Steel Kitchen Cabinets – History, Design and FAQ

Yes, steel is sturdy … steel is modern … and in post-World-War II America, steel was arguably the hottest choice for materials for the home. During the war, America had ramped up tremendous capacity in steel production so that we could produce weaponry. Afterward, all the production had to find a new outlet. Where did it go? To big ‘ole American cars, but also into the American home — for appliances, home construction, and, yes, kitchen cabinets. On this page, I’ll share some of the history of steel kitchen cabinets that I have picked up from watching, reading and collecting since 2002. The image above: From a U.S. Steel ad promoting the benefits steel to American consumers. It worked.

1876 kitchen (Library of Congress LC-USZ62-1857)

“Vermin-proof”: The history of postwar steel kitchen cabinets in fact starts decades before. I’ve spotted “hoosier cabinets” from as early as the 1920s that were made of steel. These were promoted as “vermin proof.” Cleanliness was a big concern for homemakers in earlier parts of American history. For example, the whole notion of “Sanitary Kitchens” was very important. Remember, we had no vaccine for polio, for example, until the mid-50s, and the flu epidemic in 1914-1918 killed 450,000 people in the U.S. and up to 70 million worldwide. Rats and mice could not eat through steel — so if you had a metal hoosier (or at minimum, a metal flour bin) they couldn’t get into your foodstuffs and contaminate them.

Haute 1930s designs set the stage: The first examples of full-blown semi-fitted metal kitchens that I have spotted were in the 1930s, in very high-end homes shown at expositions.Among the very early brands were Whitehead/Monel, Servel, Elgin, and Dieterich (above, circa 1933-34. ) As you can see, these cabinets had a deco/streamline look. I’ll call these “semi-fitted” kitchen because the stove and fridge were still separate pieces of furniture.

Saving for the American Dream Kitchen: Folks liked these 1930s steel kitchens — they were a huge advancement over the farmhouse and apartment kitchens most people lived with. But prior to WWII, people simply couldn’t afford them, because of the Depression. During the war, though, employment rebounded to support the war effort — but, there was nothing much to buy, due to rationing. So, women and men alike were able to save a lot of money to spend after the war. Manufacturers, meanwhile, had all their factories dedicated to wartime production. But, they knew that after the war, they would return to a consumer-driven marketplace. So they “primed the pump” by running ads like the one above — encouraging American women to save for the ream home they’d always wanted — and that started with the American Dream Kitchen.

Postwar building boom: After the war, steel kitchen cabinets became very popular. They were offered as standard in the famous Levittown houses, for example. My sense is that they were “high end” — but not out-of-reach, at least in the first decade after the war ended. Remember, there was a lot of steel capacity. Interestingly, coming out of the war there were some 6 million people who needed housing. We couldn’t build houses quickly enough. But, the houses were quite small by today’s standards — often starting at 700 s.f. and not much more than 1,000 s.f.  And, there continued to be materials shortages due to the demand. I have read, for example, that you could only build one bathroom, unless you got some sort of special dispensation. I have not verified this, though.

Kitchen colors in the early post-war years: Before 1953, most steel kitchen cabinets were white, and in fact, we see a lot of patriotic red, white and blue imagery in advertising for these early postwar-era kitchens. Kitchens had a cheery, almost primary-color look. For a late 1940s early 1950s kitchen, I might recommend real linoleum floors and wallpaper with flowers rather than googie atomic graphics. Sweetness.

Metal kitchen cabinet colors in from 1953-1963: It wasn’t until about 1953 that things started to settle down, construction-wise, in America. Then, homes started getting bigger, and fancier… and American culture started to get more modern. From 1953 through 1963 — a period dubbed the Populuxe (affiliate link) years in this terrific book, which I highly recommend — we then start seeing pastel-colored kitchens (just like cars). Heading into the 60s, we also saw two-tone kitchens like the 1957 St. Charles, above. Exuberance was the word to describe the Populuxe years, and American kitchens of that period. In fact, I also would describe these as the glory days for steel kitchen cabinets. For 1953-1963 kitchens, I would tend to recommend VCT flooring in tiles or sheets, and wallpaper with atomic references.

The Big Three: During the glory years, I’d say that there was a “Big Three of metal kitchen cabinets”: 1. Youngstown. 2. Geneva. 3. St. Charles. Please note that this calculation is “anecdotal” based on experience since 2002. Some day I’ll try to figure out where the data are. The video above shows you just how nuts it got: That’s a chorus singing a jingle made for Youngstown and presented at a company dealer convention, I presume.

