Welcome to Retro Renovation®!

Photo by Erica Berger

Welcome to Retro Renovation® — your regular dose of mid century and vintage renovation and decorating resources… design inspiration… fun finds… and a growing community of people all interested in cherishing their mid century and older homes.

Our focus here, first and foremost, is to help you find the products and sources you need to help remodel, renovate and decorate your house in authentic mid century style. Increasingly, we  feature sources for pre-war and post-modern homes as well. We’re here to help you get the job done — doing the research so you don’t have to. How can you make the most of the blog?:

  • Dive into all our categories (in the navigation along the top of the page) and you will see, we have lots of research into all the products you might need to remodel and decorate. Along the way, we have lotsa other fun, too — always showing great gratitude and respect for the houses — and their owners — who came before us.
  • And, important for anyone taking on an older home:

Be-Safe-graphic2.3

Renovating, remodeling and living in our midcentury and vintage homes can be gratifying, but please always remember, there can be safety and environmental hazards in the surfaces, layers, materials and products in our homes. Anything old, even New Old Stock, that you buy also may have issues. We all care very much about managing safety and environmental issues properly, so when moving into a home … when undertaking cleaning, repair, remodeling or restoration projects … or when adding old materials (salvaged, used, new old stock, etc.)… be sure to get with your own properly licensed professionals to determine what you are dealing with/working with so that you can make informed decisions how to handle, become familiar with and use recommended best practices, and also learn about the proper disposal of debris, etc. Read more: See our Be Safe / Renovate Safe page … the EPA hosts a  website on lead paint in the home and a website on asbestos in the home, etc. Consult professionals regarding these materials, and also about the proper disposal of debris, etc.

retro-renovation-kitchen
Photo by Kit Latham
retro renovation kitchen copyright
Photo by Kit Latham
We have fun here. Photo credit: Erica Berger

<– I’m Pam Kueber. That’s me with my crazy wallpaper office … that’s my kitchen above — and this my blog, oh I luv it so. Doing all the research to find products to backdate my 1951 colonial-ranch house in Lenox, Mass., is what got me into this online escapade. In the course of my endless hunt to find products and design ideas sympathetic to my house’s undeniable mid-century bones, I got…. obsessed… I learned a lot… and I figured, why not share all my finds with other folks undertaking the same journey. And now – you have arrived!

This blog has lots about *modest, mid-century, middle-class* homes — ranches, Capes, Colonials, split-levels, contemporaries, bungalows. I also write about sleek *mid-century modern homes*… I love them all, but admit that I tend to worry more about the modest homes (themselves full of charm) being at more serious risk of being gutted, with regrets to follow later. Interestingly, both mid-century modern and mid-century modest homes shared many of the same technological features and design cues (like pink bathrooms) inside. For further info see my Mid-Century Modest Manifesto and my micro-site SaveThePinkBathrooms.com.

What do we gab about here? Well: The design aesthetic of retro interiors, exteriors, culture, people, steel kitchen cabinets, colors, pink kitchens, pink bathrooms, hudee rings, pecky cypress, illustrations with people playing accordians, wallpaper, pinch pleat curtains, mint-in-box items — and readers’ fabulous jewel box houses, too. Get ready to be sucked into the retro vortex.

More info:
Restoring the Retro House in the New York Times Aug. 18 2011Above: As featured in the New York Times — yup, read all about our escapades in this 2,200-word feature story that appeared on p.1 of the Home & Garden section on Aug. 18, 2011.

Note: I usually publish three times a week (4:30 a.m.Eastern) Monday through Wednesday, usually not on holidays, and 24/7/365 if there if we spot important Breaking News in Retro Design World. In July and August, I post more sporadically; blame Summer.

retro dresses
Kate worked for the blog for four years, so you will see her name on many stories. Here we are at the big Kitchen and Bath Show in Las Vegas in 2016 introducing our new line of Retro Renovation(TM) by Wilsonart boomerang laminates!
Photo by Erica Berger.

Oh, and here’s me showing off one of a recent project — my office remodel. My friend Denise and I pasted about 200 squares of vintage wallpaper on the four walls, creating a crazy patchwork quilt of 18 different designs of wallpaper. We celebrated by getting all Love American Style Gothic with the photo.

