After its original kitchen was lost to a 1990s makeover, this home is refreshed with the addition of a mid century-inspired kitchen.
To lovers of mid century design and style, these words from designer Aletha VanderMaas about the Michigan kitchen of the 1950 ranch her firm was brought in to restore are devastating to hear: “Sadly, nothing original was left for us to work from.”
Without any original design elements or features to work from, Aletha, designer and curator with True Home Restorations in Grand Haven, Michigan, found inspiration in her personal archives for the kitchen project. “I took inspiration from original mid century home photos I’ve collected over the years,” she says. “The number-one detail that I admired is the angled-back upper cabinets. This is the first and only kitchen I’ve worked these into, but they are my favorite element and add a lot of style to this petite kitchen.”
With features including sliding doors and rounded corner shelves, the custom cabinetry returned a mid century sensibility to the space. “We selected mid century-appropriate slab doors for all the cabinets,” Aletha says. “We landed on retro-inspired pulls from Rejuvenation and retro-inspired laminate. We went with a very simple glass backsplash in an oversized rectangle, bond-set. The light fixtures and cabinet pulls really drive home the mid century style.”
The light wood tone was selected for the cabinets to complement the gray flooring the homeowner selected and the original wood ceilings. Along with the architecture of the angled-back upper cabinets, the light color palette helps make the small kitchen space feel larger and more open.
Keeping It Light
“We decided on a light-tone wood to keep the space open and not too visually heavy,” Aletha notes. “The laminate countertops are ivory and gray, and that set the tone for the rest of the neutral kitchen. We added a couple of pops of mid century colors (orange, aqua, yellow) with easy-to-swap accents.”
Appliances were selected to fit the mid century aesthetic and not overwhelm the small space and also to show some home state pride. “We decided on Michigan-based Whirlpool for appliances,” Aletha says. “I designed the space using the plainest and most low-profile appliances they offered at the time. Based on the layout we decided on, we ended up with a double oven (the upper portion is a microwave), cooktop and fridge.”
Lighting was another element that helped bring the mid century back into this mid century home.
“Light fixtures are some of my favorite design elements to work in some mid century flair,” Aletha says. “The globes look like they could have always been there, and the light above the sink is the perfect pinhole fixture for that space.”
Mindful of both the space limitations in the small kitchen and the simplicity of the modern aesthetic, Aletha finished off the space with a few accessories in bright mid century colors. The end result is a kitchen that checks all the boxes for the homeowner, designer and home.
“This home is small. This kitchen is one of the smallest I’ve worked on, but it’s also one of my favorites because we worked in those retro angled uppers,” Aletha explains. “Don’t let the size of your space dictate how much style you can work in.”
See more of this Michigan kitchen at Restoring Retro Style to a 1950 Michigan Kitchen. To see more of Aletha’s work, see Small Touch-Ups For Dramatic Results. And for even more principles, ideas, and inspiring kitchens that balance preservation and renovation, we devote a whole chapter to kitchens in Atomic Ranch: Remodeled Marvels.