Saturday, September 16, 2006

The kitchen comes together

Here are some photos of the kitchen nearly completed. The only thing I'm still missing are: a valance for above the triple-window, and I will continue looking for white plastic marbleized tiles to create a backsplash.

The kitchen comes together #2!

Here are some first shots of the kitchen coming together.

Features we love:

  • Pantry cabinets look great.
  • 1959 GE Pushbutton Range.
  • Original sink (one of 4 salvaged from nuns' kitchen).
  • Azrock cortina floor.
  • eBay coppertone spaceship light (with glass on bottom that mimics glass on stove.)
  • Can lights in chrome satin finish.
  • Formica boomerang countertops with metal edging from last place in America you can find it (info to come in future post.)
  • 42" Sub Zero - new, yes, but very vintage looking and again, my husband put his foot down when it came to my installing a vintage fridge.
  • Vintage wallpaper from basement of Miller's Art Supply, Pittsfield, Mass. NOTE: You can spot this SAME wallpaper in Steven Spielberg's classic, Catch Me If You Can. It's in the family home living room where Leonardo di Caprio's dad Christopher Walken dances with his French wife!
  • Nutone exhaust fan - fit right into previous fan's space.

Not shown and/or not yet completed:

  • Window treatments TBD.
  • Custom rounded shelves 3@ side along wall cabinets to right and left of window. Similar shelves above stove.
  • Wallpaper on soffit above fridge, delayed as we fuss with the exact position of the fridge.
  • And most importantly: We are searching for a Saarinen tulip table, 42", and chairs, all white. Once the kitchen was in place, it was crystal clear that this is what the space calls for (rather than the typical 50s diner style table and chairs.) This will go directly under the center light. I added a photo of a the type of set I'm looking for.

Posts to come: On suppliers and helpers. Also, on all sources.

An inspiration kitchen - the epitome of 50s style

In preparing to R&R the kitchen, I did tons of research. On eBay, I've bought many booklets from 50s-60s steel kitchen cabinets - and these have been great sources of design detail. Here's a photo that I particularly liked.

Found: 1963 aqua Geneva steel kitchen cabinets - from a cooking school run by nuns in NYC!

The is the original home of the steel kitchen cabinets I'd been searching for, for nearly 5 years. The decorating gods sent them to me, just as I needed to lock in a decision about my cabinets. I'd just about given up hope of finding the vintage steel kitchen cabinets I wanted -- hard to find a set large enough to fit my 15x15 kitchen, and they had to be geographically near. But these came to me just in time -- and in aqua -- the color my husband wanted -- 67 of them -- plenty to work with -- and in great shape. They are from The Grace Institute, a not-for-profit on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and had been installed in 1963. Nuns ran the institute at the time, and these filled two rooms used to teach cooking to women in need. Today, the rooms are used to teach ESL classes (in progress when I initially visited to scope out the cabinets, pictured.) The nuns took great care of them. I'm told they were only used for seven or eight years. Note the dymo labels they put on to keep track of the cabinets' contents. I wanted to keep these on, but my husband's patience stopped there. The fastidious nuns also labeled the inside.

The kitchen reno starts!

I've been offline for a while, involved in all the details of my kitchen renovation. Here's the first set of photos: The "befores." My circa 1975 kitchen. Mary Jane Gable put it in - it was really well done but, well, a '70s kitchen in a 50s house.

Some of the defining features of the 'inherited' kitchen: Dark wood-melamine cabinets. Falling apart after years of hard use. 24" soffits that, while very functional with their included recessed can lights, made the kitchen feel smaller. A long wall of pantry cabinets, again, while useful, made the room feel smaller. And a small window. The original kitchen was smaller, and in '75 the Gables expanded it to enclose an adjacent mudroom.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Wallpapers with 50s style

In looking for wallpapers for my new/old aqua kitchen, I scoured about 300 books. So far I've found two - one book from Sanderson, the other the Stroheim & Romann "Petites" collection, which really seem to evoke the era. Both are full of flat-finish papers, which need to be pasted onto the wall. Both are on the expensive side. The Sanderson patterns shown (first) is Romilly/WR8242/4 aqua. I'll use this on the walls of the kitchen, and use the complementary Marcasite WR8335/8 (not shown) on the soffit above my cabinets. The other two patterns are from the S&R collection. In both books, there are quite a few colorways, including some nice corals, which like aquas also seem hard to find.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Coved metal corner bead for around doors and windows

It's been a while since I posted -- as I am in the midst of a kitchen renovation. You understand. As part of that project my contractor searched high and low for 'coved' metal drywall finishing trim to match the really great stuff already in the house. He couldn't find it -- but after a 30 minute internet search, I did. It's a great look for modern houses, very sleek. In my 1951 ranch, the original builder/homeowner features traditional colonial trim in all the public areas (living room, dining room, foyer). But: This sleek, modern trim look was used in the two bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens. Dietrich Metal is the supplier -- I can't insert the photo from their PDF page. Go to: Metal Beads and Trims (Finishing Products) - J Round Bullnose:

Sunday, April 02, 2006

"The Bible" of 50s style and all things retro

My husband and I have found this book to be incomparable, in terms of generating ideas for every aspect of decorating our 1951 ranch. The interiors were all created by interior designers charged with selling Armstrong flooring. As such, they're "over decorated" -- but that's part of what makes this book so AWESOME. I've paged through it at least 1000 times, so far! It is well worth the cost.

