Probably one of the worst things about renovating a home when you’re on a tight budget is how looooooong it takes. Each update has to be painstakingly saved for and only then does the research phase kick in. We’re talking hours, days, and sometimes even months spent looking at a variety of products and resources from all different brands, and then often times you’ve got contractors to coordinate on top of it all.
For that reason, our mid-century kitchen has been (and will continue to be) a work in progress for years to come. So far, we’ve updated the old formica counters with new granite, switched out the two-sided, too-shallow sink with an ultra deep version, added a gold faucet, and installed a white subway tile backsplash. We also removed wallpaper and repainted the space bright white.
All of these changes helped to breathe new life into the retro space, so much so that I was able to use imaginary blinders to ignore the rest. But then I took over the Better Homes and Gardens Instagram account for the weekend, and this photo of our mid-progress kitchen sparked a heated discussion about how dated the space still looked.
Now, I’m not really one to pay much attention to bitter, inconsiderate people, but a few of the comments hit home, namely where the hardware and scrollwork over the sink were concerned. My dad is coming in a week to help me fix the scrollwork once and for all, and John and I recently took care of a hardware update so that we could all feel a little more satisfied with this DIY reno.
The original brass hardware (which you can see in detail pictured a few images up) was, in my opinion, really cute, what with its pretty cut-out flower design, but this kitchen makeover needed something a little more modern, and a little heftier to feel balanced. So, we packaged up the old hardware to sell or re-home somewhere else in the house, and started the process of screwing in brand new brass hardware.
The new cabinet and drawer pulls came from Etsy, via a shop called Forge Hardware Studio. To punch up the personality in our kitchen, we ultimately decided to combine two kinds of hardware silhouettes. For the drawers, we chose single-screw brushed brass round knobs, and for the cabinet doors, we went with 3-inch pulls, again in brushed brass. The total came to about $200 for everything, which seemed like a great deal for such a major upgrade, especially with the large number of cabinets and drawers we have.
Although a lot of commenters begged for us to paint the cabinets, I’m sorry to disappoint. There’s absolutely no way that I will be painting over that gorgeous original wood. Maybe it’s more obvious in person, but the grain is pure art, and I could never forgive myself for ruining that. So, new hardware will have to do, and happily, it’s all the upgrade we need to feel satisfied.
What do you think of our little upgrade? In case you happened to notice, we also recently upgraded our old white fridge to a new stainless version! The tight space limited our options pretty much to one fridge, but we love the new look (it looks white because of the glare from the windows). All in all, this kitchen is well on its way to being our dream space. Now to tackle that scrollwork…
I love your kitchen! It’s really beautiful. In my opinion the scrolly bit over the sink is the only thing making it look dated, and I hope you’re able to remove it without too much bother/damage/strong language. 🙂 The new hardware looks very sleek and works great with the cabinets. Maybe it’s because I am European, but I never get this frenzy to paint over perfectly pretty cabinets. I’m so happy you decided to keep the cabinets as they are. The fact that they are still looking so great after all these years really speaks volumes about their quality! Your kitchen looks like a lovely and happy space, and I hope you’ll be able to appreciate it for many years! 🙂
We hope the scrollwork removal goes well, too!! You know I’ll keep you guys posted 🙂 Thanks for the kind words!
I hate that there were negative comments about your beautiful space. Keep doing you- because it’s beautiful. Slow decorating and remodeling is the best. Love the new hardware!
Thanks for the sweet support, Kacie!
i think the scroll work above the sink is charming!
Awww, I’m so glad you like it!! It definitely has its own unique charm! I wish there was a way to move it, but we’ll see 🙂
I have a similar midcentury kitchen with birch cabinetry. I love it so much and applaud you for staying true to the beauty of your kitchen. That said, we also have that same kind of scrollwork over the birch built-ins in our living room…it’s bothered me for years, so I’m excited to see how you modernize that feature.
Thanks for the kind words about our kitchen! And stay tuned for the scrollwork update—hopefully it’s something you can copy yourself!!
I think it looks nice and l also wouldn’t paint the cabinets! It shows the character and personality of the house. I think the new hardware really highlights their beauty
Yay! Thanks, Elisabeth!
