Sarah’s “super economical” retro kitchen remodel featuring salvaged vintage wood cabinets

retro kitchen woodsarah-croppedSarah loved the vintage charm of the original kitchen in her 1950 mid century modest home, but after years of service it was looking tired and worn. An avid cook and writer of the food blog Undercover Caterer, she wanted to maintain the charm — but add function and freshness. too. Starting with vintage cabinets found at her Re-Use Store, she was able to create a well organized, new-old kitchen that looks like it’s always been there and which will last another 50 years. Yummy “after” photos — including the one above — by Chantel Elder of Eleakis & Elder Photography.

colorful-mid-century-kitchenSarah writes:

Hi Pam and Kate!

We re-did our kitchen about 1 1/2 years ago.  My house was built in 1950 and is a classic mid-century modest home. When we came to tour this house, I knew it was ‘the one’ when I saw the original details in the living room, the pink powder room and the coral laminate counter tops.  After living here for nearly 10 years, I knew what had to be done in the kitchen.  There just wasn’t enough storage or work space!  Luckily I stumbled upon a giant cache of cabinets at the local Re-Use Store and I snapped several truckloads of them up.  All for $200.  I was able to use most in the kitchen, some in the pantry, and I have a few more that will be used in the bathroom when that eventually gets its makeover.  Everything else was done super economically, but without sparing attention to detail.


vintage-kitchen-beforeCute, but aging badly.  Not enough workspace — we had to use restaurant shelving, but it always looked so cluttered!  As you can see, none of the cabinets doors would stay shut either.  Excellent coral squiggle laminate, that sadly, was too far gone.

vintage-kitchen-before-remodel Also:  NO EXHAUST FAN.  So gross.  Everything got greasy, then dusty, no matter how much I cleaned.


retro-laminate-backsplashDream kitchen!  New-to-me cupboards, courtesy of the Re-Use Store.  They were taken out of Beale Air Force Base housing, so there were A LOT — I got to choose how many I wanted.  On the other side of the window/wall there is another bank of cabinets and a counter that I use for prep and pantry.  Great for parties too when people are gathered around the bar and hi-fi.

mid-century-exhaust-fanI also found wall-mount exhaust fan at Re-Use Store–what a difference that makes.

mid-century-kitchenThe paint color is the exact color of my old laminate counter top. Since I could no longer get the coral boomerang, I transferred the color to the wall (I took a chip to Home Depot and they matched it for me).  Cheery!

mid-century-kitchen-cabinetsThe fridge is a counter-depth from Samsung. Much less expensive than the Fisher Paykel, and it has an ice maker (the FP did not).  We like it a lot.

dishmaster-sinkdishmaster vintage faceplateWe kept the sink and hudee ring we already had, but added a Dishmaster — and later I was able to get one of the vintage faceplates after they were featured on RR.  If you are wondering what that bright circle on the ceiling is, it’s a solar tube.  I put in two.  They let in a lot of natural light we were missing since the previous owners built the rec room onto the back of the house.  There is only one small window on the far end of the kitchen. There are lights inside of them too, in case we need extra light for something.

butcher-block-counter-topsI have been writing a food blog since 2008, and have written about food for a couple of local publications, so obviously my kitchen is USED.

retro-cabinet-built-insvintage-coffee-potIt is so much more functional now,  I did write a blog post about the kitchen:  My kitchen, unveiled. Finally.

retro-spice-cabinetretro-kitchen-shelvesAnyway, I hope you like it–I just love it!

(Pink bathroom make-over to come!  I’ve already found the Venetian pink toilet and sink that match my tiles!)

Sarah’s resource list for her retro kitchen remodel

Sarah, you did a fabulous job sourcing and reusing vintage materials and maintaining the kitchen’s vintage appeal, while at the same time enhancing the function of the space. Bravo. I’m in love with the color palette — coral, teal, white and warm wood are just gorgeous together — and the dark flooring really makes the whole thing pop. Kudos to you on a job well done, and thank you so much for sharing your remodeling story with all of us! We can’t wait to see how your bathroom turns out.

Link love:

    1. pam kueber says:

      Kyle, the floor tile info is included in the Resource List toward the end of the story.

  1. mariegamalski@icloud.com says:

    Kudos Sarah on a job well done!!! So refreshing to see a reno done so creatively without breaking the bank. My husband and I have, over the years completely redone our condo on a strict budget by thinking creatively and just going for it!…. Our motto has always been how bad can we mess this up?? It’s horrible now so worst case we just start over. Recycle centers have been our friend as long as u shop with a critical eye, there’s stylish bargains to be had. Again, congrats and great job!!

    1. pam kueber says:


      These types of fans are still available today from Nutone. In addition we have a great source for NOS vintage covers. Use the Search box to find our stories. Or, they may be under Kitchen Help / Accessories.

  2. Bronwyn Jamrok says:

    Oh!! Firstly–I love it. Especially the blue countertops.

    Secondly–I lived at Beale AFB in the 80s–I remember those cabinets! You could have my old kitchen in there 🙂 !! I heard they were demolishing our old neighborhood which made me sad as it was where I learned to ride my bike and run wild and free with the neighborhood kids. I’m so happy to see at least a little bit of it sticking around.

      1. Bronwyn Jamrok says:

        Hi!! Kids keeping me busy, but I still sneak in here when I can. So glad you keep me in the loop with the weekly email. Keep it up, Pam!

  3. Nicole Oliveira says:

    I LOVE your new remodeled kitchen! I was wondering how you are liking your new Dishmaster? We are remodeling our kitchen from water damage we had. I really want to get a Dishmaster but I read one review that said the handles and plate are made of plastic and is corroding and chipping. Also wondering if it an adjustment going from a single handle hot and cold control to a double. Any insight from Dishmaster owners would be great!

    1. Bronwyn Jamrok says:

      I have a Dishmaster and I bought the one with the single handle because I knew separate hot/cold handles would drive me crazy for doing dishes. I’ve had it for 5 years now and it is in great shape. No complaints at all. The handles are metal on mine. No chipping or corroding.

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