Kitchen design and decorating ideas for a vintage black and white kitchen — Melissa asks our help

vintage-black-and-white-kitchenretro designIn this week’s Retro Design Dilemma, reader Melissa wants our help with ideas to lightly update her 1954 kitchen. She and her husband have just purchased a 1954 mid century modest ranch — which they love. However — the kitchen is in need of some TLC. Although Melissa and her husband don’t mind the current flooring, she says that it is in poor shape and must be replaced. Struggling to decide on a floor replacement — as well as what to do with the walls and counter tops — Melissa contacted us for ideas.

Continue for Melissa’s story –>

vintage-black-and-white-kitchenMelissa writes:

Hi Pam & Kate,

We just purchased a MCModest home. A ranch built in 1954. We fell in love with the house immediately, mostly for the flat roof, the large kitchen,and  the huge basement (with a built-in “love couch nook”!)  I’m looking for some help with the kitchen! (I don’t have to stay in the ’50s era, I just want it to be kind of retro.)

We will be keeping the cabinets white with the black hinges and pulls. Our appliances are black (I’m saving for the black Big Chill fridge). We have a stainless steel topped kitchen table (wooden legs) with white chairs.

1. The floor is in horrible shape and must be replaced. My husband likes the black and white checkered look, but for me its a bit too harsh. Even if we did that we would be better off without a solid color tile because we have 3 big dogs (2 black and 1 white that shed like crazy.) We also would like ceramic tile so the floor won’t be ruined by their combined 275lbs running through the house.  Ideas on floor?

vintage-black-sparkle-laminate2. The countertops are black with gold flecks. Since we have the stainless steel Nutone range hood, and a stainless steel table — I don’t think the gold flecks really go all that well. I was thinking of replacing with stainless steel counter tops. Good idea? or keep the black and gold?


vintage-kitchen-black-and-white3. What the heck do I do with the walls? My husband says a bright dark blue. I have no idea.

vintage-kitchen-soffits4. Do you have any idea what those things are above the kitchen window? Built in speakers? They have been painted over, so we can’t tell until we get in there to paint and unscrew them from the wall.

vintage-kitchen-black-and-white-retroIf you and your readers have any ideas: I’m all ears. Also I know I sent more pics than suggested, the kitchen is so large and interesting with its different level counter tops, I wanted to show you the whole thing.

retro-basement-built-inI also couldn’t pass up showing you the built in love couch nook!

Thanks sooo much!


After Melissa’s initial email,  further research of her own — and moving into the house to live alongside the laminate — Melissa began to rethink replacing the counter tops.

In a subsequent email, Melissa wrote:

Hi Pam and Kate,

I wanted to update you on the fact that now that we have moved in, I have fallen in love with the black laminate with gold flecks and don’t want to change to stainless steel counter tops (#2 on my list). I wish they still made the flecked laminate — as the section next to the sink is very faded (probably from the previous owners leaving a wet towel there when drying dishes). I have searched a bit on the laminate and all everyone talks about is white with gold flecks — is my black with gold flecks rare? Or maybe not from the original owner and put in in the 70’s or 80’s?

Pam confirmed that she believes Melissa’s black laminate with gold flecks is indeed rare — even more so than the coveted white laminate with gold flecks. We also applaud Melissa’s choice to live with the laminate for a while before just ripping it out to avoid any remodeling regrets.

This leaves us to solve the following dilemmas in Melissa’s vintage black and white kitchen.

Let’s help Melissa… Readers, what are your ideas for:

  • What material/color to use on the floor which will stand up to large dogs and hide footprints and fur?
  • What should be done with the walls?
  • What are the things in the soffit above the sink?

