Drew and Amy’s atomic inspired kitchen remodel in a 1960 parsonage

“My mother’s advice was to find one or two things you LOVE and have to have, and then work everything else around that.” — Drew

no-5drew-and-amyNewlyweds Drew and Amy bought their fixer-upper — a parsonage built in 1960 — three years ago. Smart folks, they tended to fundamentals first. But all the while, they were planning for the fun stuff — a necessary kitchen remodel. Their design mixes modern with retro — all the while aiming to be sympathetic to the original architecture of the house. It’s always fun to see what readers come up with: Yes, those are purple VCT floor tiles — purple is Amy’s favorite color, and that was one of starting points for their design decisions.
before-and-after-kitchenDrew writes:

Hello! My wife and I finished a very custom atomic inspired kitchen remodel early this summer and would be thrilled to share our pictures with your site! 

We were married in June 2013, and we found our house in August 2013. Previously we had been renting a nice (contemporary) condo in downtown Seattle. 
The way that we found the house was SUPER lucky. Seattle real estate has been brutal for buyers since probably late 2012, with a dearth of inventory and a huge influx of well-heeled buyers. My mother is a real estate agent and was showing us a house that had a good floor plan and plenty of space, but was pretty grungy — a contractor pulled up and said that his boss had an offer in on the house (to flip), and he was there to measure for the soon-to-be-new fence. We got to talking with him and he said he did some work for a local church nearby that owned what used to be a parsonage — he had been doing some work on it as the church was looking to sell it in the future and he asked if we wanted to see it. 
The house (built 1960) is a raised rambler — four 4 steps up to the front door — simple rectangle in shape with a single gable roof. There is a full basement that is 3/4 to 1/2 below grade so you cannot walk out of it (though there is a separate entrance with stairs on the side of the house. At any rate, the house was most recently used a day camp center for some program that the church ran, so the whole house was covered in either commercial grade carpet or faux bamboo vinyl strips, instead of baseboard there was rubber sanitary molding throughout, and various unfortunate things had been done like walling in the lovely raised hearth fireplace.
We knew right away that we wanted the house. Even though it was going to be a big project to make it our own, it was at least in the meanwhile clean and tidy (if rather commercial feeling). The floor plan was good, the house is large enough that we never need to move to accommodate a future family, and we liked the neighborhood. (It’s in West Seattle, which is like the Brooklyn of Seattle — traditionally unappreciated, but rapidly gaining popularity as mainland Seattle gets too crazy.) 
The fact that the house was pretty much still in a semi-commercial state and that it was unlisted allowed us to get it for a very good price — along with the fact that my mother waived the sales commission. 
Since moving in we have been constantly working on the house. The basement was roughed in for a kitchen, so right away I put a basic but functional kitchen in down there and rented the downstairs (2bed 1ba) to my brother. It’s been great, as he is getting a place to stay for a price he can afford on a cook’s salary, and we have gotten some extra money for house projects! For now the upstairs (3bed 1.5 bath) is plenty of room for my wife and me. novating the kitchen has been a goal since day one, but we knew it would be a while before we could get to it, as there were other (boring, but important) things to get to before the fun stuff — plus we knew it was going to be the most expensive so we have been saving for it for a long time.
Completed projects prior to kitchen:
– New roof
– Uncovered and refurbished fireplace on main level
– Installed kitchen downstairs
– Replaced original aluminum windows
– Poured patio area and fenced the yard (previously no outdoor space!)
– Installed 2nd laundry in attached garage (on main level – original is in basement and used by my brother)
– Removed commercial floor coverings and refinished the original oak flooring underneath
– Reinstalled baseboards
– Painted throughout
– Re-piped the whole house (was original galvanized before!)
Drew continues:
As we started finishing up parts of the house like the living room and choosing a style of decor we eventually settled on a midcentury aesthetic. I’ve been a fan for some time, but also, it made a lot of sense as the house has a handful of mid-century design details – long, low, construction, midcentury stone fireplace in the living room, midcentury (roman?) brick on part of the exterior, mid century door casings, midcentury hardware on original kitchen cabinets and built-ins.
So, by the time we got to the kitchen, we knew that we wanted to do something that would fit in with the design and decor of the rest of the house. We knew that we wanted to modernize the floor plan somewhat and open up the kitchen a little bit, but we did want to retain a separate space for the dining room, which led up to keep the header of the wall we removed, as well as keeping the lower portion of the wall. The result is that when sitting the living room, you can see into the kitchen, but there is still a clear transition from kitchen to dining room — we love it and think it keeps the floor plan from feeling too modern.
In terms of picking all of the finishes for the kitchen, it was really just a ton of research (thanks, Retro Renovation!), negotiation, arguing, compromising, etc. Until we arrived at the end result.
My mother’s advice was to find one or two things you LOVE and have to have, and then work everything else around that.
I originally wanted laminate countertops with edge banding, but my wife Amy didn’t really want laminate, and she fell in love with the Formica Solid Surface pattern that I discovered (while researching laminate). Amy is also freak about the color purple, so we knew we wanted to incorporate something purple into the kitchen. We were already pretty much set on some kind of vinyl tile product for the flooring so I just ordered a ton of samples and went out and looked at I think ALL of the chips until we found the right purple, then quickly found a good shade of gray (that matched our gray trim in the rest of the house) to go with it.
I guess that’s pretty much the whole design process — it was a lot of work. We found a couple of things we loved, and then took a lot of time to explore all the options to find things that look good (or make sense) together, that we both like, that we could afford. In the end, it was SO worth it!

