Reader Sara is mid-mod-mad, but she is biding her time in a rustic farmhouse while she and her husband finalize their plans to build their retro ranch house on the same, large property. She can’t wait any longer to get her fix, though: She has been in the farmhouse for five years and wants a jolt of retro in her kitchen NOW.

So, Sara  has asked the Retro Renovation community for our suggestions on how to retro-fy the kitchen without spending a lot, as they will not live in this house for a lot longer. The cabinets are from an old chicken coop, she has been told. That sink is original. Oh, and wait til you see the highly sought after Armstrong 5852 flooring. She’s also provided an “inspiration photo” from our archives.

What are your ideas, Sara asks: Paint the countertops? Paint the cabinets? Paint the bottom cabinets? Change the wallpaper border? Change the wallpaper all together? Paint the window casings? Curtains? What about painting the lower cabinets and the counter red to match the sink and replacing the wallpaper with a small print that has red and aqua in it (have the turquoise fiestaware)?

Go to it, readers! I’ll wrap it up on Tuesday with a mood board.

Here is Sara’s inspiration photo:

Click on the first thumnail to start the slideshow. There are descriptions below each photo, along with arrows to move you back or forward:

And here is some more background:

Hi Pam. I’m so grateful (in advance) for all the practical and down to earth decorating advice I’m hoping to get from fellow “love the house you’re in” folks. We’ve been here 5 years now and it’s been a lot of work inside and especially out. Nature can take over pretty darn fast when a place is left vacant! Anyway, I’ve included a lot of photos so you can pick through them. Just thought you might like some outside ones to get a feel for this place. As you can see, the setting is beautiful. And you know my hope and plan is to build a mid century modest home to live in for the rest of our lives (next 40+ years). This place has no foundation, old everything, and not one of those “solidly built” homes you have back there plus we worry about the fact that it’s basically kindling. And with one bathroom off the utility room and 4 bedrooms upstairs it doesn’t suit an aging couple. It is actually the 2nd home to be built on this property. But in the meantime, I want to enjoy it. It is my husband’s dream property and he’s always wanted it. So for us it’s all about the location and the lifestyle it gives us. We will be making a smaller footprint by taking down (recycling old wood) the house and outbuildings and building smaller.

Hey, this place was “retro” when “retro” was modern! I’m thinking a western direction would work. Keep thinking how everything “western” was so cool in the 50s. Movies, clothing, ranches, even the Mickey Mouse Club had a western story line. I’m a little overdosed on the whole “lodge” theme. My grandma went from a farmhouse to a pink mid-century modern home. I think I know where she was coming from! I hope people have fun with it.

Many thanks! Don’t know anyone else who doesn’t want to gut something and put in “updates”.


    1. Sara in WA says:

      Yes I did MANY of your ideas all of which were so helpful/inspirational. Pam has info and photos. Went “retro Cowboy”. wallpaper, paint, sewing, cleaning . . . so happy with it.

  1. RENEE says:

    go with white cabinets and red gingham curtains, 40s style, the fiesta ware will look fine. the walls can be white or a very tiny print paper to match the gingham. you can also use white swiss dot curtains trimmed with red, they should be very full and gathered, though.

  2. Dawn says:

    There is a great book by Country Living magazine about country kitchens. There are many retro inspired kitchens in the book….even vintage red kitchens!! Instead of changing anything in your authentic kitchen….just accessorize. Colorful fiesta ware on the countertops will tie in the red sink. A black and red Kit Cat Klock on the wall would be fun. You could buy some vintage table cloths on eBay and sew them into cafe curtains. A pattern with red in it will work with your color scheme. I wouldn’t change much in your kitchen. It is already retrofabulous and, as Pam says “love the house you are in”.

  3. Alison Marie says:

    I’m coming to this party really late, but I think the kitchen is pretty fab as it is….and I have to say that as a quilter, your color combo of red and aqua is right on trend. If you search quilting fabric websites, you can find some great, washable fabric for new matching curtains, valances, and sink curtains (and potholders!), even in retro floursack or 30’s depression fabric prints. I have actually seen several photos of farmhouse kitchens in design magazines with curtains below sinks and on lower cabinets. And as a child, my parents had an old red & white enamel kitchen table which would look great in a kitchen like yours (ours was from the 30’s and my mom sold it at a garage sale in the late 80s for a song- mistake!) I agree with a lot of other commenters that just eliminating a lot of the more 80s country accents would immediately strengthen the retro feel.

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