Linoleum floors and countertops brighten up Dave & Frances’ 1938 kitchen

Dave and Frances bought a wonderful single-owner 1938 home last year, and have just finished up some modest yet gorgeous updates to their kitchen. The most dramatic improvement: Marmoleum linoleum for both the floor and countertop, edged in stainless steel. Dave writes:

Hi Pam,

Just thought I’d drop you a note. Thanks to inspiration from your site, we just recently, i.e. in the last 24 hours, finished rejuvenating the kitchen in our 1938 house. It didn’t take much, the cabinets were in great shape and the 1958 GE range looks brand new (we’re only the second owners of the house), but the very neutral vinyl floors and formica had to go. We replaced the floor with a medium blue Marmoleum with a dark blue stripe and did the countertops with the same dark blue Marmoleum and the same stainless steel edging you did your countertops with. We finished off with a new Kohler sink with hudee ring.

Dave continues:
We’ve been in the house for right about a year. We outgrew our 900 sq ft 1931 brick house by the time our twin boys turned one and casually started trolling the real estate sites. We knew we wanted another brick house and were fond of the late 20’s through early 40’s architectures. We found this one at about 10 p.m. one night and I promptly drove over that night to check out the neighborhood. This house was about 2 miles west, right in the neighborhood we were most hoping to find something…. We put in a contingent offer and our old house sold the same day it was listed! This house is about 1,700 sq. ft. excluding the unfinished basement.
We bought it from a lady whose dad originally built the house and she had been living in it since she was 12. I even found a copy of the building permit in the basement dated 1939 with her dad’s name on it. We love it when old houses look old and have their original elements so needless to say we instantly fell in love with this house. My wife took a slight bit of convincing since the exterior architecture has a bit less whimsical character than our old house. Being late 30’s, it seemed to be gaining some of the minimalist traditional lines as opposed to the revival era cottage/tudor look of our early 30’s old house.  The house was in impeccable shape. Prior to us moving in, the original owner had just removed red shag carpet covering the red oak hardwoods and douglas fir softwoods (upstairs).
I believe the only real non-original elements were kitchen floors and countertops and the light fixtures save for a fantastic deco chandelier in the dining room. We’ve gone through and replaced the non-original light fixtures with a combination of vintage and reproduction. We also replaced the switch plates and outlet plates with NOS brown bakelite plates, but many of the original brown bakelite tumbler switches are still installed and working. We haven’t taken many pictures of the inside of the house since we moved in, but I posted the staged real estate pics from last year if you would like to see them.

You can tell that the stove desperately needs a big white and chrome Big Chill fridge next to it, I’m still trying to convince my wife of that though…  (Even so,) you’ll see my wife decided to get in on the whole retro thing with an attempt to recreate one of the campy vintage ads 🙂

If you’re interested, here are the particulars for the rejuve:
  • Marmoleum field color: “Sparkling Lake”, this seemed almost identical to the color in the Armstrong ad
  • Marmoleum stripe and countertop color: “Deep Ocean”, this too seemed nearly identical
  • James at Nielsen Bros. Flooring (Seattle) did the install work (James was very patient when it came time to do the metal trim)
  • Light over the Fridge: Rejuvenation “Atlantic” fixture with “Streamline 8 inch Opal” shade
  • Light over the Dinette: Rejuvenation “Arcadia” fixture with “Streamline 8 inch Opal” shade
  • Kohler Triton Facet (K-7776) and Kohler Triton Cross Handles (K-16012-3)
  • Kohler Bakersfield White Sink (K-5834) — I found out the hudee ring is sold separately.. (K-6599)
  • Stainless steel edging from New York Metals — One nice hint, too. Wherever I ended up with cracks in the mitered corners and whatnot, I used silver/gray gutter sealant as a filler. It blends in fairly nicely with the stainless. Soldering would probably be best, but this was far easier.
  • We got inspiration for the color palette from a 1941 armstrong ad I found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americanvintagehome/3331401646/

I asked Dave in our email exchange whether he had considered Bradbury and Bradbury’s 1940s wallpaper line. He responded:

It’s funny you mention the wallpaper. I was just showing my wife some of the deco wallpaper on their site last night. You can’t see it in any of the photos, but as you leave the kitchen toward the hallway and head out the back door, there is a wall about 6 feet long covered with some wallpaper from the 70’s. Some of their wallpaper there would be perfect.

Fantastic work, Dave and Frances — the linoleum with the contrasting trim is fantastic, the countertop looks great, and you know I love that Kohler sink. Clearly, you show how making just some minor updates made to fundamentally sound original features can make for a charming (and not too expensive) renovation that makes the house truly feel like your own. I do have two questions I forgot to ask: I was under the impression that today’s linoleum in not particularly recommended for countertops. What were you told about this issue? Also, did you have to adjust the size of the countertop substrate material in order to accommodate the increased thickness of the linoleum vs. laminate? Thank you so much for sharing — this story will be very popular with readers whose homes or styles tend more toward 1940s sweetness than 1950s atomic.

  1. Liz Fornek says:

    Thank you so much for this post! My husband and I are trying to recreate our 1947 kitchen. We, too, are 2nd owners, but made some mistakes when we first remodeled; the kitchen, and bath, and… were in rough shape. However, the home has great bones and we love it!

    We are hitting a brick wall on vintage style flooring. I have searched and searched and we’ve been to so many flooring stores only to be met with a puzzled look as to why we would want to do this!

    So…this is probably a stupid question, but here goes…how did you get the stripe in the flooring? Did you have it professionally done? We know we want it done right, but we also have a budget.

    Thanks so much!!

  2. Cathy Wright says:

    Oh, you guys and gals are all on the right track. I have inherited a 1937 2 bedroom cottage which has ALL original floors, cabinets, and the all black rubber cabinet tops. My aunt who died at 99 yrs 5 months, was married twice, widowed twice, and no children. Since 1975 she has been alone in the house. It is in exceptional condition. We only had the window above the kitchen farm sink replaced. The original cabinets are all white metal, the counters are pure black “rubber” and are completel edged in stainless steel. I LOVE THIS LITTLE HOUSE. My sisters and I practically grew up in it. What with not having children in the house, we were it. All the accents are red cherries. I wish I could post a picture of it. ( have noticed that if you clean it with paper towel and Windex-type, the black rubs off on the paper towel. If I use soap and water, it’s just fine, no black rub-off.

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