Vintage Kitchen Update

ljwrarDecember 21, 2012

I've been a lurker and occasional poster on these forums for a very long time. We were going to remodel a kitchen years ago but decided to move to a 1931 house with the original kitchen instead. We fell in love with the original features and wanted to keep what we could. The main goals of the update were to keep the original cabinets and tile and increase counter space. Storage was not really an issue because we have built ins and a pantry cabinet in the adjacent breakfast room. We still need to get some art upon the walls, but otherwise, we are done.

Here are some before pictures.

From the real estate listing.

Stove and most of the usable counter space.

The rest of the counter space.

All of the appliances by the only available outlet.

Finished pictures.

The cabinet to the right of the window houses a water filter for the glass filler faucet below.

Custom recycle center. The other lower cabinets have pullout baskets from Lee Valley.

The dishwasher is pretty close to the sink. Plumbing for the laundry room was already in this wall. The metal cabinet on the wall is from a salvage yard.

More counter space!

Even more counter space!

I found this cabinet on Craigs List.

The light fixture is from ebay. The Broan exhaust fan fit into the passive system from the 30's. The original system worked fairly well on its own. The added fan power just helps a bit.

Spice rack with vintage bottles.

Here is a link that might be useful: Lisa's kitchen

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That spice rack is absolutely the cutest thing ever! HOw in the world did you find it with the labels on in such good condition--it's wonderful!!

    Bookmark   December 21, 2012 at 11:11PM
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Great job keeping the original bones, it's very cute! I like how the counters drain into the sink. I have not seen that before. The spice cabinet is to die for! Was that original?

    Bookmark   December 21, 2012 at 11:11PM
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Very cool. Thanks for keeping so much of the original kitchen!

    Bookmark   December 21, 2012 at 11:18PM
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There's a Bob's Big Boy! That is such a cute detail. What is the little cabinet he's sitting above?

    Bookmark   December 21, 2012 at 11:20PM
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motodetroit and firsthouse, I made the spice rack and the labels. The doors for the rack are vintage cookie box covers from stores. The frames with doors were placed on top of open cookie boxes. You could open the door and pick your cookies out of the box. I made the labels with a simple drafting program and printed them on clear label paper. I covered them with clear packing tape to protect the ink.

1929 Spanish, thanks!

susannesl, that was the ironing board cabinet. We cut the door down and use the cabinet for oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2012 at 11:30PM
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Made them?! WOW!!!

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 12:02AM
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Oh, God I want your tile! :-) Beautiful!

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 12:44AM
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I LOVE your link! Here is a picture of my bathroom. Lots of variation in the tile - and none of it matches the green in the fixtures! The powder room has the same tile. The other condo in our 2-unit building has original pink bathrooms.

Do you know about World of Tile? They have a ton of discontinued tile from the 50's through now. I got the replacement countertop edging from them. Evidently, the particular tile I wanted was made from the 1920s to the 60s and they had enough left over for my kitchen.


Here is a link that might be useful: world of tile

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 1:19AM
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I love truly shows how it is not always better to rip everything out and start over. It's a stylish, well-planned, honest space.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 6:11AM
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Your kitchen is adorable and full of so many details that I just found myself gazing at the pics trying to take it all in. The tile is amazing. So is the wood detailing and I love all of the cabinets that you've put together -- so customized, and perfect for the space that I have difficulty telling what's original and what's new. Awesome job.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 6:15AM
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So wonderful!

I was afraid to look further after seeing the 1st real estate listing photo. I was concerned the beautiful details would be gone. I'm so glad I continued to look as you made the kitchen even more beautiful.

Great details, great use of space.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 9:11AM
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Oh my goodness, your kitchen is stunning with so much character and originality. I love the spice rack, the beautiful original tile, and your cool new porthole cabinet. I like the way you have the pull-out shelf.

The green bathroom is awesome, too! We bought a bunch of vintage items from an estate auction that had a green bathroom like that. I really hope whoever bought the home kept it because it was spectacular and in fantastic original condition.

You may want to contact RetroRenovation. Although they focus on featuring more mid-century homes, I think they would love to see your amazing tile since they regularly feature World of Tile.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 10:07AM
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Love, love, love it, my favorite era! That is Marmoleum on the floor, am I correct? The porthole cabinet--was that a living room or bedroom piece?

