When “Updating” Isn’t What Your Kitchen Needs

As much time as I spend helping clients update kitchens, I suppose I’m a bit of a hypocrite. Because there’s nothing “updated” about my own kitchen.  My home was built in 1939, and the kitchen appears to have been updated in the late 1950s or early 1960s.

bowl of lemons

when life gives you lemons . . .

When we bought the house over 13 years ago, it had a 1990s overlay – laminate countertops and creamy vinyl flooring.  Our mission was to peel off the “updating” as much as possible, and even adding things that took it back to a look more appropriate to when it was first built. We replaced lighting, paint, and flooring immediately.

tole chandelier

vintage tole chandelier I painted to match the color scheme

But you really need to see what the kitchen looked like from the beginning.  Here’s the before of the kitchen, right before we moved in:

Kitchen before

our kitchen before

I can remember staying up all night, on our hands and knees installing the old-school vinyl composite tile in the kitchen so that we could move in our furniture the following day.  I know the look isn’t for everyone, but this is the favorite kitchen flooring I’ve ever had.

vct kitchen floor

inexpensive and long-lasting VCT flooring

My husband and I couldn’t decide on what to do for countertops, until he came up with a “temporary” solution about 8 years ago: glue a mahogany veneer over the existing laminate counter top, stain it dark, and top it with a self-leveling epoxy for a super-shiny and rock-hard finish.

copper backsplash

Kitchen Aid mixer on mahogany veneer countertop

This countertop installation is not for the faint of heart – applying the epoxy is messy, noxious fumes are unavoidable, and a small blowtorch is needed to get the bubbles out of the surface (beware of flames near your cabinetry!).  But 8 years later, that temporary countertop still looks amazing with the copper backsplash installed probably 55 years ago.  And it cost less that $300. Continually frustrated with the layout in regards to the kitchen table – often knocking into chairs upon entering – I eventually designed a banquette/booth that nestled into the window.

breakfast nook banquette

 

Mr. Man built the whole thing – table, booth, and cabinetry – to look as close to what the original breakfast nook might have.  We were guessing, of course, based on the age and style of the house. More of an upgrade than an update, right?

vintage kitchen butlers pantry

way to go, Mr. Man

When we bought the house, there were some drawers and shelves on one end of the kitchen. But they were kind of wonky – plus there was a big mirror (of all things) in the middle. The doors on the right covered a very narrow broom closet – a virtually wasted used of space. Take a look:

Breakfast area - before

kitchen before

I redesigned this area, keeping the parts we could.  Mr. Man knocked out the soffit above and found additional shelves that had been covered with drywall. Now I have tons of space for my dishes and colored glassware collection.  About 650 people can drink a glass of water in my house without pulling out a single paper cup.

open hutch

 

vintage glassware

I’ve thought about wallpapering the backs of the built-in hutch, or even having seeded-glass doors installed over the top portion of it.  What do you think?

butler's pantry

More pressing is the much-needed replacement of the APPLIANCES.  Our refrigerator and stove are about 20 years old and our dishwasher sucks (even though it’s only about four years old). The difficulty in replacing appliances in a kitchen like this is choosing what feels right for the era of the room.  And that’s definitely NOT stainless steel, my friends.

retro kitchen green and white

So I’m searching for the perfectly appropriate choice for this kitchen – once we decide, we will replace all the appliances at one time. I’d love to have a “statement” stove, but it has to be a standard-size to fit.

retro kitchen

So I’m thinking of doing the other appliances in white, and the stove in black – but if it’s going to stand out like that, it’s got to at least look retro.  Let me know if you have any suggestions!

UPDATE: WONDERING WHAT I DECIDED TO DO ABOUT MY APPLIANCES? FIND OUT HERE!

 

 

 

 

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Robin
Guest

It’s always harder when it’s your own home, vintage or not, right? I am in the middle of a kitchen redo and have freaked out a couple of time, but the end is finally in sight. I can help others readily, but my own is much harder! I understand your angst and share it!