Youngstown Kitchens: Here is a typical Youngstown sink base. It’s “early years” most likely. Immediately after WWII, a lot of homemakers would just buy this unit, a sink base with integral drainboard sink. The idea was that you could add the additional pieces later. The porcelain double drainboard sink is very desirable today — you have to find them vintage, currently there are no reproductions that I know of. However, you can get this look in stainless steel from Elkay. Youngstowns were the biggest sellers in the 50s — they were marketed nationwide.  The early Youngstowns have a distinctive pull. And later, they introduced their “Diana” line, which is identifiable because of the big red emblem on the sink with the goddess Diana the huntress figured in. Johnstown steel kitchen cabinets may also have really been Youngstowns with a different label. I don’t know how much of this re-marketing went on, but I suspect there was more of it than just this example.

Geneva Kitchens: Geneva cabinets were #2 in the marketplace, I’d say, judging from what’s for sale in the “used” market today. The early Genevas are very distinctive because their chrome pulls are recessed with a little plastic backplates behind them. Over time these backplates become yellowed, brittle and even broken. There is no known suitable replacement. Don’t even ask. Later Genevas — like my 1963 aquamarine Genevas above — do not have the recessed/backplate design. Harrison steel cabinets also look suspiciously like Genevas.

St. Charles Kitchens: Anecdotally, I have heard that St. Charles kitchens were considered “cream of the crop” within the steel kitchen cabinet market. That said, I think my Genevas are terrific, and I’ve seen other cabinets that look darn nice. (While there surely must have been quality variation manufacturer-to-manufacturer and perhaps even year-to-year, we have no definitive research on this.) St. Charles was the longest running steel cabinet maker. The company ceased to exist for a few years in the 2000’s, but then the Viking Range Company bought the brand and has reintroduced them into the market. But then, they discontinued them.

Garth and Martha had their vintage Crosley kitchen cabinets professional stripped and repainted. Their interior: Retro-modern.

Other brands, from Acme… to Homart (Sears)… to Morton… to Yorktown: I run a Forum dedicated to buying, selling and archiving vintage metal kitchen cabinets and there, I’ve identified more than 70 different brands that were offered in the U.S., and I even have three from Britain. Among the other more-significant nameplates that renovators are actively searching out are: GE, Republic, American, Crosley (pictured above), Beauty Queen, and and Morton. It’s my sense that many of the smaller brands were local or regional, from the days when interstate highways and interstate commerce were still young. See all 70+ brands listed on the Forum.

Metal bathroom vanities: Yes, there were steel vanities for the bathroom, too. This is a Beauty Queen “Lavanette.” We still see a few of them around. Note, a bathroom vanity is generally going to be only 21″ deep. Most of the steel kitchen cabinets are about the same as today’s cabinetry — 24″ deep and 34.5″ tall.

A word on “fitted kitchens”: The postwar era was the first time in history when “fitted kitchens” were widely available and affordable to consumers. A “fitted” kitchen means that all the cabinets, stove, refrigerator ( later the dishwasher) and countertop are all seamlessly connected generally in a long, continuous line.  This was all a big step forward for the American housewife — she had more working and storage space then ever, as well as modern appliances that made her work easier. She still worked a lot of hours, of course — as household help became a thing of the past and as expectations for cleanliness and doting on the children rose.

Steel and wood at war: Reading marketing materials from the period, it seems that the steel marketers and wood marketers were always duking it out for supremacy. Toward the late 50s, wood started to win. While steel might last forever, it dented, it could rust, it showed fingerprints, and to get that fabulous, glossy auto-grade finish you really must disassemble your cabinets and take them to the pros for repainting. I also suspect that as steel production found newer markets, it started to get significantly more expensive compared to wood. On the other hand, wood is easy to repaint, and it has a “warm” aspect vs. the antiseptic feel that steel can sometimes convey. As a result of this war, you start to see steel cabinet makers try new things with their designs to bridge the gap. The 1955 Capitol kitchen above has a “nubbly” finish to prevent fingerprints; I’ve seen a similar textured finish on Genevas and seen it reference as late as 1977 in St. Charles ads.

Above: The American brand cabinets have steel boxes with coppertone drawers and wood doors. Kind of “best of both” metal and wood. The coppertone, by the way = reference to Early American decor.

vintage-steel-kitchen cabinets

vintage-steel-kitchen cabinets adAbove: This St. Charles set had painted steel cabinets on the bottom and wood-door/steel-box cabinets up top. In this case, the wall cabinet doors are painted white, with yellow trim. From Craiglist, featured courtesy of seller — this exact kitchen was actually featured in a St. Charles ad.  We’ve also seen them plain maple. Again — evidence of the steel-vs-wood war going on… and the transition to wood cabinetry as the winner in the battle overall.