Pam’s design and decorating ideas for Melissa’s 1950s kitchen:

retro flooring
Azrock TexTile in “Raw Silk” colorway

Melissa, I love the Azrock Cortina Autumn Haze VCT floor in my kitchen. Several other readers have used it as well – see their kitchens here. Good news, in 2012 Azrock introduced an additional 15 colors. This expanded line is called TexTile — and from looking at the website, I though the “Raw Silk” color would work well in your kitchen. It looks like it has dark charcoal streakies — good to coordinate with your counter tops. Of course, you’ll want to get a sample first.  I find this streaky floor great at hiding dirt. But, it does require maintenance — regular stripping and re-polishing, which I pay to have someone else do. My little dog — Astro, 20 pounds — slips and slides a bit, on occasion. I’m guessing bigger dogs wouldn’t slip and slide as much due to their weight — but I am NO expert on this question. Isn’t ANY kind of floor — except carpet — going to be slip and slide, to some degree, for a dog?

I am also a wallpaper lover. In my three mood boards (fun!) I found both reproduction and vintage wallpapers that had enough “value” — strength of color — to hold their own in our kitchen, considering the graphic boldness of your striking black counter tops — which I LOVE.

Finally, I went to the uploader full of readers’ dinettes to find dinettes that pull the entire look together.

Mixing and matching these ideas — one versatile flooring with an infinite possibility of wallpaper and dinettes — you can achieve quite a wide variety of retro looks.

vintage black white and turquoise kitchenAbove: Mood Board #1 Atomic Doodle:


Above: Mood Board #2, Oh So Charming Red:


Above: Mood Board #3, Inviting Blue and Brown:

Kate’s design and decorating ideas for Melissa’s 1950s kitchen:

white-steel-kitchen-searsThe vintage Sears kitchen catalog that we featured had one illustration that instantly reminded me of Melissa’s great vintage kitchen — which is what inspired me to create my mood board.

vintage-retro-yellow-red-and-blue-kitchenAbove: Mood Board #4, Cheery Cherry Red, Brilliant Blue and Sunny Yellow:

Melissa’s husband had suggested using bright blue on the walls — which Melissa wasn’t sure about. Instead of putting the blue on the walls — this blue Armstrong linoleum flooring would be durable for the dogs as well as hide fur and footprints. Instead of painting the kitchen deep red like the inspiration kitchen — a light buttery yellow lightens the space — while working nicely with the blue floors. To add more color to the room — Melissa could paint some small areas of deep red as shown. Since Melissa’s kitchen has a large window and eat in area similar to the inspiration — these vintage yellow 1950s curtains from ebay seller 954kathys or something similar would work well in that area — as well as pick up some of the other colors in the room. To finish it off a retro dinette set — like reader Jamie_abe’s new, vintage looking red dinette which was featured in our story 23 red dinette sets — vintage kitchen treasures would look retro-tastic and would be easy to track down if Melissa can’t locate a vintage dinette set.

  1. pam kueber says:

    PRECAUTIONARY PAM warns: READERS get your OWN inspectors — properly licensed professionals — to instruct you on how to handle the old layers in your house.

  2. pam kueber says:

    Ahh! May I make a suggestions about paint: Get really really high quality… and I’d tone down the brite white a tad.

  3. tammyCA says:

    What a charming kitchen…I have a serious crush on scallopy trim. Happy that you are loving it all and keeping it…I sure would.
    I’ve never seen black counters with gold specks either…cool & unique. I’m not sure which way to go colorwise. I immediately thought of the gold specks as stars and atomic and how cool one of those ‘flying saucer’ type kitchen lights with the perforation metal would look in there…see Retro’s previous post on the lighting catalog.
    I am also reminded of vintage Pyrex…I know there is black (with white decoration but maybe there is some with gold that would go with the counters… and yellow with black like this one: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Pyrex-casserole-dish-with-lid-2-1-2-Qt-yellow-black-design-/181069647147?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2a28978d2b
    So like others mentioned try looking up Mid century items and see all the colors combos they used. There are a couple Pyrex collector sites to see colors…one day I hope to have some cabinets/shelves to display my growing collection.
    And, think of the swanky swig glasses with black and/or gold designs on them. Can’t wait to see what you decide & to see your after pics!

  4. tammyCA says:

    You have a sweet kitchen…very much my style & colors and I sure envy your original glass fronted cabinets. I have so many pretty, colorful dishes/pottery all hidden from view. 🙁

  5. tammyCA says:

    When we had our old dishwasher taken out and a new one installed the workers tore the sheet vinyl floor and no, they obviously didn’t care so we still have that ugly rip…it is also the worst floor to get clean…I have to use an SOS pad to get the dirt out of the textured design…evil floor.