Hey, see me talkin’ about Mid Century Modest in this etsy.com video:

If you need ideas — or just love the era — be sure to check in for daily updates on new products to recreate that retro style…design tips…vintage finds…history…and more. To email me, click here.

Press Coverage

2018 … I kinda stopped keeping track

2017

2015-2016…

  • HGTV.com: In Defense of Pink Bathrooms — A Q&A with me
  • Chronicle TV: Big story on my house and my kitchen and the Retro Renovation Revolution!
  • Washington Post: The TV-watching public’s long love affair with tray tables
  • The Times of London: Something is happening in smart bathrooms — Designers say pink is back after a long absence.
  • WFMJ-TV: Effort to Bring Back 1948 Youngstown steel kitchen cabinets
  • Ummm: I got out of the habit of updating press coverage of the blog…. I’ll work on it again at some point… maybe.

2014

  • New York Times: “When Blogging Becomes a Slog” (but not for me — I am the wise old owl)
  • Huffington Post: The 10 Best Renovation Websites for Living out  your Dream Home Fantasies.
  • Der Standard newspaper profiled the blog. It was in German, so I’m not sure what it said. But I asked on Facebook, and a reader told me it said that, “You are now as loved as David Hasselhof in Germany.”

2013

  • Fixing to Die: Retro Renovation® and a reader remodel featured on the blog inspired the setting and  story line for Elaine Viets’ “restoration comedy” murder mystery, Fixing to Die. The book debuted #9 on the Barnes & Noble paperback list.
  • Yankee Magazine: Six-page story in Sept./Oct. issue — 1.7 million readers! — about the blog and my house. “Fifties and Fabulous.”
  • Globe and Mail: Loud and proud 1970s chalet
  • Columbus Post-Dispatch: Back to the bones: Restoring ’50s homes
  • California Home + Design: Celebrating Midcentury Modest

2012

Summer 2011

Feb 2011

Jan 2011

December 2010

October 2010

August 2010

  • Arizona Daily Star: That 50s Tile with Style
  • Home is a Four-Letter Word: Penny Pinching with the Stars
  • Home is a Four-Letter Word: Lovin’ the 50s

April 2010

March 2010

February 2010

  • Etsy.com video profile.

January 2010

  • Knoxville News – Maribeth’s 1970s retro renovation
  • Finalist and 4th place winner in Apartment Therapy’s annual contest to name the best home design blog of 2009

June 2009

April 2009

March 2009

  • Eugene, Oregon Register-Guard on retro revival and home show talks
  • Our tour of the St. Louis 1995 time capsule home covered by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
  • Desert Living Magazine

Dec. 3, 2008

  • Pam talks with the National Kitchen & Bath Association about retro kitchen design popularity

Sept. 29, 2008

March 2008

Winter 2008

Fall 2007

November 8, 2007 — News Release, PRWeb

Thanks and Credits: Many thanks to the many folks who have helped, and continue to help, make this blog possible. Including:

  • The rockin’ readers who help feed the blog day in and day out with their tips and projects!
  • All the advertisers who make doing this work fulltime possible.
  • Margaret Roach, for all your support. AwayToGarden.com, Margaret Roach Media.
  • Brad and all the Webdev and Maintainn team, for keeping the online bogeybots at bay. WebDevStudios.
  • Erica Berger, for making me look good. Erica Berger Photography.
  • Kit Latham, for helping me get into the dot.com world. KitLatham.com.
  • Suzy Massey, for design support. PhoenixMassey Studio.
  • WordPress, for a great blogging platform that has made it possible for so many new voices to find their communities. wordpress.com

  1. Julie Brown says:

    Hi, I need a bit of advice on replacing vs renovating the countertop on my vintage metal kitchen cabinets. Is this the right place to post a help/advice request?

    I have a small set, about 10 linear feet, and only the end pieces have counter top. The rest is covered by a very large porcelain sink. I want to remove the current sink, replace with a smaller one and install a new formica countertop from end to end….but dont know if the formica tops on vintage metal cabinets can be taken off. Can they?