Open-concept kitchen pushes “furniture-like” cabinetry: Further explaining the preference swing to wood that was under way in America as we headed toward the 1960s: As the kitchen became increasingly  to the family room, which reflected an increasingly more casual American lifestyle, cabinetry in the kitchen started to be designed to look more like furniture in order to merge with the adjacent space. This also pointed to wood as the material of choice.

As time went on, heck, they started caving altogether and went to wood doors on steel boxes. Above — Youngstowns… see the complete Youngstown Monterey brochure here.

There was a frenzy to get these wood-doored-St. Charles’ when we spotted them and posted them on Retro Renovation. That door trim = stainless steel. Gorgeous.

By the mid-60s, for all these reasons and maybe more I haven’t figured out yet, steel cabinets faded as the kitchen cabinets of choice. Of course, there was still groovy steel in the kitchen: In the form of avocado green, harvest gold, coppertone brown and even orange stoves, rangetops, ovens, refrigerators and dishwashers. Thank goodness. Above: 1968 wood kitchen. Heart.

Were steel kitchen cabinets an important part of mid-century design history? Museums think so. Above: Historic New England removed this barely-used upstairs metal kitchen from a home near Boston to put into their permanent collection.

Fast forward 45 years to today, and steel kitchen cabinets are making a comeback. In 2008 the same company that makes Viking ranges re-introduced St. Charles steel kitchen cabinets to the market. They come in 23 powder coated colors and stainless steel (above). But, they do not seem to be targeted at the retro market — they are high-end Euro style. I believe that in Europe, steel kitchen cabinets are also available, and like current-day St. Charles, high-end. Update: Viking discontinued the St. Charles brand in early 2012.

You can also get these reproductions of vintage “English Rose” cabinets made by John Lewis of Hungerford in England. Expensive. There also seems to be a market for vintage English Rose’s in the U.K. There are two other British vintage brands I’ve identified: Paul and Anemone.

REVO ovenOh, and look at this vintage English Rose REVO oven that surfaced for sale on ebay in 2012. I am not sure I understand the nomenclature, but that’s what the listing said. So interesting to see a built-in oven that is so detailed to look like the cabinets. Such was the inventiveness of the time.

It took me five years to find the cabinets for my kitchen. I laid it out on Excel. I had 68 vintage cabinets — and made it work by the skin of my teeth. I sold my extras.

Interest in metal kitchen cabinets is growing: Here in the U.S. there seems to be a growing community of people trying to collect and restore vintage metal kitchen cabinets. This can be a journey… an endeavor… yes, a trial… because it can take a while to hunt down enough used cabinets to fit the configuration that you need. Some readers have collected three kitchens just to get the pieces they need. Many have driven, like, 15 hours there and 15 hours back to get the sets they want. Then there’s repainting… I recommend dealing with professionals to get the best results. Even this can be tricky — you need to find pro’s who will work with you and you will want to ensure the stripping and painting processes they use are appropriate for your gems. If you DIY, please take care to test your cabinets for lead paint and to plan accordingly.

The Retro Renovation Steel Cabinet Forum: I launched a special forum to buy and sell metal kitchen cabinets in Dec. 2008. Some readers — like Scathing Jane and 52PostnBeam — are real heroes and post cabinets (and more) that they find via craigslist from all over the country. Thank you! No buying or selling on the main blog, please. And for valuation ideas, continue to the FAQ below.

The key, if you want to find these cabinets and make them your own: Patience. Doing these kinds of projects is a real hassle… you must have the mindset to take it on… if you do, the results can be very gratifying. Remember my kitchen (pictured again behind me,  that’s my vintage Republic cabinets salesman’s sample kit)? It took me FIVE YEARS to find them. I almost gave up, and had pursued bids on MDF cabinets to paint aquamarine. Then, at the 11th hour, the retro decorating gods sent me 68 steel cabinets, original aquamarine finish, that had once been used by nuns to teach cooking. My kitchen has been featured in two magazines and  all over the intranet. Moreover — the pursuit is what led me to create this blog. Over those five years of searching, I gathered so much info on vintage steel kitchen cabinets and the other elements to pull the kitchen together, that I decided to create the blog to share the info with others.

Want to see and learn even more about steel kitchen cabinets? See the Steel Kitchen Cabinets Category — which includes all the posts I’ve ever done about metal kitchen cabinets. There are lots.

Whew. That’s it. Now, here is an FAQ.



Restoring Vintage Steel Kitchen Cabinets

#1 Renovate Safe: Like other original features in a vintage house, vintage steel kitchen cabinets can contain materials that require environmental and safety precautions.  So when undertaking your restoration project, be sure to consult with professionals regarding the materials that were used in your vintage house, how to deal safely with them, and also about the proper disposal of debris, etc. For example, the EPA hosts a complete website on lead in the home and a complete website on asbestos in the home.