Final note: You can see, I am not a midcentury modern snob. Sure, I like the expensive, renowned designer pieces. But only the rich lived like that. I love the eclectic mix - the fact that ambitious women were turning their creativity toward their home - and of course, the exuberance - of the period.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Rubber tile for retro floors

These rubber tiles appear to have the same features as VCT and linoleum - and I really love the marbleized effect.

Azrock Cortina #423 is my favorite 50s style flooring

Forced to make final decisions about my kitchen reno, I have settled on this Azrock Cortina tile - #423 Autumn Haze. I haven't installed it yet, but the sample looks FABULOUS. Very streaky -- rather than "blotchy" like so many of the other VCT tiles today. I am going to install the tile at a 90-degree angle to each other.

In my research - looking through many old 50s kitchen catalogs - I think this particular tile is a great replica. My biggest regret is that I must buy it in 12" squares. All tiles today seem to be in this size, at minimum, it seems. In the '50s, from what I can tell, 9" tiles proliferated. In my home, all the tiles (under carpet in the basement, the original kitchen flooring) were 9" square -- as is the parquet in the dining room and the cork tiles in the foyer and bedrooms. In my back hall, the beige/white/black/coral streaked linoleum (fabulous) is 6" square. Fabulous! Oh well.

I also think that Flex-Tile is worth a look:

- Flex-thru tiles, Architectural series --

Here is the url for Azrock Cortina:

- And Azrock Cortina --

Note: The Azrock people were great about getting me samples. Give them your business!

A few more retro knobs and pulls

The catalog just arrived and I see that Van Dyke's Restorers also has several good cabinet knobs and pulls in their most recent catalog. I really like one pull in the catalog - p. 176 - an asymmetric aircraft-style design. It's not on the website, and it's not expensive ($5.99). Check it out. I also like the "Diner series hook" pictured above/center. The Diner series appears to me to be more contemporary/2005 than 1955 - but it's a nice tribute for someone who doesn't want to go completely retro. Prices on other pulls look good, too - for example, the waterfall style pull pictured first is featured on a post below, but I think the price is better at Van Dykes. Try their website, search "art deco" and "diner" - but for the complete selection, you'll need to call for their catalog. 1-800-558-1234, or

Saturday, March 18, 2006

50s style flooring - Linoleum & Vinyl

Looking at photos of interiors from the '50s, it is clear that both vinyl composite and linoleum were used. Here are sources I recommend today:

- Armstrong Commercial floor tile - Standard Excelon Imperial Texture. One homeowner I heard from said the black was identical to what is still in his basement. There are 75 colors, three shown above (the last three, larger images). Note, in my downstairs basement bedroom, the original homeowner used a mix of browns to beautiful effect - so have fun. Note, this flooring will last forever and ever. See more at:

- Armstrong also makes true linoleum -- see their website, and so does Forbo Marmoleum. Note: While these are quite beautiful, and environmentally friendly to boot, they do require more care and are not considered completely waterproof.

- Toli Linotesta - is another product that I have found that resembles the marble-like look of lineoleum, but has the greater durability of vinyl composite. 3 colors pictured above (first three, smaller images). See more at

- Finally, try cork. It's quite beautiful. It has the same care-ability issues as linoleum. There are many suppliers around.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Where to get porcelain kitchen sink+drainboard combination?

Does anyone know of a company that's reproducing the cast-iron, porcelain-enameled sinks with drainboards as featured on top of this metal sink base? They were very popular in the '50s and while you can get them today in metal, I cannot find a source in porcelain.

They can be picked up salvaged -- such as this one at But it seems like they could also be easily reproduced. Let me know if you have a source and I will feature it on the blog.

Kitchen sinks: Great 50s style choices

It's Mac to the rescue again with some nice choices of cast iron porcelain-enameled sinks for the kitchen. The first two sinks pictured are both from Mac the Antique Plumber,, and the site says the same same supplier has been making them for 70 years. I believe them. I salvaged four (yes, four) similar sinks circa 1963 recently, and will install one in my upcoming kitchen reno.

The stainless countertop sinks are both from Elkay. I recently saw the first one in an ad from the 50s - it appears to be virtually unchanged from then.

Blogger not letting me post my final pic, so I will have to do a separate post of the sink I REALLY want to see reproduced: A cast iron porcelain-enamal sink/counter combo like the stainless version from Elkay above. IS ANYONE MAKING THESE?

Monday, February 13, 2006

Stainless steel edging for laminate countertops

I've moved: Please see my dramatically improved site:

This is another alternative for countertop edging -- although I prefer the edging from Dave Sanders (see my other post on stainless steel edging for countertops).

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Cabinet pulls and knobs: Atomic, streamline and deco

My favorite pulls and knobs:

- Photos with green background: All from Rejuvenation Lighting,

- Gold pull: From Mac the Antique Plumber -- but go for the chrome instead!

- Atomic triangle, Dominoes and Mah Jhong tiles -- from Bauerware,

- And note, there is a classic 50s/deco pull available from Crown City Hardware, costs nearly $20 but it looks beautiful. It's not online but you can order the catalog at