FORMICA AND ARBORITE…WHAT A LOVELY SIGHT

 

Republic Steel kitchen ad from 1954 Better Homes & Gardens.

Republic Steel kitchen ad from 1954 Better Homes & Gardens.

 

Planning our new kitchen has been on my mind a lot lately and since we’ve decided on glossy white cabinets and chrome hardware I have started to think about what type of counter tops I’d like. I’m hoping to find something that would give some retro flair to simple white cabinets similar to the ones in the image above. I’m not thinking of red, but wow – those red Formica counter tops and table really pop!

To begin my search I wanted to check out Formica. Home Depot had many Formica samples including the well loved boomerang pattern in a few colours. My eye went straight to the aqua boomerang sample (below left) which I think would look great with white cabinets, grey walls and my chrome and aqua accents. Unfortunately, I was informed that the aqua had been discontinued but the grey version (below right) is still available. I might keep the grey boomerang on the maybe list but it is definitely not my first choice. 

Formica boomerang pattern in aqua (no longer available) and grey.

Formica boomerang pattern in aqua (no longer available) and grey.

After visiting the Formica blog and reading countless comments regarding this subject, I know I am only one of the many retro loving renovators unhappy that the aqua boomerang (also known as the Skylark pattern) is no longer available. And from the company’s responses it doesn’t appear that they will be bringing it back any time soon. They did introduce an anniversary line in 2013 that has a few styles that may appeal to some…although nothing in the line really catches my eye.

Formica's Anniversary Collection

Formica’s Anniversary Collection – www.formica.com

I liked the idea of going with Formica because of its history and quality. I knew the company was big in the 1950s and 60s for kitchen cabinets, table tops, counters and vanities but I didn’t realize it has been in business since 1913.  

Formica ad from 1959 Canadian Homes & Gardens magazine.

Formica ad from 1959 Canadian Homes & Gardens magazine.

A Canadian company that had a similar laminate product was Arborite who started making decorative melamine laminate in 1945 and were also very popular through the fifties and sixties. Like Formica, Arborite is still in business today www.arborite.com.  

1950s Arborite ad

1950s Arborite ad

Check out all these fabulous patterns. I wish I could choose one of these for my countertops. It would be hard to choose if I could. I love gladly have Whisper in aqua, Golden Glitter in aqua, Fiesta Classic, Spring Melody or Fantasy in white. If only…

1965 Arborite ad.

1965 Arborite ad.

Another laminate product available in the fifties was Panelyte which I had never heard of until I came across this ad in one of my vintage magazines . Apparently the company originally started out offering laminate boards to furniture makers and other businesses before becoming available to the general public for counter tops.

Vintage Panelyte ad

Vintage Panelyte ad

Over the last decade I’ve picked up two  tables and a matching buffet in the grey cracked ice pattern. It seems to be the easiest colour and pattern to find although it is not as fun as brightly coloured versions like red or yellow. 

Formica 'cracked ice' pattern in grey.

Formica ‘cracked ice’ pattern in grey.

We have used the tables for dining and also as a work desk, painting surface and craft table and also a kids table when it needs to be. These tables that have already been around for many decades, like most products from days gone by, are sturdy and built to last. The matching buffet currently houses some of my vintage glass ware.

My vintage arborite buffet.

My vintage arborite buffet.

 I’ve been keeping my eye out for a table in yellow cracked ice but haven’t found one yet. I am a nostalgic kind of girl and I believe my fondness for Formica and Arborite might have stemmed from memories of my family’s own yellow Formica cracked ice dining table my parents bought second hand in the seventies. I’m not sure where it ended up and I was regretfully too young to have had my parents save this table for me…along with the amazing 1960s wool sectional my parents had which is also long gone (I’ll try to find photos of it for my future sofa post.). It would have looked so good in our new living room (sigh).