Following is some of the experiences shared by other readers.

Cleaning them up

Professional painting and stripping

  • I have not personally tested the various methods of stripping or painting or done extensive research on the topic. I will relay some of what’s been conveyed by some readers as background information only. CONSULT WITH LICENSED PROFESSIONALS about what to do for your cabinets. And remember to renovate safe — work with licensed professionals to test all materials and layers before messing with them. Note also, I do not necessarily keep this page updated with the latest reader experiences. If you are really serious, you need to go though the Kitchens / Steel Kitchens category and use the search bar.
  • Click here for a discussion of powder-coating: Have your cabinets un-installed — they are generally held together with screws — and take them to pro’s who will powder-coat them. *Note in the post, the mention of possible door-warping under high heat. In a subsequent comment, a reader said he had been told by powder-coaters that heat in the bake ovens is so high it might cause the stiffener within the doors of his cabinets might catch fire. Bottom line: Talk to licensed professionals, and also remember that if yous start dis-assembling doors to see what’s inside to get what’s inside tested for vintage nastiness that may be hazardous.
  • Take them for auto body painting: Speedway Ron highly recommends basecoat-clearcoat auto body painting done professionally. Take the cabinets to the auto body shop – it can even be a franchise – be real nice and friendly and they will do a good job with two (?) coats of basecoat and one top coat of clearcoat. These do not need to be baked. Note: Spray painting at home, even with a rented machine, is going to be a waste of time, you will not get a satisfactory finish.
  • “e-coating in place can be DISsatisfactory: So far, the retro renovator who had e-coating done at home reported a dissatisfactory experience, perhaps to do with the prep.
  • Can you just strip them down to the bare metal and use them that way? The advice I have received from a knowledgable friend with experience renovating classic cars is: No. These are not “stainless steel” cabinets. In the humid environment of a kitchen, they will start on a path to blotches and rust if not sealed effectively.  One reader tried an over-the-counter product that promised protection — but after three coats (and a lot of work) the finish almost immediately began to degrade when exposed to steam and kitchen grease.  Perhaps there would be a way that pro’s could seal the metal with a clear coat. ?. But that will cost as much as painting, so do it for the look, not as a way to save money.

DIY refinishing

  • This is not a DIY or fixit site. But as a gauge of what some people have gone through, I have a few stories on the blog in which readers share their personal experiences. You can find them within the Kitchens/Steel Kitchens category and/or by using the Search function.. And another very detailed find from the internet on a laborious process car guys use. Again, CONSULT with LICENSED PROFESSIONALS to test first to find out what you are working with and to take the appropriate safety and environmental precautions. Renovate safe.

Color choices

  • See my page on Paint Colors for lots of authentic mid-century paint color choices, including palettes from vintage St. Charles and Geneva.

Where do I get parts?

  • What about countertops and steel / metal countertop edging? Yes, you can get vintage-style laminate and metal edging in either stainless steel or aluminum. See my Laminates and Countertop Edging Page for complete resources.
  • Where do I get hinges for my metal kitchen cabinets? No known sources. I had hoped one of the “pivot hinges” in this site would work. But I don’t think so. Don’t ever throw out a cabinet til you’ve salvaged the hinges and rollers, too. Dumpster diving, watching trash piles, buying cabinets at salvage just for parts, etc., sound like the route you will have to take.
  • Where do I get rollers or parts for the drawers for my metal kitchen cabinets? Same as above – although there might be tricks to this if you are handy.
  • Where do I get plastic backplates for vintage Geneva kitchen cabinets? No current source. Scrounge up old ones.
  • Where do I get handles for my metal kitchen cabinets? Key is knowing the “spread” of your pulls. If it’s 3″, it will be relatively easy to replace them. If it’s 2-3/4″, much harder and likely, more expensive. To see all identified options to date – see the Category called “Cabinet Hardware”.

Appendix: Here are brands identified to date on the Forum, where there also are entire other sections on buying/selling vintage metal kitchen cabinets:




  1. Caryn says

    I agree with Virginia and Gavin–Pam, there’s definitely a book in there. Do it before someone “borrows” your research! And this is a great combination of info and illustrations.

  2. Patrick Coffey says

    This is a great post there is one little factual error in it. Jonas Salk did not invent the polio vaccine until the early 50’s and clinical trials were not started until 1954. Supposedly one of the very first places they tested it was right here in Fairfax County at a public school in Mclean Va. In 1955 the trials were considered sucessful.

  3. says

    Wonderful work, as usual, Pam! At an estate sale I went to recently, I snapped up a St. Charles sales brochure for you. I think it was late 60s, but I barely looked at it, just knew I had to get it. I believe it got packed for my move, but as soon as I uncover it, I’ll scan the cover to see if you’d like to add it to your collection.