Congratulations on keeping all the charm and adding great function.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 11:40AM
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After seeing your kitchen and adorable spice rack, I had to have some of those Griffith's spice jars and just bought a set on ETSY!!! I ordered the jadite green color. Someone on there also sells the labels....I bought some of those too! I will post my kitchen when it's done in March...I just ordered my Plain & Fancy cabinets. My kitchen now is not original, but remodeled in the mid-50's with the slab birch doors. My house is a "modern colonial" built in 1930.
Here's just one side of my kitchen...I need to come up with a plan for my new spice jars! :-)

1. Recess in wall behind range
2. Spice rack on end of or glass doors?


    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 11:57AM
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Thanks so much for posting, Ljwrar. I love old kitchens (at least to look at), and it was such a delight to see the wonderful original and then all the clever ways you've made it work well for you. There's so much to like in what you've added, but right now it's the floor I'm wishing was mine. :) Congratulations. It's a really good job.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 1:13PM
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mermanmike, thank you.

kris ma, thank you.

debrak, I couldn�t bear the thought of tearing out 80 year old tile and cabinets in great condition. The only thing that really did not function in the old kitchen was lack of counter space.

gsciencechick, I spent a lot of time on RetroRenovation. That�s where I learned about World of Tile.

iroll, the floor is Forbo Marmoleum Green Melody. DH thinks the porthole cabinet was a TV cabinet from the 50�s.

kompy, I love the green jadite color, but it wouldn�t work in my kitchen. Have you seen the chocolate colored ones? Those are awesome! Did your bottles come with lids? If not, let me know. I can send you old lids that need painting or new black ones like I used. I had to buy 100 minimum. I would put them on the island to keep them away from the heat of the stove. Also, if you want different labels, I can email you pdf files of the ones I used. I made labels for the spices I use.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 1:21PM
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rosie, thank you. I do love the floor. Much better than the 1970s red brick sheet vinyl we tore out!

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 1:23PM
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I did, in fact, contact World of Tile some time ago. Unfortunately, Chippy told me that, while he did have some old tile in my acceptable colors, none had any color variation to speak of. Bummer.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 3:34PM
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I love your update, and your bathroom too. I am so impressed by the way you improved rather than gut and start over. I also love your tile. It looks a lot like the tile in my dd's bath (see photo below).

Your spice racks are the greatest! Did you find the doors at antique shops too? I thought that cute cabinet was going to be a washer/dryer. It too was a great find and just fits your kitchen. Everything goes together so well, and LOVE all the pull out extra counter space.

Are you able to work on the sloped counters next to the sink or are they just for washing dishes? I've never seen that before.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 4:36PM
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Precious kitchen !! Love all the ideas you came up with to retain the original and enhance rather than remove. And that have a very charming home. Can we see the rest ???? I love old houses and have an 1890. c

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 4:44PM
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Angie, too bad World of Tile did not have what you wanted.

marti, I found the doors on Etsy and Ebay. I was searching through vintage retail displays for ideas for the spice rack. That's when I found the first one.

The sloped counters are not all that useful for prep work. They are great for washing dishes and vegetables. Everything drains right to the sink.

trailrunner, I will try to find photos of the house before we moved in. I won't take pictures now because the pretty rooms are full of stuff from our home office. We are redoing that room now. I love old houses, too. My last one was built in 1879. Lurker alert: I do follow your posts in home dec. and love your rooms!

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 7:24PM
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trailrunner, more pictures.

Dining room before we loaded it up with boxes from the office. I'm going to recover those chairs one day!

The only part of the living room without boxes.

Here is a link that might be useful: house pictures

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 8:27PM
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Pantry Cabinet

Cookbook Storage - a bit overstocked!

Table - still need to get decent chairs

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 8:41PM
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So cool to see you've kept the original kitchen! Have you seen the book, "Bungalow Kitchens"? She shows quite a few sinks like yours, the tile-in variety. It's a great upgrade.

That bathroom is pretty flippin' awesome, too. Oh, that old tile is so, so pretty! Very cool house.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 9:09PM
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deedles, I have that book. It is complete eye-candy for me!

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 9:18PM
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haha..lurker !! I love it and thank you !! What is the area that shows the stairway ? I love those doors !! Where does all of that space go ? And those gorgeous floors. The entry way steps are really beautiful. Thanks for showing more. What part of the country are you in ? See...all you did was whet my appetite for more. :) c

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 12:09AM
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I'm in the Sunset District of San Francisco. Just south of Golden Gate Park and west of UCSF medical school.

This unit is on the 3rd floor of the building. The first floor is the garage. The outside stairs lead to two doorways. The door on the left leads to the unit on the 2nd floor. The door straight ahead leads straight into more stairs inside. These stairs lead to the foyer and telephone nook shown in the photo.

