Timeless retro cottage kitchen design ideas — and other terrific interiors — from the Carmel Cottage Inn

red white checkerboard floorOh my goodness: The four kitchens among the five little cottages that comprise the delightful Carmel Cottage Inn are not only charming — but they are chock full of timeless kitchen design ideas — several of them quite affordable. Yes, I would call these interiors “cottage style” — a style that is hugely popular in the U.S. and has been for decades. So cheery and comfortable! But, these houses also have many classic elements of simple ranch style that carried over to mid-century houses. When Cheryl, the owner of the Carmel Cottage Inn, remodeled and redecorated, she kept the look pretty simple… pretty “humble”… but with carefully selected, high-impact $plurges… all in line with the vintage style of the original architecture.  Let’s see some more terrific design ideas from the five renovated cottages at the Carmel Cottage Inn:

When I first wrote to Cheryl, I was admiring this first kitchen, shown above — with its classic Early American style black wrought iron strap hardware. I also asked her for a few sentences on the designs.

Cheryl told me:

We purchased the five vintage cottages (ca. 1910-1941) and restored them as full time vacation rentals with the emphasis on comfort and cottage experience. We wanted them to feel like they should have always looked this way, so we took out the 1989 kitchens in the two largest houses and copied the original cabinetry from the smaller cottages. We love our retro appliances, so do our guests. We have actually heard people squealing with delight when they find them in the kitchen.

Four colors of checkerboard floors:

white green kitchenIn one story, we get four varieties of checkerboard floors! These floors work really really well as part of Cheryl’s harmonious, graphical design. We get a lot of folks here on the blog interested in doing checkerboard floos. Here’s my design-analysis breakdown of why Cheryl’s design turned out so great:

  • She has kept her palette simple — checkerboard-color+white floor, white cabinetry and one other punch of color. In this case, the pastel punch comes from the Big Chill appliances, which because of Cheryl’s design restraint, stand out like works of art… almost like color blocking. And hey, if you’re gonna buy Big Chill appliances — which are expensive — you’re going to want to make sure they shine!
  • (2) The dashes of black — in wrought iron hardware, the appliances and liner tile — complement the strong graphical nature of the checkerboard… and keep your eye moving around the room.
  • (3) The small checkerboard pattern curtains repeat the check motif, but smaller.
  • (4) Take 1-2-3 together, and this is very “graphical” kitchen — carefully edited to work with the dominant graphic element, the checkerboard floors. Warning: Put too many colors, too many “busy” “competing” design features in a kitchen with a checkerboard floor, and you risk design chaos.
  • Dashes of creamy beige (the counter tops are Corian) and the wood tones warm the space up.
  • Cheryl repeats this formula kitchen to kitchen — which provides harmony within her inn and her brand:

early american kitchenNotice how the backsplash is one with very inexpensive white  4″x4″, 6″x6″ and black liner tiles:

big chill stove

backsplash tileThis backsplash done all with inexpensive stock tiles: Brilliant design idea for humble retro kitchens!

cottage kitchen


Resource list for the Carmel Cottage Inn kitchens:

Other beautiful design details from the Carmel Cottage Inn:

wagon wheel lightWagon wheel chandelier — hurray! And, it looks like a super nice one. Cheryl told me, “I had been looking for a wagon wheel light. This was a gift from our electrician, Scott Eagle.”

And notice the Dutch door on the far right. 🙂
wagon wheel pendantTo coordinate with the wagon wheel chandelier, a pendant. Beautifully done! People, you can get these things CHEAP on ebay!

braided rugLikewise, I am a huge fan of braided rugs. So pretty… versatile… affordable… durable… retro!  Cheryl said hers came from Yankee Sturbridge Workshop. I also recommend you check Thorndike Mills, Capel, and vintage (abundant! — demonstrating just how durable these are.)


The fireplaces are spectacular and, again, the decorating is restrained to spotlight them as if they were works of art. Which they are!

attic renovationThe attic renovation is lovely.

tile counter top bathroom vanitySimple tile used on this bathroom vanity.

storybook ranchLovely hardscaping and gardens for this little storybook ranch house.

cottage styleNotice the shakes on the cottage — both siding and roof. But, the house also has wide clapboards. This mixing of siding materials was common on small ranch and cape cod houses in midcentury America to add visual detail. Vertical batten boards also were used in the mix. BUT no narrow clapboards, please! Use the fat ones. 8″? I’m not sure. Can someone measure? (I have brick.)

curb appealAt first I thought this roofing was real cedar shake. But, no. Cheryl told me it was composite, Landmark by CertainTeed.

If I hit the lottery, I am going to get a cedar shake roof. Still, hers looks pretty darn nice!

balconyAnd, when we hit the jackpot, we will expand into the attic — and carve out a bit for a balcony, where we will also put our telescope. Thank you, Cheryl, for permission to show all these wonderful photos of your place — gorgeous, and so many great design tips here! Next time I’m out thatta way, I’m coming to stay for sure! xoxo

Link love:

  1. Deborah says:

    These pictures sold me on the idea of vct on the floor. That’s what I’ll do with my kitchen and bathroom. Nice thing is, done I’m a pay-as-I-go type the relative inexpense puts the project into a reasonable reach.

    Home Depot has similarly styled cabinet hardware in black coated steel at a ridiculously inexpensive price. It looks just like the original hardware in my friend’s perfectly preserved ’53 ranch.

  2. Vicki says:

    I was to use VCT in the kitchen workroom of my very old house. Presently there is rather ugly vinyl which has a black and while checkerboard pattern. The white is designed to look like marble but it really misses the mark. I want a different design perhaps to go with aqua. Any suggestions?

  3. Just want to comment on care for the vinyl composition tiles that are used to make the classic checkerboard patterns. We love this floor. It is durable and versatile with a great color line. Make it easy to care for with a beginning two or three coats of Armstrong Shinekeeper. Use Armstrong Once and Done as a cleaner and you will not remove the finish as you wash. Add another coat of finish when you notice that it is picking up scuffs.This floor will last for years, and is one of the great values in flooring.

  4. tammyCA says:

    Gosh, I love these! This is the type of place I would choose to stay & it’s very much my style. That attic room with all the windows…wow! I’ve only been to Carmel Valley years ago but it was lovely.

  5. LibbyK says:

    We put CVT (Cloudburst) in our bathroom and the same for the laundry area. We’re working on a color design for our kitchen…we want CVT because the rest of the house is the original maple hardwood floor…our house is over 100 years old. Thanks for sharing!!!

  6. It’s interesting to see this because we are contemplating a checkerboard floor for our kitchen. I’m still not sure I dare commit to it. I’m worried I’ll be sick of it after a number of years, but we plan to stay in our house a good long time. I liked the ivory and light blue–it seems it might be less overwhelming than the black and white.

  7. Chaucea says:

    Gah!! The green fridge and stove are way beyond awesome. What a fantastic color! 😀

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