Cathy
Guest
Cathy

I love the way you are “listening” to your house…so refreshing……

Heather
Guest
Heather

What a wonderful kitchen. It is so nice to see a unique and period apporopriate kitchen that feels so good. I would be a pleasure to work in.
I like the clean look of the white. It shows off your dishes, etc. I would not add wallpaper or colour to the shelves for that reason.
I would go with all white appliances. But have you checked out Elmira Stove Works for new retro appliances? Maybe that is what you want for your stove. Heather (TCE)
http://www.elmirastoveworks.com/visualizer/northstar/.

applehillcottage
Guest

Thank you for this post! I love love love your kitchen–we put black and white VCT in our 1940s cottage. I think the reason you hated your first kitchen so much is because it just didn’t go with the era of your house. It had been hacked. And I’m sorry to say that I think much remodeling/updating ruins vintage houses. Got a mid-century ranch house? Put in mid-century stuff. Got a thirties tudor? Don’t put in 24×24 stone flooring. Okay, rant finished.
check out Big chill retro appliances. Oh, very expensive, but so cool. And they have blue. 🙂

Jenny B.
Guest

For your appliances, you could look into the retro styled ones by Northstar or Big Chill. Expensive, but would look great. 🙂

Heather
Guest
Heather

What a wonderful kitchen. It is so nice to see a unique and period appropriate kitchen that feels so good. It would be a pleasure to work in.
I like the clean look of the white. It shows off your dishes, etc. I would not add wallpaper or colour to the shelves for that reason.
I would go with all white appliances. But have you checked out Elmira Stove Works for new retro appliances? Maybe that is what you want for your stove. Heather (TCE)
http://www.elmirastoveworks.com/visualizer/northstar/.

Local Reader
Guest
Local Reader

I’d love to see what you decide! We have our original 1937 cabinets / counter tops, along with considerable space limitations due, in part, to 4 doorways. And, we are living with our ‘temporary’ solutions for over a decade now. I don’t want to update either, but eventually we will need to do something. For 30″ stoves, have you considered the ‘Big Chill’ line? They’ve recently ‘tweaked’ their designs, which I think is an improvement.

Kari
Guest
Kari

When we moved into our house. it had a variety of appliance colors. I was not a fan. I vote all white on the appliances or the amazing pastel choices Smeg and other vintage companies have to offer. I think those would look fab in your adorable, lustworthy kitchen!

Jennie
Guest
Jennie

The GE Artistry series has a great retro vibe, and an awesome price point- about $2500 for the whole suite!

sharron masterson
Guest

Very much enjoy your posts. Our new (old) antique store in Chickasha, Oklahoma (30 minutes from metro OKC), is trying to incorporate “everything!” We have a new concept antique store where the dealers are not only allowed, but encouraged to place their period items in those designated sections of the store — mid-century modern, antique furniture, painted furniture, etc. I love exploring your posts because you give us ideas for selling as well as decorating our place. The store is on its way to being gorgeous, and we’d love for you to stop in next time you’re anywhere near us!… Read more »

sue
Guest
sue

I vote for painting the back of the shelves. It would make your dishes pop Your copper back splash splits your kitchen in half…maybe repeating the coppery color somewhere would make it feel less divided? How about the dishwasher and refrigerator with white panel kits? You could always take out some of the cabinents to allow for a larger stove (commercial) and do a different venting system instead of the microwave over the stove. Check out American Range…their stoves look vintage and they are not too expensive. I do love the open shelving and the retro floor.

LIZ
Guest
LIZ

What a fabulous looking kitchen! You are one lucky lady to have a Mr. Man. I think the bookshelves are awesome with the clean white statement. The white allows for every color accent possible! Perhaps just wallpaper the shelves above the banquette? May I make a suggestion? Although the scalloped window trim is part of your vintage look, I feel that opening up the window would be would add a welcome extra pop of light and glow. You could always add a small sheer vintage fabric valance for interest, but still let the light in! I did this with our… Read more »

Kim
Guest
Kim

I have a similar dilemma, and have never been a fan of solid stainless steel appliances. I really like Whirlpool’s new White Ice line; it had stainless handles, but everything else is white. The only thing they don’t have is a double oven (floor model) in electric — oddly they have it in gas, so I’m hoping the electric one will follow soon. So far it’s my number one…

Kim
Guest
Kim

I have a similar dilemma, and have never been a fan of solid stainless steel appliances. I really like Whirlpool’s new White Ice line; it has stainless handles, but everything else is white. The only thing they don’t have is a double oven (floor model) in electric — oddly they have it in gas, so I’m hoping the electric one will follow soon. So far it’s my number one…

Cathy
Guest
Cathy

There is a Big Chill retro fridge in Jadite Green – so pretty! Love your kitchen Kristie!