I love this kitchen and I agree with you, the character of the natural wood in those cabinets is so unique. Reminiscent of marble, with the swirls. I would never paint over it! The new hardware is the perfect mix of styles to add additional character! Great choice!
It IS sort of like marble, isn’t it!? Good eye 🙂 Glad you like the new updates!
I’m confused — you said you were so proud of your kitchen and now you are changing it after people criticized it on BHG’s Instagram? Be true to yourself! As a reader, it’s a turn off to read your tone in this post. People are “bitter” and “inconsiderate” because they had criticisms and suggestions for your kitchen, which is a work in progress? You should be *so grateful* that the BHG team shared their Instagram platform with you. That is *huge* and you should *thank them* for that opportunity rather than demean their readers’ perspectives on your blog. I’ve been reading BHG for 30 years and hope you value that relationship.
My husband and I always knew that we were going to update the scrollwork and hardware, so the comments on that BHG picture were the perfect motivation I needed to take care of those projects once and for! Oh, and I definitely shared lots of thanks with the BHG team for the wonderful opportunity 🙂
So my question is a little personal? What do you like to keep in your cabinets above the fridge? We have a 60s kitchen almost identical to yours. I love our cabinets and will never paint or remove them. With the limited storage space I struggle to use those and know I need them. Thank you!
We tend to keep things we use less often in that cabinet since it’s sort of hard to get to—things like holiday cookie cutters, a travel casserole carrier, and a few other occasional serving platters. We keep a step stool nearby to make accessing that cabinet a little easier! Places like Target and HomeGoods have cute step stools that you might look into buying since you might need to keep yours out to access that cabinet on a daily basis. Could be the perfect solution!!
I agree with the choice to keep the cabinets original. If you want to keep some of the mid century feel. It looks wonderful and a great combination of new and old. For the people who made unsavory comments, just don’t invite them over!
So happy to hear that you agree!! 🙂
It’s fabulous!! So tired of people telling others what to do and how to do it. Let people have their own taste! I love how the hardware, tile and fresh paint updates the space. Painted cabinets would just look like everyone else’s kitchen!! Be original!
Thank you!!! I appreciate that, Aimee!
Not everyone’s home is perfect, and you should embrace the quirks! Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to do what other people think you should do (those nasty commenters!) and follow the latest fad. I imagine being a design blogger there must be all sorts of pressure to have the perfect house and the trendiest products and make sure your house looks like a Domino photoshoot. Your house shouldn’t look like what is trending on Pinterest. It should be rough around the edges and “lived in.” It should be unique to you! I can’t wait to see where your kitchen DIY takes you! Thank you for your inspiration!
Yes to the quirks!! They’re the best 🙂 Thank you so much for the support!
I’ve been looking for examples of beautiful kitchens that look modern, but still keep the cabinets unpainted – thank you! People have such strong decor opinions, but it’s never okay to shame someone else about their home. I’m grateful to see something different than the thousands of white cabinet-ed kitchens out there (though those are beautiful). Keep doing you.
My pleasure! And I really appreciate your support!!
Carrie, your kitchen is BEAUTIFUL! I’m sorry that you received mean comments — people really unleash their worst with the anonimity of the internet. Here’s a correctly phrased opinion for you: while I personally love the look of white or light wood kitchen cabinets, your cabinets are GORGEOUS, and more to the point, they are YOURS! They go so well with the retro style of your whole home. And the new hardware is fabulous! You keep doing you, lady–you are so talented, creative, and stylish! Fist pump to your bad-assery!
You’re the sweetest, Marlene…Thank you for always being such an epic champion and friend!! Your comment made me feel so much better about the whole situation 🙂
OMG I just noticed your stove! We have almost the same one except it’s gas. I LOVE a good ’40s/’50s stove! Unfortunately ours is in really bad repair and will be replaced at some point this year. 🙁
How cool is THAT?! So sorry to hear yours is on the outs though…Hopefully you can find a modern one that’s just as cool to replace it!
Love your kitchen, I just used similar hardware in my own kitchen. Can I ask where you got your sink faucet? I have been looking everywhere for one just like it. Thanks and great job!