Pretend you are taking the first dining room picture, facing the window. The living room is behind you. The double doors are to your right. Beyond the doors, you can see the stairs and the phone nook. The breakfast room is through the door in front of you. The kitchen is beyond the breakfast room. You can see the stove through the door openings.

I only showed 2/3 of the living room because the back part is filled with furniture. On the exterior shot, you can see six windows across the front. All six windows are in the living room.

Here is a floorplan. Please excuse the notes for the electrician.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 1:37AM
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I knew you had to be in CA when I saw the staircase :)We are a bit down south from you in the peninsula. The old tiles are so well done. It is so great you preserved the character of the kitchen. Such clever ways to add functionality. Good Job!

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 4:26AM
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I also immediately thought of San Francisco's Sunset district when I saw your wonderful updating. My MIL had one of the upscale Spanish Mediterranean models in West Portal, built in the late 1920's. Her tilework was identical although the pink and green bathroom was a bit much for my taste, LOL.

You did an outstanding job of updating your kitchen. It is very difficult to do that in some of these houses. In her case, the kitchen was in the center also, but designed in such a way that I estimated it would be upwards of $75K to gut and remodel. It just wasn't worth it, and we convinced her to sell it.

She loved that house, though, and they do have wonderful architectural touches that are no longer found anywhere. Congratulations on keeping true to the spirit of the design and working in so much clever storage! I absolutely love that used TV cabinet, an amazing find and brilliant repurposing.

Now the question is....did you eat a lot of takeout from Gordo's Taqueria while doing the work? Man, do we love their burritos and quesadilla tacos! The SF branches are so much better than the Berkeley branch, which sucks. We have to go all the way to Albany, which is a drag.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 1:53PM
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lj...I appreciate the floor plan and the pics. What a charming and delightful area. I remember the park well from my one and only visit to was 37 yrs ago !! I guess I need to get back out there. Your remodel is just perfect . Thank you for sharing. c

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 5:26PM
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GWlolo, yes, the tile is very Califonian. These "marina style" buildings are very typical in the western part of SF.

jkom51, I figured the cost to gut remodel our kitchen/breakfast/laundry would be $100K, and we'd lose all the charm. Not worth it. There were only a few days we couldn't use the kitchen. We probably ate at Sandys (Vietnamese) or Park Chow on those nights. Gordo's is good, though!

trailrunner, thank you. The park is still as lovely as ever. You do need to come back!

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 8:10PM
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Thanks for sharing. We just moved in to a 1920s house with a kitchen that needs a bit of help. It's fun to see how you preserved and improved!

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 8:13PM
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lj...DS2 lives by Balboa Park in we do get to is a BIG state :) Maybe one day this next year. c

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 9:13PM
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LOVE LOVE LOVE all the components of your home and the location.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 10:58PM
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Just lurk on this board, but love your kitchen. Grew up in the City and just seeing your kitchen and bathroom (before you said where you lived) knew it had to be San Francisco! I had a similar kitchen and bathroom with the same tile in the Richmond many years ago - must have been popular. So glad you kept it all. Those old flats are wonderful. I live in Marin, but my heart is in the City!

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 1:20AM
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crl, thank you.

gsciencechick, thank you.

maryanne, the Richmond and Sunset Districts were built at the same time. I'm pretty sure the same developers built on both sides of the park.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 5:48PM
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Great job! Love how you kept the original charm with updated features!

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 11:21PM
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(Sorry for going OT here)
Ooooh, Park Chow - on our list to try! Having moved out to the Oakland hills (where very little such architectural charm existed in our starter neighborhood near Mills College, LOL), we seldom get back your way nowadays.

When we do, I confess we focus on Shanghai Dumpling King. The Shanghainese restaurants in the EBay are almost all terrible; in fact most of the Chinese food in the EBay is pretty disgusting.

I hear good things about Sandy's. If you're looking for semi-upscale EBay Viet a la Slanted Door that has much less attitude than Le Cheval (where I actually got up and walked out one evening, never to return), El Cerrito's Nong Thon has excellent beef la lot, surprisingly hard to find around here. Great with the Bun Thit Nuong; they tend to be modest with the meat there. Much better than any Viet place in Oakland's Chinatown that we've tried.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 1:20PM
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a2gemini, thank you.

(More OT)
jkom, please don't make a special trip to SF for either restaurant. Park Chow is the same as Chow in Lafayette, basic food done well.

