cottage kitchen renovationKate recently completed some much-needed updates to her pre-war cottage in Martha’s Vineyard, a getaway that has been in her family since the 1950s. Her renovation journey took her and her husband Ted from their home in Rhode Island… to the camp in Martha’s Vineyard… to a very serious sidetrip to Baltimore, where Ted underwent cancer treatment… and with positive results, back to the Vineyard to finish the job. Read on for Kate’s heartwarming story — and her heartwarming cottage kitchen and interior.

marthas-vineyard-cottageKate writes:

Dear Pam,

Let me begin by thanking you for providing me the best of happy distractions during a very difficult year – and for sharing so many useful resources while I endeavored to add some mid-century charm to the tiny Martha’s Vineyard cottage I inherited (originally my grandparents’ summer getaway purchased by them in 1950).

Every home has its stories, and this one is no exception. I still have to uncover where my cottage was first built, and whether the original kitchen, bath and bedroom were assembled from a kit. Family lore has it, though, that the cottage was part of the Methodist Campground in Oak Bluffs, MA, before it was moved to its current site on Crystal Lake, East Chop, Martha’s Vineyard. The main part of the house, the aforementioned kitchen, bath and tiny bedroom, are held together with wing nuts – no kidding! All lined up neatly.

As we removed old shingles and tore out wallboard in the bedroom, we kept our eyes pealed for numbers or labels on the exposed studs that would point us to a kit, but found nothing.

coral-colored-boomerang-formica-countertopsMy husband had already discovered Formica’s Boomerang pattern and used it for his counters when he remodeled his Vineyard kitchen. I absolutely loved the coral shade and knew I would use it in my cottage as well.

tea green hexagonal floor tileBut I also wanted retro flooring and appliances. And that is how I found your wonderful site! You answered my need when it came to the kitchen floor (perfect hexagonal Japanese variegated green tiles from American Universal Tile):


  • Appliances  — Northstar 1951 mint green fridge…

mission rocker with full swing textiles barkcloth upholstery

dash and albert rug from pine cone hill

vintage tea kettleYour Etsy recommendations provided me with vintage linens, and some of your eBay finds found their way into my kitchen.

But I’m jumping ahead of myself here! Back up to 2008 – August – when my father died and the cottage was now going to be my responsibility. It had been rented by the same couple for at least 15 summers, with no renovations since the early 80’s. The floor was the same green linoleum with steel frame that had been there when my grandfather bought it.

The renters stayed there for one more summer, then decided they wanted to retire on the Island and bought their own house. Yikes! My turn to bring back some charm and get the cottage rentable.

1940s kitchen chairThere were some major structural problems, rotting wood, etc., that had to be addressed. We found a great carpenter who could help with that. Countertops and cabinets my husband would oversee. I would be the painter and decorator (the fun part!). We got started in the fall of 2009. When we weren’t spending our weekends working feverishly on the Vineyard, I’d be home in Narragansett, RI, reading everything you posted and hunting the consignment shops. I was hooked on mid-century (heck, I AM mid-century!), and your guidance was everything I needed to forge full speed ahead. We wanted it all done by the spring of ’10.

Then in February, the wind went out of our sails. My dear husband was diagnosed with base of tongue cancer, stage 4, and our lives came to a screeching halt. We headed down to Johns Hopkins, in Baltimore, where they have the #1 head/neck cancer center in the world. We decided that we would move to Baltimore during his course of treatment, which began with three induction chemotherapies, with 16 days between each round.We were able to return for about a week between each of these, during which we would go to the Vineyard to resume working on the cottage. We had already removed the kitchen counters to serve as templates for a fabricator in Rhode Island. He had our Formica Boomerang countertops done by March, literally days before they were forced out of business permanently because of the historic Rhode Island floods (and, as we’ve come to learn, months before Formica discontinued that color). We carefully strapped them on the top of our van and drove them to the Vineyard, keeping our fingers crossed that they would fit.

Well, fit they did, and that weekend in March, my husband got them fixed permanently in place, with stainless steel trim and stainless sink to boot. That was the last weekend he would be able to work on the cottage until his cancer treatments were complete. We now had six months in Baltimore to endure, during their hottest summer on record…

hon cafe flamingoNot one to dwell on life’s gloomy side, I looked for more pleasant preoccupations when my role as caregiver wasn’t in play. Combing your site whetted my appetite for all things 50’s, and our apartment was in the Mt. Washington neighborhood of Baltimore – not far from Johns Waters’ stomping grounds of Hampden. Ahhhhhhhh – what wonderful consignment shops lined The Avenue (36th St) there. Just a few miles from the apartment, plenty of parking, and the fabulous Hon Café, with the two story pink flamingo in front, for a cup of tea when my sleuthing was done. I was in 50’s heaven!