Thank you so much!! It’s from Delta, and is called the Trinsic faucet, I believe. We love it!
If you won’t paint perhaps you could remove a cupboard or tow and showcase the contents. Or remove a cupboard all together and replace with some white shelves.
All good ideas! Thanks for weighing in!
Love your kitchen — it’s very similar to my mid-century one as well, including the scrollwork! Can’t wait to see how it evolves. Where did you get your clock from? Love it!
Thanks, Andrea!! I really appreciate the sweet words, and am excited to hear that you have a similar space 🙂 The vintage clock was a lucky estate sale score!
I loooove your kitchen! These upgrades are perfect to make it feel more modern while also staying true to its retro charm and originality. I found this post while researching how to upgrade my own retro kitchen. Seeing these photos was an “ah-ha” moment for me and will be the inspiration for my own kitchen upgrades. I have original wood cabinets with old yucky brass hardware. I think modernized brass hardware will do the trick.
Oh, I’m so happy to hear this!!! Best of luck with your renovation—I’m sure it will be beautiful 🙂 Thank you for the kind comment!
Love that you didn’t paint the cabinets, Gorgeous and updated with the new hardware.
I love the wood. I’m so thrilled to find your blog because we just bought a 1957 one owner home and I just painted all the walls white and left all the trim and doors and have literally been turning in my sleep wondering if it was the wrong decision (because it would have been far cheaper to have the trim and doors sprayed BEFORE painting the walls if we were ever going to do so!) But seeing your home I feel much more confident in my decision to leave the original glory. Our cabinets are knotty pine with the grooves AND we have a full tongue and groove paneled sunken den as well (with a panel and beam ceiling to boot! So much wood lol!) I was wondering if you had a paneled den and what you did with it but I don’t think you have the same kind (what year is your house?) I have been wrestling with the cabinets and debating ripping out the entire kitchen and knocking out a wall to make it more open but keep going back to “I don’t want to be another stereotypical open floor plan with mcBuilder shaker cabinets”. So screw em! Leave the wood! But I will say regarding wall paper lol… We have the kitchen painted white but have a very cozy breakfast nook opposite the kitchen end of the rectangular room and I feel like it is just dying for some fun yellow wallpaper… floral or mid century geometric. I’ll have to send you pics. Also, can you tell me what granite you used?? I am about to order ours. Yours looks like the giallo-something stuff we have in our house now which was a mid-price point and I might do the same thing. Quartz is $58/sqft!!!!
Congrats on your new 1950s home!! I’m so glad you decided to leave the doors and trim original stained wood. We love the high contrast, retro look it gives our own space! If you search my blog for “family room tour” you’ll see photos of our one paneled space. We love the warmth the original stained wood paneling gives the room, and definitely don’t plan on changing it! Oh, and I love the idea of a fun retro yellow wallpaper—that would make such a cool statement!! Astek Home and Spoonflower are two of my favorite wallpaper resources if you need direction. We had a local supplier do our granite, and I’m not sure what it’s called…Sorry!!
Love the kitchen! Looking forward to exploring more. Our son and daughter-in-love just bought a 1950 house and are going to keep the wood cabinets. They considered ripping them out but they’re actually better quality than alot of new! And they are going to keep the solid wood paneling! Enjoy your sweet home and bless your family!
PS: You can switch the side your cute refrigerator hinges on. That might make it a bit more convenient getting items out near your stove.
Thank you so much! I’m glad it caught your eye, and congrats to your son and daughter-in-love on their new retro home!! Oh, and thanks so much for the tip about the fridge 🙂 We have to keep it the way it is, though, otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to open the door all the way because of the wall to the side of the fridge.
We have that exact same flower hardware in our 70s home bathrooms! Like you i think its cute but not comple my style. Ive not been able to paint oVer the wood either. But previous owners ALREADY had in the kitchen.
