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. littlebluerambler says:

    oh, what a beautiful kitchen! very much like the one where i grew up. we had a stunning inlaid linoleum floor. Pop (armstrong worker) told us exactly how it was made. we just finished up our ‘new’ kitchen, ripped out the early 80s junk and bemenn in ephrata made new cupboard doors from a photo like the old house. We love people like you.

  2. sabrina says:

    Coming in late here, but couldn’t leave without posting to say what a wonderful house, fantastic kitchen, and incredibly adorable family! Your photos have given me a few ideas for our kitchen… wheels turning!

  3. pat sullivan says:

    i am purchasing marmoleum for my counter tops today!
    Forbo “relaxing lagoon 3882”. I’m paying $27.00 a square yard.
    i’m also calling around for installation bids. any ball park figures on a professional install on 62 square feet of counter space incl. an island
    with a rounded end. just ball park.

    oh! and let me just say WOW!! really like your kitchen and really a confidence booster in going marmoleum. several friends and family
    are dubious… but i forge ahead!

    1. pam kueber says:

      woot! but: i don’t really like the ballpark thing….prefer readers not get into this on the blog, as i suspect it varies widely by town/city/region — not to mention quality/trust. maybe: get three bids… and ask friends neighbors and relatives for referrals?

      1. pat sullivan says:

        thanks for responding. good advice. i found someone who “loves to install marmoleum counter tops”

        look forward to checking in on your blog to see what your up to.
        warm regards


  4. carolyn says:

    Hi guys, your house looks awesome and inspires the rest of us! I see that you also used NY Metal stainless steel banding. My husband and I are wrapping up our own retro renovation and have run into some trouble while trying to install the snap-on banding (SS806). Would you mind sharing what tools you used or if you ran into any problems as well? Specifically, the thickness of the countertop (1 5/8″) is too tight for the opening of the stainless steel banding (1 1/2″), and also what did you use to miter your edges for the bends around the corners? Did you just miter the top edge and bottom edge, but leave the middle intact? Sorry for so many questions, I just want ours to look as good as you two did!

    Thanks so much,
    Carolyn and David in Nashville

  5. Carey says:

    I know this is an old post…but I’m desperate for an answer. I too have a 1938 kitchen with the original cabinetry. My problem is that I desperately want to install a dishwasher. I know, I know…how silly of me. But handwashing dishes is a dreadful chore in my opinion, and I really appreciate the “hiding place” a dishwasher affords. So, my cabinets are a mere 20″ in depth and all dishwashers are 24″ in depth. ARGHHH!!!

    Has anyone else encountered this? I want to keep my cabinets, but I want a dishwasher too. Any ideas short of a portable (yuck) model? I’m willing to replace my counter top (circa 1985) and I’m hoping we can just “bump out” the existing facing, drawers and doors with the help of a skilled carpenter and retain the glory of my little time capsule kitchen.


  6. Zoe says:

    Totally totally charming re-do. I’m so tired of “neutral” everything! People think “neutral” helps re-sale, but it so doesn’t!

    I’ve been looking at midcentury modern houses for sale in the Detroit (Bloomfield Hills) area, and I can’t tell you how many of them (hint: almost all) have been totally remuddled with granite countertops and stainless appliances. Ugh.

    Not many wonderful MCM houses for sale that are un-modified, but look at this one near Grand Rapids:



  7. Hunter says:

    Hey there,

    We love what you’ve done with the marmoleum countertop. One question we have is about the durability.

    Does it hold up to the occasional dropped pan or knife? What happens if you put a hot pan down on it? Have you had any problems in that regard?

    Many thanks!


  8. Liz says:

    I’m considering replacing my old laminate kitchen countertop with marmoleum. I have my samples and have been testing them out for durability. As for putting a hot pan down, I took a pot of boiling water and set it on the marmoleum for 10 seconds. It didn’t even flinch at that. No damage. Next, I tested it for cleaning stains: red wine, curry (turmeric), and ink pen marks. I let it set for a couple hours, then took Comet and a nylon scrub sponge and scrubbed at it. It cleaned up as well as my laminate. I tested this on the colors “natural corn” and “salsa red”. Next came the dent and scratch test. I made light scratches with my knife, and it did show up, but it appears that most of these types of scratches can be “buffed out” with steel wool, which is what the Forbo websit says to do. My samples don’t have any of the protective finishes on them, that other people have written about, so I’m wondering if light scratches would be a problem if you did that. I did find the steel wool helpful, regardless. I then dropped a can of beans on it from about 10 inches. Yes, it dented the surface, but within an hour, the dent “recovered” at least half-way, which makes sense, since marmoleum is considered resilient material. I had to look hard to find the dent, to be fair. I also set my heavy Kitchen Aid mixer on a 12″ square sample for an hour, to see if it would dent (it didn’t), then I dragged the mixer across the sample to bring the mixer closer to me, which is what I do in real life, because it’s too dang heavy to pick up. This didn’t cause any problem for the marmoleum.
    So, the marmoleum appears to be decently comparable in durability to laminate. I’m just nervous about finding somebody in my rural area who can do a good job of making a countertop out of it. And I’m also a little skiddish about them doing a good job with the NY Metals snap on moulding, which is what I think I would want. Or maybe the Eagle Moulding. I’m wondering how Carolyn solved her edging problem, from her post in 2010. Carolyn?

  9. Will Rothfuss says:


    I don’t know how active this thread is, but I’ll give it a try.

    Love your kitchen and am thinking of using Marmoleum on the counters. However, going to the Forbo website, there are so many products, that I am not sure which one is meant for counters. Did you just use the standard residential sheet goods? Or a “furniture” product.?

    Thanks, Will

    1. pam kueber says:

      Will — you should contact Marmoleum regarding this question. They can tell you with designs are specified for countertop use. Good luck!

  10. Sue Dvorak says:

    I have been on retrorenovation and saw pictures of your kitchen remodel. I Love it! I have been looking everywhere or stainless steel edging and you mentioned you found it at New York Metals. Is there a number or website you can give me. Sure would appreciate it…

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