Pat and Bill’s St. Charles kitchen remodel

midcentury modern kitchenPat-and-hubbyWhen reader Pat and her husband Bill initially moved into their 1951 ranch home, they weren’t fans of the original St. Charles steel kitchen cabinets, which were in rough shape after years of use. Pat priced out how much a complete gut remodel would cost and realized it wasn’t in her budget. After pondering her situation for a few years and discovering Retro Renovation’s stories about readers who had successfully refinished their steel kitchen cabinets, Pat knew that she could do it too. Now Pat says, “I’m so glad I lived with the “old” kitchen long enough to appreciate the quality of these vintage cabinets, they have as many pull-outs as the fancy new cabinets!”

midcentury modern kitchenPat writes:

Hi Pam,

I wanted to share some pictures of our (finally!) completed kitchen remodel. We kept the basic floor plan, opened up a wall which allowed us to add in some additional St. Charles cabinets. It’s been a process, but I’m so glad I lived with the “old” kitchen long enough to appreciate the quality of these vintage cabinets, they have as many pull-outs as the fancy new cabinets!

retro kitchen

Kitchen before.

We bought this 1951 ranch about 4 years ago, from the owner that had lived here since 1956. The house had “good bones,”and is in a great location close to downtown. It has been an ongoing project, we have pretty much restored/remodeled most of the house. The great part of waiting on the kitchen remodel, is it allowed me to see the possibilities of reusing the original St. Charles cabinets. Yes, that process definitely took 2+ years! To be honest, when we first bought the house, I had lived in new construction homes, and I couldn’t wait to rip out the old kitchen. The bid to gut it and put in new was out of our budget, so I lived with it long enough to appreciate the quality & uniqueness of a steel kitchen. I have also grown to love the paneled wall in the living room I originally wanted to paint over or rip out. I’m not slave-ish to restoring to 50’s materials, but like to respect the original aesthetic of the home and make it work for our needs.

midcentury modern kitchen

These cabinets are full of slide-outs, dividers, etc, I even have a vegetable cabinet, it has wire mesh baskets and slits in the door so your produce gets air circulation. (It’s the one closest to the sink.) The cabinets were still white, but had been brush painted over the years, and had some rust. If not for your website showcasing metal cabinets, I would not have had the vision to redo the kitchen with them.


I had them powder-coated at Liquid & Powdercoat Finishes in KC, MO. (Thanks to a previous Retro Renovation post on a KC kitchen remodel, I found out about this great local resource.) I kept the same galley layout, but was able to incorporate an additional 4 cabinets by removing a corner wall & relocating the stove. It took awhile to find St. Charles cabinets, we ended up driving to St. Louis to buy some off Craig’s List. We did all the work ourselves, except for the drywall.

Luckily my hubby is super handy and willing to go along with my creative visions. I loved the little bits of history we uncovered – there was a 70’s & 80’s color palette hiding under all the layers.

mood board

I am attaching my vision board, it was my little go-to guide, although it didn’t turn out exactly like the vision board.

midcentury modern kitchen

Inspiration for the color pallet was the starburst clock. I must admit it isn’t a George Nelson – just an old brass one I spray-painted in like colors.

midcentury modern kitchen

Another funny discovery – I did have to give up my swinging kitchen door, and when he removed it we noticed the original carpenter had noted it’s designation on the framing in pencil: “Baby-Slapper.”Removing the door from the basement stairs made a huge difference in visually opening up the space. Things I like best about the new kitchen: having 1 type of flooring throughout (did have 3 different floors) and the open stairs to the basement.

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A few touches I kept are: the shelf by the stove with the salt & pepper is an original to the kitchen (with Green Linen Formica), and the original “confetti” tile on the windowsill over the sink. I really loved the color of the green linen, but the newer “linens” were just the wrong hue. And – I gotta be honest – I was tired of cleaning the stainless rim around the counter-top – I just wanted to be able to sweep everything into the sink, which is why I went with the quartz counter-top. It was fun to color match the “suede” color swatch from the 1950’s St. Charles color samples on your site.

midcentury modern kitchen

I used a combination of tile (in the wet/cooking areas) and wood in the kitchen because the tile was so darn expensive, but ended up liking the warmth the wood brought to the kitchen.

midcentury modern kitchen

I included a few shots of the rooms adjoining the kitchen (darn project creep!) since we ended up working on them also.

