Monday, June 27, 2011

Our New Midcentury Modern-Inspired, Green-friendly Kitchen

It's been a while since we posted, apologies! Work, life, wedding planning, a special event and a 30th birthday have all come to a head in the past month.

Despite the delay, we're more excited than ever to share our newly-remodeled kitchen with the world!

The kitchen was inspired by a set of Mondrian cabinets that are original to the home. We worked to incorporate green elements and reused materials as it made sense.

Unlike the previous kitchen, this room is perfectly tied in to Our Care-free Home! We've already hosted a surprise birthday party for Whitney (complete with a cooking demonstration from a professional chef), two housewarming parties (for neighbors and friends) and a father's day dinner!

Below are before-and-after photos and brief recap of what we did...
  1. LOWERED THE PASS-THROUGH: The previous pass-through was awkwardly high- you could see through to the family room, but it felt as though you were hiding something... We think this was intentional, as housewives in the late 1950s were supposed to be perfect in every way... which means a perfectly clean kitchen (from what guests could see) and just enough space to give the men of the home some privacy while entertaining.
  2. NEW FLOORS: Installed a new Marmoleum Sheet floor in the color "volcanic ash." The Marmoleum extends into the pantry and beyond the kitchen into the adjoining hallway. Marmoleum is made from renewable, natural ingredients. It's anti-static properties repel dust and dirt, making it easy to keep clean and allergen free.
  3. NEW COUNTERTOPS: Installed a new elements by Durcon Ti countertop in Infinity Ti. This is such an amazing line of countertops - and it is absolutely beautiful! Made in the USA, elements is a unique blend of post consumer recycled glass, natural minerals and resin forming a unique surface that delivers an extraordinarily tough, highly sustainable surface.  And the countertops are naturally anti-fungal and anti-bacterial, so they're easy to maintain.
  4. UPDATED CABINETS: Instead of paying to reface the cabinets or reinstall new ones, we repurposed the cabinets we had. We color-matched enamel paint at Home Depot, so the kitchen cabinets would tie in to the Mondrian cabinets. Then we went through the painstaking process of removing, taping, sanding, priming, painting, touching up, and reinstalling the cabinets. Even though it took much longer than expected, we saved lots of money and the end result is fabulous.
  5. NEW SINK AND FAUCET: We couldn't pass up the opportunity to incorporate a new Kohler sink and faucet into the kitchen. These high-end stainless steel items are incredibly durable, functional and aesthetically pleasing. The previous items weren't terrible, so they're on the "sell, donate or recycle" list.
  6. NEW APPLIANCES: The appliances we purchased with the house were functional... but ugly and rather dated. We purchased a new refridgerator, dishwasher, microwave and oven from - where found fantastic deals on some mid-to-high end appliances. The delivery took a few weeks, but it was painless and worth the savings. We splurged on a Bosch dishwasher (with the open floor plan and thin walls, it was important to have a near-silent dishwasher) and a Maytag double-oven. The previous appliances were sold on Craigslist, other than the refridgerator which is now in the pantry filled with booze and other party items. We love the party 'fridge!
  7. REPAINTED THE WALLS: No more nasty pink! Hooray!! In the future we'll add a tiled backsplash... but for now, we're taking a break.  :)
Of course there are a lot of less glamorous updates that went along with the kitchen remodel... but these are the most interesting items. Enjoy!!

Here's what the kitchen looked like before the remodel...


  1. I love, love this remodel! Great work you guys! Such a fabulous way to preserve the integrity of the architecture.

  2. Lovely -- can I show this on my blog?

  3. Erin, thanks! Pam, absolutely! :)
    -Whitney and Rob

  4. Good work! Thanks for documenting! Very inspiring!

  5. Whitney and Rob -- can you email me? retrorenovation (at) gmail (dot) com


  6. My husband and I just saw your house on a couple of realty sites, is it really for sale?

  7. This listing?

  8. No it is on Zillow, this one in St. Louis Park, MN not Michigan

  9. We are thinking about painting our 1956 St. Louis Park rambler cabinets - any advice? Yours look amazing!

  10. nice results - have you considered making the cabinets on the pass thru all the same height eventually?

  11. I grew up in a Care-Free Home in Dublin Ohio . . . it was built around 1957 by local builder Richard Schoen. Thousands of people toured it for the first several months, then he moved in with his family. Then there were a few other owners. My dad saw it for sale and bought it without my mother ever seeing it -- he told her it was a great deal. So my family lived in it from 1977 to 1989. It is wonderful to see these photos! I remember the brick fence patterns in the courtyards, the great views outside, and all those sliding doors! My parents did a lot of renovations too -- the place was falling apart and no one in 1977 was that concerned with Mid Century design, but they did like the cherry panel interiors, the galley kitchen, and the wide open space. They covered over a lot of the brightly colored 1950s quilted panels on the doors and exterior, and converted the garage into a master bedroom. I had the pink bathroom, my sister had the mint green, and they didn't change much! They thought the blue roof was oxidized metal, they had no idea it was intentional. We never had anyplace to stash a house key in one of those little magnetic holders, because there was so much aluminum!
    Do you have funny electrical outlets in your house, that stick up out of the floor? I remember trying to vacuum around them.
    I wrote a story about my house for OHIO Magazine in the early 1990s. I interviewed Richard Schoen and uncovered some of the same info you have here. I'm glad people are appreciating these houses.
    Thanks for a great trip down memory lane. Your renovations look wonderful.

  12. Great remodel. How cumbersome was it for you to run gas into the kitchen for your new stove? We are moving into our Care Free home next month and are lucky enough that the original kitchen has been perfectly preserved. We do need to put in a new oven, however, and want to convert to gas.

    Great work renovating your home!

  13. Congratulations on your purchase! I'm sure you'll love it, its been a truly rewarding experience for us! For our kitchen project, running the gas line was easy because we have a full basement that's still unfinished. If that's the case for you it should be relatively cheap. I believe we paid less than $200 for a licensed plumber to do it. If the basement is unfinished, or you don't have one (the home was designed to be built on-slab so many don't), it will be quite a bit more complicated.

  14. Thanks so much! We do have a basement and we've had a contractor tell us it shouldn't be much of a problem. Raising the low counter and getting a gas stove is certainly the first project on our list! We've been in the house for two weeks now and are discovering some unique features - such as the "ping-ing" in the registers as the aluminum expands when the furnace runs. We're looking forward to experiencing the seasons in this house (in Grand Rapids, MI).

  15. Congratulations, I'm sure you'll grow to love the house (quirks and all) as we have!

  16. galley kitchen design Your kitchen is more than simply a place to prepare meals; it is the essence of your home and an investment in your lifestyle. Whether you are looking to create a bold and punchy contrast or an understated look to coordinate with your surroundings, our team at Kitchen Essence ensure that the result reflects the character of the owner and the home.

  17. This blog is truly awesome in all aspects. home inspection