Flooring and countertops for Shannan’s 1950s kitchen

retro kitchen warm cool color mixDesignDilemmaReader Shannan and her husband are in the midst of stripping paint from their original wood cabinets.  Shannan’s dilemma: She has asked for our advice on flooring, countertops and paint to complement the lovely woodtones, copper accents and aqua appliances. Bring on your ideas, readers — and Pam and I will be back at noon with our thoughts and some mood boards.

retro kitchenretro kitchenShannan writes:

My husband and I peruse your site regularly for restoration ideas. We bought our 1959 ranch in 2013. We knew right away that this was the one. It was the most intact 50’s ranch we found. Most of them have been torn apart. We have painted every wall in the house and replaced the flooring. It was all carpeted, and we wanted something different. We are sticking to period appropriate flooring. We choose cork flooring for the bedrooms. We are in the process of replacing the carpet with red oak hardwood floors in the living room.

retro bathroom
Shannan’s pink bathroom.

We even have a PINK bathroom upstairs. Still need a little work accessorizing, but that just takes time. We still have A LOT to do, but it will all come in time and money!

vintage-kitchen-tableHere are some photos of what our kitchen looks like now. As you can see, it needs some help. We started two summers ago stripping the paint off our kitchen cabinets! We didn’t realize how much work it was and how little time we actually have…. So that project came to a halt. This winter we will be restoring our kitchen with period appropriate flooring and refinishing our birch cabinets, having a contractor come in early in the year to do the whole kitchen for us. Our plans in our kitchen ‘retro restoration’ include stripping cabinets and adding drawer glides and cabinet pull outs.


Also, we are trying to think of a way to better utilize the corner. A new boomerang countertop from Heffrons in Glacier is going to be installed. We are going with a neutral countertop color, because this summer I was lucky enough to find the turquoise cooktop to match the oven!

I have been struggling with a floor pattern. We know we want a VCT floor but are not sure of the color scheme. It needs to complement the original hotpoint turquoise oven and copper backsplash. This where we need some help. We definitely want to go with a VCT that won’t clash with the copper backsplash. We will replace the fridge at a later time. Any recommendations would be helpful too.

I asked Shannon — which Glacier laminate was she contemplating? The grey and white or the turquoise? Her response:

I guess we are still trying to decide between the two for the laminate countertop. I assume we will be putting metal banding too around the edges. Also need some help with a paint color for the contrasting picture window. Or any other paint options you may have in mind. I was looking some old posts of kitchen remodels last night and found one I really like:

vintage lighting vintage lighting

I also attached some pictures of some of our vintage copper light fixtures.

vintage-sparkle-laminateThen, Pam and I noticed the GOLD SPARKLE LAMINATE countertop that Shannan currently has — the envy of many a Retro Renovator — and wondered why she was replacing it. Was it in bad shape? Shannan replied:

Yes, it is in terrible shape. Do you know of a way to clean it? There are some pretty gross stains on it. It’s not so sparkly anymore. 🙁

Okay, readers — Shannan needs your suggestions for what flooring, countertops, refrigerator and paint to use in her retro kitchen restoration. What do you think?

Pam and Kate respond:

First — Can you love the laminate you have?

sparkle laminatevintage-Wilsonart-White-gold-satelliteBefore we get into the possible solutions, Pam and I both wanted to drive home the point that fundamentally, we love the gold sparkle laminate countertop that Shannan already has. She says it is stained and not in good shape, but … it’s so desirable, can she live with any imperfections? When Pam and I were discussing the solutions for Shannan, we both agreed that if it were available today, gold sparkle laminate would be the perfect solution for Shannan’s countertops — that was before we realized they already were gold sparkle. See our story on Formica’s recommendations for six products to clean laminate. Of it that fails, perhaps cover the stained area with a drop in cutting board or trivet with hudee ring from Vance Industries?

All that said, we did consider replacement options…. on to our suggestions…

Some fundamental thoughts: Mixing warm and cold can be tricky

Pam here now. I had a tough time with this one — as I did in my own, turquoise-cabinet kitchen. The reason: Your aqua stove is a “cool” color. Your cabinets, cabinet hardware, backsplash, lighting and current countertop: “warm.” I think that getting warn and cool colors to harmonize — especially when you are dealing with very large swaths — such as the mass of cabinets and how they combine with the mass of floor — is tricky.

I drove Kate a little nuts making mood boards to try and begin to assess how to balance warm vs. cool colors. For sure, I would get all the samples, put them in my space and torture myself and DH for a good long time, before I made a final decision.

