kitchen-white-and-yellowI had them build a low cabinet to put the refrigerator on.  I have a bad back, and bending over is a big problem for me. Having the fridge up on this pedestal makes it so much easier, and the lower cabinet drawer is perfect for baking pans and such.

yellow-and-jadeite-kitchenI hope that this covers it. I’m happy to answer any other questions or more pictures. I must tell my husband at least once a day how much I love my kitchen now!  The only drawback it that it makes me want to bake and cook ALL THE TIME!

Wow Maile — what a transformation. The kitchen feels so much cleaner and larger now. I love the combination of the yellow countertops, aqua flooring and vintage jadeite accents. And — we LOVED that you showed us your inspiration pieces — we strongly encourage readers who are trying to decide colors for their kitchens or other rooms to do the same — that is, look for items in colors that sing to you and build your space from there. All the better when the pieces have sentimental value! Pam and I both also have items from our mothers and grandmothers and aunts in our kitchen — what a great way to stay in personal touch with those memories, every day. 🙂

Also, what a great idea to raise the height of your refrigerator to improve ergonomics. This reminds Pam: Her aunt Mary Anne did the same with her dishwasher.

Thanks so much, Maile, for sharing your space with us1


Get our retrolicious free newsletter.


Get our retrolicious free newsletter.


  1. says

    What a wonderful job! We did something similar with our 1948 home, but had to leave it behind. I never thought of doing a blog on it! You’ve inspired me! I miss my vintage stove and feel for you. You’ve done an amazing job. I love the floor. We used the VCT tiles too!

    ~ Tam Francis ~

  2. Jovon says

    I love the way you have greaty improved your kitchen! It’s so beautiful and looks so much larger! Very nice!

    I do have a question though…why was your refridgerator shr\orter that you had to pu it up a bit? (Love that idea btw!). Are vintage refridgerators shorter than their modern versions?

    I am moving in a couple weeks and have been researching like crazy and finding fantastic buys so that I can start remodeling the kitchen ASAP!

    Very nice! I love your work! Do you have any other plans for the rest of the house?

  3. Lauryn says

    Maile, this is such a wonderful kitchen. I adore the countertops most of all, especially with yellow being my favorite kitchen color and 1940s being my favorite era. Bravo to you!!

  4. says

    That yellow is wonderful!

    As for the elevated refrigerator… I can attest that some old homes had that feature. Recently we lived in a small 2 bedroom 1920’s bungalow in Denver. The kitchen was a double galley and at one end was a doorway. On the other side of the doorway was a switchback stair area to the basement and door outside. Instead of being an open stair space it had built in cabinets high above, a small broom like shallow closet (the iron board space was in the kitchen), the milk door, and an odd platform about 18 ? inches off the floor that went over the bottom stair. it was about 30″ wide and had no railing… really unsafe! We put pantry shelves in and later a countertop microwave.

    After sharing our wonder as to this platform with some of our neighbors (one of them still lives in her parents house and she is over 80!) we were told that is where the icebox was placed. And one of them still uses it for their modern refrigerator 🙂

  5. Mary Elizabeth says

    Maile, what a wonderful, warm kitchen you have now. It’s great you went back in time for your renovation rather than forward!

    My favorite features are the glass-front cabinets, the yellow countertop and the little yellow chair stool–ubiquitous in the kitchens of our grandmothers. 🙂

  6. Teresa says

    Love the flooring used here! Has anyone seen murafloor? Looks like any retro look can be reproduced. Not texture but patterns and colors. Would love for retrorenovation to do a full story on it

  7. My Dream Home Is An Oldie! says

    Oh! My! Goodness! you are living proof that you don’t have happen to own a 1040’s, 50’s, or 60’s home, doesn’t mean that you can’t take ever you DO have and get the vibe and era of your choosing with a little (or a lot!) of dough and sweat equity!

