Before & After: A Kitchen Returns to its Retro Roots

Before & After: A Kitchen Returns to its Retro Roots

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Nancy Mitchell
Oct 10, 2014
(Image credit: Radim Schreiber)

In most of the renovations we feature here on Apartment Therapy, the homeowners are hoping for a more modern look. It was a little different for Fairfield, Iowa homeowners Lauren and Dennis. After making the initial decision to remodel their kitchen, they decided that what the space really needed was to look older, not younger. So they set about restoring the kitchen of their 1939 home to its former glory — and made some surprising choices along the way.

The reasons for the renovation were pretty practical — the stove and the refrigerator were right next to each other, with no room for countertops or food prep. Storage was lacking, the drawers in the old cabinets were nearly impossible to open, and the old, dingy ceramic tile floor was hard on the feet, and forbiddingly cold during the Iowa winters.

Lauryn and Dennis talked to a few designers, who had some pretty radical ideas about solving the storage and counter space problem. They wanted to break down interior walls, move exterior walls, move the basement staircase, even move the sink into the breakfast nook. Lauryn and Dennis rejected these ideas and ended up doing something even crazier. It was a decision that, by their own admission, "every realtor would be appalled at."

(Image credit: Radim Schreiber)

They decided to replace the existing dishwasher with a counter-height refrigerator, and then have new cabinets (built to match the old ones) installed around the stove, to reclaim the space where the old refrigerator used to be. "It was our kitchen, after all. We already had a chest freezer in the basement, and who really knows what’s in the back of those behemoth refrigerators?"

(Image credit: Radim Schreiber)

Once the decision was made to match the new cabinets to the old, the choice for the new countertops just came naturally — an old-school laminate countertop (from Nevermar) with lovely stainless steel edges. The vintage Kohler sink was being used as a goat trough at a friend's farm but "cleaned up rather nicely." A linoleum floor completes the retro feel — and is much easier on the feet.

Lauryn and Dennis couldn't be happier with their new kitchen — and it looks like it's been in their home all along.

To read more about the project, head over to Retro Renovation. There are many, many more photos of the new kitchen — and a Johnny Cash & June Carter cover from Lauryn and Dennis' band (really, check this out).

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