Welcome to Retro Renovation!

Welcome to Retro Renovation — your daily dose of mid century and vintage renovation resources… design inspiration… fun finds… and a growing community of people all interested in cherishing their mid century and older homes.

Our focus here, first and foremost, is to help you find the products and resources you need to help remodel, renovate and decorate your house in authentic mid century style. Increasingly, we  feature resources for pre-war and post-modern homes as well. We’re here to help you get the job done — doing the research so you don’t have to. How can you make the most of the blog?:

  • Dive into all our categories (in the navigation along the top of the page) and you will see, we have lots of research into all the products you might need to Retro Renovate. Along the way, we have lotsa other fun, too — always showing great gratitude and respect for the houses — and their owners — who came before us.

blue-kitchenretro-renovation-kitchenaqua-kitchen

We have fun here. Photo credit: Erica Berger

<– I’m Pam Kueber. That’s me with my crazy wallpaper room… that’s my kitchen above — and this my blog, oh I luv it so. Doing all the research to renovate my 1951 colonial-ranch house in Lenox, Mass., is what got me into this online escapade. In the course of my endless hunt to find products and design ideas sympathetic to my house’s undeniable mid-century bones, I got…. obsessed… I learned a lot… and I figured, why not share all my finds with other folks undertaking the same journey. And now – you have arrived!

This blog has lots about *modest, mid-century, middle-class* homes — ranches, Capes, Colonials, split-levels, contemporaries, bungalows. I also write about sleek *mid-century modern homes*… I love them all, but admit that I tend to worry more about the modest homes (themselves full of charm) being at more serious risk of being gutted, with regrets to follow later. Interestingly, both mid-century modern and mid-century modest homes shared many of the same technological features and design cues (like pink bathrooms) inside. For further info see my Mid-Century Modest Manifesto and my micro-site SaveThePinkBathrooms.com.

What do we gab about here? Well: The design aesthetic of retro interiors, exteriors, culture, people, steel kitchen cabinets, colors, pink kitchens, pink bathrooms, hudee rings, pecky cypress, illustrations with people playing accordians, wallpaper, pinch pleat curtains, mint-in-box items — and readers’ fabulous jewel box houses, too. Get ready to be sucked into the retro vortex.

More info:

Restoring the Retro House in the New York Times Aug. 18 2011

Above: As featured in the New York Times — yup, read all about our escapades in this 2,200-word feature story that appeared on p.1 of the Home & Garden section on Aug. 18, 2011.

kate and leo from retro renovation

Hey, Lo0K! The blog made another American job! Above: That’s Kate, my new Managing Editor, along with Assistant Leo. Kate does a lot of the writing for the blog these days, too. We publish twice a day (4:30 a.m. and 11:50 a.m. Eastern) Monday through Friday, and 24/7/365 if there if we spot important Breaking News in Retro Design World.

Oh, and here’s me showing off my latest project — my office remodel. Which was epic: My friend Denise and I pasted 300 squares of vintage wallpaper on the four walls, creating a crazy patchwork quilt of 18 different designs of wallpaper. We celebrated by getting all Love American Style Gothic with the photo.

Hey, see me talkin’ about Mid Century Modest in this etsy.com video:

If you need ideas — or just love the era — be sure to check in for daily updates on new products to recreate that retro style…design tips…vintage finds…history…and more. To email me, click here.

Meanwhile, if you want to read more about my kitchen saga:

- I find my cabinets – at a cooking school formerly run by nuns in NYC

The kitchen reno starts — lots of pics of the old kitchen here

The kitchen comes together #1

The kitchen comes together #2

- I sell my leftover cabinets to a man from Milwaukee

Bo Sullivan of Rejuvenation identifies my light

Important for anyone undertaking a renovation: We all care very much about managing environmental and safety issues properly, so when undertaking your restoration project, be sure to familiarize yourself with and use recommended best practices. For example, the EPA hosts a  website on lead paint in the home and a website on asbestos in the home. Consult professionals regarding these materials, and also about the proper disposal of debris, etc.

Press Coverage

2014

  • New York Times: “When Blogging Becomes a Slog” (but not for me — I am the wise old owl)
  • Huffington Post: The 10 Best Renovation Websites for Living out  your Dream Home Fantasies.
  • Der Standard newspaper profiled the blog. It was in German, so I’m not sure what it said. But I asked on Facebook, and a reader told me, “You are now as loved as David Hasselhof in German.”