But back to the topic at hand. Both Formica and Arborite offer quality, long-lasting counter tops and have for decades. They carry lots of patterns but unfortunately not much in the line of fun vintage designs that would look great in a mid-century renovated or retro inspired kitchen. I am still hopeful that Formica or Arborite might announce one day soon that it is bringing back colourful classic designs like aqua boomerang or fantasy starburst but until then I will continue to search for other options. I’ll update this post with any that I find that might end up in our kitchen.

 

 

MY DREAM KITCHEN…SO FAR

Steel kitchen ad from 1957 Canadian Homes & Garden magazine.

Steel kitchen ad from 1957 Canadian Homes & Garden magazine.

When my husband and I first decided to move and renovate this dated 1960s house our plan was to save the home’s kitchen. We didn’t mind the layout which was fairly open and spacious so it made sense to try to salvage the original knotty pine kitchen. I didn’t realize that knotty pine was actually quite a popular choice for kitchens in the fifties and sixties but since we’ve gotten into this project I have seen so many vintage knotty pine kitchens in vintage magazines and online. I’m sorry to say that although it is a beautiful wood with all of its natural knots and variations, I’m not a huge fan of the wood for a kitchen…or for my kitchen I guess. 

'before' of the knotty pine kitchen

‘before’ of the knotty pine kitchen

So we planned on having the existing kitchen cabinets sprayed with a high end white lacquer and replacing the hardware. We were quoted $2000 to have the cabinets professionally sprayed which seemed reasonable and would definitely be less costly than replacing a kitchen. I was a little worried that the knots in the knotty pine cabinets might bleed through in the future especially since we were planning on having them painted white. We have some wood trim in our current home that we painted white a few years ago that now has knots resurfacing as you can see in the photo.

Pine knots coming through paint.

Pine knots coming through paint.

 

I talked to the company who would be spraying the cabinets and they assured us that with a few coats of a strong sealant they used there would be a very small chance of knots coming through in the future. I felt reassured but still a bit concerned.

Then, in early fall, part of the kitchen ceiling caved in from the roof leak and after cleaning up there was some water damage to parts of the upper cabinets. We also noticed that some of the doors and drawers didn’t open and close well. Since we planned on removing the ceiling and walls in the dining room and kitchen to make sure no permanent water damage or mold would be an issue; we decided that it was best to install a new kitchen. I was fine with keeping the original kitchen but I have to admit, I am excited at the thought of planning a new kitchen. 

I love the look of mid century steel kitchens – beautifully simple and long lasting. The slogan on the Youngstown Steel Kitchens ad sums it up “cabinets of steel for lasting appeal.”  Unfortunately finding a true set of vintage steel kitchen cabinets is unlikely so for now I’ll just admire these vintage steel kitchen ads to get some inspiration.

Retro kitchen ad

kitchen ad for Republic Steel Kitchens from a 1957 Canadian Home & Gardens Magazine, kitchen available in yellow, turquoise, pink and white

Republic Steel kitchen ad from 1954 Better Homes & Gardens.

Republic Steel kitchen ad from 1954 Better Homes & Gardens.

Youngstown Steel Kitchens ad from 1954 Better Homes & Gardens magazine

Youngstown Steel Kitchens ad from 1954 Better Homes & Gardens magazine

Republic Steel Kitchen ad from 1957 Canadian Homes & Gardens magazine, kitchen comes in Prelude Pink, Largo Yellow and Tempo Turquoise (I want that!)

Republic Steel Kitchen ad from 1957 Canadian Homes & Gardens magazine, kitchen comes in Prelude Pink, Largo Yellow and Tempo Turquoise (I want that!)

The kitchen below is not steel but I really like the overall look of it. I pulled these pages out of a 1965 Family Circle magazine a few years ago. At the time, I had no idea that I would one day be designing  a retro inspired kitchen in a 1965 home; I just really liked the look of the cabinets.