Resources for Drew and Amy’s atomic-inspired kitchen remodel:no-8no-9no-4

  • Cabinets: Custom from James Wanamaker, he runs a one man shop out of South Park in Seattle. My wife and I refer to him as “the cabinet whisperer.” The pricing was very competitive with “custom” and semi-custom lines from the big national brands. Wood is quarter-sawn Khaya (african mohogany). We especially adore the sink valence!
  • Cabinet Knobs: Rejuvenation stainless round dish with star backplate – we paid through the nose – I wanted to find vintage, but wasn’t able to come up with a matching set of 60!
  • Countertop: “All that Jazz” from Formica Solid Surface. It’s off white with multi color “sprinkles”. We went with it because it hides crumbs well and it makes no attempts to look like stone or any other natural product. My wife wanted to find something with sparkles in it, but we couldn’t that didn’t also try to look like stone
  • Island Top: Staggered end grain walnut from Chop Bloc
  • Backsplash: Bright Quilt Stainless from Quickship Metals. This was sort of a happy accident as I meant to order brushed stainless, but when it came and I opened it up we absolutely loved it!
  • Floor: VCT from Congoleum, colors are Plum and Iron Gray
  • Lighting: Island light is a danish modern repro in the style of Carl Thore. Over the sink is from Rejuvenation.

Drew says:

The design/floorplan was drawn up by my mother (who has been doing her own drafting for 30+ years) and required considerable deliberations from her, my wife, and me. It’s a fairly small space at 12 x 13. We ended up getting a lot out of that space. Figuring out where to put the double ovens was pretty tricky, and my mother came up with the idea of tucking the fridge back into what used to be the pantry pre-remodel (the fridge is 36″ deep, but the surrounding cabinets are only 18″ – with the exception of the double ovens which are 24″) The areas to the left and right of the fridge are now pantry cabinets.

no-5no-6When opening up the wall that previously divided the kitchen from the dining room, we elected to retain the lower portion of the wall (rather than use cabinet backs as the bulkhead) and to keep the header as a visual separation between kitchen and dining room. We wanted to keep some of the original floorplan of separate kitchen and dining room and not go full modern open kitchen/dining, and I am super happy we made that choice. Eventually, there will be a thin piece of gray trim separating the green wall color from the white ceiling color in the dining room (the same color scheme extends through to the living room).

Special thanks to Brendan Ramsey Photography — a friend of Amy’s, who took the great photos.


Thanks, Drew and Amy, for sharing the story of your kitchen, along with all the details resources — and the advice from your talented mother. I approve wholeheartedly! 


    I am admiring the bathroom makeover. My house is 1950 and the “master” bath is long and narrow. So the pictures featured in the Aqua Glow bathroom appeal to me. I have 1950 baby blue tiles and the pink version and would like to match with a 56″ cabinet to house a period sink. Where can I find the sink to fit this narrow bath? I have about 16-18″ to work with. Should I consider a wall hung square sink to sit on top of the counter? Thoughts?

    1. Pam Kueber says:

      Hi Keith, all my stories/research on bathroom sinks good for a Retro Renovation are here: https://retrorenovation.com/category/bathroom-categories/lav-sinks/

      The Kohler Tahoe with metal rim is the #1 go to: https://amzn.to/2pZSloW (affiliate link)

      A company that makes small sinks is: https://retrorenovation.com/2016/09/20/small-bathroom-sinks-bates-15-colors/

      You could also look for a vintage apron front sink, note that I don’t know how deep they were: https://retrorenovation.com/2018/01/09/apron-front-bathroom-sinks-metal-hudee-rings-tile/

      Good luck, Pam

  2. Evan Degenfelder says:

    Thank you for sharing this. And, I got a real bonus; I didn’t even know that Formica was making a solid surface product! Maybe I live under a rock, I don’t know, LOL. But knowing that now has opened up new ideas for our 1947 rancher when we’re ready to replace the old formica kitchen counters. So, thanks!

  3. Neil says:

    You and Amy, and your mother, did a smash-up job making your new kitchen an esthetic Whole. Even though there are several zones and colors and textures, they blend in a very pleasing way that conveys a delightful vintage style while feeling like Right Now. Your cabinet man did a superb job placing the wood grains in a way that gives the kitchen a ton of class, and your use of the purple/gray check on the floor anchors and unites the whole thing and gives reassuring satisfaction.

    I have one suggestion: The marvelous-touch quilted stainless wants to extend all the way from the corner to the far edge of the cabinets by the door frame. Adding two more panels will be fairly easy (with cut outs for the plugs and switch plates) and the seams won’t jar the eye in the least, and it will bring your stovetop into conversation with the fridge and ovens.

    Wonderful job!

  4. Marie Wilhelm says:

    So where exactly did you find the light hanging over the island? It’s amazing! And your kitchen is fantastic! Congratulations!!

    1. Drew says:

      We got it at a local store selling mid century furniture etc. There are a few sellers on Etsy and on ebay, though a lot of it would have to be shipped from europe. Carl Thore is a good name to start your rearch – happy hunting!

      Of note – a lot of them are fairly small in diameter and we had to hunt around a bit to find one large enough.

  5. Mary Elizabeth says:

    I love your kitchen! I remember similar mahogany cabinets in the mid century–they have a Scandinavian modern feel to them–but not in a church rectory. 🙂 I wonder if you were inspired also by the original purpose of the space–your design choices seem to have a spiritual, gracious feel to them.

    Love your dining table also.

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