Mary put a lot of love into the complete renovation of her kitchen 10 years ago — those vintage-looking cabinets are all built from scratch — but now love of another kind has her putting it on the market for sale: “That kitchen made me so happy,” she said, “but I gave it up for love. I guess a good man trumps a cool kitchen.” Congratulations, Mary! The kitchen got the glamour treatment for the listing photos, so let’s take a look — and Mary tells us about her planning process and the products she used. Thanks for permissions from realtor Paul Carper and realtor Bart Stockton, who took the photos, both of Carper Miller Real Estate Group.
I love your site and I thought you might like to see pictures of my 1950s house. I renovated the original small 1950 kitchen about 10 years ago. I wanted to keep the 50s look, but open it up and add more storage. I had a blast researching home magazines of that era. The final product was bright and fun and I love it. The original bathroom is also in tact. It’s not pink, but it’s still the style of many houses of that time. I found some great wallpaper to watch the style of the bathroom.
I recently put the house on the market and I’m realizing it’s rare to find others who appreciate the style and retro fun of the house. The realtor described it as make everyday throwback Thursday. Haha. So far the feedback I’m getting from potential buyers is not so great. Most people don’t like the original bathrooms of that era and the retro kitchen is not their style either. It makes me sad that I can’t find anyone that will dig the style, but if it doesn’t sell in a few months I may need to sell it to someone who will gut it to an ordinary trendy style that will go out of date in 10 years or less (e.g. Travertine tile. don’t get me started….)
Mary’s list of retro kitchen resources:
- Cabinets were custom made. It would’ve looked weird to try and retrofit the old cabinets with new ones so they gutted the entire kitchen with custom cabinets based on the elevations. Someone commented that my custom cabinets look like something prefab from the 50s.
- Hardware came from Home Depot. As I mentioned before, some of the old classic hardware is still available at big hardware/home stores for not a lot of money.
- Countertops — As I was researching the color palette for the kitchen I also thought about the counter color. It was hard to find unusual colors at a typical showroom, so I found some great samples at my friend’s interior designer office. They have access to way more choices that your typical design showroom. Once I settled on an orange and yellow color palette I went with solid mango colored laminate. [ Editor’s note: See all our countertop research here, including our list of 10 companies that make laminate. ]
- Metal countertop edging — I cannot remember where I got the metal trim. I guess my contractor found that. [ Retro Renovation’s research on sources to get metal countertop trim. ]
- The double sink, typical for that era was special ordered from Home Depot. You’re not going to find that stuff in the showroom, but if you know the look you’re going for it’s most likely still around. Faucet was also special ordered from a catalog at Home Depot. [ Editor’s note: Surely that’s a hudee-ringed Kohler Delafield. ]
- The stove belonged to my grandmother. I still have the receipt from when she purchased it in 1953! It has since been restored and re-chromed to look brand new. That was not cheap, but I consider it a family heirloom that deserves to be taken care of. I was lucky enough to find someone locally who does that sort of thing. If you live in the LA area, Antique Stove Heaven is a good resource.
- The Vent-a-hood is actually new. I didn’t want to try to find something retro for that so I just went with a simple white.
- The floor is blue and black Armstrong vinyl tile. [ Readers: Remember to always check the Commercial section of websites — that’s where we often find what we want. ] I got the inspiration for the color and pattern from the book Inspiring Interior 1950s from Armstrong (affiliate link). [ Pam’s original “bible”.]
- For the walls, I wanted something bright colorful, which isn’t necessarily a 50s thing so I went through lots of color and design books, like this: Color Idea Book. No need to buy the book. Check it out from the library for free! Also, paint stores have lots of color combinations for ideas.
- Under-cabinet lighting — One of my favorite parts of the kitchen is the under cabinet lighting. They’re the simple hockey puck lights from Home Depot, but when you dim the halogen lights, the orange glow of the walls and counters is wonderful! It’s like a sunset.
- Dinette — In the breakfast room, the dinette set came from a local antique store and the chairs are from Target. Several years ago, they were selling dinette chairs that I think were created by the same manufacturer as dinette sets in the 50s.
- Pendant light is the KNAPPA from Ikea.
- Art — I found a book — All-American Ads of the 50s by Jim Heimann (affiliate link) — that features a bunch of 1950s advertisements and framed them in a grid.
I live in Dallas. It’s in a part of town with some older homes, some of which are have the retro flare. My realtor appreciates the style of the house and reassures me there are people who like this sort of thing. I just need to be patient. The market is slow right now though, so it will just take time. He agrees with me that he would rather sell it to someone who will appreciate it and not gut it completely.
It was a lot of fun researching and planning. The renovation was a PITA. It took 2+ months, but worth it. That kitchen made me so happy, but I gave it up for love. I guess a good man trumps a cool kitchen. The good thing is, we bought a great midcentury modern house that has a kitchen that needs some work. I already have ideas on how to renovate it to make it look great while keeping the style of the house. Can’t wait to do the same thing — update cabinets/storage and appliances while keeping the style of the architecture. This one has the groovy (but confining) pass throughs.
Only TWO MONTHS to renovation? That actually sounds fast to us 🙂 Wonderful job, Mary — and we can’t wait to see what you come up with at your new midcentury modern house! Thank you for sharing your home, and your story. We will keep our fingers crossed that a stylin’ buyer who appreciates period style walks through your door soon!
- See the listing for Mary’s colorful retro 1950s home in Dallas, Texas
- Thanks to realtor Paul Carper and to realtor Bart Stockton for the great photos, both of Carper Miller Real Estate Group