  4. tailfin says

    This is an amazing post, Pam! I can’t get over how well you condensed so much information and kept it readable and flowing.

  5. says

    I love your site, I just love all the kitchens but I’m in Australia and am having the pits of a time finding a retro kitchen. Mind you I’m in the outback so that doesn’t help.

  6. PerfectCircle says

    Pam, you are a treasure, I tell you! I just forwarded on the link all about e-coating to the owner of the business who is going to electrostatically paint our cabinets. I told him that I am confident in his abilities, but want him to read other people’s experiences. The powder coating outfits I talked to here in Seattle wouldn’t touch the project; they said the metal wouldn’t hold up to the process. These cabinets were salvaged from a butler’s pantry in Indiana and shipped to our house. We can’t figure out who made them but will post some closeups once they are installed and perhaps somebody out there will have some clues as to the brand. Also, once I get permission from the folks who sold them to me, I’ll post their contact information so that others can buy the ones that are left over.

  7. Melane says

    Wow – imagine my surprise when i saw my kitchen sink base pictured above! It’s a Youngstown and still has the cutting board pull-out. The porcelain sinks and drainboards were replaced many years ago but the rest is still there. Didn’t know the maker or style until now. I have a whole kitchen of original metal cabinets but I don’t know the maker of the rest of them. My parents had matte formica applied to the door fronts many years ago when the fronts just got too bad. I like old things but my problem is that the doors are falling off and I don’t know where to find replacement parts. They certainly aren’t anything you find now and aren’t typical hingers. The cabinets only have a top & bottom pin (that holds the door in place & allows it to swivel) and it is built into the top & bottom corners of the cabinet frame and inserts into the corners of the doors. There is also a prong towards the inner side of each of the doors (where they meet together) on the bottom or top and it inserts into the metal frame of the cabinet when the door is closed to keep it closed. Help! Sometimes they almost fall on my feet if I forget to be careful. I should probably redo my kitchen for resale purposes and sell the cabinets even though I would probably never get cabinets today that fit & work like these do. There is just so much that needs done to restore everything and funds are super limited now. My 30+ years old Frigidaire Stove/Oven still works but the upright Freezer finally died. Just recently had to replace a Gibson Refrigerator and Kitchenaid dishwasher that were about that age, too. Anyway – thanks for the info on the sink unit. It was terrific to find. Oh- and that pink bathroom on the other page – got one of the those, too, and one in yellow. 1948 fixtures.

  8. David Dahbura says

    My parents live in a really cool neighborhood in Baltimore just 500′ outside the city limits. All the homes were built in the 60’s and the original owners were a diverse and interesting group of people. There are multiple homes that are just one bedroom as a lot of the original owners were couples with no children. One house was a “Record House of the year in 1967 and showcased in Architectural Record. My parents house is rather mundane by comparison although it is probably the most saleable since it is the most traditional (yuk) of the whole lot. However it IS a stone ranch and my parents designed it and had it custom built in 1970. It has an original St Charles metal kitchen (bright yellow) base cabinets with wood uppers. They purchased Subzero side-by-sides, Chambers overns Waste King stainless steel dishwasher. My mother has loved her kitchen since the day it was installed and has been fanatical with keeping it like new. She must have purchased five cases of St Charles wood and metal cleaner and polish. She polishes them every year when she goes through the kitchen changing the brown kraft paper she lines the shelves with. This past year the Sub Zero freezer compressor died (she vacuumed the motors each week when she cleaned the house and both Refrig/Frezzr were 39 years old) and she replaced both with new ones. When the dishwasher had a problem the repair people said they could not find any parts for it and tore it out. Occasionally my parents get the crazy idea to move and once when a realtor came through to price the house, suggested that the first thing they do was gut the kitchen before they even considered listing their house. My mother quietly showed the agent the door and the idea of moving has never been considered since. Oh yeah she has these really cool stainless steel dispensers that fold out of the wall one for hand towels and the other has two compartments, one for aluminium foil and the other she uses for wax paper. What an awesome kitchen, almost every house in their neighborhood had a St Charles kitchen but I think theirs is the only remaining original. and it is perfect. Great site and keep up the good work

  9. brandi g says

    A comment to the person about that was considering powder coating her steel cabinets. I have a Youngstown cabinet just like the one above, it was pretty rough looking but all original. I sent it off to be powder coated in 2006. It came out fantastic. I just had to find a place willing to do it. The only problem is the heat warped the doors a bit but the outcome was dramatically better than the previous finish. It was really old, i think the serial number was 0039. It was under 100. I think they did the kitchen remodel very early as the house was built in 1916 and the remodel was all knob and tube wiring!
    It looks great though. worth the money to powder coat!

