When Keri Petersen of stepped into her 1950s rambler ranch-style home in Seattle for the first time, it was like stepping back in time. From shag carpet (even in the bathrooms!) to dark wood paneling and vintage appliances, the home was a true flashback to simpler times, “It felt kind of like a time capsule or museum,” says Petersen, the designer behind KP Spaces. And it was an ultra retro kitchen that finished it all off.
After living in the home for four years and giving it a healthy update to more modern times, Petersen finally decided it was time to tackle to kitchen. With a bit of elbow grease, a lot of paint, a few new finishes and goodbye to the 1952 Sears classic stove that (sadly) eventually had to go, the dated kitchen transformed into a bright, lively space that still gives an ode to its original era.
“We tried really hard to keep the integrity of the original house, says Petersen on her home’s steady transformation. “I knew that with a little TLC and creativity, we could restore it to its former glory.” So began the process of honoring the retro vibe but bringing it to the current year, preserving as much of the original character of the kitchen but updating it to suit Petersen and her family’s everyday needs.
First thing’s first: They had to replace the large, vintage stovetop. Next, Petersen sought to open up the space by replacing some of the upper cabinets with walnut floating shelves and adding a penny tile backsplash all the way up to the ceiling. “It created a generous reflective surface,” Petersen says. In addition, instead of modern stainless steel, a retro-inspired white stove and hood keep things light and bright.
But the hallmark of the original kitchen was definitely the 70-year-old, well-crafted Hollywood Regency style cabinets. “Someone has made these by hand so long ago,” Peterson told Domino. “I wanted to honor that craftsmanship. It felt wasteful to give them up.” So bright white paint on the upper cabinets was used to infuse light back into the space, while a perfect pastel mint green complements Petersen’s cheerful style.
Knowing that she wanted to do something different when it came to the cabinet color, Petersen says, “I wanted a kitchen that didn’t take itself too seriously. But when going retro there’s a thin line between nostalgia and straight up cheesy.” Without sacrificing many of the 1950s elements, simple updates were made. Petersen advises us to never underestimate the power of a good coat of paint.
Not to mention, maintaining so many of the original features kept the cost down for the entire project. Even the original Formica countertops were kept intact—Petersen and her husband painted them to look like marble using special paint formulated for counters (with the help of a few Youtube videos)—to both maintain the original look and stay on a relatively tight budget. All in all, the kitchen transformation came in under $5,000.
In this space and throughout the home, the ceilings are not particularly high, so Petersen was cognizant of finding ways to draw the eye upward. The light from the eat-in area reflects the white penny tile, making everything feel bigger. The tile is Petersen’s favorite part of the project.
Keeping in mind both the history of the house and her two young kids, Petersen also wanted the entire home to feel inviting yet functional. For example, on the lucite chairs in her dining area, Petersen says “They don’t take up a lot of visual real estate. Plus, all the surfaces are easy to clean and wipe down.”
The final result feels fresh and whimsical, and is nostalgic without being kitschy.
“Overall, we are thrilled with the end result,” Petersen told Domino. “Our family loves to hang out in this kitchen and I know we’ll be enjoying this space for years to come!”
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