2013

  • Fixing to Die: Retro Renovation and a reader remodel featured on the blog inspired the setting and  story line for Elaine Viets’ “restoration comedy” murder mystery, Fixing to Die. The book debuted #9 on the Barnes & Noble paperback list.
  • Yankee Magazine: Six-page story in Sept./Oct. issue — 1.7 million readers! — about the blog and my house. “Fifties and Fabulous.”
  • Globe and Mail: Loud and proud 1970s chalet
  • Columbus Post-Dispatch: Back to the bones: Restoring ’50s homes
  • California Home + Design: Celebrating Midcentury Modest

2012

Summer 2011

Feb 2011

Jan 2011

December 2010

October 2010

  • AP interviews Pam for story, Used Building Materials a Hit Among Home Owners, that runs in news outlets nationwide.

August 2010

April 2010

March 2010

February 2010

January 2010

June 2009

April 2009

March 2009

  • Our tour of the St. Louis 1995 time capsule home covered by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
  • Desert Living Magazine

Dec. 3, 2008

  • Pam talks with the National Kitchen & Bath Association about retro kitchen design popularity

Sept. 29, 2008

March 2008

Winter 2008

Fall 2007

November 8, 2007 — News Release, PRWeb

Thanks and Credits: Many thanks to the many folks who have helped, and continue to help, make this blog possible. Including:

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Schelby says

    I started following you on Facebook a month or two ago and always look forward to seeing your posts. My favorites are the “Before and Afters.” I also enjoyed your Etsy video (above) and have found myself pondering some of the points you make. Anything that keeps the brain operating in a creative, imagining mode has gotta be great!

  2. Michael Colter says

    Hello and thanks for all you do on Retro and Pink! I am a single guy, owner of a sprawling 1950 ranch that I bought with nearly no updates ever! I have a pink bath, moonglo formica in the kitchen, mahogany and knotty pine paneling, quite a bit to work with. Already some work has been done (hardwood floors, new windows etc). I hope I’ve not made any blunders along the way and could really use some decorating help. Currently having to replace a kitchen sink and I’ve located the Delafield which is an exact replacement of the original. I am also a photographer so feel I could give back to your site by documenting the changes as they are made. What is the best manner to become a ‘time capsule’ or ‘renovation asking for design tips’? Thanks!

  3. Alison says

    I am seriously considering making an offer on a diamond in the rough – a 3 bedroom 2 bath 1939 split level being sold by the original owner. The house is bad shape. My goal is to restore the home and modernize it. Any idea in your experience what the restoration costs typically are?

  4. says

    I have a company that does demolition sales almost every weekend. Many of the homes that we do that have good reusable materials like the one this weekend in Glencoe Illinois. I also have a 25,000 s.f. warehouse that I sell items out of. I seeking your help to move these items, I price to sell, not to get rich off of it. You can go to my website: http://demo-pro.com. to sell the sales and the warehouse. You can contact by phone at: 630-880-6328.

    Terry Cronin

    Warehouse is called ReUse Depot in Bellwood Illinois, just 9 miles west of Chicago.

    I’ve been following your website for years and give it out quite often.
    Keep up the great work.

    • David says

      Terry, are you the guys who used to have the Reuse warehouse on 55th Street in like Countryside who were once featured on Wild Chicago? If you are, I highly recommend a visit – I got some fabulous mid-century lighting there many years ago and reasonably priced too.

  5. says

    Love your site – a delicious feast for the eyes. I don’t have a mid-century home – just yet, but I am mid-century in age – that has to count for something, right?
    I am obsessed and planning my dream home renovation

  6. Cindy Taylor says

    My Mom just bought a 1972 home with a blue bathroom. All the fixtures are perfect except for the sink it is cracked. I can not find a manufacturer or color number on the fixture. She would like to replace the sink. It is 19 1/2 inch oval in blue with two faucet handles. The profile of the sink is about 1 inch higher in the back of the sink near the faucet handles. Do any pro’s have any suggestions?
    Thanks

  7. Eileen Herlihy says

    I am looking for ideas for track lighting. Although not typical to MCM houses, that seems to be the best solution for task lighting and using lamps for more mood and decorative lighting. I have no attic space for canned/recessed lighting. I have a great long beam in an A-frame type great room. Anyone have leads on track lighting that might have a 60’s vibe? I have been scouring websites and not turned much up yet. Your help would be wonderful!

  8. Linda Gallo says

    I have nearly perfect a collection of pink GE stoves wall refrigerator dish washer ,stand up refrigerator ,double pink farm kitchen sink , freezer I could go on and on. I am forced to sell because of my husbands illness. They are all in a storage unit in RI. They are mostly GE. What would you suggest to selling them? Thank you Linda Gallo

    • pam kueber says

      So sorry to hear about your husband’s illness, Linda. In terms of selling these, I tend to think that craigslist is the best option for large items. Good luck with all.