1965 Family Circle magazine ad.

1965 Family Circle magazine ad.

The style of this 1960s kitchen is similar to some of the modern kitchens you can find in recent decorating magazines, especially the two tone upper and lower cabinets and wood grain look of the lower cabinets. I have found similar finishes in many of the latest kitchen cabinet catalogues I have. I like the simple white ceramic tile backsplash accented with a few starburst patterned tiles. The floors are a bit hard to see in the scanned photos but are described as ‘vinyl-asbestos tile laid with white feature strips to ‘make the kitchen seem wider than it is’. I don’t mind that look either (minus the asbestos) but flooring will be a whole other topic. I also quite like the rich turquoise of the upper cabinets (my favorite colour) but I don’t think I will be able to talk my husband into going with turquoise cabinets. We will likely go with a simple cabinet door in glossy white for both upper and lowers but we are also considering going with a woodgrain finish for the lower cabinets similar to the look in the above 1965 kitchen. I also think the chrome ‘pencil slim’ handles finish off the cabinets nicely. For our kitchen I also really like the boomerang style pull like in this kitchen picture. Reproductions of both of these styles can be found at Rejuvenation.

Vintage Younstown Steel kitchen.

We also plan on going with a simple glossy white tile backsplash. I’m thinking of incorporating this Italian made vintage mod bird ceramic tile in a spot in the backsplash for just a little added vintage detail. It is 5 & 7/8″ squared. I’m hoping to find the perfect retro laminate counter top to really stand out – Maybe Formica or Arborite? http://modranchreno.com/2015/01/formica-for-me/

Vintage mod bird tile.

Vintage mod bird tile.

 I would love to find a retro sink in good condition. A friend had sent me a recent ad for a turquoise kitchen sink that would have looked lovely but it had a couple of holes in the surface and although not all that noticeable I’d worry that they would start to rust so the search continues. I love the sinks in these vintage ads.

Briggs Beautyware sinks, 1951.

Briggs Beautyware sinks, 1951.

Kohler enamel sink, 1950.

Kohler enamel sink, 1950.

 

Creating a new kitchen also gives us options for the layout. We didn’t mind the original layout but we will be making a few changes. Instead of keeping the U shape we will make it a simple L shape and add an island on castors. I have always wanted an island on wheels so it can be moved from one spot to another as needed. Also, we will add shallow pantry cupboards on one wall which will be great for extra storage (they won’t be as deep as they appear in the image below.) The kitchen plan doesn’t look very vintage inspired at this point but I’m hoping that together with the right countertop, accessories, flooring and lighting it will. I would also love to get aqua blue retro appliances but that might be a goal for the future since we will already be going much higher than the original kitchen budget. 

Our budget doesn’t really include custom kitchen cabinets so we started the search at Home Depot (we will get a few more quotes from other places which I will add to the post as I get them.) Shirley at Home Depot was very friendly and helpful and was quite excited to work on this project. I brought a drawing and measurements of the current kitchen, our ideas and some cabinet styles and finishes we liked. She asked me several questions to get a feel for what I liked. The appointment only took half an hour and in about a week she sent me some computerized images of a potential set up for our kitchen and at no cost. I was very happy with the service and the first plan she sent. I met with her again recently and we made a few small changes and here is the updated design. We’ll see if this design will turn into my dream kitchen but for now I’m having fun with the planning process.

Kitchen design.

Kitchen design – Home Depot Thomasville Nouveau glossy white.

 

HARD AT WORK

workinge

My husband, brother-in-law and a couple of their experienced friends have started the daunting task of getting the house ready to move. When I tell people that we are moving a house they usually say ‘you’re moving – where?’ to which I reply ‘no, we are actually moving a house’. I never really thought about what was involved with moving a home or building. Luckily there is a house moving company close by that has been in business for many years and knows exactly what they’re doing when it comes to moving a house. The bricks need to be removed,  the leaking roof taken off and strapped (a new roof will be put on after the move) and everything around the house must also be removed including the deck and all of the overgrown trees and bushes. As well, the basement ceiling needs to be removed and electrical wiring and ductwork in the basement will have to be carefully disconnected as the basement is obviously not coming with us.

There has been a lot of progress over the last month and the house looks quite different than it did in the ‘before’ photos. There will be a lot more progress photos to come.

 

Font of house 'before'.

