How to Remodel a 1950s Kitchen
LESLIE: Elaine in Delaware is on the line and is looking to redo a kitchen completely. Great project. How can we help?
ELAINE: I have a house that was built in like 1955, OK? So I have the arch entrance going into the dining room. I also have a door going into a basement. I have a door going outside and I have two windows, OK?
LESLIE: And this is your kitchen we’re talking about.
ELAINE: Yes. And the kitchen is only 18×12 feet with a 4-foot bump-out for the basement door.
ELAINE: OK? So I was wondering, number one, if I take out that archway – because I have several other entrances in the house that have the same archway. If I take out that archway and take out that whole wall there that opens up into the dining room …
LESLIE: Do you want to see your kitchen all the time from the dining room?
ELAINE: I like that open concept, yes.
ELAINE: But I’m wondering if it will take away from the integrity of the 1955 style with the arches.
LESLIE: I think an open plan has a much more modern and fresher feel. But I mean you’re talking about mid-century and that itself has a modern and fresh feel. So I don’t think it compromises one another. The issue is, is that wall load-bearing? Can you feasibly and structurally actually remove it?
ELAINE: I don’t think it is a load-bearing wall. No, we’ve done some work in the house and I think that we could actually cut that out.
LESLIE: Now, your kitchen itself, is that original to the home from 1955?
ELAINE: Yes, it is. And it’s got the old wooden-type cabinets. Like the back door opens up right into the stove.
TOM: Well, the nice thing about the old wooden cabinets is that they’re really well-built and the second thing is that they’re also easy to refinish.
That’s a perfect candidate for painting cabinets, replacing hardware and thinking about doing a less-expensive kitchen update that way, right, Leslie?
LESLIE: Yeah. It sounds to me, though, that Elaine has got her heart set on a gut job, which isn’t a bad idea either. You know, Tom is right: those cabinets are exceptionally well-made. I think the idea of opening out the room, as long as it makes sense and as long as you don’t mind – is this going to be your formal dining room off of the kitchen?
LESLIE: OK. It instantly is going to take on a less-formal feel because it is integrated into that main portion of the kitchen.
LESLIE: But you can still add details to it to dress up that portion of the space. Plus, you can add – a kitchen island is a great addition to a space; it gives a more casual seating area. But keep in mind that once you do the open plan, it does sort of reduce the formality of the dining area. But you can dress it up through color, lighting fixtures, furnishing choices, a rug. There are ways to do that.
And keep in mind that now you’re opening the space, your working triangle needs to be modified a little bit. But I think there are great ways to make an open plan work and I think eliminating that archway really isn’t going to take away from the historical aspect of the home.
ELAINE: OK, yeah. And we were actually thinking about maybe putting a couple stools where the wall is now, if we take out that archway, and kind of making a little breakfast bar.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. No, I think as long as structurally you’re able – and you’ll have to consult with an engineer – there’s no problem with removing that wall itself and creating that open plan. And do a lot of research on mid-century design, because you’re smack in that age bracket for your home. And it is swank; it’s very modern. There’s some interesting furnishings; you don’t have to buy the authentic stuff. Although, as gorgeous as it is, there are some fantastic knockoffs in a lot of those pieces. And you can really do something interesting.
And Lucite is back in a big way. And if you mix Lucite and wood and some interesting lighting, you can really create a cool, mid-century feel.
ELAINE: OK. Well, thank you very much.