Monday, 27 February 2012

My Vintage Kitchen: Very Before, Before, and After

During our last effort to finish cleaning out my parents' home nearly two years ago, I finally came across some of my childhood toys.   Memories came to mind and heart with each new discovery.   Some toys I remembered well and had thought of many times throughout the years.   Others had slipped deeper into my memories and I only remembered them as I found them.   Some of my favorite finds were items from my kitchen set.   I loved my kitchen set.   I probably played with it every day until about 6th grade when it was moved out of my room.   It was a Sears one, made of Masonite.   It had red accents, including a plastic red sink.   Behind the sink was a little painted window scene, complete with red and white check curtains.   All of the cookware was red and my dishes were tin with red accents.


Our house on the farm was built in 1956 and it had characteristics traits of a mid-century home.   The two bathrooms were beautiful with amazing pastel and black tile-work.   When I posted pictures of those rooms on Retro Renovation's Facebook page, those who commented said they had never seen such beautiful tile.   I remember one of my friends in junior high said she like our bathrooms because they were "punk and funky."

We had wood paneling in the living room, hallway, one bedroom and the kitchen.   The hallway and living room were paneled in beautiful varnished pine, while the kitchen and bedroom had smooth cypress.   The kitchen even had a smooth cypress ceiling.   You would have difficulty finding cypress like that, unless you bought it on the black market or it was reclaimed from a demolition or remodel.

Central hallway--smooth pine

 The kitchen was the center of our lives and the backdrop for so many memories.   It was twenty-five feet long and gave Mama plenty of decorating space.   In the breakfast area, she had her Hoosier cabinet and collectibles on display.    Grandad built shelves above the windows to give her more horizontal space for her items.

Breakfast area (smooth cypress walls and ceiling & built-in ironing board in wall)

 In the center of the kitchen, a peninsula extended from the back wall.   It was wide enough that you had to clean it from both sides, reaching to the middle in either direction.   We had five 1950s turning bar stools and it was at that peninsula that we ate family meals.   It's where I sat and colored and worked on school projects.   At one end of the bar was a built in phone nook.   Mama would sit on the bar stool and talk to friends on our avocado-green rotary phone.   I knew not to interrupt her or make loud noises near her when she was on the phone unless something or someone was on fire.   My friends would sit there to ask their mothers if they could stay a little longer or spend the night.   Since we were a family of four, that fifth bar stool was primarily the phone stool.

All of these pictures are taken with renters' belongings in the house.   They added the ugly ceiling fan!

The peninsula and the counter surrounding the built-in stove were  covered in original Formica.   It was beautiful--white with gold star bursts.   The area around the stove no longer boasted many star bursts as they had been scrubbed away.   The other counters, along with back splash, were tiled in the same black and sea foam green tiles used in the small bathroom.   The cabinets were traditional 1950s country pine.   The whole space was carpeted with an indoor/outdoor berber carpet in shades of olive green and rust.   Horrible if you dropped flour, but I don't think we ever lost dropped dishes to breaking!


So, it's little wonder that a sentimentalist like I would have deep connections to vintage kitchens.   During my senior year of college, Mama and I began collecting vintage items for my future kitchen.   At that time, I wanted a turquoise and red kitchen, but  as we shopped, we kept finding items in red and jadeite green.   So, my vintage green and red kitchen was born.   In my first apartment, decorative space was sparse, but I managed to display it all.   You see, I am like my mother when I judge a kitchen.   Display space ranks equally with workspace and storage.   I carry on the tradition of Function Follows Form!    Joey moved into that apartment after we were married and then we moved to Texas and lived in an apartment with a bigger, but still plain, apartment kitchen.   When we found out we were expecting E, we decided to find a house to rent.   We found one with a darling galley style kitchen.   It had pine cabinets with the same handles of my childhood one, and a white tile back splash and counter.   My vintage ware looked right at home.   Mama made sweet red and white check curtains, with red rick-rack trim, similar to June Cleaver's kitchen curtains.   It was a bright and happy kitchen!

When we decided to buy our first home, we found a 1964 home with its original kitchen.   I squealed when I saw the worn original Formica (white with gold specks).   I told my realtor that most people would look at it and say, "Gut it," but I was delighted with it.   It had curly-q wood work above the sink and the same cabinet handles as my childhood kitchen.   The cabinets were painted white and I removed all the handles so I could paint them red.   I hung Mama's red and white check curtains at the window above the sink (Does anything say "homey" quite the same as a window above a sink?).   My vintage ware fit perfectly and the result was my sweet, bright, happy vintage kitchen.   Two years ago, we finally had to do an update.  I didn't want to, but they were so worn that water was seeping under the seams and we knew that the counter tops would hurt future sale of the house.   I was able to find pre-cut Formica counter tops with flecks of my vintage green and we installed a basic white tile back splash where before there was only painted paneling.   So, the kitchen was updated, but the updates still worked with the unmistakably vintage vibe of the space.

