1956-retro-renovation-kitchen-range-hood

Jane aka Elvis sends these photos of her lovely yellow-and-blue retro renovation kitchen. In completing what sounds like a fast-paced update, she combined some of the old, with some of the new — probably pretty typical for all of us looking to combine the best of today’s functionality with the wonderful spirit and lines of our home’s original era. Read on for Jane’s material list, choices, vendors and learnings, along with more photos….

Jane writes:

We inherited a 1956 time-capsule kitchen, however, every surface of that capsule was battered and worn. Since we were on a tight timeline to move in (and my husband refused to have our usual fun of living in the middle of the project!) we contracted with several local craftsmen to do a lot of the work. Our warm-yellow walls and blue countertops are not strictly mid-century, but we tried to make fundamental decisions in the spirit of the fifties.

As much as we loved the original beech plywood cabinets, they were in bad shape. They were delaminating and chipped on the edges, so we reluctantly had them filled, sanded and painted. We salvaged all of the beautiful bronze pulls, which we stripped and then shipped to a place in Salem, OR, that clear-coated them.

1956-retro-renovation-kitchen-refrigerator

There was no dishwasher, so we puzzled over adding one: The kitchen isn’t large and we couldn’t afford to lose a lot of cabinets or drawers. My husband was delighted when he discovered that just one bank of drawers needed to be removed to perfectly fit a European-size, 18” Miehle stainless dishwasher. And it’s the best dishwasher I have ever used. A plus was discovering the dishwasher door had a design detail that echoed the fluted metal countertop edge we used.

The original countertop was a beige linen-pattern laminate, but after 50-plus years, it was shot. We resurfaced with Formica (Indigo Terra) and we opted to lower the height of the laminate backsplash to 8 inches for a better fit around the sink windowsill. Our wonderful cabinetmaker installed this and all the metal channel edging (he had never worked with that countertop edge with a spline on the back and swore he’d never install it again!) We got all the 8-foot lengths of edging from Lansing Linoleum in Portland, OR. We reused the original stainless sink with its Hudee ring, and found an appropriate-looking Price Pfister single-arm faucet to replace the plastic one that was there (not the original, I’m sure!)

1956-retro-renovation-kitchen

The original Thermador stainless steel wall oven was in perfect shape and works beautifully. That wasn’t the case with the original 42” electric cooktop. Visually, it was very cool, but it had two non-functioning burners and extended into the right side of the sink area, threatening to burn the elbow of anyone using the sink. We replaced that with a much smaller (30”) Wolf gas cooktop and added a Zephyr exhaust hood to replace the huge wall-mounted 90s microwave/fan that loomed over the stove. We wanted to eliminate LEDs and digital readouts from view, so we installed an outlet and hid our small microwave in a cupboard over the oven, with mixed success: It’s fine for warming something, but even with a tiny fan cooling the cupboard, it gets too hot if you bake potatoes.

We replaced the enormous side-by-side white fridge with a smaller counter-depth stainless Fisher&Paykel model. I love the new fridge, but I wish now we had opted for the curved-front model for a more appropriate look.

The floor had been updated to a parquet-look vinyl. To judge from the lower cabinets, the floor had previously been several different layers of asphalt tiles, very likely with asbestos in them. Since we didn’t want to try removing the flooring due to that health hazard, we had a floor installer add a thin layer of plywood and install simple 12” cork tiles in a checkerboard of light and medium brown. He sealed the floor with several coats of urethane. We ordered the tiles from a local company, Interstate Flooring, but they seem to be widely available. While I really like the floor, I didn’t realize how soft the cork tiles are and we’ve had some denting and cat-claw “patina” that’s noticeable in certain light. If that’s an issue for your readers they might prefer something more durable like the thicker 12” Armstrong Excelon tiles. They were our second choice.

For lighting, we did install period inappropriate under-cabinet lighting – just for plain old function. But we added two polished nickel Aloha wall sconces from Rejuvenation: They look great and really light the sink and work area nicely.

If I had it to do over again, I’d wish for more time to do research. It’s hard to make so many quick but appropriate choices in a hurry. And after reading your blog over this past year and a half, I know there are so many more sources available than I knew of when we remodeled in early 2007.

And I wish we had had the time to do more of the work ourselves. Unlike my husband, I really like working on our home projects. It’s fun, you have the satisfaction of making it happen yourself, AND it saves you money!

On our own, this time, we’re working on tweaking our adjoining breakfast room into more of a 60s look. Now, if I can just find the perfect pull-down light to go over the table….

Jane (AKA) Elvis

Many thanks for sharing, Jane. LOVE the 18″ dishwasher – brilliant! Also, it looks like you have some groovy stuff going on outside the kitchen door…I’ll be after you for that next.

  1. Maureen says:

    Great reno! I like how you tried to keep the best of retro and new in line which I know is very challenging! I hope to post photos of my new bathroom within the next week or so….

  2. Culver City Bronwyn says:

    Jane/Elvis—great balance between the modern and retro! I love the colors.

    Maggie–that link is too funny. I live in California now, but went to college in Harrisonburg. Thanks for a good laugh!