    Your tiny dark and inspiring kitchen of the 70’s is so beautifully transformed that no one would ever guess that it was built in the 70’s! In your situation, if I thought I could pull off what you just did, I would not hesitate to shave down the living room for one tiny little second either! I’d be cooking and baking my days too! How special to actual use your family and friends keepsakes! I do as well! So many people receive them as gifts or as inheritances and set them on a shelf, afraid of making a chip or crack. But the joy come in the memories that happens each time you measure coffee in Grandmas coffee scoop, or serve cookies from someone specials platter! Of course we try to be extra careful with those items, But, if it gets a chip, its just adding to its history. And if it breaks beyond repair, I just believe my loved one would be happy to know that I loved her pieces enough to use them!

    I can’t believe you did so much with a really tight budget for a kitchen! Did you a lot of the work yourself? In any case, I just love the results!

    • My Dream Home Is An Oldie! says

      Make that UN-inspiring kitchen of the 70’s!! I have an issue with writing, I leave words out, and, and in this case, sometimes, the beginnings of words. Its an LD that I grew up, but in 50’s/60’s, they didn’t have testing like they do now!

  8. Pat says

    I was just going to comment you needed an old stove and then I see you have one. I do hope you can save up and get it converted, it will make your kitchen perfect, perfect, perfect! I love it!

  9. Linda Haas says

    Love, love, love what you,ve done!!! So glad you have a vintage stove to complete this beautiful kitchen! Isn’t the Marmoleum product great? I have it as well! Thanks so much for sharing.

  10. Jennifer says

    I love it! I really love your countertops. My house was built in 1948, it also has a galley kitchen. I am slowly renovating it and your kitchen sure inspires me.

  11. Pam says

    A+++ Love this! This truly shows creativity and a love of 40s, 50s & 60s homes! We’re slowly redoing a home we bought in the late 80s. I’m not a fan of modern pretty kitchens and iridescent backsplashes – those looks come and go and everyone seems to have them. What lasts and gets attention are kitchens like Maile’s! I’d savor a kitchen like this – it never gets boring and welcomes everyone! Good job!!!

  12. Nina says

    You did a beautiful job. I just loved the colors you chose and I liked that you took a picture of your color inspirations. Very simple and well-organized but still cozy.

  13. Sarah says

    Maile, your kitchen is delightful. I am sure your relatives would be thrilled to see their treasures in such a beautiful new home. I wish you many happy years of baking there.

  14. Pat says

    Gorgeous, Gorgeous, Gorgeous! Although not all 70’s kitchens are tiny, my mom and dad built a house in 1972 and it had a huge country kitchen with that gold vinyl similar to yours!

  15. Liz says

    I have a 1940’s house with the cottage style kitchen that will be undergoing a remodel to make it more functional. I’ve been wondering what to do with the counters since the jadeite colored solid surface I wanted was discontinued. I hadn’t really considered laminate, but I really like those yellow countertops! I also have some green linoleum (VCT) tiles that I picked up at a Habitat for Humanity Restore for a steal. Loved the idea of the cabinet under the fridge. That is so much better than installing a cabinet you can’t reach above it! Great job on the remodel!

  16. Mary Lou Keller says

    During a bout of insomnia in the wee hours of the morning I found the retro renovation website and THEN found this. . WOW! I may be a bit envious of your fabulous kitchen. It is beautiful and I absolutely love the retro touches. The colors and all the light are so inviting. No wonder you love to spend more time in there.

  17. lynda murray says

    i think you did an excellent job! I especially like the floor. I bet you cant wait to get that awsome stove in there. I feel your pain waiting to finish. I don’t like waiting.

    • Maile Lakely says

      Check out my post to Retro Renovations f/b page showing the vintage stove in the kitchen. I’m cooking with gas again! Whoot!

  18. Debra says

    Maile some how I missed your fun kitchen redo when Pam first ran it. Kudos for a fantabulous job! I also chose yellow Formica counter tops in my kitchen & laundry room when we “updated” our 1970 kitchen. What a happy difference it has made! PS I’m so jealous of your retro stove. We have no wiggle room to have one. ENJOY!! 🌸👏🏼🌸

Leave a Reply

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