How funny!! And too bad about the wood in your kitchen. At least painted wood really can look beautiful when done well!
cONGRATS ON NOT PAINTING YOUR WOOD CABINETS! tHEY ARE STUNNING. dO YOU KNOW WHAT TYPE OF WOOD THEY ARE? i’M CURRENTLY IN THE MIDDLE OF A KITCHEN REMODEL WHERE i’M TRYING TO STRIP AND SAND THE PAINT OFF THE MIDCENTURY WOOD CABINETS. iF ONLY THE PREVIOUS OWNER HAD NOT DESECRATED THAT GORGEOUS MIDCENTURY WOOD! tHE PREVIOUS OWNER ALSO HAD MODIFIED THE FOOTPRINT, AND WE ARE GOING TO HAVE TO HAVE A COUPLE CABINET BOXES CUSTOM BUILT TO MATCH THE OLD ONES. i THINK OUR CABINETS ARE THE SAME TYPE OF WOOD AS YOURS, AND i WOULD ABSOLUTELY LOVE ANY SUGGESTIONS FOR WHAT TYPE THAT IS.sEEMS DARKER THAN BIRCH, RIGHT? tHANKS FOR SHARING YOUR GORGEOUS KITCHEN.
Thanks!! We’re really glad we made the decision not to paint in the end. I’m not totally sure what type of wood it is since they’re not marked, and we don’t have the previous homeowners around to ask, but we think it’s a stained pecan veneer. So glad you like it, and good luck with your project!
I have very similar cabinets and cannot get myself to paint them. The wood is too beautiful to cover it up. I’ll be updating the handles to give a more updates look too.
That’s wonderful!! You won’t regret it!
Did you update the hInges? If yes, what did you use?
Nope! We intentionally matched the finish of our new hardware to the original brass hinges so we could leave them as is.
Did you do anything to polish/revamp the wood on your cabinets?
Nope! It’s still the original finish.
Do you know what wood your original cabinets are made of? We are re-doing our 1960 kitchen and i’d love to use something like this for our custom cabinets.
I’m sorry, I’m not sure! They’re original to our 1960s home. I think they may be walnut, though!
where did you get the updated hardWare? We have the same cabinets and not finding as modern pieces anywhEre. Thanks!
It’s linked in the post! They’re from Forge Hardware.
Finally! Someone sees the true beauty of these cabinets. They are art! Love your updates. I have the same cabinets and have always loved the grain and style too. Your updates really make a difference. Thanks for the recommendations.
Thank you so much for the support! I’m glad you like how it turned out!
What kind of wood are your cabinets?
Sorry, but I don’t know! They’re original to our 1960s home.
Do not EVER paint your gorgeous cabinets! Awesome makeover.
Glad you like how it turned out!
My kitchen is similar to your and I love it but my cabinets lack the functionality that modern ones have which I desperately need. So I am thinking of having a new kitchen installed and use all these solid wood mid-century cabinets to assemble an oversized island. If well executed it could become a gorgeous focal point in my living. This said I truly love what you did with your kitchen. You were able to bring it into the 21st century while being respectful to its vintage nature. Well done!
Thanks so much! And I love the idea of repurposing your cabinets to create an island!
I absolutely love your update. It’s just beautiful! Just bought a 1960’s house and couldn’t bring myself to painting over the cabinets so I’m copying you! Ha! Hope you don’t mind! I was wondering if you could tell me about your flooring? Finish/color? It is just perfect with your cabinets!! Thank you!!
Thank you so much! And congrats on your new home!! Unfortunately, the flooring was already here when we moved in, so I don’t have any information about it…Sorry! Thanks again 🙂
We just purchased a home with a 1970s Sears Roebuck kitchen. I adore the flat panel cabinets with their push latches (no hardware). Similar doors, just a different veneer. Yes, they are a bit worn in spots after 50 years. Like you, I will no paint them. Today I begin cleaning them. Others paint, we appreciate!
Hear, hear! I love that you have a similar kitchen that you plan to appreciate to its fullest! And congratulations on your new-to-you vintage home 🙂
Smart to go ahead and do new hardware. Like all your changes so far!
Thanks so much!!
I’m glad you didn’t paint the cabinets! Super inspiring. We are going for the same thing in a 1960s kitchen. I like the look of this better than most of the painted kitchens. Great job!
I’m thrilled that you like how it came together! Thank you!!