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Restoring & Updating a Vintage 1950s Kitchen


Chris Amirault
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Wow that is a seriously fantastic kitchen! I'm in serious envy! And it hasn't been re-muddled, which gives you the chance to restore what you can.

In addition to Atomic Ranch, here are a couple of web sites that can help, if you haven't found them already:

http://retrorenovation.com/

http://www.lottaliving.com/

These two, so far, are my favorite places to go for either inspiration or advice. The message boards on Lotta Living have some great folks with lots of knowledge regarding repairs and restorations.

Tolovana

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Chris... do the ovens still work? If so, continue to use them until they die. We've been using our original 1963 Westinghouse ovens since we moved in almost 20 years ago.

The best advice: plan to replace them Any Day Now. They'll work like a charm forever. However, don't try using any of the timing, clock or other fancy features -- that is a sure Road to Confusion and possibly Breakage. Just stick to the temperature controls and you'll be fine.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Update. The more we talk to people, the more we're moving away from keeping those two ovens for any length of time at all. We started counting how often we use the oven in the current house, as well, and that's a sobering 7-10 times per week, often for comfort foods. Given that no one has used the ovens in many years and we have no idea whether they work beyond a quick, palms-in "it's warm" test, we're getting cold feet about them....

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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How about this idea: Keep the Thermidors, use one for storage and the other as a warming/dough rising oven. Install a new double oven cabinet in the space where the fridge is now (since you don't like that location anyway, it looks pretty tight for a new fridge anyway) and figure out another site for a big refrigerator.

That's a fantastic kitchen! What a huge number of cabinets. Congrats.

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My mom had a thermidor built-in oven, and it was a pig; couldn't hold temp well, always took longer to cook anything than was expected, and it broke (hardware) often. I fixed it for her a couple of times, and had (delayed) family dinners with her and my family there often. I don't know the model number, but the experiences convinced me that the brand was forever on my don't-buy list. So I would recommend yours be removed and/or replaced.

Ray

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How about this idea: Keep the Thermidors, use one for storage and the other as a warming/dough rising oven. Install a new double oven cabinet in the space where the fridge is now (since you don't like that location anyway, it looks pretty tight for a new fridge anyway) and figure out another site for a big refrigerator.

That's a fantastic kitchen! What a huge number of cabinets. Congrats.

I am going to edit this idea after looking at your pics again. Replace the thermidors and the cabinets above and below with a refrigerator nook. It looks plenty big enough and much closer to the sink. Then, as I suggested above, have new double ovens installed where the old fridge is.

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I am going to edit this idea after looking at your pics again. Replace the thermidors and the cabinets above and below with a refrigerator nook. It looks plenty big enough and much closer to the sink. Then, as I suggested above, have new double ovens installed where the old fridge is.

I think this is an awesome suggestion! But, you may want/need to consider a counter-depth fridge, so it's not jutting out in the middle of that side of the kitchen.

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I think this is an awesome suggestion! But, you may want/need to consider a counter-depth fridge, so it's not jutting out in the middle of that side of the kitchen.

Good idea. We went with a counter depth fridge when the best spot for it was on a wall where the depth made no sense. The inside space is the same, you just pay for having the thing assembled differently.

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I think this is an awesome suggestion! But, you may want/need to consider a counter-depth fridge, so it's not jutting out in the middle of that side of the kitchen.

Good idea. We went with a counter depth fridge when the best spot for it was on a wall where the depth made no sense. The inside space is the same, you just pay for having the thing assembled differently.

Is the space inside a counter depth fridge the same? Some friends have one, it seems much shallower to me.


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I think this is an awesome suggestion! But, you may want/need to consider a counter-depth fridge, so it's not jutting out in the middle of that side of the kitchen.

Good idea. We went with a counter depth fridge when the best spot for it was on a wall where the depth made no sense. The inside space is the same, you just pay for having the thing assembled differently.

Is the space inside a counter depth fridge the same? Some friends have one, it seems much shallower to me.

They are shallower. Our KitchenAid is 21" deep.

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And here's the link to the Old Appliance Club where you can order rebuilt parts for vintage ovens, ranges, etc.

Thanks, Andie. I just called them and talked through the options. They are extremely helpful. But:

Basically, you have to find, hire, and cajole a worthy electrician into coming out to the house, doing continuity testing for the electricity, and see if you can isolate a faulty part, remove it, digitally photograph it, and send it to the good folks at the Club. (If the technician can't quite pull that off, you can call their phone operators who, for $65 per 15 minutes or so, will guide them through the process.) They then determine if a part can be repaired, bought, or manufactured.

I'm daunted, I tell you.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Family of four food-obsessed individuals: 21" isn't going to cut it....

Keep those ideas coming!

Yes, they are not as deep as a standard fridge. But, it looks like you'd have room for a very wide one, so it might still work.

When we redid our kitchen, we really didn't have any choice but to get a counter-depth fridge, if we wanted to be able to open the pantry door. I compensated by buying a no-frills regular sized fridge and sticking it in a storage closet in our sunroom. It's worked great. I keep often-used stuff in the smaller kitchen fridge. We use the other one for wine and beer and the freezer for the stuff I put up in summer. At holidays, I cram both full.

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Family of four food-obsessed individuals: 21" isn't going to cut it....

Keep those ideas coming!

Yes, they are not as deep as a standard fridge. But, it looks like you'd have room for a very wide one, so it might still work.