car packed fullFast forward through the tough stuff – my dear husband and I weathered something no couple should ever have to go through, and have emerged to the other side to enjoy each day back home in Narragansett, Rhode Island. Our return trip from Baltimore was in a van packed with our belongings and the 50’s treasures I bagged for my cottage (that’s a metal kitchen cabinet with green cracked ice Formica top!).

cottage bathroom painted fire king greenAnd after a month of recuperation, Ted’s strength slowly began to return. We managed to get to the Vineyard several times this fall, so we could begin putting the finishing touches on my cottage and see what my trusty carpenter had been working on.

cottage-kitchenI am now finished with the inside of the cottage, a little over a year from starting, and have outside painting to do when the spring arrives. It will indeed be rentable by June, only one summer behind schedule.

1952 calendar girlI turned to you for most of my sources and inspiration, and for a lighthearted diversion from the most difficult time of our lives. Thank you, Pam!

For more pictures of the renovation, you can take a look here [sorry, link broke – pam]

All the best from a true follower and fan!

Kate Meleney

Wow, Kate. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing your story. The cottage is lovely — what a beautiful place, for beautiful people. 🙂 I really think you have a Hodgson Camp House on your hands. I did post previously on the full-sized Hodgson Houses.… but they also made camp houses and cottages — which bolted together. And, they were made in Massachusetts. Has to be. I have two catalogs. Watch for my post on these — just for you — later this week!

Update: It turns out Kate is some kind of rock star in the bead-world. She didn’t mention THAT to me. Check out her website —, to see more of her beautiful creations.

  1. Esme says:

    Love it!! You put some wonderful details into the job! I have Aqua Boomerang counters but was SO torn between that and the coral colored pattern. The coral is such a great floor and looks great in your house. Love it with the floors.
    Say hello to my friend Dawn if you ever shop at Bunch of Grapes bookstore in MV! (-:

  2. Mariane says:

    I love your photos and story. How inspiring. My house was built in the early 1940’s. I have been looking for the metal around the counter like you have for my kitchen reno but have not been able to find it. Is yours original or new? Where did you find it?

    1. pam kueber says:

      Mariane, I have a very recent post on metal edgings — a “round up” showcasing all the known options. You can see it in the category Kitchens / Countertops.

  3. Jennifer Loepker says:

    I’m almost embarrassed to say my heart was racing while looking at all the pictures – they wouldn’t come fast enough, yet flew by while I was still taking in the details. We are in the process of rebuilding a cottage on the River that was completely gutted by back-to-back floods a few years ago. I got a ’49 Sear gas range from mom and that started the plan…. ’48 Shelvador fridge, Youngstown kitchen cabinet with sink, chrome dinette table…. and boxes and boxes of ‘stuff’ that I can’t wait to start decorating with. Just need to get some walls, plumbing, and floors in. Thank you for all the wonderful ideas. This is going in my favorites so I can go back to it often. When it’s all done I will proudly post my before and afters. Blessings on you and yours.

    1. pam kueber says:

      good luck with everything, jennifer — and yes, take lots of photos and let me know when you’re ready for prime time!

  4. Back again to ask about the carpet under your Mission rocker – it’s a sage green or soft gray textured low pile. Can you tell me the name, color and manufacturer by any chance? Thank you!

    1. Oh Jane, Easy peasy! I bought it at Home Depot and it was a Stainmaster. We’ll see if it lives up to its promises when we have renters putting it through its paces.

      Unlike Lowe’s, they will bind carpet that would otherwise be wall-to-wall. If you need to know the exact pattern, I would be happy to look it up for you.

  5. Patti says:

    Kate the cottage is great! I want to come and rent it! Hard to leave my neck of the woods in the summer, but I’m putting MV on my wish list for summer (2012). Patti

  6. Dot says:

    What a wonderful story and outcome for both the cottage, and especially, your husband. Thanks so much for sharing your story. I loved looking at all the kitchenware (I remember using the handheld crank mixer) and the way you brought everything together. thanks again.

  7. Jackie says:

    Sweet Lord-a-mercy, that is my dream kitchen! And to think that you did all that with a major crisis in your life! You are an inspiration, Kate–in renovating, in jewelry-making, and in living an amazing life.

    1. Thank you so much, Jackie – Sometimes I felt guilty immersing myself in such a fun escape, but it was better than paying for therapy (and heck, I’d rather spend those $’s on kitsch that makes me smile!). And smiling is what it’s all about, after all. Good endorphins in that kitchen!

Comments are closed.