  9. says

    What a FUNtastic and inspirational site you have here. I stumbled upon it while researching retro kitchens and am so excited! I work for a non-profit in Baltimore, MD that shares your passion for preservation and love of fabulous things from the past (please check out our site if you want… though I personally feel it doesn’t fully reflect our spirit and what we do). I so look forward to digging in and seeing what I can learn from you. What an awesome resource… Thank you!
    Your new fan,
    Pearl

  10. says

    Hi, Just joining today. I just bought a 1980’s deck house and look forward to redesigning and decorating it. I recently purchased a pair of Laurel Lamp tulip shade floor lamps. My cats knocked one of the lamps over and the glass lamp shade was smashed. Any knowledge of how and where I might find the Laurel Lamp Company catalogs and/or a replacement shade?
    Thank you for a wonderful blog site!

  11. Carolyn says

    So, I am working on my 1952 ranch style home which my family has owned since 1956. In fact, I grew up in this house. I would love to put in new vinyl as the old is just awful, even though it goes really well with my Coca Cola kitchen. I went to my flooring guy, who owns a business that has been in our city even before our tract homes were built. He brought out a 1957 Armstrong flooring book (in mint condition) and started showing me some very cool pictures of the flooring of that time. He then showed me samples from Ivcus Flexitec either Atomic or Planet- exactly what I have been looking for – real retro feel. Just curious. Has anyone else used this brand before? I understand it is commercial quality, which is fine for all of the traffic we have and a dog. Love this blog. BTW, I have found so many 1950’s catalogs of products, while cleaning. My mom was a packrat. :) Too bad I gave away our beautiful modern Danish daybed 25 years ago. Who knew?

  12. Taya Barnett says

    Hi. An intruder threw a brick through the window of one of my pink bathrooms circa 1949, and destroyed one of the pink ceramic towel bar. I’ve been looking online but so far no luck. Do you know of more sites where I can look?

    Thanks,
    Taya Barnett

  13. Ed Scheiner says

    I need to replace a 1950’s era yellow porcelain soapdish with wash cloth holder. I would be happy to send a piece to you, but do not have a name or address to send it to.
    It looks like you probably have exactly what I’m looking for. No one else does.
    Please reply!
    Ed Scheiner

    • pam kueber says

      Ed, we do not sell anything here. See our Bathroom Help page for where to find these. There’s also a subcategory /Tile and Accessories, stories may be there. Search box also works well… good luck.

  14. Lacy says

    Hi Pam, I have a wood, “butcher block” style laminate formica table with chrome legs that I love, but I’ve recently begun wondering if I could paint it.

    See, I want a 1950s red chrome dinette set. A red one, with a design. The ones I want are hundreds of dollars, of course, but the table I currently have is the perfect shape for what I want and need and I would love to repaint it, if there is a way for me to keep the glossy shine.

    I know there is a site that also sells chrome moulding to go around tables but I don’t even know how it would adhere to what I have.

    Would you have any suggestions or advice? A link, possibly, to point me in the right direction?

    Thanks!

  15. Laura Chan says

    Hello Pam,

    We have just purchased a 1952 ranch home in Colorado. It has the original kitchen & bathrooms intact. Your blog has been so helpful to me in finding out what we actually have in our new home. Thank you for sharing your knowledge!

    We are setting about updating the systems (electrics, boiler, roof, exterior eaves paint, etc) and doing some cosmetic updates such as changing the flooring in carpeted rooms.

    My question at the moment is what your experience has been with your GE range? Mine is also a push button electric. It turns on & heats up & is super clean. I haven’t used it yet as we’re in a condo at the moment while we make essential repairs to the house. My husband prefers to keep the kitchen cabinets & get all new appliances (he is a keen cook used to high end appliances). I’d like to try & have a start with this range, but it’s a 40inch & if we change the countertops now (they have an area of damage) then we’ll be stuck with finding a replacement 40inch later if something goes wrong. How do you like your oven?

    Also, we may replace the 1980s Saltillo tile in the kitchen. Do you have any suggestions?

    I’ll send along a photo of my bathroom in another message. One of them is pink & we have two low, all in one toilets that I have not been able to identify yet & would love to find more information on.

    Best wishes,
    Laura Chan

    • pam kueber says

      Laura, I am fine with my range, but my husband, who likes the control of gas-top burners, dislikes it immensely. I did have it rewired – it works fine as far as I know. If there were a 40″ professional range that wasn’t thousands of dollars and which had the look I wanted, I might switch it out for marital happiness.