When we redid our kitchen, we really didn't have any choice but to get a counter-depth fridge, if we wanted to be able to open the pantry door. I compensated by buying a no-frills regular sized fridge and sticking it in a storage closet in our sunroom. It's worked great. I keep often-used stuff in the smaller kitchen fridge. We use the other one for wine and beer and the freezer for the stuff I put up in summer. At holidays, I cram both full.

onrushpam, you are right, the counter depth would look very good there. I think they are better looking fridges all around. I think I am working with the very same fridge set-up as you describe.

There are a lot of different counter depth fridges on the mkt. now. I actually like it that they are not so deep, I can easily see everything. Nothing seems to disappear in the "way back". The fridge seems to stay better organized. You may not be able to slide a half-sheet in the long way, but other than that I think it's a better configuration.

Chris A. looks like he has plenty of room to work with either way.

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After doing some investigating and asking a couple of technicians who specialize in repairing vintage stoves, it's my opinion you should opt for a new oven.

Both guys told me that bringing a vintage electric wall oven up to code is difficult, expensive and potentially unreliable. They work 95% on gas ranges and ovens because they can be converted to new technology with pilotless ignition and with newer and more powerful burners without altering the appearance and also making them safer to use.

The older electric ovens need to be completely rewired and all the components replaced because there is simply too many ways something can go wrong and when one part fails it can cause a cascade failure when one part fails, causing the next to fail and so on.

One of the guys showed me a 1950s schematic for a GE oven that included two 30 amp fuses - the kind that one used to screw into a household fuse box.

I'm with you about the size of the fridge. I detest the counter depth types and think they are overpriced for the volume. I like big refrigerators and had Sub-Zeros for quite a while, (tree full of lemons there)

I now have an LG with French doors and two freezer drawers on the bottom. Overall it is 30 inches deep.

The shelves are all roll-out so no problem with finding stuff in the rear.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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My fridge is standard depth, but because of its location, I had enough extra space behind it that I was able to recess it completely so that it looks like a counter depth model (doesn't stick out). I don't know what's on the other side of that kitchen wall of yours, but it's worth investigating, you might be able to do the same.


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Hi,

We also sunk our full size refrigerator into the wall to provide for a counter-depth look and lots of extra space. By removing the plaster, lath and shifting the studs, we picked up 6" of extra depth.

The full size refrigerator was actually cheaper than the same counter-depth model. The net cost was nil.

Tim

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  • 2 months later...

Finally settled in enough to get some photos up. Things are in a state of flux still, so please make any suggestions you have.

Here's the cooking "U" zone.

4804229685_5f8e94113b_b.jpg

The shelving over the ovens. (The shelving over the range has serving platters.)

4804859146_a83ff953a1_b.jpg

The shelving under the range.

4804860610_86085a1e95_b.jpg

And -- yes, more -- the shelving under the ovens.

4804232003_219026999f_b.jpg

The coffee station to the right of the range.

4804859330_6b1b042b55_b.jpg

The little extension on the main counter. That's where our 5-year-old usually sits. I kept the garbage can in the picture because, as always, it has no real place to go in this kitchen.

4804859502_0cf0e2df56_b.jpg

The KA station and cupboard of measuring stuff.

4804859670_0a7c1b6bb0.jpg

Bought some Vance Spice Drawer Inserts from Amazon:

4804859858_9072babbb1_b.jpg

These shelves are a bit of a conundrum for us, as they're located at a tough spot for reaching.

4804230783_0ef32fc04b.jpg

After much thinking, I decided to install two 12" magnetic knife strips above the sink, on either side. I found these fantastic Mag-Bloks from Bench Crafted, which maintain the look of the wood and protect the knives at the same time.

4804230949_22631fdfaa.jpg

Lazy susan on marble and thick cutting board, both of which we use often enough to have them handy.

4804231129_15a0f75b41_b.jpg

Sliding doors to shelving under main counter.

4804231567_596835ba26_b.jpg

Ikea drawer inserts for flatware.

4804231807_019bfc3843_b.jpg

One clear problem are the gadget drawers, of which there are three in various states of disorder.

4804861510_be58795bd5.jpg

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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After much thinking, I decided to install two 12" magnetic knife strips above the sink, on either side. I found these fantastic Mag-Bloks from Bench Crafted, which maintain the look of the wood and protect the knives at the same time.

4804230949_22631fdfaa.jpg

I went to the Seki Cutlery Festival in Seki, Japan last year, and chatted with the people from japanesechefsknife.com (they have a different name in Japan, but I can't remember it). They told me never to store my Japanese knives on magnetic strips. I can't remember why, but they strongly recommended against it. You could probably write them and ask, though.

Just something to think about since you've started investing in Japanese knives.

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Like Hennes said. I have to say that these wooden strips are among the best things I've ever gotten. Perfectly manufactured, great, simple design, and beautiful. The old metal strips are being relegated to the basement tool dump zone work area.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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You could always use the discarded mag strips for tools. I have one 30" long, that holds wrenches and another 18" that holds screwdrivers.

I also have one in the pantry that holds some odd cooking gadgets that are difficult to find in drawers (not to mention the sharp bits that I always manage to catch with a finger)

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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The danger of using a normal magnetic knife block is that you can nick the blade on the hard edges: these wooden ones Chris is talking about don't have that problem.

There was more to it than that, at least according to the jck folks. But between my Japanese and one guy's English, we couldn't get into it in much detail.

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