straight talk

by Feb 19, 2011ModObjects0 comments

Our kitchen as it is today. But it did not always look like this! I am often asked whether a vintage kitchen should be remodeled. And the answer is, it depends. Ours was just ugly beyond words and so dark. We really needed to brighten it up. This kitchen is sections cobbled together – parts of it are 13 years old and parts are 55 years old!


 For an otherwise modern house, the kitchen was dark and cabin-like – and way too closed in. During this process we also added hardwood floors throughout the entire area. This other ‘before’ photo really strikes me the most when I look at it. The wood in this room – including around the windows – was a dark tobacco like color. All of the other wood in the house is a pinkish-champagne color. Painting these window frames white made such a difference! They just disappear. And opening the kitchen to the family room allowed for us to have the nice sized kidney shaped table and island that really makes the kitchen work


This is our kitchen a few days after we bought our house in 1997. A crew was already at work taking the wall back a few feet (we have since brought it back another 18” for better flow and what a difference!) and readying the cabinets for refacing.

I’m all about the details.  And the little things.  I like things straight and even and perfect.  Just ask Arlen – I really drive him crazy sometimes, but I can’t help it.  I was born this way.  For the past year or so, the hinges in our kitchen have been failing and the doors were not hanging so straight.  It made my skin crawl!   Our kitchen is a cobbled together collection of original wood cabinets and ‘new’ Formica cabinets (built when we bought the house in 1997) to accommodate our slightly revised kitchen layout.  The original wood cabinets and wood paneled walls just did not fit in with our modern sensibilities – but a complete remodel was not in the budget.  Besides, the wood cabinets were very solid and good quality.   So we did the only thing we could at the time – we re-faced what was there to match new cabinets built to accommodate the double wall ovens and refrigerator surround.

I designed the funky island/table specifically for our family of 5, and we added modern hardware and 3 different counter surfaces (Corian on the main counter, stainless on the island and formica on the table).  The base of the table is a faux Saarinen table pedestal that we had painted by an auto bodyshop.  The backsplash tile was a recent addition, installed just last spring.  The result was just what we were looking for – a kitchen that mimicked the look of a metal kitchen that could have been original to the house, but it was clean and sleek and functional.  And it did not look like 1997 and it doesn’t look like today.  13 years later, it just looks….modern.

Herein was the problem. A broken hinge caused this door (and others) to hang poorly, and made the entire kitchen look like it was in disrepair.

The cabinets are still in near perfect condition, but time was taking its toll on the hinges with several of the hinges and or  base plates not functioning properly.  The doors were either hanging all wonky, or snapping shut, or making a loud clacking noise when opened.  The room was looking less than perfect, and I just couldn’t take it anymore.  So I did some surfing and came up with .  I sent them photos of the old hinges.  They called me back and asked another million questions and figured out exactly what I had and what I needed.  I also found out that they have dampers (either integrated in the hinge or separate) for that awesome new ‘soft close’ action.  Arlen and my Dad installed the new hinges and dampers on all the doors in about an hour.  Long story short, for about $150 it’s like we have a whole new kitchen.  What a difference!!  And yes, we got some extra hinges and base plates, so we never find ourselves in this position again!

New hinges and dampers made all the doors hang perfectly and magically close without a sound! Here you can see the mix of original cabinet, with ‘new’ doors. FYI, these are Blum hinges and dampers, but if you just want to add dampers to your existing cabinets, the new ones from Ikea work great, too. $4.95 for a two pack!

As an interesting side note, we happened upon the original blueprints of our house a few months ago.  After pining for them for years, I found out they were on file just around the corner at Amberley Village hall!  From these you can see the original kitchen layout of the north wall, complete with horizontal hanging refrigerator (long gone by the time we bought the house)!  The south wall was intact (almost), but the north wall facing the family and dining room had been closed in and a giant china cabinet was on that wall.  If the kitchen ever needs another re-do, I’d think seriously about restoring it to the original layout.  If only we’d known!

This is a section of the blueprint that shows the original kitchen layout. I would have loved to have seen it like this!!

This is the original layout of the North Wall in the kitchen. The trouble with these awesome looking hanging refrigerators is when they conk out, there was no floor space for a replacement. I know other vintage kitchens that have had to be re-configured for this very reason. Darn G.E. for being so innovative, then giving up on cool design!



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