Debbie P
Guest
Debbie P

I really enjoyed seeing the progression of your kitchen. It looks great and very vintage from that era. We purchased a early 90’s ranch that had been remodeled and not to my taste. We have always bought new before with hardwoods in the kitchen. This home is complete with new linoleum flooring. We have now been here 2 years with that vinyl flooring. I have to say that it much easier to keep up with than hardwood floors. That is why, we haven’t rushed in to replacing it. My hubby is also Mr. Man but is in the middle of… Read more »

Melinda
Guest
Melinda

Look online at a site called Big Chill.com! I have a 50’s kitchen and got my fridge from there. They take a modern appliance and put a “kit” on top of it to make it retro! They do stoves too and they are amazing!!

Emily
Guest
Emily

Great updates! I long for a banquette/booth… For appliances, the Whirlpool Ice line is nice and has a bit of a retro vibe — but not paying the prices for the Big Chill etc types, keeping the white, but in a totally fresh way.

Taryn
Guest
Taryn

Love your kitchen! I think it’s pretty perfect the way you have it, but I understand that appliances need replacing sooner or later. Good luck finding the right fit! I’m interested to see what you decide.

Also, your new(?) portrait photo above is beautiful!

Barbara
Guest
Barbara

I like the idea of seeded glass up top, would break it up a bit. And paint or wallpaper would let your clear glass domes etc. show better. Listen to me, giving YOU decorating advice!:-)

LaurenT
Guest

I have the jadeite green 30″ Big Chill stove & matching fridge in the kitchen of my 1934-era house. Love them…ordered them at A-1 Appliance in West Meade.

LaPriel
Guest
LaPriel

Have you looked on Craig’s list for older stoves? I purchased two a couple of years ago that are in great shape. They work really well too.

Kim
Guest
Kim

My mother had a light green cookstove that was the perfect color for your kitchen. Not mint green or Big Chill jadite but something in softer (sager maybe?) and in between. I love your kitchen and your home. It reminds me so much of my former home before I mistakenly decided bigger and newer was somehow better.

Ellen Mallernee Barnes
Guest

I adore your kitchen. Especially that breakfast nook. Your entire house speaks to me and my tastes though!

pam clark
Guest
pam clark

i love your kitchen!! It’s fresh and current where it needs to be and fresh and original at the same time! Great idea for the countertops!!

Pamela
Guest
Pamela

What a great kitchen! I love the flooring, adore the countertops and breakfast nook. Our own home is British Colonial as we live in the sub-tropics so of course my kitchen is VERY different and we have stainless appliances. I think the white with stainless handles is a good bet for yours since we don’t usually love white appliances since the handles can yellow over time. I think maybe some seeded glass on the top shelves would look wonderful and show off the glass handles even more. Or maybe the cubby just above the base that is empty, I would… Read more »

Susanne
Guest
Susanne

I think your kitchen looks great! I also love the flooring. I am probably not much help about the stove but I can tell you from personal experience that I have never (not even stainless) had an appliance harder to clean and keep clean than a black one. I put a new stove in my kitchen (this was years ago and I have since moved) and I had to clean it constantly. I was sick!

Anne
Guest
Anne

What a fascinating article! The toleware and glasses are SO pretty – does the sun strike the green glass and make them glow? I adore your floor! However for me the clean/dirty colour tension between the floor and all the white cupboards and appliances would be too much, so I would vote for coloured appliances – green or maybe cream in a shade that blends with the flooring. Sorry I’m in the UK and not familiar with US brands. I think a kitchen of the era of your house would have had quite a lot of pattern. Once you make… Read more »

Kathy
Guest
Kathy

I found a product called Liquid Stainless Steel heat resistant paint and I’m buying an inexpensive GE coil-top stove in white (glass tops are so hard to clean and not good for canning or cast iron cookware) and using it to paint the stove knobs, door handle and maybe the oven drawer or an accent stripe someplace to give it a retro vibe, and will do the dishwasher to match. I bought the narrowest fridge I could find which is no longer made, but it has rounded corners in a silver painted finish and I think it will all go… Read more »