  3. eddo says:

    Jane/Elvis- Loved how your kitchen turned out. I have a 1957 ranch that has the beechwood cabinets, still original stain/varnish. In a honey color. I have shiny copper coated cabinet hardware, that has a lot of worn pieces. Am looking for a place that may be able refinish, praying that they can do the shiny copper. I live in Portland, what’s the name of the place in Salem? P.s. I have a cast-iron white porcelain sink with the hootie ring, have been cautioned to not keep it once I have the countertop done (similar to yours), any problems with leakage around the edge or getting a seal?

  4. Susan says:

    Jane–I’m hoping to have some retro laminate (what we used to call Formica, although that’s just one brand!) countertops installed on some recently purchased Youngstown metal cabinets. Our current 1970s Formica has a slight built-in lip at the edge, which I realize is a great feature for slobs like my husband and me! Are the metal edges on your counter problem spots in terms of food getting wedged in? These are very sophisticated concerns, you understand!

    Here are some great websites to see retro-reproduction laminate:
    http://www.barsandbooths.com/bandblaminates.htm
    http://www.newretrodining.com/retro_laminates.htm (check out retro mint!)
    http://www.pastense.com/surfaces.html

    Although some of the photos look diner-y, as Glamorlux Nancy so rightly warns against, you can’t beat the designs and textures! Does anyone have any recommendations regarding the matte boomerang versus the shiny cracked ice looks! Does the matte finish wipe up easily? Does it still “pop” against the white metal cabinet & silver metal edging?

    I’m a sucker for the boomerang!

  5. Deb says:

    Susan – got our countertops delivered (Skylark boomerang)about 3 weeks ago. The matte finish wipes up very easily. We didn’t have metal cabinets – top cabs are white (semi-gloss) painted wood with boomerang pulls from Rejuvenation. I painted the bottom cabs a turquoise color that matches the turquoise in the boomerang pattern (the boomerangs are white, gray and turquoise). I’m very happy with them. The edging doesn’t need to be cleaned any more than the old laminate edging did, but I do use glass cleaner to do that. If you want a BIG “pop” factor, you might want something shiny because the matte boomerang is more subtle. Not sure how the shiny cracked ice would fare on my countertop though – I like to cook and do a lot of it, so I had a concern that they would “dull” over time with cleaning. I was also a sucker for boomerang and they make me smile every day!! Good luck with your decision.

  6. Rebecca Prichard says:

    Susan and Deb:
    Photos please! Susan, did you go with cracked ice or boomerang? Both are wonderful. The yellow cracked ice and retro mint-too awesome!

  7. Eddo and Susan, sorry for the late response to your questions: The hootie ring is working well (now for three years) with no signs of leakage. When he installed it, the contractor used an adhesive that I think must provide some sealing qualities. Of course, this is over a laminate countertop, not porcelain. The metal countertop edging is actually surprisingly easy to keep clean at the intersection: our contractor fitted it well and I think that’s key. The intersection needs to be perfectly squared up and then there’s no space to gather crumbs or gack. So maybe this is just not a do-it-yourself project. That said, it was the first time our contractor had used this type of edging, but he’s a pro and a perfectionist, so we lucked out.

  8. flush puppy says:

    We have the same dishwasher issue – there isn’t one now nor much space for one, but an 18″ might work. How did you go about installing it, since there’s no hookup for water and electricity in place? Thanks!

  9. Jane – I have a question for you too: Do you like your fridge? I adore the design and it is small enough for the small space we have for one in our kitchen. I started reading reviews about it and got nervous. A ton of people talked about awful customer service and loud noises from it. What has been your experience? Do you still like it? Any information you’d like to share on it would be wonderful. =) Thanks!

    P.S. I like the metal banding you choose because it has a nice texture. I know that sounds weird, but I think since it is textured it would hide fingerprints better.

  10. Flush puppy,
    We used a plumber to do the additional piping and controls needed to install the dishwasher. It was reasonably easy because the dishwasher is right next to the sink where the plumbing is already. The Miehle heats its own water so you only need a cold water hookup.

    Natalie @ Chadwell Chronicles,
    I still LOVE our fridge! The size is perfect for us, and stuff doesn’t get lost in the back: that was an unexpected bonus of the shallower design. I love having things at eye-level, too. I can’t speak to the customer service issue since the fridge has worked perfectly since it was installed. As for loud noises, yes, occasionally there is a rather loud “pop” from the fridge, but I guess I’m just used to it, so it doesn’t bother me (seems like it might happen once or twice a day, or so.) The motor is relatively quiet, and that’s a much bigger issue for us: our last fridge’s motor was significantly noisier than this one. All in all, 3 years later, we are very happy with our choice.
    And you’re right about the incised metal countertop edging: it is very forgiving of fingerprints in a way I suspect smooth metal edging might not be.

  11. eddo, I missed answering your question about the refinishing place in Salem, OR we used to clearcoat our kitchen cabinet handles and pulls. It was:
    Brassworks / Bliss Restoration
    2315 Pringle Rd. SE, Suite H
    Salem OR 97302
    503-540-3070

  12. Awesome. Thanks for the information. =) I really like the way the fridge looks and our space for it is so small that it would fit perfectly! They really don’t make nice small fridges anymore.

    I emailed the edging people to see if they ship the countertop edging. =) Yay!

    Thanks again!

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