Show me the light

When I’m not agonizing over flooring, I’m agonizing over lighting. Realistically, lighting shouldn’t be such a big deal, because lighting is undoubtedly more easily changed out than flooring. But still … my greatest fear is that I get all these cool lights installed and then I look around and think, “Whoa … what was I thinking?” Worse yet, I fear that I have someone over to visit after the remodel and they do that stone-faced look while saying, “Uh, it’s …. different.” Not that I have any friends who would do that, but still, the fear is there. Continue reading “Show me the light”

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One man’s style is another man’s ugly

When we first moved into this house, the plan was easy: fix it all up in 6 months and transform it into a house we love.

And eight years later, here we are! Just beginning the major improvements to this place.

Oh, there have been other things, of course. The basement was tiled so we no longer had any more water problems, the roof was reshingled, the bedroom was recarpeted to remove the PINK carpet that plagued this home, and numerous other minor details. Now we’re ready for the big stuff, and I’m kind of scared. Continue reading “One man’s style is another man’s ugly”

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Burgundy plastic tile and …. ?

Although the majority of our renovations center around the kitchen/dining room area, we also plan on doing something (we don’t know what) to the bathroom. I’ve always hated this wallpaper — too cutesy country, with a bunny ‘n’ basket border.

A couple weeks ago my 4-year old found a small little loose bubble along the seam. Doing what most 4-year olds would tend to do, he pulled until he had loosened a great big flap of wallpaper. His brother, of course, noticed in good time and wasted no time hopping in the Tattlemobile. I thought about giving my youngest son permission to keep going until all the ugly stuff was stripped off. That wouldn’t be child labor, would it? I mean, he’s my own son, and he loves me, and I’d be giving him permission to do something that he thought was naughty.

Then I remembered that once the old stuff was off, I had to figure out what to replace it with (and scrape off the scrappies, etc.), so I told my son he did a very bad thing, and sent him off to play.

Underneath the wallpaper exists pink paint. When I saw that, my mind started thinking “Cool retro pink bathroom!” And that would be entirely possible, but the plastic tile isn’t pink. It’s burgundy with a black border. Although I’m aware that a 50s bathroom may very well mix burgundy, pink, and black, it doesn’t seem to fit here. Now the question remains: what’s underneath this floor?


White tile? Pink tile? No tile at all?

Later, because my husband expects me to be neurotic about what’s original in this house, I am going to find out. I’ve got a crowbar, and I know how to use it.

And if it turns out to be old tile with possible asbestos, then expect me to do exactly what a did about 7 years ago to an entryway: rip said tile out without a care. This is what you get from a new homeowner so focused on a task that the possibility of asbestos did not exist.

To this day, I’m not sure if that tile DID have asbestos in it. Let’s just say that if it was there, then this blog may run for a shorter time than originally planned.

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Let’s hope it’s ugly!

One of my biggest fears will come on the day that the custom countertop guy comes to install the Silestone. Why? One thing I never realized before is that the former owners had the new (ugly) tiled countertop dropped over the old countertop.

One can still see the outline of the rounded edge of what had to be a good old 50’s Formica countertop (the metal around the edge is gone, alas). I had noticed the outline before, but didn’t think much about it. When the countertop guy commented on it, my mind started racing.


What if those countertops are the coolest retro thing I’ve ever seen? What if he pulls off the tile overlay and there exists something like this?

You know what I love most about this picture? See the “Early American” arrow cabinet hardware? See my earlier post about said cabinet hardware? Now do you see why my mind is flirting with the possibility that my kitchen may have looked like this back in 1953?

I know, I know, the Silestone is beautiful … and whatever’s underneath is surely ruined beyond repair from the new countertop existing (and being adhered too) the old one. I just can’t help but wonder.

I’m thinking I should be conveniently out of town when the countertop guy comes a’callin’. I don’t even want to know what I’m missing.

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Reinventing the 50s

One of the decisions we tackled once our remodeling project became a reality was countertops. Currently we have the ugliness known as tiled countertops — cream-colored tile countertops whose grout is dissolving around the sink, and whose nooks and crannies harbor bacteria I don’t even want to think about. (I tend to just aim the Clorox spray, turn my head, and pray that all the little critters are obliterated upon contact.)