Font of house ‘before’.

The bricks are almost off the front.

The old roof is gone, strapped and the bricks are almost off the front.

Before tearing down the overgrowth and deck.

Before tearing down the overgrowth and deck.

Work in progress...

Work in progress…

No more deck!

No more deck!

Kitchen ceiling is coming down.

Kitchen ceiling and all of that old insulation is coming down.

 

BOX OF ORIGINAL HOUSE GOODIES

original house stuff

I was so excited when the previous owner of the house found her parents original box of house ‘stuff’ which I imagine was the equivalent of my renovation binder of information http://modranchreno.com/2014/12/keeping-it-organized/.

The box included the original house plan, blueprints, cost quotes and receipts and some great flyers for everything from fridges to lighting to doorbells…oh my! Not everyone would get so excited about this find but for me, it was like being a kid in a candy store.

Some of the most interesting things were:

The original home plan ripped out of a home plan book which shows a few changes that were made including losing the master bedrooms en suite and walk in closet in order to expand the dining room and downsizing to a one car garage to create a larger mudroom and indoor stairs to the basement which were originally accessed in the basement.

Original home plan.

Original home plan.

 

 

And the original blueprints…

original blueprints

Here is the original blueprint for the front elevation of the house

This 1965 Beaver Lumber building materials catalogue is full of great product photos and illustrations.

retro home building catalogue

I love this set up for the back yard

 

retro building flyer

Notice the vinyl ASBESTOS tile…

Some lovely retro paint colours

Some lovely retro paint colours

I love all of these doors. My favorite would have to be the teardrop style.

I love all of these doors. My favorite would have to be the teardrop style.

Some fabulous doorbells and chimes

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I’d like the starburst design.

Some fashionable chimes.

Some fashionable chimes.

These photos show just a few of the fun advertisements in the stack of papers. There are some kitchen design flyers and pamphlets for lovely mid century lighting which I will share in another day.

 

 

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS

The house exterior 'before'.

The house exterior ‘before’.

For the last several years I’ve wanted to move out of our two storey brick century home…and preferably to a one level mid century rancher. I just love the look and simplicity of a 1950s or 60s rancher. There are parts of our current home that I do love like the high ceilings, the large wooden trim that accent the doors and windows and the beautiful original wooden doors themselves.

Large wooden trim on windows and doors and original banister.

Large wooden trim on windows and doors and original banister.

I love that it has a long history and likely housed several families throughout the years including our own. However the things I don’t love about living in a one hundred year old home are plenty. It is difficult to create an open layout in an older home like ours, the dining area is very small, storage is non-existent, heating and cooling can be inefficient, and the basement is not a place one would want to hang out in…unless you’re a spider. On the exterior, the bricks need re-facing and the foundation is in need of some work.

So when my husband heard that this vacant 1960s house might be available we called the owner who gave us a tour of the home. She had grown up in the home and you could see it was full of great memories. It had been vacant for a couple of years and it was likely going to be demolished. The home had some water and plaster damage inside from a leaky roof and a few other issues. It is surprising how quickly things inside a house deteriorate once they are empty – homes need people.

I loved the ranch style home’s layout with a great mudroom and laundry area, a large spacious kitchen and dining room with beautiful big patio doors that let lots of light in and lead to the backyard. The living room was a good size with an inviting bay window and comfy window seat. There were hardwood floors through the front entry, hallway and the three modest bedrooms. And the mid-century front door with three oval windows definitely sealed the deal.

So, a deal was made and the house will have a new home, an interior and exterior makeover and a new family to call it home.

Here are some of the before photos. As you can see, we have some work to do but I am sure the after photos will be fabulous!

before house front

‘before’ of house front corner

'before' exterior front entrance

‘before’ exterior front entrance

'before' of the knotty pine kitchen

‘before’ of the knotty pine kitchen

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‘before’ of the dining room from the kitchen

'before' of the front entryway...and the door I love

‘before’ of the front entryway…and the door I love

'before' of the living room

‘before’ of the living room