1960's Kitchen Update

saray7997January 26, 2009

Our '60's era kitchen is pictured below, avocado green appliances and all. The cabinets are cherry, and for budget reasons we plan to keep them. However, the finish is in poor condition on the doors/drawers that have gotten heavy use over the years.

Our house is a 1920's colonial revival. We've been renovating it DIY for the past 4 years, and we've finally come to the point where we can do the last interior room...the kitchen! We're going to put beadboard wainscoting on the kitchen walls, varied width red oak on the floor, soapstone countertops, white subway tile backsplash, ORB hardware, and of course remove wallpaper and add new appliances, fixtures, etc. keeping with the "period" look.

My question is this: Would we be completely nuts to paint the cabinets you see in the pic BM white dove to match the rest of the trim in our house. We would also do a trim treatment on the soffit to make it blend with the painted cabinets (I've seen it done by several people in this forum). We'd keep two sets of cabinets on separate walls that you cannot see from this picture cherry wood.

I *love* the look of all the period kitchens on this forum...but they're white! Ideally, I'd love white cabinets in my own kitchen. But, somehow I feel like it's a sin to paint cherry wood.

If we rejuvenated the finish on the cabinets and left them cherry would that still go with the period look? It wouldn't be my ideal kitchen, but my conscience may rest easier knowing I didn't slather paint over cherry.

Please offer your suggestions!

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Your plans sound lovely. In my experience, painting over used finished wood kitchen cabinets isn't very successful, as the paint may fail. I think rejuvenating the finish on the cabinets would have a better chance. And they should be beautiful.

Our 1910 kitchen is green and white, not all white, with dark green tile and a wood floor.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 12:50AM
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White kitchens are beautiful, but I agree that it would be a shame to paint the cherry. My old bungalow was built in 1919 and updated throughout the years including the walnut formica era of 1970. We kept the solid wood cabinet boxes and replaced the doors with solid walnut doors and updated the hardware to an old looking brass. During the planning, I considered painting the boxes white and replacing the doors with a paintable wood, but the dark cabinets feel right in this house. The inside of my boxes are all finished so we were able to add two glass doors with mission style mullions. Your doors look solid and would look wonderful if you just clean them up and go forward with the rest of your plan.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 8:18AM
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the 'hygenic' white kitchen was the stainless-and-granite of the era, so it's the best documented - but while I'm not opposed to 'liming' oak past its prime, you have not just cherry...you have quite nice cherry - the figuring on the panel next to the stove is distinctive : )

I'd be inclined to update the hardware on the cabinets (LeeValley.com has some lovely stuff) and any drawer slides or whatever need replacing, and revel in the wood : )

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 10:52AM
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I think if you are having any second thoughts about painting the cabinets, do the rest first and see if they fit into your other remodels as is. I'm thinking it's possible the change is going to be huge even without changing the cabinet colors.

Then if you still don't like the wood, they are yours do as you wish. I know cherry wood is nice but it's not one of my favorites. If it's an option, you could sell the cherry and buy what you like.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 11:14AM
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I think your plan is fantastic- I agree it seems silly to paint such nice cabinets. I also really love the white vintage kitchens on GW, but I think that they aren't actually vintage- they are more the current vintage "look". I'd suggest doing some on-line research into what styles were happening at the time of your house (mostly art deco) and incorporate some of that into your design.

We have a Victorian that we are in the process of renovating the kitchen of and our cabinets will be salvaged windows in a dark wood. When I searched Victorian kichens, the current vintage Victorian kitchen cabinets were all white, but that would never have actually happened during the time period.

Sounds like you have an amazing house and I'm sure your kitchen will soon look fabulous too.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 1:50PM
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I think it is the rest of the finishes, not the cabinets. I would come up with a scheme that made them work.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 4:49PM
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I've painted cabinets in two houses so far and I love them. That said, I would not paint yours. They are very pretty. If you have areas on them that show wear, I would try Restore-a-finish or a similar product on them (after cleaning with TSP). The countertops and appliances would be my first focus because they are dating the kitchen.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 6:11PM
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Thank you so much, everyone, for all your responses! We have decided NOT to paint the cabinets. I guess I sort of knew all along that it wouldn't be the best thing to do, but it was reassuring to hear it from all of you! I am planning on cleaning the cabs w/ TSP and then touching them up where needed. We are now super-excited to get started with our remodel. I will post pictures of the progress.
Thanks again!

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 8:34PM
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I had a similar valance over the kitchen sink in my old kitchen. It was screwed in from the inside of the neighboring cabinets. It took 5 seconds to unscrew it with no damage (it could have gone back up that quickly too if necessary). Taking it down opened up the window and seemed to update the kitchen immediately. For me, it was like taking a "1989" stamp off the kitchen. Knowing I wasn't going to put it back up, I used the piece to sample various finish options without actually having to mess up the cabinets. Just a thought.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 11:54AM
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Great suggestion! We were (obviously) planning on taking it down, and it would be the perfect place to test finish options. Thanks!

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 2:58PM
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As others have said - the white vintage kitchen is kind of a contemporary cliche or reinterpretation. In reality kitch cabs were often originally wood, then painted over later on in 40s/50s after they got banged up.

Yeah that cherry will look fantastic once cleaned up or refinished, and also with walls painted in a color which complements / works well with the red of the wood. Were you going to do something with that soffit thing above? You could remove or repanel with cherry wood to take the wood effect up to the ceiling. Or both! Can't wait to see the after pics

    Bookmark   February 4, 2009 at 10:55AM
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Your kitchen will look so great with updated appliances, especially in black or stainless. I hope you can get a counter dwpth fridge. I think I would splurge and replace the window with one with mullions, since it is a focal point, or even a greenhouse window. I am thinking of doing cherry cabinets now in my remodel of a 20's condo and am really taken by photos of cherry cabinets with darker walls (like navy blue) and delft tiles. Good luck and send more photos!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 7:56AM
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I think you could paint SOME of the cherry, using creamy white. I like to mix different cabinet finishes in a kitchen.

Perhaps the drawer cabinet under the peninsula could be painted, with some bun feet or legs added to make it seem like a period piece that was integrated into the kitchen. That way, you could fix the drawers, get rid of the faux brick end, and then cover the whole thing with nice fresh paint.

And the cabinet to the left of the fridge could also be painted cream, both the top and the bottom as if it were a small vintage hutch.

I agree that the cherry is beautiful (especially that side piece by the fridge) but it is rather monolithic and brown.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 8:44PM
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one more thing... do those avocado appliances work? If so, you might be able to sell them to someone doing a mid-century remodel for pretty good money. They look like they're in great shape and it's nice that they match.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 8:47PM
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We removed the soffit above our cabinets when we remodeled our kitchen. They were purely 'decorative' and served no other purpose. Our kitchen is fairly small, and by removing the soffits it helps to open up the space. Of course that may not work in the area that connects to the dinette.

I like the cherry cabinets, but I'm biased. New hardware may make a big difference.

Good luck with your reno.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2009 at 2:13AM
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Thanks for all the advice, everyone! We are in the middle of our reno now. We've decided to keep the cabinets, but changed the layout a bit. I will post pics of the progress when I have a chance!

    Bookmark   April 10, 2009 at 1:58PM
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I know this is an old thread, but I would love to see your before and after pictures of your kitchen.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2010 at 4:12PM
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