Dita Von Teese’s kitchen on a budget — Candace wants our ideas


Hey, Candace!
Candace channeling the Marilyn, too!

DesignDilemmaIs it possible to create a flirty kitchen worth of Dita Von Teese — in a rental apartment? In this week’s Retro Design Dilemma, reader Candace asks us to help her make her basic brown kitchen feel a little more feminine and — yes, retro-sexy. To give us an idea of the look she wants, Candace pointed to burlesque star Dita Von Teese’s retro kitchen (go look online readers, we don’t have photos to post here). Well, hello, pink! Of course, paint would be ‘most anyone’s first idea to begin to channel the Dita. Alas, Candace is in a rental, and the landlord will not allow her to paint the cabinets or the walls. So, we need to recommend creative decorating ideas that she can remove easily.

It’s time to play decorator, readers — what do you recommend to spice up Candace’s kitchen in pretty pin-up girl style — on a budget, no pink paint in sight? Continue on for Candace’s quandary –>


galley-kitchen-with-eat-in-areaCandace writes:

I was referred to you by your Facebook page. So here is my dilemma. I absolutely love Dita Von Teese’s kitchen — if you’ve seen it, that’s what I’m going for. This is just an idea that I have, but I am open to suggestions. Unfortunately, I can’t paint the the cabinets. I’m hoping that I can tape or nail in a design — for example, diamond shapes. I want something that would last long —  something that I could buy and/or reuse over and over again. I want the kitchen to be in pastel colors… I can’t wait to see what ideas you have.


galley-kitchen-stove eat-in-area-in-galley-kitchenIt’s nice that Candace has a large dining area on one end of her galley kitchen — with plenty of room for a table and chairs. She also has a fun pass-through in the kitchen — peeking into the living room — where she can place a collection of decorative objects. It’s challenging that no paint can be applied, but I think that with readers’ help, we are up to the challenge to suggest ideas to emulate the feminine, flirty vintage feel of Dita Von Teese’s kitchen <– see it here.

Readers — what would you do to add some Dita Von Teese sugar and spice to this rental kitchen?

Posies and polka dots pink and black vintage kitchenPams mood board for a Dita Von Teese kitchen — Posies and Polka Dots

1.  Vintage pink club aluminum dutch oven — Ebay seller r-great-stuff

2.  Pink KitchenAid mixer — Amazon.com

3.  Jessie Steele pink polka dot apron — Layla Grayce

4.  Ticking stripes tailored valance in pink — Country Curtains

5. Vintage metal Tole Dome chandelier embedded Crystal shade light from lampdoctor32 on Ebay 

6.  Vintage head vase with original plastic flowers — from Ebay seller 2010hamjam79

7.  Pink ceramic lady head vase from Ebay seller iisiss

8.  Vintage pink dinette set — reader Wendy’s from the uploader 

9.  Geometric Floorcloth — CanvasWorks (other options are this wool runner on sale at RugStudio or one of these black and white runners at FoFlor.com). Or, you could paint your own faux “linoleum rug” — reader Lauren shows us hers, and we also link to several online tutorials.

Sweet and Saucy pink and black kitchen mood boardKate’s mood board for a Dita Von Teese: Saucy and Sweet

1.  Pink KitchenAid Mixer — Amazon.com

2.  Vintage Martex kitchen towel — Etsy seller fuzzandfu

3.  Pink Hostess Vintage-Inspired Apron [link now gone] — Sur la Table

4.  Pink Vintage Boudoir Slippers — Etsy seller SusanHaywardVintage

5.  Pinwheel Pink Fabric Blended Accent Rugs (2×3 and 5×8) — Overstock.com

6.  Vintage Pink domed glass ceiling light fixture — Etsy seller ivorybird

7.  Too Cool for School Retro Modern Wall Clock — Amazon.com

8.  Park B. Smith vintage inspired window valance [product no longer available/link gone] — Macy’s

9.  Vintage pink dinette set — reader Laurie’s from our uploader

In addition to our mood boards — Pam asked her friend Margaret from AWayToGarden.com about the pretty pinky plant that Dita keeps on her windowsill. Margaret’s response:

Caladium. Not really a houseplant — it is an “annual” up North, grown from bulb-like tubers, and can be used in shady pots or the shady garden beds. Down South it can grow in the ground.

Head over to Caladium World to see their pink illusion Caladium, which looks like a pretty close match to the variety on Dita’s windowsill. Adding this bit of “greenery” or “pinkery” if you want to call it that to Candace’s ledge in her pass through would be one more way to make her kitchen a little more like Dita’s.