  10. says

    You. Have just blown. My rowdy little cabinet googling mind. I came here by the purest of algorithms and search whatever thingies, and OH MY GOSH. You have filled my cup of retro cabinet flash of curiousity and started me on a path. A mission, a noble quest, just as your described. I WILL do my kitchen in this crazy vision I was beginning to form..because you have opened a very neatly organized and structured indow into a slice of the world I had no idea existed, and now want to dive into. You are an AMAZING content creator, and I heartily agree about the book deal- if that’s not an industry familiar to you but you find it interesting, please shoot me a line- I’m a connector by nature and really, I think you have a clear expert status in what would be a great design book niche. Holla. And THANK YOU!

  11. ann says

    My house has GE metal cabinets, and on several of the more heavily used ones, the hinges were getting weak and the doors wouldn’t completely close. It was highly annoying. I bought some superstrong magnets from (1/8″ thick discs worked great) and put them at the top – worked perfectly. A cheap solution, and I didn’t even to need to get out any glue or tools.

  12. says

    Oh my goodness! I was looking for info on metal kitchen tiles, but the history lesson was great. I also recognized the sink form my grandmother’s(now my mother’s ) house. The double sink porcelain with a drainboard as part of the sink. It even has a bubbler! (That’s water fountain for those not in WI.) sadly, she is re-doing her kitchen and thinks that it won’t fit in the new design. If anyone can offer it a good home for a fair price, let me know and I’ll pass it along to her.

  13. Kelly says

    I’ve a kitchen sink metal cabinet. Has double drain porcelin sink on top. Inside manufactor’s plate says Galanot Products Co. , Phila. Pa.

  14. jim robinson says

    i have a steel cabinet it is # 2 in your crosley kitchens picture have serial # 8634 and model # c818 would like info on how old it is do you know of any web site that may help thanks

  15. Emily says

    Hmm… I was actually looking for cheap ideas to renovate my ’67 kitchen rather than knocking out the back wall and extending it. Instead I found this. I’ve been curious if the steel cabinets were an oddity of this specific kitchen or if that was common back then. I hadn’t seen that before. Thanks for the info. When I renovate, I’ll check if there is someone local to give these cabinets to before I throw them out.

  16. Candace Archer says

    Have you heard of this brand? I have 8 ft top and bottom cabinets. When I removed them, on the back of the sink unit is “Howard 1940.” I am reusing the sink with double drainboards in new shaker cabinets that match the originals in the butler’s pantry. My house was built in 1915 and I just didn’t feel the metal cabinets were a good style in my old 4-square, but would appreciate any info re the manufacturer!

  17. Corinne Herndon says

    I have the Youngstown woodgrain cabinets in my kitchen. Yesterday one of the cupboard doors fell off. In trying to put it back on, I dropped it and broke off a corner. My question is can I get a replacement door.
    The serial number is No W 680977. The door is 17 3/4″ x 29 3/4″. The hardware is on the left side of the door.
    I agree with so many of the comments. I sure don’t want to replace these beautiful cabinets.

  18. Jeannine McNeil says

    My husband and I are looking to demo our kitchen and currently have Crosley kitchen cabinets from the 1950-60ss and we’re looking to remove them with out damaging them. There are no screws in the back of the cabinets that connect them to the wall or the adjacent cabinet. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • pam kueber says

      Sorry, Jeannine, all these cabinets are so different… and we do not typically give this kind of advice on the blog…

  19. Bruce Gleason says

    On another strain of this web site, several messages refer to insulation within doors of vintage metal cabinets. I’m wondering if this is really the case, and if it is, if there is a way to tell if the doors on my “Youngstown Kitchens” cabinets have insulation. I understand that insulation is an issue for powder coating.

    • pam kueber says

      Bruce, I do not know. Yes, we have heard that if there is insulation or some kind of backing in steel kitchen cabinet doors. And yes, I have heard that the high heat to bake the powder can warp the doors. If you end up having to take apart a door to see what’s inside – I advise having a professional to do it and to test for any potential vintage nastiness in that material. My general rule: Anytime you uncover some new material – get it tested for vintage nasties like lead, asbestos, etc… so that you can make informed decisions how to handle. If you want to avoid the heat, you can use a process that does not require baking…

  20. Jenny Sanderson says

    I live in South Africa and have just bought a new house with a steel kitchen, my present house had steel units which we removed to the garage as workshop storage. I now want to install them in the new house and refinish with the ones already there I will need new worktops, and am thinking a stone or marblite are these units strong enough to hold this? If not what do you recommend?( the original tops are way past more use)

    • pam kueber says

      Jenny, on this one, you need to consult with a professional where you live to assess the situation. Good luck!

