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Erika’s metal kitchen cabinets with wood doors

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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.

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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 ! …

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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.

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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 !!

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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. 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.

  2. 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.

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