Here you go:

Option 1a: Cool Glacier countertop, Cool Raw Silk floorretro kitchen


This option is Kate’s favorite. It would make for a light feeling kitchen with the light flooring, white and grey countertops and white refrigerator. Making the wall turquoise would add color to the space along with the vintage aqua appliances that Shannan already has. The cabinets and copper backsplash and light fixtures help warm up the space. Shannan could also add a few more pops of orange or pale yellow to bring more visual warmth to the room.

Option 1b: Cool Glacier countertop, Warm Autumn Haze floor 

retro kitchen


See how the warm floor and the cool countertop are competing, compared to 1a? Pammy no likey.

*Ugh. After doing all the work on these mood boards, we discovered that Azrock Cortina Autumn Haze has been discontinued. However, there are other colors in the new(ish) Azrock TexTile line that are good substitutes, so we’ll continue as planned…

retro kitchen with wood cabinets and azrock cortina autumn haze vct flooring
Azrock Cortina Autumn Haze in reader Julie’s kitchen — wood cabinets, aqua dishwasher. Uploaded to our story about finishing longterm projects.

But, I like the warm floor with the warm cabinets.

Option 2: Cool turquoise Glacier countertop, Warm Autumn Haze floor

retro kitchen


Even though the countertop is still technically cool, Pammy likey better, because there’s more color in the countertop — the aqua — and for some reason, that helps.

YES: In this kitchen, Pam loves the idea of stainless steel edging. It will look great.

Option 3a: Cool Charcoal countertop, Cool Raw Silk floor

retro kitchenAbove:

Pam is liking the charcoal Formica. The darkness is picking up on the blackhandles etc. of the stove.

Option 3b: Cool charcoal countertop, Warm Autumn Haze floor

retro kitchen

Bradbury and Bradbury’s Atomic Doodle wallpaper, in turquoise, could look great on the soffits and back wll of this kitchen!


To ensure an all-brown/beige interior does not look too drab, (1) be sure the space is well lit and (2) add pops of a well saturaged cool color as an accent.

Option 4: Warm butterscotch countertop, warm Autumn Haze floor

retro kitchen


Those butterscotch boomies look great with wood cabinet, but we’re not so sure when your appliances are aqua.

Option 5: Cool solid aqua countertop, cool Raw Silk floor

vintage retro kitchen


A solid countertop aqua could look good.

Option 6: Cool solid aqua countertop, warm Autumn Haze floorretro kitchenatomic-doodle-in-turquoise-250.jpgAbove:

  • White GE Artistry refrigerator
  • Abet Laminati laminate in Azzuro Mary (or coordinating aqua color, get samples to be sure) — like Betty Crafter’s kitchen
  • Azrock Cortina VCT floor in Autumn Haze — Haze — like in Pam’s kitchen
  • Paint — light yellow to bring more warmth to the space …
  • Or.Pam says, this one would look good with the Bradbury Atomic Doodle wallpaper, too. She says that this is also a favorite combo — because like the charcoal countertop, the aqua countertop reads like a new graphical element — and is a stock/deco paper (vs. special order/digital print) laminate.

Paired with the warm floor.

retro kitchen warm cool color mix
So there you go, Shannan. We bet that helped. Or confused you more. Which?

What do you think of these mood boards, readers?
Which would you choose?
Go “all warm” — or okay to add “cool” countertop and/or floor?

  1. Jeannette Grove says:

    Bar keepers friend, in the can, keeps our glitter laminate counter tops looking great!

  2. Lizzy says:

    Mixing up too much warm and cool gets too complicated – the cabinets are plenty of warm. I have those same cabinets. Toasty! As for natural wood and aqua? That’s rooted in the classic Renaissance painting palette based around cerulean blue and burnt Sienna. Always a winner. I would keep or replace the white with glitter counters, but thats me. Aqua floor, or grey with serious aqua Other in the room. Unless you go with black and white checkerboard, which I wouldn’t call ‘diner’ at all – people use it in bathrooms, kitchens, hallways, it’s eternal. The Romans used it.

    Grew up with a 1958 kitchen with teak cabinetry painted aqua inside, black and white floors, and that marble laminate on the counters. The butler pantry is teak cabinets and shiny black Formica. On the walls, too. It was all gorgeous in my earliest memories and looks great today with stainless appliances as the only change, aside from replacement floors in the eighties.. Some things are timeless. Even with those hammered copper hinges and handles.

  3. Maxwell says:

    Do you know the make or model of the larger brass light fixture in the kitchen layouts above. I really like it and want to buy one.

    1. pam kueber says:

      That is vintage — they are widely available via ebay. Note: The pull-down feature is no longer to code, we have been told — consult with your properly licensed professional to understand the issue so that you can make informed decisions.

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