When Keri Petersen 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. A dated, retro kitchen finished it all off.
After living in the home for four years and giving it a healthy update, Petersen finally decided it was time to tackle to the kitchen. With a bit of elbow grease, a lot of paint, and a few new finishes, she said goodbye to the 1952 Sears classic stove that (sadly) had to go and transformed the dated kitchen into a bright, lively space that still pays homage 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 while making it feel current. She preserved as much of the kitchen’s original character but updated it to suit her family’s everyday needs.
First things first: They had to replace the large, vintage stove. Next, Petersen sought to open up the room by replacing some of the upper cabinets with walnut floating shelves and a penny tile backsplash that crawled all the way up to the ceiling. “It created a generous reflective surface,” says Petersen. Instead of modern stainless steel, a retro-inspired white stove and hood kept things light and bright.
But the hallmark of the original kitchen was definitely the 70-year-old, well-crafted Hollywood Regency style cabinets. “Someone made these by hand so long ago,” Peterson told Domino. “I wanted to honor that craftsmanship. It felt wasteful to give them up.” Bright white paint on the upper cabinets infused light back into the room, while a perfect pastel mint green was used on the lower cabinets to complement Petersen’s cheerful style.
Petersen knew she wanted to do something different when it came to the cabinet color: “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. The room is now a testament to the power of a good coat of paint.
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 paint specially formulated for counters (with the help of a few Youtube videos). It helped maintain the original look of the room and stay on a relatively tight budget. All in all, the kitchen transformation came in under $5,000.
The ceilings are not particularly high so Petersen was cognizant of finding ways to draw the eye upward. The pendant light from the eat-in area reflects the white penny tile (the designer’s favorite detail), making everything feel bigger.
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, she picked lucite chairs in her dining area to keep the space airy and light. “They don’t take up a lot of visual real estate,” she says. “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 adds. “Our family loves to hang out in this kitchen, and I know we’ll be enjoying this space for years to come.”
This story was originally published in April 2018. It has been updated with new information.