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Wren & Willow’s little bit of perfection 1940s house remodel: Let’s start with the kitchen

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Laureen Skrivan, general contractor / owner of Wren & Willow

This is exactly the kind of story I was hoping to ultimately see lots of, when I started this blog nine years ago: Contractors … professional remodelers … house-flippers, even … who would see the charm in the original architecture of midcentury homes and instead of updating them, would Retro Renovate them. And not just fancy architect-designed midcentury houses. Charming little ones — the midcentury modest homes — too. And that’s just what the general contracting company Wren & Willow has done: They took a needs-work 1940s cottage and gut-remodeled it to look brand spanking new — new, ala 1940. Owner Laureen Skrivan contacted me about the project. She’s got quite the story, too. And oh, there’s another twist happy ending. This story has everything… and there’s so much to show that I am going to spread it out over a few days. Today: The kitchen, which is sure to blow your bobby socks off!

midcentury-house-ideas-30Tip to viewing photos: If you are on a desktop computer, wait for the page to fully load, then you can click on any photo (in any story), and it should enlarge on screen up to 1,000 pixels wide for better viewing of all the delicious details. Click ESC or outside the photo to get back to the story.

Laureen keeps up to date with by blog by subscribing to our weekly email newsletter and wrote me:

Hello Pam-

Absolutely love your blog and have shared it with many our clients. You are a wealth of information, and I have learned so much from reading your blog. We are a design-build general contractor in Tacoma, Washington. We purchased a property a year ago and remodeled the house in keeping with the 1940’s art deco feel. Our goal is to use it as an Airbnb in a couple of years. I would love to share these before and after photo’s with you and your readers.  Let me know if I can share the pictures with you. Please keep doing what you do. My heart jumps every time I receive a Retro Renovation email. It’s like receiving a beautiful magazine in the mail!

Well, that email was enticing. And the photos that followed — taken by Aleks Akinshev of the Wren & Willow team — yowza, this woman and the Wren & Willow team knows what it is doing!

midcentury-house-ideas-45And so our email exchange began — I count 22 emails in all — that’s indicative of the effort it often takes to pull these stories like these together — so, you can see why a blogger gets upset when folks ‘steal’ their content!

With some edits by me to combine emails and for flow; Laureen continues:

The Story……….

As the Owners of Wren & Willow, a construction company in Tacoma Washington, specializing  in remodeling historic homes, we decided to purchase a 1940’s house as an investment property. The house was attached to a small laundromat and the previous owners lived in the house while running the laundromat. Our intention was to use it as additional office space for the company.

This 1941 Minimal Traditional house was the perfect project for us to “Restomod”. In car collector terminology, this house would be called a Restomod. In the classic car world, a Restomod is not completely restoring and reusing every part and piece in the original car, but updating it to modern standards while keeping the look and overall integrity of the car. We do that quite a bit when working with historic homes.

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Rather than modernize the home, we chose to bring the 1940’s to life. To achieve this, we reused many salvaged materials that dated back to the post-war era. Most notable are the restored Crosley Steel kitchen cabinets, built in the early 1950’s. These were purchased from a local architectural salvage yard, completely dented and covered in rust. We took them to a local classic car restorer, who was able to sandblast and paint the cabinets a beautiful Jadeite. After being restored, the cabinets were pieced together, like a puzzle, to fit into the kitchen space.

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In addition to cabinets, we purchased a 1942 Wedgewood Gas Stove for the kitchen. It was  restored by Antique Stove Heaven in California and shipped to Tacoma.

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This house is a testament to what can be done when salvaged materials are restored, refinished, and repurposed. Each item restored to its original state brings a striking charm that new materials just can’t bring.

And there’s more to the kitchen — an adjacent butler’s pantry of sorts:

midcentury-house-ideas-35midcentury-house-ideas-40 midcentury-house-ideas-36 midcentury-house-ideas-37 midcentury-house-ideas-38 Laureen wraps up this part of the tour:

We love sharing our work with others who will appreciate the painstaking work that goes into recreating a particular period. That’s what I absolutely love about you and your blog. Your appreciation for the past and the amazing resource you are helping others to achieve that period style. Please keep it going!

Also provided by the very generous Laureen:

Suppliers & Resource List for 1940’s Wren & Willow House Kitchen:

What can I say: I love it. Every inch. And, I don’t say this very often, but I think I want to be you, Laureen Skrivan! You rock!

Want to see more of the Wren & Willow House?

Link love:

  1. Reta in SC says:

    That would be my dream come true! So lovely! And the Butler’s pantry? Ahhh!!! I love every little detail, and hope to achieve similar one day!
    Thanks, Pam, for your marvelous website!

  2. Kelly says:

    Cannot say how thrilled I am to see a little piece of heaven in my neck of the woods. I drive past the Wren & Willow sign almost everyday and always think they must do some sweet work with such an awesome name (and cool sign). This little gem is amazing. It would be awesome to see it in person.

  3. Lorraine says:

    Love it! I have a 1940s house that was literally a shack in the woods. We also gutted (to the studs) and tried to keep the feel of an older home. I am an avid antique hunter and have furnished with the thought that people live in ever changing environments that “accumulate” stuff from previous generations

  4. Lloyd Randall says:

    We have the 1940’s metal cabinets with the birch doors. The metal fronts on the draws need re painting. How can we remove the metal parts in front of the sink? so they can be power coated.?
    The model and serial # po18b, 2470
    Label name is American Kitchens Div. Connersville, Ind.

    1. pam kueber says:

      Hi Lloyd, this is not a DIY or fixit site per se. But in the past, some readers have provided info on how they had their cabinets repainted. To get to these stories, you try three methods:

      1 – Kitchen Help / Readers & their Kitchens subcategory – most reader remodels should be there
      2 – Kitchen Help / Steel kitchens – some might pop there
      3 – and this is where I’d probably start — use the search box

      Note, no one has ever talked about how to get the metal parts off the front of the sink as far as I know. We have identified more than 80 brands of vintage metal cabinets!

      Finally, and first, be aware there can be hazards in the old materials and products in our homes. Get with your own properly licensed professionals to assess what you are dealing with and for guidance on how to make informed decisions how to handle. For more info see our Be Safe/Renovate Safe page.

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