Sandy's is a little more than take-out, a few tables and no ambiance. If you are already in the neighborhood, you might want to try Yummy Yummy. Good food, better ambiance, but nowhere near the experience of Slanted Door. The Le Cheval on Bancroft in Berkeley is low on attitude at lunch time. Definitely more laid back than the downtown Oakland restaurant.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 2:04PM
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I luuuuuv your kitchen and home! It's simply beautiful! :)

The spice rack and milk bottles are fantastic!

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 5:25PM
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Thank you Saintpfla.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 12:50AM
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This was a gem of a resurrected thread! Enjoyed this thoroughly and am with everyone else, glad you were able to accomplish so much and save the best of that kitchen. An absolutely lovely home!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 7:52AM
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I love your kitchen (and the rest of your house)! It's so wonderful to see someone do a sensitive update instead of tearing down all the walls and ripping everything out and then putting in pseudo-old-style doors on a generic big box store kitchen and pretending it's a restoration. You did a terrific job, and I'd kill for those built-ins. So glad this thread got a bump.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 1:08PM
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greenhaven, thank you.

writersblock, thank you. I love the built ins, too. And they hold A LOT of stuff!

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 1:55AM
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ljwrar - Your kitchen is a delight and an inspiration. You said "I figured the cost to gut remodel our kitchen/breakfast/laundry would be $100K, and we'd lose all the charm. Not worth it."

We figured the same cost and charm loss with our 1956 kitchen and so we have decided to embrace its charm and quirks and we are mostly updating the appliances (new range, sink, and the dumb waiter will be sacrificed to fit a 24" combi steam oven and more cabinetry). It's great to see others are doing the same thing! It also means we are preserving our pink tiled 1956 bathroom!

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 12:45PM
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ChristyMck, your kitchen is great! Are you keeping the laminate counters? It looks like they are in really good condition.

I'm jealous of your pink bathroom. Our downstairs neighbors got the pink, we got the green. I look much better in pink than in green :).

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 8:45PM
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Yes, we hope to keep the laminate countertops. The only question is if the sink will come out okay. The current sink is only 5.5" deep - water splashes out onto the floor and gets everywhere and it drives me crazy. We're planning on a drop-in single bowl ss sink that's 9" deep but same length/width so I hope it'll work.

The other question is how we are going to modify the cabinetry above the range to accommodate a hood while keeping the detailing above the cabinetry near the ceiling which you can see better in this picture even though it's above the sink instead of the range. Our new range is the exact same size as this one (39") but has a much more powerful gas top (it's a Lacanche and a big splurge!) and for safety reasons will require a hood. Different contractors give us different options, so we'll see. The current 50+ year electric range isn't working very well and was a definite must go despite it's charming looks.

We bought the house 2 years ago and the previous owners had painted the cabinets, redone the floors, retiled above the counter tops, and converted some of the cabinetry to smooth glide while keeping the look. Most of these changes we like, but we're not really a fan of the gray/green tiling above the countertops. We are not sure if we'll keep it and just put a ss backsplash behind the range or change the tiles throughout.

The pink tiled bathroom wasn't love at first sight but I'm starting to appreciate it now. Green's my favorite color so if we could switch I would! I love your green bathroom! A few of the tiles came loose in our shower stall recently and we thought we'd have to rip it out, but behind the tiles was concrete instead of drywall and so we've been able to remove and preserve all the tiles. Our tile contractor says its fixable.

Though it's not where I started, I feel like I'm becoming a preservation convert. It's great to see others who have gone the same route. To me, it was only worth redoing the kitchen if the quality could be comparable but the price of that just didn't seem worth it. Anyway, I hope I didn't hijack your thread!

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 9:45PM
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Christy, hi jack away. I love hearing your plans and seeing your photos. The soffit detail and the doors under the sink are wonderful. I'm happy you are keeping them.

I see why you are undecided about the backsplash. It's not bad, but it is pretty contemporary and transitional. I've lived with many things that would not be my first choice, but were already there and still functional. Now that the expensive changes in the house are done, I'm slowly changing these things to my first choices.

The Lacanche will be stunning in your kitchen! I considered one, but we only had room for the 30", 3 burner. I use all 4 burners at one time fairly regularly.

I'm looking forward to your reveal.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 10:41PM
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Oh my gosh. I went to college at SF State in the '80s and shared a rental house in the Sunset District. Those rounded bay windows and those stairs from the sidewalk! Thanks for the memories...

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 11:19PM
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