Finally, Hannah is a super-reader who continually researches terrific etsy finds and gathers them for us to ogle and maybe even buy. Coincidentally, she just told Pam about her latest treasury — pink kitchen finds, above. Click the photo to see that treasury, or click here to see all of Hannah’s etsy treasuries, curated with Retro Renovation readers in mind. Thank you, Hannah!

  1. Joe Felice says:

    Who can forget Club Aluminum? I remember my mom’s saving up so she could buy the complete set back in the late ’50s–in avocado, no less! Then we found out it caused Alzheimer’s. But another ubiquitous item was the West Bend electric griddle. People used to store them on top of the cabinets when not in use. They had the little glass container to collect the grease after cooking bacon. My dad used it to make pancakes every Sunday morning–back when the entire family used to eat breakfast together.

  2. Sandra says:

    My mother’s kitchen has too much dark wood, too. I had the idea of taking some nice placemats of colored bamboo, and fitting them into the framed inset of each door (hers were rectangular).

    These would require more cutting to fit, but you could find a nice wallpaper and cut some inserts to double-stick on (not sure how safe it is to use spray adhesive or maybe rubber cement), for inset in the centers of each cabinet door. Cheap to replace when dirty, so no worries about spills or fingerprints. You could even change them by season.

    It might help to paper over a piece of cardstock and stick that on.

  3. Mary Elizabeth says:

    You look like a student or a young professional, and I think you really want to do this on the cheap. So here’s my ideas from my single days (1) I couldn’t help but notice the soffits all around the kitchen and the large wall area in the eating area.You also have a nice area above the stove for hanging things. You can get plate hangers at Bed Bath and Beyond and a few other places and put up a collection of tag sale, Goodwill, and Home Goods pink plates in different designs. Some of them could even be Melmac patterns! Also, set your table with mismatched china in 50s patterns, keeping the pink and black and white theme. (2) If you can’t afford a pink retro chrome kitchen set, paint a Goodwill table and random wooden chairs pink with black legs. (3) Look at antique shows and little retro shops (and online) for those old fashioned ssquare tablecloths with a pink and black border design, and put it on the table at a katty-corner angle.–I used to have one with dogwood and another one with Parisian scenes, but I gave them up to my friend’s daughter when she set up her first apartment. But they are still out there, even on Etsy and eBay. (4) I liked the canister set idea several people mentioned. Keep your eyes peeled for a pink pig cookie jar. Wish you had been with me when I saw one at Goodwill in Connecticut, but I bet they come up all the time on line. (5) One of the easiest things to put up and remove is a prepasted vinyl border in whatever design you like. Don’t try to do everything at once, but make your weekends about tag sales. Enjoy the process of putting together your glam kitchen as much as living in it when it’s done.

  4. Mrs. FMV says:

    My first thought is…. the landlord should PAY HER to paint those cabinets. They are in desperate need of some sort of updating. I’m sure the next tenant will appreciate it. Maybe she could draw up a little proposal of what they will look like after her make over. Maybe the landlord will see that she is actually improving the space.. at no cost to the landlord. Otherwise she might try decorating the fronts with contact paper or contact paper cut into fun shapes like boomerangs, poodle silhouette, long thin diamonds etc. Perhaps she could even unhinge the cabinet doors and wrap in fabric or colorful vinyl fabric (easy to wipe clean). Then of course add whatever accessories, furniture and vintage small appliances.

  5. generaldine says:

    I think we all agree on the fact that pink and brown go well together. I love the comment about vanilla-choco-strawberry Ice cream! 🙂

    The mood boards are nice, like always… but how can you say “Dita von Teese’s kitchen on BUDGET” when you suggest retro dinette and KitchenAid mixer??? I was expecting more tips about giving a retro touch without spending to much. Like instead of a nice retro pink dinette, going for pink chair cushions to pimp normal chairs.

    And for the cabinets and walls, I’ve been using those for years: http://www.wallpops.com/wall-pops.aspx

    I moved them in 3 apartments and they are still good!

    Change the pulls of the cabinets. And use retro postcards or retro style pinup calendar.

    And of course, cute rugs and curtains will smooth the brown!

    1. Candace says:

      That’s so cool! I love it! I’m thinking about white dinette set with sapphire blue chairs and silver crushed chairs around the dinette table with maybe pink flowers on top and and maybe black and white checkered vinyl floor tiles.

    2. pam kueber says:

      Yes, you are right. I was thinking about this last night. Kate found her dinette for $165 — and vintage mixers can be found — so it is “possible” to get these items for less, if you are willing to invest the time to search.. We also talk about making your own “faux linoleum rug”, or watching for rugs at thrift stores, and also, ways to avoid having to buy relatively-expensive removable wallpaper. Overall, our point is: If you are going to spend some money, do it over time, by acquiring beloved collectibles that can move with you to the next place. But yes, your point is well taken –some of the items we should could get spendy…. Also, I like your ideas! Another twist on your idea to add pink cushions to existing chairs would be: If you already have a dinette, and it’s wood, paint the dinette. Thanks for your reality-check comment, Geraldine!

