Before and After: A 1965 Kitchen Gets a Fresh Redo That Still Honors the Era

published Sep 25, 2023
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Before: A monotone kitchen with all wood walls, cabinets, and floors

Aside from aesthetics, there are a few big motivators that pop up over and over among homeowners looking to take on a kitchen renovation: lack of space, lack of storage, and lack of natural light. The latter was what most concerned Erin McClelland (@sparrowcollectiveco) when it came to the kitchen in her 1965 house. “While there was a ton of cabinet storage, the lack of natural light was the biggest issue,” she says — along with the space needing some fresh flooring over the exposed subfloor and a style update.

Before, the kitchen was covered in orange-toned wood paneling with cabinets to match. “It was a dated, dark, and well-worn space,” Erin says. “The home was also vacant for several years prior to our purchase, so it was in desperate need of cleaning and TLC.”

Erin and her husband, Michael, were able to see beyond those surface-level issues, though, and envision the possibilities. “The subfloor, lack of light, and dated cabinets and appliances did not deter us,” Erin says. “We felt more motivation behind the potential we could see, rather than feeling the fear for what we were actually looking at.”

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The couple sat in the kitchen for hours discussing where each feature of the kitchen should be based on how it would be used. They wanted to bring in more natural light, but knocking out the whole wall between the kitchen and living room was out — it was quoted at thousands of dollars, as the load-bearing wall would require HVAC rerouting. Their solution, which Michael DIYed, was to cut out a pass-through window (very mid-century!) to connect the spaces, and use that as extra eating space. That cost about $500 — only a fraction of the estimates they’d gotten — and majorly helped brighten the space.

Another money-saving measure for the couple was reusing the old cabinet boxes and just refacing them with new doors. This saved thousands, although Erin says she might next time spring for new cabinets. “The downside is the current cabinets don’t reach the ceiling like most new cabinet installs do today,” she says. They compensated by adding wood above to fill in that extra space, and Erin says she still loves the look and has plenty of storage.

Wood floors help maintain some of that mid-century warmth that made the couple fall in love with the house, but the old orangey wood cabinets have been replaced by more streamlined green-painted ones (it’s Behr’s Pastoral). “I thought I would have a hard time committing to a color, as it is such a focal point of the entire home,” Erin says. “However, I have always been an earth-toned gal, so this shade felt natural, while still upholding a true mid-century modern vibe.” She finished the cabinets off with simple but still unique pulls from Rejuvenation. White countertops and a white backsplash keep the focus on the cabinets.

“My favorite thing about the ‘after’ is the functionality and aesthetic. I love that the kitchen is era-correct without being dated,” Erin says. “It has truly been an honor to breathe new life into the space and also enjoy the kitchen to its full potential.”

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Before and After: A 1965 Kitchen Gets an Era-Honoring Redo That Still Looks Fresh