At first, I thought I wanted just a plain old Formica. I even flirted with the possibility of getting one of those fun retro boomerang Formicas, or the virr varr pattern. Then I came to my senses are realized that unless we were planning on staying in this house until we died, it probably wasn’t the wisest choice to go all-out retro. Gotta think about resale possibilities, after all.

How many mottled brown varieties of Formica can possibly exist? (A lot, it turns out.) I just sat and stared at all the gobs of samples on chains, realizing that I had absolutely no starting point. I had no colors picked out yet, so I couldn’t even narrow down the choices.

By the Formica display, however, was a beautiful, sparkly little gem: a sample of Silestone called Stellar Night. The online sample doesn’t do it justice, but here’s a shot I took of the sample at home:

Try to ignore the computer glare an think of a — well, stellar night. Black sky with little white/silver stars. That’s what this baby looks like. No matter how many samples I browsed through (Formica, marble, granite, etc), I kept coming back to this. It struck me as being a nice contract between 50s style and modern.

As I was soon to find out, however, having a black countertop severely limited my options for flooring … especially when I was planning on plunking down a red chrome table in the midst of said flooring.

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A question of cabinet hardware …

The cabinet hardware we currently have has always struck me as ugly. It almost looked like something that came from a 70s or 80s obsession with everything cowboy.

I tried to imagine how they would look once the kitchen was redone, for we will be having kind of a black and white theme going on, and these cabinets (original to the house) will be painted white. Sure, I’d love to get new cabinets. But, ah, there’s a little bit of a price issue there.

So the other day I was browsing through my new bible — a 1957 Sears catalog that I snagged off eBay, and lo and behold, I find this:

Turns out that the ugly arrows are original to the house. Argh! How I wanted to get rid of them and replace them with chrome, but now I’m rethinking it. (Just for the record, we do NOT have the hinges with the straps. Thank god for that; it would be entirely too much.) No surprise, these are “Early American” style — back when people weren’t sure whether to decorate with a modern flair or cling to the days of yore, so they tended to do a little bit of both.

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Taking the plunge (in more ways than one)

Everything has to start somewhere, along with this chronicle of our journey to restoring our 1953 ranch home to its former glory. When Jason and I bought this house 9 years ago, we were childless and anxious to just live in our own place for once. We overlooked a lot of stuff — made some stupid “first time home buyer” mistakes, but we’re stuck with it, and we’re OK with that. We’ve been making improvements through the years, and we realize how that we’re kind of hooked on this place. Not for the horrible interior (decorating gaffes of the former owners), but we love the location of this house. High on a hill, surrounded by 6 or so other houses, all with huge yards, lots of trees, privacy, and quiet. We could do without the barking dogs all around us, but we’re tolerating it.

We are now at the point where we are ready to renovate this 50s house, and since I love the quirky style of the Fifties, it wasn’t hard to nail down a general look. I really wanted to find a style that was in between genuine Fifties (which bordered on ugly at times) and modern cool, but without the coldness. You could say that my inspiration came from a 1956 Chevy or something along those lines: colors, chrome, and style.

A year or so ago, I found a place that sells retro chrome tables, complete with custom made chairs. I’ve had my eye on a table with red cracked ice laminate, but there’s one problem: our 1953 ranch home apparently wasn’t built for people who liked to sit down while they ate. Sure, there’s a small space where one can eat on a small table, but we currently have a family of four, and it just isn’t working. For all of us to fit around the table, we have to pull it out from against the wall, and everyone squeezes into their chairs. It’s getting old, let me tell you.

This fall, we plan on making it all right. We’re going to knock the wall down between the kitchen and an adjacent bedroom, and that will become our dining room. We have some other stuff on the docket too, but this dining room is the priority before winter hits. I refuse to spend another winter cooped up in this house without a nice place to relax and eat with my family.

I have learned a lot from reading other people’s blogs regarding 50s renovations, so I created this blog to hopefully help others in their renovation quests as well. I’m not expert, but I’m in the trenches now too. 😉

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