We outgrew our sweet home, though, and had to search for a new one.   There aren't a large number of vintage homes in our area that haven't been taken over as student housing.   The newer, the better seems to be the leading philosophy in our area.    

My new kitchen is "finished."   It's only ten years old, making it the newest kitchen I've ever had.   The first time I really looked at the kitchen was on our second trip with the realtor.   I wasn't sold on the home itself on the first viewing.   I had yet to walk into a kitchen and feel that it was mine.   On that second viewing, I had that feeling.   It has a similar shape and feel to the farm kitchen of my youth.   The workspace is great and even includes an island (always a baker's dream).   The storage is amazing and for the first time, all my kitchen and service items are in the kitchen rather than stored around the house.
Before: my kitchen as I saw it on a viewing





The first thing I did was remove the wallpaper border and change the paint color.   I wanted a neutral background for my vintage items.   I used the same color as our previous living room since it's a nice, happy color that always received compliments..


The cabinets are the same golden pine finish of the farm kitchen and I added black knobs and pulls that have vintage charm.   I will never understand cabinet doors with no knobs or grooves for opening!   The kitchen had Formica counters that had been "rolled" up the back to form a back splash.   There were several holes in the space where the back splash section began and some of those were behind the sink.   Already, the wood beneath was swelling from the moisture.   So, new counter tops and back splash were needed.   I went with a classic black, in Silestone.  Now, my counter-top edges are black, just like the edges of Mama's farm kitchen counters.   I chose classic white subway tile for the backsplash, with dark grey grout, for a vintage feel and ease of cleaning.  

The kitchen has a high bar so my children will have memories of sitting at a bar and coloring, doing schoolwork, eating snacks...just like my memories of the bar in our kitchen.   There is a large breakfast area that holds Mama's round table and Hoosier cabinet and I have room to grow in terms of wall display space.   I purchased a red-handled rolling pin for $4.00 to start a display collection of rolling pins.


After: cabinet hardware makes a difference

Before: range wall

Before: the color was not bad, put the paint job was poorly done.
My primary goal in decorating our new home has been to age the place.   Since the kitchen doesn't lend itself to my normal vintage look, I've gone for a more vintage cottage feel.   I noticed the space above the cabinets first, and I have been able to display many of Mama's collectibles that were stored away in boxes before.   Her vintage Sunbeam mixer, a wedding present in 1956, is on display, along with her copper collection.   Just like her, I point out the copper pieces and tell the story behind them.

Mama and her friend, Carmel, went to garage sales most weeks.   In the Baton Rouge area, the usual days for sales were Thursday through Saturday.   One Wednesday, they were going somewhere and they happened upon a sale.   It wasn't a usual day for a sale and it was raining.   Mama saw this collection of black buckets and pans on a table.   She asked the owners what they knew of them.   They only knew they had been in a flea market fire.   They were wrapped in plastic and during the fire, the plastic melted to the pieces.   After inspection, Mama was certain they were all brass and copper.   She asked the price and was told they were $10 for the whole set.   In typical fashion, she said, "I only have $7; would you take that?"

Mrs. Carmel started to speak up, "I've got a $10."

"Be quiet, Carmel,"  Mama whispered.

She brought them home and was able to clean them to reveal three copper pots, a kettle, and three solid brass buckets.   The large pot, a jelly pot, retails for over $100 alone.

Before: view of breakfast area from living room

Before: wall beyond breakfast area and laundry room

I'm considering painting just this laundry room wall a different color.   Maybe the original green?!?

We were so excited about the water dispenser.   We had no place to put one in our previous home.

Mama's Hoosier cabinet.   It was painted green; Mama and granddad stripped it and refinished it on one of his visits to our farm


Display beside Hoosier cabinet: Mama's vintage towels on her rack/shelf, some of my childhood kitchen toys, and a picture of Grandad.   Mama bought the print above because it looked so much like Grandad.   He wore overalls when he came to
Our kitchen is the center of our home now.   It's where everyone congregates while I cook.   It has all the hominess of my childhood memories, but with my own personal stamp.   I still feel guilty since I've always loved older homes, but it really has turned out to be a perfect home for us!

1 comment:

  1. So glad to see you blogging again! I think it's beautiful how you share your precious memories! =)


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