Paula and Mark Davey, both public school music teachers, both 47, had been trying to make their home into something it was not. Living in a vanilla ’70s tract house stuffed with midcentury furniture and collectibles in Vancouver, Wash., the couple was planning to rip out their small kitchen and turn it into an ode to vintage style.
“We were trying to fit this ’50s ideal into the wrong house,” says Mark. That’s when they chanced upon a 1959 ranch for sale a few miles away; it got them dreaming. “We stumbled across this house and started thinking that the remodel was pointless. We could be here and it would just fall into place.”
Like any long-married couple, they didn’t openly discuss their infatuations. They weren’t in the market, but more than that, the timing was really poor. “We’d just had a death in the family and we were not thinking of moving at all,” Paula says. “But both of us, without talking to each other, kept thinking about this house.” The standoff lasted 10 days, whereupon they made a lowball offer that was accepted and the stone began to roll downhill.
“You could see this was a solid house that you could do so much with,” Paula recalls, and Mark’s memory is of “hardwoods that went on forever.” The house is one of the largest in the neighborhood, a small ranch tract called Allwood Manor, where a typical home runs between 1,200 and 2,000 square feet. At 3,300 square feet, counting the large unfinished basement, they felt like kids in a candy store.
As at the previous house, they were focused on creating the retro kitchen of their dreams. A large, L-shaped room, it was blessed with original cabinetry, tons of counter space, an expansive breakfast area and a built-in desk with even more storage. The pair was less keen on the ugly vinyl floor and the brown wall oven.
“Paula conceptualizes, down to the layout, color and design; then I get out the saws and hammers,” says Mark. “Because I work at a glacial pace, and she wasn’t ready to be without a kitchen for any length of time, we hired it out to Nathan Darling of Indy Construction.”
Researching typical color schemes, the Daveys went with green, white and red, plus the warm honey color of the wood cabinetry. Red “Cracked Ice” laminate counters and metal edging were ordered through Bars & Booths, and new green pulls came from Van Dyke’s Restorers.
They opted to expand the size of the window over the sink and widen the doorway to the dining room. Two upper cabinets were removed and the overhead storage compartment reframed to fit the shorter return. An electric cooktop was replaced with a reconditioned 1950 Wedgewood gas stove. Indy Construction also added downlights in the soffit area and built two display shelves for Paula’s knick-knacks.
“We saw a Jadite green Western Holly oven in Atomic Ranch, and we thought having an oven that looked like a clothes dryer was the best thing ever,” says Mark. They found a pink one on eBay for $20, which at first felt like a huge score. What with $400 to crate and ship, and adding the gas connection, it totaled about a grand. The refrigerator, the same GE model with rotating shelves that Mark had had as a bachelor, was found on craigslist for $200.
Mark’s love of vintage kitchenwares is what got this retro look started. “The Rival Company had that whole line of ‘O-Mats’: Ice-O-Mat, Coffee-O-Mat, Knife-O-Mat. There’s a Shred-O-Mat for grating cheese. I started with a Can-O-Mat from a thrift store,” he says. “I thought it was the coolest can opener; why don’t we have these anymore? We still use our Juice-O-Mat and Jar-O-Mat daily.”
The couple has lots of old-time barware for their downstairs “3 Deuces” bar, and culling and actively utilizing their collections became the house rule when they moved. “My little beef is when people make their home retro again, and the house looks awesome but the kitchen is too modern, with stainless steel appliances,” Paula says.
“We really wanted to make it look like 1959. We use our blenders and all of our refrigerator dishes; there’s no Tupperware in this house.”