  6. Joel says:

    I would probably go with a period appropriate and economical traditional composition tile like Armstrong Excelon…. lots of colors at about 75 cents a square foot, plus nice neutrals like greys of many shades, blacks and beiges. It has that terrazo look and is used in hospitals, schools, etc, so it is durable…. needs waxing, but get an electric floor polisher from a thrift store and put on a coat of paste wax and buff it periodically and it will look great. I would get creative with placing the tile and rather than checkerboard, think about doing color or black borders or even custom center of the room insets you can buy. I actually love the red Excelon tile in the right setting.

  7. Chase says:

    That Fritztile looks very interesting… I really like the look of it.

    Paint-wise, I always thought that a minty green always paired well with white and black. Think Jadeite dinnerware. I know Kate used a very light version when she painted her kitchen, and we all know that it turned out well!

  8. Zoe says:

    Oh please PLEASE look into linoleum/marmoleum. I think it would hold up, though you do need to seal it at least annually. It is so much better for the environment than any of the VCT products!!! I try not to preach too much because I know how boring it is, but I really think that vinyl products are the devil’s instruments. No one needs vinyl.

    I know that linoleum is used in many commercial environments including hospitals, so I cannot imagine that it is unsuited to residential kitchens, with or without dogs. You can either do a two-tone linoleum tile floor (I personally love yellow and white tile together with white and black cabinets!), or you can go with linoleum roll if you are okay with a single solid color. They have so many great colors to choose from! I’d go with something in the warm family, maybe the Autumn Fire (if that’s the correct name — don’t have it handy, sorry)?

  9. Janet in CT says:

    AARGH! We had a power failure yesterday until dinnertime so I could not join you or even watch this live; this subject was right up my alley! We are looking to buy a ’58 ranch right now and the kitchen is pretty much original, with that plastic tile with black trim all around, and the birch cabinets and original countertop, all in really nice condition. But they did put an ugly floor down in the seventies. We plan to rip it up and do linoleum of some sort, like in that Hitchcock set. I kind of like the random look. We suspect there is asbestos underneath that which hopefully isn’t too worn to cover over. This was great and I got alot of ideas so thanks to all for the suggestions and links to various products I may well have use for.

  10. Janet in CT says:

    As many of you realize by now, I love vintage appliances. Just wanted to comment that the space shown has to be for a larger range, but be careful with that space allowance. Alot of the earlier ones, specifically GE, were 39″ wide for some strange reason. Later on they went to 40″, or at least GE did, and I remember my father selling newer ones that often turned out to be one inch wider than the cabinet space allowed. Either it came back and they went with a 30″ and a large 9″ hole left over, or they had to redo the cabinets so it would fit. An awful lot of the earlier kitchens had the 39/40 inch stoves, which I think were slowly being replaced in the late fifties by the smaller now standard 30″ one. So anyone replacing that stove, make sure and measure. If Sears is making a 39″ wide one, kudos to them for making this size available again. I personally love the colored ones from the fifties and early sixties and would love to find one for my house. And the fridges could be a problem too. New ones are way too deep to look right and even the old ones varied. Some 24/25 inch deep ones were around back then, but even some of them were very deep and don’t fit in some of the spaces. The forties house I am in now is a problem because the fridge is in the corner by the door, and it was difficult finding a new one that wasn’t too deep for the door to open properly. So I think I am going to look for a fifties fridge for my new old house too, and keep a bigger fridge in the basement for stuff that won’t fit in the old one. But finding a left hand door pink or turquoise one is going to be a problem!

  11. pam kueber says:

    I agree – not sure paste wax is what you’re supposed to use. But yes, polish it with the recommended polishes.

  12. Katie says:

    I’d go with yellow for the walls, and maybe blue for the floor. I recall seeing a kitchen from a ad that had that color combination, and it looked really cool. As a side note, the EPA has information about asbestos tiles and how to deal with them on their website.

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