  21. says

    I find it curious that there is no mention of Dwyer Kitchens in your article. Dwyer has been making steel kitchens and cabinets since 1926 when Lawrence Dwyer purchased the Murphy Cabranette company from William Murphy, of Murphy bed fame. Dwyer steel cabiinets are GreenGuard Select Certified for healthcare, commercial, education and residential facilities.

  22. Mike Tucker says

    re cream colored with glass panels in the upper cabinets.
    The only numbers on the label are: K13 2-82-K 0678424

    I would like to find an installation manual or information on how the base cabinets attach to the base frame.

    • pam kueber says

      Mike, it’s virtually impossible to provide such info here — there were more than 75 different brands…. ?

  23. Cyndy Leeka says

    I love your website. It took me right back to my Granmas house, down to the type of handles on here cabinets. Very sweet trip. Thank you!

    I stumbled onto your website trying to research a metal china cabinet I just purchased. Do you have any suggestions on a site I could use? This baby is huge and has areas that the green lithium paint shows thru and even has the Bakelite handles and a key for the locking drawer. I need to know more!

    Thank you and God Bless you!

  24. Jess says

    This makes my kitchen make SO much more sense. Our house was built by original owner as they had money form what we gather of the very none stander everything in our house, Out kitchen other then appliances is original to the house and we have that exact Youngstown sink cabinet and the cast iron sink in your picture and other the some upper wood cabinets its all the cabinets that is in there guess they never had money to buy more? It is a super nonfunctional kitchen and trying to carefully weigh if we are keeping the original as we get ready to redo the kitchen. This post gives me some appreciation for it though.

  25. says

    Our company was a Geneva dealer starting in the 50’s until they went out of business in the late 60’s early 70’s. Actually I think St. Charles bought them and destroyed the tooling and shut the brand down. We always believed Geneva was the better cabinet( some bias admitted) because the drawer system was smoother, they were first with the textured steel finish which had a better pattern than St. Charles and the door and drawer edges had a slight radius to them for a smooth look. Both were great cabinets, I still have a couple of desks in my office with Geneva drawer units. As a matter of fact I think I have a few Geneva parts floating around my warehouse somewhere. In the last 2 weeks I have gotten a couple of requests for metal cabinets, wish there was a good source. Great article, thanks for putting it together.

  26. says

    So glad to read this. I have an original 1949 Geneva kitchen, minus the sink. Looking for whte plastic back plates. Had the cabinets painted 25 years ago by someone who paints bathtubs. Needs to be redone now, lasted all this time. Wish I had more cabinets. very informative site, and so inspiring.

  27. Amanda Harmon says

    Thank you for this wonderful article. I have an early Youngstown set of cabinets with the original double drain sink. I need to know how to restore them, or sell. Loved it. Thanks!

  28. says

    Love you kitchen! And a tip on metal repainting, we’ve never done a kitchen, but we have done several rusty old cars and Rustoleum makes an amazing spray on metal primer that will even adhere to mild rust and old paint reducing the need to expose yourself to excess sanding of paint and metal. As for paint on metal spray enamels work really well over this primer, I recommend appliance paint, automotive enamel or engine enamel as all of them are made to withstand the heat and moisture that they could potentially be exposed to in a kitchen.

  29. richard schafer says

    I tried this earlier and don’t see it so let’s try it again. I have a beautiful, beautiful kitchen by Crane and wish to sell it. It’s circa late 40’s. Pic available upon request. It’s powder blue/teal ish I guess you’d call it. Just respond back and I should get your requests. Thanks, Dick

  30. Steve Laudon says

    I have a nice set of metal cabinets in good shape except for some scratches and rust on a few of them. I’d like to have the door fronts repainted at a local car repair place, but the doors are secured on the hinges by a rivet. Any advice on how to remove the doors?

  31. DeNiece M. Rochowicz says

    I live in a 90+yr old row home with Jamestown steel kitchen cabinets. They have been painted, but I think easily restorable. I’m afraid the new owner will remove them and not know what they have. Does anyone know of any craftsman in Southeast PA that might be interested in them?
    I have loved these cabinets and don’t want them to end up in a scrap heap!!!

  32. Elliott says

    Hi , im in Melbourne Australia and would love to find myself some metal kitchen cabinetry! Any suggestions?. Thanks

  33. Michelle says

    My husband and I purchased a turn of the century farmhouse that was remodeled in 1953. The republic steel kitchen with boomerang countertops all still in tact but in poor condition. We found an auto body guy to refinish the cabinets. However part of the countertops were destroyed during a poorly done 1991 demo of a kitchen wall. The remaining counter is missing trim and chopped up on one side.

    Our plan in restoring this kitchen is to replace tge countertops. We were thinking however that we would like custom concrete counters done in the blue cream and grays of the republic cabinets.

