Vintage steel cabinets that have wood doors are starting to surface quite a bit lately. Erika recently purchased these vintage St. Charles’. Yowza, look at the brushed door steel trim and integrated cabinet pulls, these are absolutely gorgeous. Erika is in the midst of her kitchen renovation, but she pulled some cabinets out of the garage and into the house to take some photos to tantalize us.

Erika writes:

Hi Pam,

I recently purchased St Charles 1950s era cabinets to use in my kitchen. I have found the most information regarding this era via your website/blog which by the way is FABULOUS ! …


They are aquamarine all over (interior, exteriors, etc) except for the faces of the upper cabinets. The upper cabinets faces are a dark reddish brown wood with a metal rectangular detail that ties into the knob.


Only the top cabs and the tall broom cabinet have the wooden faces like shown.  I was inspired by you aqua kitchen ! Before I saw yours I was considering having them painted !!


Thoughts ??… We hope to have them installed by Mid September so I will keep you updated. I would love to share more pics once they are in b/c the one cabinet has glass doors and shelves with lighting and another has a cute stainless bread drawer built in , etc.

– erika

1966-st-charles-kitchen-harvest-goldMy thoughts: As I’ve discussed before on the blog, throughout the 50s the steel kitchen cabinets manufacturers were duking it out with the wood cabinet manufacturers for primacy. There’s also a larger design story going on — as the wall between the kitchen and family living areas began to come down, literally, there was a drive to make kitchen cabinets more “furniture like” so that the kitchen meshed with the adjacent living areas. So one of the things you saw happening was that steel cabinet makers started adding wood doors.  Kind of the “best of both worlds” – durable steel box, warm and cozy wood doors.  See this St. Charles photo at the left – you can see what I mean.  This harvest gold kitchen is from ’66. I tend to think your cabinets are from around the same time. Why – I am skeptical that aquamarine really lasted through the 70s; at the same time, your red wood doors look a lot like those at the left. Finally, I will say, I am not academically equipped to date the St. Charles — I make these guesses based on triangulation from all the stuff I’ve stared at for the past 7 years or so. I don’t have comprehensive catalogs or anything close. St. Charles, by the way, was the longest lasting steel kitchen cabinet company, surviving through the early 2000’s. It also seems to have been considered the highest quality. Although I’ll tell you – my Geneva’s are fantastic. The brand name is now owned by the Viking Range company. They launched all-steel cabinets last year. They cost a bloody fortune. Our cabinets are worth a lot of dough re mi, and I predict prices for vintage metal cabinets will continue to go up up up as the retro renovation movement continues to strengthen.

Many thanks, Erika. We can’t wait to see the finished product. And to all the other readers who have sent me photos: Hang in there, it takes me a while to get to them as my fulltime job also calls for attention!

  1. BungalowBILL says:

    Those upper cabinets are lush. I can see them being complimented by aluminum up/down cone light fixtures or a chandelier. Looking forward to seeing the progress on that kitchen.

  2. Jeanne says:

    Those cabinets are fantastic! That aqua is my favorite color, too. I am envious! And I love the contrast of the wood with the metallic trim/knobs.

    What Pam says is true and totally goes along with the way my house was done. My 1952 bungalow’s kitchen was remodeled in 1960 with a custom kitchen. They tore down the wall between the kitchen and dining room and installed very nice walnut (or some dark wood) colonial cabinets. The upper cabinets are accessible from both the kitchen side and the dining room side.

    During closing on our house, the sellers (the two sons who grew up there) told us all the neighbors would comment what a great idea that was and wished they could tear out the walls in their kitchens and how “open” it felt. My house was the only one on the block like that! It’s actually what sold me on the house.

  3. Jennifer says:

    Gosh I’m so entirely jealous it’s not even funny! Those cabinets are to die for! The aqua and wood combo is just perfect, those are going to be gorgeous!

  4. St. Christopher says:

    Huh, those are really cool! I’ve actually seen a few ads here and there on C-list (when is that going to become a verb, like “Google”?) for steel cabs with wood doors. I just thought that the previous owners had at some point tried to “fix” their kitchen by “updating” to wooden doors. Hmmm, they might have just come that way! Neat, you learn all sorts of new things on this internet thing.

  5. Mariah says:

    Woooo! Yours are gorgeous! My house has the original steel cabinets mounted out in the big shed from when the original owners remodeled in the 80s. Mine are bright aqua with fake wood grain (metal) doors. A bit grungy….one of my long range to-do items is to clean them up. The bottom cabinets I have also have the fake woodgrain doors but the rest of the body is painted a muddy brown which is not as attractive. The original gold speckled counters are still in place (just in terrible shape after being used as a work bench for 20+ years.

  6. julie says:

    I absolutely love that color and the wood looks great. This look is so inspiring! And I am also totally jealous of your house! Props to you for coming up with this.

  7. Pam M. says:

    I have a harvest gold St. Charles kitchen in the house we just purchased in Park Ridge, IL. They have birch doors on the top cabinets. Will post some pictures later. This was one of the things that sold me on the house. Except for the color, they look very post-modern. I have paste-waxed them, but the wax smears. I need a new door on one of two or just a refinish.

    The house does not have a dishwasher. I would love to put one in where the oven is, but need a new place for the oven (electric) and the space looks too big for a standard sized dishwasher. My one free wall has no water connection. Any suggestions other than a portable dishwasher?

  8. Tammi Granaas says:

    I have the exact cabinets you show in my house. The wooden tops are exact and our steel bottom cabinets are harvest gold- all the same trim & hardware. Our kitchen was remodeled sometime early 60;s according to the historic registry information. We are fortunate that through years of renovation and “updating” our kitchen was left untouched. I am in the process of changing counter tops. If anyone has ideas for counter top type / colors and where to buy, please let me know. The kitchen has original hardwood floor and white tile on all walls. any ideas would be appreciated.
    good luck with your remodel. I love my cabinets and am happy I have stuck with them even though many friends have tried to convince me to update.

    1. pam kueber says:

      Tammi, see my category: Kitchens / Counters … and congratulations, you sound like you have one of the most beautiful kitchens ever!!!

  9. Linr says:

    I know this is an old thread, but I cannot find info anywhere on our Geneva metal cabinets with wood doors. I, too, thought the metal fronts had been replace at some point, but they are just too perfectly installed and matched to the metal bases—I had to find out if this was ever an option. The interior of our cabinets is pink, but the doors have been painted a not-so-awesome gray. I know this is a long shot, but has anyone had any luck stripping their cabinets to the original wood?

  10. coo says:

    THANKS! for the St. Charles info. I recently bought a 1964 MCM that has a great kitchen full of St. Charles–mine are metal boxes with white LAMINATE doors and the similar aluminum trim but in GOLD.

    Excellent quality, design and the inserts for organizing the kitchen–sharp. Pretty amazing stuff considering 1960’s.

  11. JIm Martin says:

    I have a St Chas Kitchen, all Steel cabinets. I want to put wood doors on them and cannot find anyone who will even consider it. Do I have to build the doors? Can they be purchased somewhere? How are the mounted, – a wood frame maybe bolted to the steel?

    Any guidance would be appreciated. I hate to scrap these cabinets for 3/8″ plywood or composition board stuff

    1. Pam Kueber says:

      I don’t know the answer, that is, I don’t know how the wood doors were hung on St. Charles (and other brand) cabinets back in the day.

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