Carolyn's 1940's Kitchen Makeover

Green Building and Renovation Month 2010

Name: Carolyn Sellers
Location: Nashville, TN

When Carolyn and her husband purchased their first home, a 1940's Tudor in Nashville, TN, they knew instantly we were going to have to do something about the kitchen. It was tiny, had cheap mdf-type cabinets and even crappier floor tile, as well as faux green marble print Formica. But they were able to give their kitchen a brand new (old) look without using very many new materials. Jump below as they walk us through their renovation:

Tell us about this home building or renovation project.

We knocked out the wall dividing our kitchen and dining room and added a bar top, as well as re-arranging the layout to provide us more space. Where the former owner had a small table, we moved the fridge and created overhead storage as well as a dedicated baking/ mixing area because we love to cook and entertain.

We arched the new opening to mimic the other doorways in that dining room and giving it visual interest- most visitors don't realize we created the arch and think it was part of the house! The best re-use of materials was in our vintage Youngstown metal cabinets and handles. We scoured the South to find cabinets to fit our dimensions, and then had them stripped and powder coated at a local shop that specializes in car parts. Although our house was built in 1940, and our cabinets are from the 1950's, we wanted the kitchen to have the feel that the cabinets had been there all along, just updated with modern appliances, which we already owned. We also utilized some of the cabinets' original 1950s countertops by removing the old linoleum tops and replacing them with new Formica in a vintage pattern.

Our total renovation costs for new (to us) cabinets, countertops, tile, floors and lighting was under $2,500.00- with half of that going for the cabinet cost.

What specific green materials, techniques, or processes went into this project?

We salvaged metal cabinets from craigslist, indoor shutters, an exterior door and lighting from habitat home re-store. We also removed the old floor tile and refinished the existing hard wood floors that were beneath the tile. Most of the accessories in the kitchen are vintage and reused as well, such as the "science kit" and all decorations above the cabinets, the vintage cookware, canisters, globes, silverware, plates, mixing bowls, lighting, bread box, cosco stool, kitchenaid mixer and tea towels were mostly found via etsy, ebay, craigslist, thrift stores, or our local flea market.

What green building material or product were you most pleased about?

Re-use is a great way to keep stuff out of landfills and giving them new life! The 1950's metal Youngstown cabinets really sealed the deal for us. We spent approximately $400 to purchase all of the cabinets and another $1,050 to have them refinished, they look brand new and better than any reproduction ever could.

What had you less than enthused?

My husband, David, might say refinishing the hard wood floors since he did that part all on his own. There were several hard parts along the way such as mitering the edges of the stainless steel banding on the countertops. We both had to really dig deep in our brains to geometry class and remember how to calculate reverse angles for cutting.

Also, while the design and decorating and even demolition parts were fun, knocking out half a wall proved to be challenging as well. The hydraulic jacks required to hold the doorway up while my father and husband placed a header beam above for support was really scary too!! But it was all worth it in the end!

Have any advice for readers looking to green build or renovate their home?

Don't be afraid, it's your house- make it what you want and reuse and re-purpose everything that you can!

Thanks, Carolyn!

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