  6. Scott says:

    It’s a challenging project, but that just means you have to be more creative. 🙂

    On Painting. Depending on how long you are planning to be there, a trick I’ve used in the past is you can probably get permission to paint the walls IF you agree to restore them to the present color when you move. In fact, you can even sell it as an incentive to the landlord, they won’t need to repaint after you move as you will have already done that. You get to enjoy pink walls while you are there, they save time and money on getting the apartment ready to rent again after you move.

    Light Bulbs… they don’t put off as nearly as much light, but a pink GE Party or Stained Glass bulb in your dome fixture will make an amazing transformation at night, the entire space will have a delightful pink or pastel glow. The bulbs themselves look really garish but here is what the stained glass light looks like installed in a fixture.


    Accessories will really turn back the clock. Clear the counters and stock up on chrome! Nice examples of Lincoln Beautyware can be had for very reasonable prices, cake plates, kitchen canisters, combination paper towel/foil/wax paper holders. Pink/chrome variations exist too. The nice little space as you enter the kitchen would be a great place to park a pink Cosco stepstool or serving cart… I was able to find nice examples of both in red for less than the asking price for the repro stepstools.

    Most of all just have fun with it!

  7. Candace says:

    So I FINALLY read through all the comments and links oh my gosh! Thank you so much! The pink and brown aprons, and sorry I can’t remember who posted this link: http://offbeathome.com/2011/08/color-kitchen-cabinets but that is a great idea! I was thinking maybe having it pink pastels with a flower in the middle or pink and brown polka dots inside and outside the border. I’m so excited! My head is spinning with so much help from you all, now I have to sort everything out and visualize how I want this to look. Once I’m finished with the kitchen the rest of the apartment will scream retro. Except for my bedroom, I’m going to make that Victorian 🙂 Thank you all! <3

  8. Melody says:

    Dita’s kitchen is pink AND yellow, so don’t forget to integrate this color, too, because it will work beautifully with your existing brown cabinets! I don’t know what your budget is, so I’m going to lean towards inexpensive and you can splurge more where you’re able. Here’s what I’d do. Remove the cabinet doors on either side of your range hood, cover the backs of this inside exposed area with the pale yellow seen on Dita’s counters and walls (perhaps a painted piece of posterboard stapled up?), and use these two areas to display pretty pink things like mixing bowls and also vintage cookbooks. For the rest of your upper cabs, find something pink for the door fronts (wallpaper, contact paper, or even painted posterboard), like others have suggested, and for at least SOME of your bottom cabinets, especially those under the sink, remove the doors and use a tension rod with tier/cafe curtains in either solid pink or a pink/yellow pattern (in a matching or coordinating pattern to the valance you will use on the window). If it seems the window is too far away from the kitchen, I’d even throw the valance up on a tension rod in the doorway to bring the color closer. Adhesive pink covers for the range front, dishwasher, and fridge doors would help a lot towards removing the earth tones and bringing in the pastels. For the soffits over the cabinets, could you buy a roll of paintable wallpaper, paint it yellow (because you will have a lot of pink), cut it to fit and staple it up there instead of applying it wet? A dab of paint on the staples would hide most sins. I agree that the lady head vases would be perfect for your pass-through, and I think a large canvas art piece or even a framed poster using pink, yellow, black and a vintage theme, would be gorgeous over the sink — I just bet you could get a 24×36″ up there and make a big fat statement. If you change a light fixture out (if your landlord will allow that), do the one over the kitchen sink. If it’s not allowed, get a little floral chandelier (maybe a candelier?) and hang it over the sink all the same. Perhaps get some Homco or Syroco floral wall art or sconces, and spray paint them in aqua or jade green (colors I notice Ms. Von Teese has for accents) to bring in that sculptured floral look while adding color and a vintage accent. A nice scrolly piece of ironwork would be pretty over that back doorway to give that wall some oomph and tie into black/white checkerboard (look at Hobby Lobby). I love the idea of a black/white checkerboard rug with a pink/chrome vintage looking dinette set in your eating area, and here’s my final tip: you might consider going to the dollar store and looking for faux greenery that resembles her pink/green caladium, because it would go a long way towards softening all the square, hard edges if you had it cascading out of a few areas (such as in the display cabinets, over a shelf edge where you have your mixing bowls, or in an arrangement on the table, etc).

    1. pam kueber says:

      Note, I think that when I looked closely, the soffits have popcorn ceiling on them — so they couldn’t be temp-wallpapered. There are vertical walls that could take it, though.

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