      There are two 40″ ranges in the U.S. that I know of. I’ve written both up, they are in Kitchen Help/Appliances category. They are the Ilve and the Sears. The Ilve is quite expensive. The Sears is less so – but I am wary of it because a reader said that after just a few years in use the stove needed a part and the part was discontinued, making the stove un-repairable. I tried to connect with Sears PR twice via email to confirm this, but never received a response. So I am wary – if you are interested in this unit, best to talk to Sears to try to get to the bottom of the story.

    • David says

      If the range works well, I’d say keep it, the push-button control ranges seem to be workhorses (there are whole fan sites for them). One of my friends has one the same age as he is and uses it as his daily driver. If it has two ovens, all the better.

      You could, if you insist on something “higher end” get a Chambers or something like that in 40″ which is also vintage.

      • Laura says

        Thanks very much for the comments Pam & David. I’m leaning towards keeping the range. I have found another contemporary back-up in case it would fail at some point. Frigidaire has a 40″ electric range in its professional series that looks good, although I don’t know anyone personally who has experience with it. Unfortunately, I don’t have a gas connection where my range is currently sited.

        • pam kueber says

          That Frigidaire model may be the same thing as the Sears…

          If you are fine with all-electric, I’d say vintage is a better deal long-term. Better quality.

  16. Elisabeth says

    I’m tearing my hair out here! We have a 1955 ranch (almost time capsule) house. We need a new refrigerator, but the modern full size French door fridges are too tall for the space. I don’t necessarily need a retro-style (and expensive) fridge, but would like the modern amenities like chilled water, an ice maker and Energy Star cert. Can you recommend any brands and model numbers?

  17. kelly mckeon says

    I have a combination wood and metal St Charles kitchen. Previous owner said it was put in 1970’s. The upper cabinets are wood fronts with a molding that has been air brush painted to match the green metal lowers. It’s not avocado green, more chartruese??? There is a built in blender on the counter and a beautiful china cabinet with bar lights under that light the cabinet through a clear glass panel. Every upper cabinet has a bar light underneath it. I am struggline how to make this work with my intact 1930’s home.

    • pam kueber says

      Hi Kelly, see our category Kitchen Help/Steel Kitchens – we have lots of examples, ideas there, including, as I recall, some cabinets that sound just like yours.

  18. Colleen says

    I have a blue bathtub that the people we bought from painted white. There are small spots where the white paint is coming off. Can you tell me how to get all the white paint off without ruining the blue tub underneath it? We also have a septic system so were need to be mindful of what we rinse down the drain. Hope you can help. Thanks

  19. Rosemary says

    Two thoughts: There are Radko Shiny Brite ornaments at Home Goods, a part of the TJ Maxx empire, or at least in Albuquerque. They are pretty lovely and fairly priced.

    Second, my post office said the Rudolph stamps would not be available until today (not yesterday and not on 11/4.) Has anyone else told you about issues with these stamps? I am going to try again today for them. Rudolph is my favorite Christmas tale but I am not sure I really need $100 worht of stamps….

    Anyway, great site. Go to it every day. Rosemary

  20. Lucine says

    Pam,
    I love your website. We own a 1950’s executive style ranch home and it’s all original kitchens & bathrooms. I did a “”makeover in my kitchen using the same blue as your kitchen. LOVE IT…
    Going to work on my main bathroom next… Love your blog and ideas.
    Thank you for your inspiration.
    Lucine

    • pam kueber says

      Thank you for your comment, Lucine, Kate and I really appreciate your vote of confidence. I’ll email you – we’d love to see photos of your kitchen!

    • pam kueber says

      Bonnie, we do not sell anything here. You need to read the stories and look for the links (in bold blue — those are “hotlink”) that take you to the website of the company profiled.

  21. Matt says

    Hi pam, great site! I recently purchased a 1948 Brick bungalow style house. The previous owner was 91 years old and until a few years ago her sister lived next door in a 100% identical house. Hopefully I can make some tasteful updates and still play due respect to the days gone by.

  22. Primrose Road says

    Wanted to share maybe the greatest line ever to come out of a real estate agent’s mouth. Friend was looking for a house and we walked into one that was SO retro we were literally left speechless. Nothing had changed since it was built and the original owners (recently deceased) had their slippers neatly by the side of the bed — all 50’s linens. As we stood there, the agent offered up the following: “And as you can see, it’s completely unmolested”

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