    Any thoughts?

  34. Kerri says

    Hello. I live in an apartment and the cabinets are not mine but I LOVE them. We are currently trying to repaint them, I’m not sure what others were thinking before me but oh my did they mess them up. So for two days now we have been able to disassemble one (yes 1) cabinet! The screws for the hinges have been painted over several times so we applied some paint remover that didnt help, then we added some PB Blaster (a few times) still, that didnt help. Then someone at the hardware store told us about a drill bit where you drill a whole then thread the screw in the loosening direction to help get the original screw out, that did not work either. I dont want to put a whole lot of money into it because they are not mine but I would be willing to replace the hinges if I could just find them. Any ideas where I can find the hinges? Or hinges that might even work?

  35. Sheri Britt says

    I’m buying a home that was built in 1962. I would love to send you a picture and get your opinion. Thanks!

  36. Brittany says

    We have a youngstown double porcelain sink just like the one pictured above in our basement–it’s slightly rusted and was definitely used–we have no use of it, anyone know how much do they sell for?

  37. Libby says

    I’m a Geneva cabinet owner.

    I heard a story on the radio about how they are able to make a prosthetic hand for a little girl for around $5 now due to the magic of 3-D printers. Did I weep for all the disabled people in the world? Well, yes.

    But THEN I wondered when someone will use the 3-D printer magic to make me some replicas of my Geneva recessed cabinet handles! Anybody?

  38. sondos says

    hi pam
    I like your blog and um getting alot of information from it.
    first of all um sondos from egypt a post graduate from faculty of applied arts and iam preparing for my master and it’s about kitchens and i’ve got use from your Published research “” but i’d like to know the date it has been published at to write it as a refrence at my master and thank you :)

    • pam kueber says

      First published 2009/01/30 — but, Sondos, I have updated it over time…. SEnd me your thesis when you are done, I would LOVE to read it!

  39. Ron Wellman says

    Some of the latches on my 1957 St. Charles cabinets no longer have both springs in place, the springs that hold onto the male pin attached to the cabinet frame. Can anyone tell me how to remove the female latch component from the door. I I can remove the assembly from the door I’m sure I can replace the missing spring and restore the functionality of the latching mechanism. How do I remove this part from the cabinet door ?

  40. Jim Weitzel says

    Just had Geneva cabinets ca. 1951 repainted in situ using an electrostatic process that draws the paint to the metal cabinets with little volatiles in the air–odor was gone within hours & the cabinets look great (edges were done with a roller)

  41. cindy says

    We obtained a large set of 1962 yellow Geneva cabinets for free though unfortunately several of the upper cabinets have smoke damage from a kitchen fire. They are also very faded but we actually like the paler yellow. We have managed to clean them up a bit with normal detergents so we are installing them but we have no counters. Would stainless steel or aluminum be the material of choice? Any other ideas?

  42. says

    Kudos are due to your providing insight into how steel cabinetry revolutionized the kitchen industry. I could go on for hours as to the look we now see in todays kitchens started with steel modular cabinets.
    I am the last owner of the “St. Charles of Los Angeles” showroom, which was located in Sunset Plaza adjacent to Beverly Hills. We were arguably the most famous kitchen design firm in the United States. Our client list read like a Who’s Who of American business leaders, Entertainment stars and Studio Moguls. We also provided the personal kitchens of three former Presidents of the
    United States. St. Charles Cabinetry was expensive but it usually outlasted the homeowners who purchased it. I had high hopes that Viking Range would revive St. Charles steel cabinetry. Viking would not listen to former St. Charles Dealers who requested that Viking provide wood doors on the steel cabinetry. For over twenty years St. Charles steel cabinetry with wood doors outsold painted steel doors fifty to one. Viking wouldn’t listen to our request and the rest is history! What really hurts is that Viking actually built better steel cabinetry with all the modern upgrades including Euro Hinges then St. Charles did.
    Let me thank you again for all the good work you and your staff are providing.
    David M. Wagner, CID

  43. Lori Roper says

    Thank you guys for all the information, forums, & enthusiasm!
    I love all the original literature and in-the-wild pictures!
    As you note above, style changed across the years and it seems that many of the brands are very similar…
    I have been searching for more Crane to match mine and have not found any!
    I have been grabbing others for parts to fix mine…
    But it would be so helpful to know what would mix and match before I drive to get some (ebay pictures are not always the best)…
    Have you guys ever done a cross reference on all the brands? (I know there are some 70+ brands…)
    I would love to help on this…

    • pam kueber says

      no, we do not have a cross reference. You can go through the Kitchen Help/Steel Kitchens to see our archive of stories though – lots of examples there…

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