Joey
Guest

Oh my goodness! What a refreshing respite from updating! I live in a 1920 bungalow and I have no desire to update my kitchen, either. I find my white kitchen to be high-functioning and cheerful, as well as fitting to the rest of my home. I will also be choosing linoleum for my kitchen floors. It is my opinion that people who spend a great deal of time in their kitchens should have comfortable flooring; vinyl and linoleum are kind to feet, knees and backs. Check out the GE Artistry series for appliances. It’s what I’d like to have. They… Read more »

kelly
Guest

Looks so beautiful Kristie! It is my favorite, full of personality and charm. Just like you!

Kathryn
Guest
Kathryn

I’m also suggesting Northstar ranges–they have gorgeous electric radiant electric stoves–I think their buttercup yellow would go nicely with your other yellow touches!

J
Guest
J

I think two pairs of seed-glass doors over the top two shelves would look great, echoing the rhythm of the bead-board doors over the banquette, as well as reinforcing the ‘old glass’ motif. Regarding appliances — Dishwasher; buy a model with controls on the top of the inside of the door, and repanel the front. Not the ‘clip on” panel option, but literally glue a wooden panel on the front. You can make a bank of ‘faux’ drawers or doors for the front. I’m a designer, and successfully did this for a very finicky client (my mother) about 10 years… Read more »

Linda
Guest
Linda

we remodeled our 50 yr. old kitchen 2 yrs. ago. We had home depot install cabinets, did have some long challenges with the company. Did get issues resolved. Really like our kitchen. We put in granite and I prefer cream colored appliances over stainless steel. So new refreg. and dishwasher. We have the washer & dryer in the kitchen , too small of a home to put in a laundry rm. We put vinyl flooring that looks like slate tile. really am enjoying the fresh new look and it does not take away from the style of the home. I… Read more »

Paula Van Hoogen
Guest
Paula Van Hoogen

Kristie,
That chandelier over the banquette looks vaguely familiar…..is that the “one”….?
I LOVE WHAT YOU DID WITH IT!!!!!
Love, Paula

Lauren Jones
Guest

Hi Kristie,

I love your kitchen and how you’ve modernized it without losing the traditional feel. I’m thinking of doing a retro theme for my kitchen. Do you know what sort of furniture I could use to give it this look? I’m thinking of what to do for a breakfast bar and light fittings in particular.

Lauren

Jennifer Collins
Guest

I adore your kitchen! I wouldn’t get out of that barrel back chair until I’ve had BOTH morning coffees.
I love kitsch (it’s a compliment!) and I dream of having a black/grey/white marmoleum buffalo check floor in my kitchen one day.
Your “temporary” countertop looks fab and I think the only thing I could suggest for your kit is white penny tile with grey grout as your backsplash. Your copper faucet would POP!
Thanks for all the fun posts!

Valerie
Guest
Valerie

How do you care for your VCT floor tiles? We took them out of our whole downstairs when we bought our house 21 years ago because so many were cracked. I love the look – I also have a vintage-y kitchen, but am intimidated about caring for them properly. Thanks!

trackback

[…] When the design editor of This Old House magazine called and asked if they could do a photoshoot of our old home’s renovation, I grabbed Mr. Man and we went appliance shopping immediately. Here’s the old refrigerator that you’ll never see in the photos I post of my kitchen: […]

joey
Guest
joey

Sorry, but I’m not a fan of white kitchens… to each his own… I like cherry cabinets w/a lighter counter top and wood floors that are a little lighter then the cabinets.. I just think it is a more richer looking kitchen and the look will last years later…. I just think white kitchens is a fad and it will soon be replaced by some other fad.. Everyone has different ideals .

Cynthia Lambert
Guest
Cynthia Lambert

So, four years on, what did you decide to do about your appliances. I LOVE that you respected the age of the house and the style of the kitchen as it was meant to be. There is too little of that nowadays. Everything is so cookie cutter now. I took brand new stainless steel appliances out of my kitchen and put in in 1950s appliances. They look superb and the fridge is more energy efficient than the new one was. And they don’t stick out beyond the cabinetry, so the kitchen feels larger.