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I added the little cut-outs in the dining room to add more natural light to the room.

midcentury office midcentury-sofa

The office/booth room got a major scrub – we replaced the dropped ceiling tiles with sheetrock, replaced the jalousie windows and the birch paneling that was stained from water/condensation dripping from the jalousie windows… you know how it goes… where do you stop! We were lucky the original owner was a woodworker, and the built-in office furniture works great for us. I stained the birch paneling in the kitchen blacksplash the same dark color I used when I refinished the office furniture to tie it together.


midcentury modern kitchen

Way to “Love the Kitchen You’re In!” Pat! Thanks so much for sharing your story, all the resources — and of course, your gorgeous kitchen — with us.


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  1. Carol says

    This kitchen is absolutely perfect. The flooring and tile choices are wonderful. There is movement in each without being busy. I just love everything about the remodel/restoration. Thanks for the great ideas.

  2. Paul - CT says

    Question: Given the retro metal cabinets and everything else retro, why quartz and not laminate for the countertops? I do think combining the two is awesome.

    • Tisha says

      It’s not all retro, though, with the stainless appliances and all. My new kitchen looks surprisingly similar – although my new cabs are crappy mdf, not steel. Sure wish my kitchen still had the originals, although I probably would have had to supplement them, since I added quite a few.

      • Joe Felice says

        It’s a problem trying to figure out what to do about appliances, unless one can afford vintage operative ones, or new look-a-likes. I couldn’t afford either, so I just went with white appliances. All our houses in the ’50s had white appliances. Back then, it cost extra for “colors,” so most people, being thrifty as they were, opted for white. If you had the money, you went for pink, turquoise or yellow. Oh, how I’d love to have turquoise appliances! if Denver Buick were still in business, I’d have mine painted. But then, what does one do with the microwave? No matter what, the microwave and the dishwasher will “stick out” in a ’50s kitchen. So I don’t call mine a ‘” ’50s kitchen.” I call it “diner inspired kitchen” to go with Joe’s Diner. Pics to come soon, I promise.

  3. Grandma says

    Kudos to you for preserving those cabinets! What a great job and a beautiful kitchen (love the white!) This is what I like so much about preserving older houses as well as keeping character. I do this for furniture, also, although I haven’t touched pieces I have from the 60s and 70s except to refinish surfaces, remaining true to the original. Stuff that is not really old usually just gets “upcycled” with a paint job. Trying to be environmentally friendly and preserving resources is always in my mind rather than following every trend out there and it seems they change more often these days.

    They recently closed the Restore in this town but the Lowe’s and Home Depot are bustling. Sigh…

  4. RAnderson says

    Really turned out nicely! I might have been tempted to keep that gorgeous vintage 40″ range, we used to have one and miss it sorely!
    We also have wood floors in out kitchen, they were there when we bought the house and we were dubious but they turn out to be super easy to maintain, nice to stand on, and look so nice.

  5. Ellen says

    Thanks so much for sharing this beautiful kitchen. My husband and I are in the midst of a DIY st. charles restoration- we have removed all of the cabinets and have been sanding to bare metal for weeks- so many hours!!! I am getting to that point where it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel and seeing your gorgeous kitchen has renewed my spirit, as that’s exactly what we’re going for! Good luck, and enjoy!!!

  6. Bree says

    I just love this, and your happy, upbeat writing too! The “project creep” may have stressed you guys out but the finished kitchen and adjoining rooms are beautiful, clean, and so livable. Your couch is so much fun, did you recover that? I want to sink right in! Enjoy your new, old, home!

  7. Lindsey says

    Any idea when the original stove is from? I have a 1953 house with original Youngstown cabinets that I’m planning on getting painted but I’m about 90 percent sure that the stove is from a good bit later. I haven’t been able to track down the details on my stove and it looks exactly like the one that was originally in this home. I love the redo by the way!!

    • Pat says

      The yellow stove was a $25 Craigslist find – probably a 70’s model, we bought to fill the 40″ hole. The second oven and 2 of the burners didn’t work, so it was not hard to bid it farewell.
      The seller’s daughter took the homes original stove when we bought the house. It was a beauty – a 1950’s, 40″ white, gas Roper. Sigh. I probably would have designed the new kitchen around it….

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