DIY–1960’s Tri-Level House–Kitchen

March 15, 2011 08:15 by ehouston

As I continue working on small decorating projects around here I have been reminiscing about some of the improvements we had made at our old house in Nashville, TN.  Mostly I have been remembering how much easier completing a project seemed to be in a smaller home.  Actually what has been happening is that I have become fixated on a cheaper than solid surface solution to my gross white countertops and I just can’t find anything that seems right.  While thinking about the countertop change here I was fondly remembering the funky countertops in the Nashville kitchen.  Don’t laugh, they were one of the main driving forces behind my wanting to buy this house.  I LOVED them!  The color was a dark aqua with little gold flecks.  Yep, straight outta’ 1962!




(They even had a matching rotary phone when we moved in!)

I know, yuck is what most of you are thinking.  But, we thought they were really fun, kind of cool and that curve on the end of the peninsula had us sold!  We liked the color so much, that we were considering keeping it when the dulled-over-time surface had us thinking it was time for an upgrade.  In the end, we were not able to change the countertops before The Mister’s company relocated us to Richmond, VA.  However, during our time in house we did make some other changes to help bring the dark, dated space into the new millennium.  Well, sort of.


In the shot above you can see the new fridge we had to buy six months after moving in.  I came down to the kitchen for breakfast one morning and found that our 1982 Frigidaire had turned into a giant 2004 Igloo cooler.  A trip to a couple of appliance stores and the Sears Scratch and Dent later and we had our new stainless steel monster that we still love today.  You can also see the lovely tongue and groove paneling that graced three rooms of our old house.  While this was not my favorite wall covering, I always found it a bit heartbreaking when I saw people paint over it. 


For the longest time we were convinced that was the way to go in this room so that we could get some light in the space.  Then my dear old mom brought up a great point.  She mentioned that the cabinets took up, at least visually, more space than the tongue and groove and they were not made of very good wood.  She was right!  Painting the cabinets would make more of a difference and we would not be destroying the nicer wood aspect of the space.  The shot above also gives a clear view of the hideous linoleum flooring.  The kitchen was about 15 feet by 25 feet, so this was a lot of harvest gold and cream along with all that wood!


(Another favorite item in this house was that cool light above the kitchen table.  It had a glass panel, light diffuser on the bottom until one fateful morning when I tried to put in a new light bulb.  It slipped right out of my hands, dented the tabletop and smashed into a pile of pieces.  wah-wah…  It hung there without a cover until we moved.)

Once we decided to make a change in this space we went for it.  The first and easiest fix was putting down new flooring.  I ended up using a self-adhesive tile that looked like dark gray slate.  It came in 18” by 18” sheets that even had grout lines.  The tops were textured like slate and the grout lines were dented in to look and feel like the real thing.  Honestly, they looked pretty real at first glance and the whole kitchen was really transformed with just that one change.  (BTW- they still sell these tiles at Lowe’s.)

Next came the paint job of all paint jobs.  I took on the cabinets.  I did it all by the books…drew up a map of the cabinets, numbered the doors, cleaned, sanded, scraped, cleaned some more.  It took weeks of primer, paint and acrylic top coats before I was finished and my marriage was almost over.  Just kidding!  But, this was probably one of the worst projects to live through with a husband that hates house projects.  We decided on a very light gray for the top cabinets and one two shades darker for the bottom cabinets.  It looked almost like a white kitchen, but then the light hit the cabinets and you could tell there was a hint of bluish gray to the paint.  It turned out quite nice in the end.  Plus, our old 1960’s range fit right in and the old white dishwasher blended away.  We also sprayed the bronze colored range hood white to create a more cohesive look.


(Photo courtesy of Zeitlin Realty, Nashville, TN)

The only structural change we made to the space was to remove the wrought iron hand rail to the den stairs because it was bronze and pretty unattractive, and to remove the curly-q apron across the light above the sink.  We replaced the apron with a nice simple arch and the handrail with a plain wooden version.

(Photo courtesy of Zeitlin Realty, Nashville, TN)

(Photo courtesy of Zeitlin Realty, Nashville, TN)

(Photo courtesy of Zeitlin Realty, Nashville, TN)

I searched and searched, but never found a replacement part for the original kitchen nook ceiling light.  In the end we opted to put in something simple and right off the shelf from Home Depot.  If we had stayed I believe we would have found something a bit more fun and funky, but this is what it takes sometimes to get a place sold, right?  We also added a basic track light in white to the main kitchen area where the old, and very ugly, ceiling fan had been.  That was one of those projects we wished we had done first since it added so much more light to both the cooking space and the staircase to the den. 

(Photo courtesy of Zeitlin Realty, Nashville, TN)

As you can see from the shot above we did leave the tongue and groove paneling untouched in the rest of the space, but the impact of changing the cabinets was still pretty amazing.  Am I right?  Can I get a Hallelujah? 

(Photo courtesy of Zeitlin Realty, Nashville, TN)

Of course, we added new hardware in brushed nickel.  The handles had a nice curve that felt just right in your hand.  Originally I had some cute retro style red patio chairs around the black painted wood table and the kitchen colors included, gray, brown, red, and aqua.  For the sale, we switched out the patio chairs for the Windsor style chairs that went with our old dining table and amped up the brown and aqua color combo to bring this kitchen even more up to date.  We added aqua drapes with dark brown bands along the bottom to the sliding patio doors and I sewed cute curtains and valances for the eating nook and sink windows.  It was so coordinated that it felt out of place for us, but we liked it all the same.

(Photo courtesy of Zeitlin Realty, Nashville, TN)

We just hope the new owners are loving it as much as we are missing that cozy old kitchen.

Kitsch Krafts

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March 25. 2011 19:39


I love the old and new color of the cabinets. obviously the new color totally brightens up the space. the railing was a very nice change too. the only spoiler in the room is they stainless fridge. i would have gone with a white so it didn't stand out so much.


March 20. 2012 00:43


You have got some great posts in your blog. I will be visiting again.


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