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.


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.

kate-pink-bathroom-photoLookie, Kate built this pink bathroom from scratch – and when I say “Kate built,” I mean she built it herself.

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


  • WFMJ-TV: Effort to Bring Back 1948 Youngstown steel kitchen cabinets
  • I kinda got out of the habit of update press coverage of the blog… I’ll work on it soon!


  • 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 it said that, “You are now as loved as David Hasselhof in German.”


  • 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


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:



  1. says


    • Colleen Flack says

      They are metal right? I wonder if after sanding he cleaned them perfectly, the bumps could be caused by dust. You might try a small door, lightly sand it till its smooth, clean all the dust off, and when it’s 100% dry, repaint it. If that gave the results you want, you need to carry on. We have all been there,it’s a mundane job, you have our support and sympathy).
      Another thought, I once painted an old metal bed indoors in the winter. I cracked the window open and left it overnight to dry. The bed got cold and the paint dried bumpy, and I learned another lesson.
      Good luck

      • pam kueber says

        Chris / Colleen and others: Please remember that old cabinets may contain paint with lead. Be sure to consult with your own properly licensed professional to assess what you have so that you can make informed decisions.

        Re repainting steel cabinetry: We are not experts, but readers have tried different things with various results. See our Kitchen Help / Steel Kitchens subcategory to get to those stories.

    • Melinda says

      Wet sand with increasingly fine sandpaper, available in auto stores. Start with 1000, if not happy with that, then go to 1500, and to 2000 if you’re really going for it. I went to 2000 and then buffed with rubbing compound (also at auto store) and my cabinets are amazing now. And really, WET sand, not dry sand.

      • pam kueber says

        Again: Beware lead paint issues; consult with your own properly licensed pro to assess what you have so that you can make informed decisions

  2. says

    any idea where I can purchase some tile window sills? I need 3 or 4 pale yellow with little tiny spots. very common in mid century homes in florida but can’t find any replacements. thanks!

    • pam kueber says

      I don’t know the answer to this one. Could you use glass cut to size? Go to a glass store / shower door store. Or: How about those marble pieces used in doorways?

  3. Liz Campbell says

    Hi! I was wondering if you can tell me how I can get the instructions on how to make the light that is shown on Pinterest that is made from the crystal vases and glasses? I believe it was named “Put a light in it, 24 bulb upcycled pendant lighting. Any help you can give will be greatly appreciated.

  4. Renee Shanker says

    I am renovating my kitchen in White Plains, NY and am looking for a fabricator who will make a laminate counter with stainless steel edging. I called one laminate guy who said he doesn’t do that. I also called NY Metal however they will not give out references. Do you know anyone in Westchester or the Bronx who does this work?

  5. Wendy Lindquist says

    Hi all – This is my first comment although I read RR website on a daily basis these days. I’ve lived in Chicago in vintage buildings (early 1900s) for 35 years. A year ago August I moved to a ‘new’ condo in a high rise right on Lake Michigan, – a dream come true for me! I’m now on the 7th floor of a building built in 1963 – so MCM/Retro has been a fun challenge, trying to incorporate years of collecting vintage & Swedish (my heritage) into a new & somewhat unfamiliar era. I figured my first big project would be to paint my original robin egg blue metal Geneva kitchen cabinets white (I had NOTHING that blended with THAT blue!), and replace my blue bathtubs, toilets and bathroom tile. But that was not in my immediate budget. You may now breath a major sigh of relief, because THANKFULLY, I found this website and not only did NOT paint/replace, but have become educated about the true treasure that I have in my new home and have very comfortably incorporated both eras! Decorating and collecting have always been passions. I’m happily shopping on Craigslist, and at thrift stores & Goodwill again for what I’ve coined ‘inexpensive experiments vs. expensive mistakes’ – paying almost nothing for pole lamps, furniture, table lamps, ceiling fixtures, etc… If something doesn’t ‘work’ – I’m not out much.
    Here’s my question (finally – sorry!) My kitchen cabinets are in great shape for being 52 years old, BUT they need a good cleaning. I tried a couple cleaners in an inconspicuous spot but unfortunately the paint came off. I have a can of paint that is very near their color. But what can I use to CLEAN off the grease and grime from over the years? Thanks for any suggestions!

    • pam kueber says

      Hi Wendy, and welcome out of lurking status!

      I have Genevas. They were only used for 8 years so the paint was still thick etc. To clean them, we used products meant for cleaning and polishing cars. I recommend you go to a shop that handles classic cars and ask them what they recommend.

      Note: For the basic cleaning of my cabinets I recall we used very fine auto body compound. We went very very slow, as they does take off paint. But just a wee bit. We had started with a heavier grit — and fortunately on a tester cabinet that we were not going to use — and it took the paint off. Ouch. So that’s when we went down to fine auto body compound.

      FINALLY and IMPORTANTLY for anyone reading this: The old paint may have lead. Do your own research – consult with your own properly licensed professionals — to assess what you have and how to make informed decisions.

      • Eileen Herlihy says

        Try rubbing alcohol. It cuts the grease quickly! I have used it on lots of items. Greasy heater grates, stove top fan grates, top of stove hoods. Its non toxic, cheap, and the smell evaporates. Again check on an inconspicuous place. It has not taken off any paint for me. But still test it.

  6. says

    Currently in the process of measuring my steel kitchen cabinets. I will be offering the entire lot tat reasonable cost to someone who will appreciate them. The sink is not available and the sink unit itself has rust issues at the bottom. I think they will clean up nicely. In addition I have a steel Hoosier unit and an extra steel lower cabinet to be included. The entire package I would say is in fair to good condition for age. Needs condition TLC and a fresh color. Few uppers available. I will be taking photos of each piece along with measurements ASAP. If interested please let me know. Cindy

  7. Zorn Matson says

    I am looking for an early ’50s (Formica?) laminate that is bright turquoise with gold flecks, to fix a burned countertop. I live in Portland OR. any help out there? Thanks for your consideration!

  8. Robin says

    I have a MCM home that I have tried to keep completely original. We are trying to upgrade our bathroom and cannot find anyone that can put in new Formica countertop with the hudee ring around the sink or the stainless steal trim that is around the backsplash. We live in Portland Ore if anyone knows of a company that does this work I would be enternally greateful!

Leave a Reply

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