  2. Pam Kueber says:

    Hi Julie, I am not an expert. But in all the catalogs I’ve seen, these were installed after the cabinets went in. We have identified 85+ brands, so there may have been different methods. My first suggestion is to pull out top drawers and see if they are screwed in from underneath… Good luck, Pam

  3. Julie Brown says:

    Pam – thanks for the tip to look for screws above top drawers. Do you happen to have any Youngstown catalogs? My set has red stickers on the doors that say ‘Youngstown Kitchnes by Mullins’, followed by a serial number, “Mullins Manufacturing Corporation” and finally Warren Ohio. Also, the serial numbers are different on each of my cabinet doors, is that typical?

  4. Pam Kueber says:

    Julie, I have many many stories about Youngstown cabinets including several brochures scanned. Best way to get to them is to use the Search box, it pulls them right up. Re your question about serial numbers and how they were used, I don’t know how Youngstown did that. Mullins Manufacturing was an owner-company at one point in their history. Like I said: Get yee to the Search bar, then start reading up.

  5. Jason Kassis says:

    My wife and I recently bought a home that was built in the 60s. I was researching the cabinet name “Yorktowne” (branded on the inside of one of the drawers) and this is one site that came up. Although our current home has wooden cabinets, I remember when I was in college my family renting an older home at the time and it had white metal kitchen cabinets. I believe it had the washboard counter type you mentioned. Several years after we moved from that house it was torn down. Now I’m wondering if the cabinets somehow survived or if they were hauled away to the scrap yard! I’m finding the mid century modern era styles interesting as it relates to our new (older) home.

  6. Spence says:

    Hi Pam,

    A big fan of the community you’ve created and fostered. We have a ranch built in 62′ and just remodeled the master bathroom. Hiding under the commercial contractor grade tile was beautiful Stylon Seafoam hexagon tile I could not get my wife onboard to save. I suspect the same tile, but in brown, is hiding under the same ugly 12×12 in front bathroom. I think I have her onboard to save this tile and save money as the master was quite expensive in materials even though we did all the labor. Can you recommend some colors to tie into the brown, modernize a mid-century look? Can you recommend any forums that I can discuss this with designers of the same mind?

  7. Pam Kueber says:

    Welcome, Spence. I don’t know of any design-discussion forums. Re wall tile to go with brown floor tile, it’s hard to say without seeing the floor tile exactly. You will want the wall tile to coordinate with the brown, and that will depend on a number of factors. I always forget all the technical terms, but I think it’s “hue” as well as “warm or cold” that you will want to consider. The first possibility that comes to my mind though, is an almond or beige of some sort. Again, though, you’d need to see the options up against the floor tile. One other thought: Skip wall tile. Go for a circa-62 wallpaper that includes some of the brown. Wallpaper solves everything!

  8. Shari says:

    Hi,

    My husband and I are restoring a 1950s ranch house.

    We are looking for a complete set of metal kitchen cabinets. We are okay if they need some TLC. We have searched on ebay, craigslist, chairish, etc. and cannot find a set big enough for the kitchen.

    Do you know anyone who deals in these? We appreciate any and all help/recommendations.

    Best,
    Shari

  9. Teresa Howell says:

    Hi Pam – stumbled onto your site by accident, but loving what I’m seeing. We are in the process of buying a home that was built in 1945. The family that built the house spared no expense building this house. I “think” our countertops may be Monel. Is there a way to tell for sure if that’s what they are or not? I was just curious if there is a watermark, or some sort of magnet or chemical test you could do to see if they are in fact Monel countertops. I’m trying to research the history of the house as much as possible. Thank you in advance for any help you can provide.

  10. Linda Fry says:

    Hi Kate — so my summer project is to take down my deck that was installed in 2006 (when I bought the house – the owners thought a new deck would be a nice selling point, which it was). The deck finally needs to come down & I’ve always wondered what was under it (besides critters)….lo & behold, it is a herringbone paved brick patio circa 1965. We are still removing the deck – and I’ll send you photos when it’s all uncovered & put back in place (some bricks need to be replaced). Renovate safe!

  11. Cathy B says:

    Hi Pam! I am new this this site (and from Louisville as well). I am
    Good friends with Bridget Kueber and
    She told me about it! Love everything I have seen and read thus far! I purchased an AMAZING barrel backed MCM chair from Everything but the House and it has no tags on it so I have no idea who the mfger is nor have I ever seen a chair like it before. Can you make some suggestions as to sites I can check to find out a little history? I look forward to hearing from you.

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