vintage retro Jetsons kitchen atomic

How Our Contemporary Kitchen Renovation Went Jetsons Retro

We had planned the most beautiful, sophisticated kitchen renovation for our 1954 Florida ranch house. Quarter-sawn walnut cabinets would replace 1970s-era faux wood; sleek black Paperstone counters would supplant gold-whorled white laminate. All that remained was to sign the contract with Jason Straw, Woodworker. A maker of fine furniture and specialist in historic home renovations, Jason would ensure our new kitchen did not look like it came from a big-box store.

Then, late one Sunday evening, Jason called.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about your kitchen,” he said.

What a rare delight! A contractor as obsessed with our kitchen as we were!

“And I can’t do this kitchen.”

Whatever did he mean? Had he finally hit the big time? Was he moving to Hollywood to design fine wood furniture for studio moguls like we always suspected he would?

“You do not need a contemporary kitchen,” Jason continued.  “The focus of this kitchen needs to be your stove.”

Our stove. The vintage 1950s Universal we had salvaged from our first home two years earlier, the stove we had unsuccessfully attempted to restore on our own, then U-Hauled seven hours to the experts at Antique Appliances, in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains (see sidebar below).

vintage stove
Our well-traveled 1950s Universal gas stove, post-restoration (Photo by Antique Appliances)

“You need a 1950s kitchen,” Jason said.

I gasped. I squealed. A year before, at the start of our kitchen renovation journey, I had tried, unsuccessfully, to convince my husband, Will, of the need for a retro kitchen to match our fifties ranch house. Will didn’t buy it. His arguments in favor of resale value and the ethereal nature of fifties kitsch swayed me back to sleek and contemporary, a plan that made me happy, but not ebullient. Not squealing like a small child, like I was now, frantically emailing Jason my abandoned Fifties Kitchen Pinterest board. Now I had a co-conspirator in the resurrection of my midcentury dream. How would we persuade Will? He hated retro!

“No, no,” Jason said. “It’s not going to be fifties kitsch. It’s going to be cool. It’s going to be like Barbarella. Tell him it’s going to be James Bond‘s kitchen. Like the Jetsons.”*

It worked. We had Will at “James Bond’s kitchen”.  We threw out the contemporary plans and began anew.

vintage kitchen renovation
The kitchen: Before

And that is how our groovy blue boomerang kitchen came to be, with its retro WilsonArt boomerang countertops edged in shiny aluminum, boomerang door pulls, the backsplash’s glass tile angled in a boomerang-like box weave, and custom boomerang accents on the valance.

vintage retro Jetsons kitchen atomic
The kitchen: After (Philip Marcel Photography)

The wood cabinets look like vintage fifties steel but hide modern features like solid maple dovetail drawers that shut with a whisper. The white WilsonArt sink matches the retro theme with a modern twist – it’s an undermount, so water does not spill forth, and crumbs slide easily from counter to trash with the sweep of a sponge. Undermount LEDs allow us to actually see the food we’re preparing, and at night they illuminate the glass subway tile backsplash like Christmas lights. Our wall oven can handle Thanksgiving, and the fridge does not require fifties-style manual defrosting (that and energy consumption are the only factors keeping us from splurging on yet another vintage appliance).

Our stove feels right at home. So would the Jetsons. So do we.

*OK, so, technically … Barbarella, Bond and the Jetsons are sixties, not fifties. But like Atomic Age design, the Jetsons evoked the look we sought: not kitsch, rather, a past society’s vision of the future.

The Details

More photos of the kitchen

More photos of the stove restoration process

The Kitchen

retro vintage kitchen renovation atomic
Moved refrigerator, cut opening in wall, removed swinging door to open up kitchen. (Philip Marcel Photography)

Jason Straw, Woodworker, Gainesville, Fla.:

Slightly changed layout to remove swinging door and cut opening to dining room with oak ledge, cutout edged in dark stained wood to match existing trim throughout house. Replaced casement windows above sink with single-hung vinyl. Moved fridge to back wall where kitchen table once stood. Installed wall oven and wall microwave, drawers below for bakeware and cabinets above for items used less frequently. Nearly doubled cabinet space while making kitchen appear larger and more open.

The Cabinets

vintage look retro cabinets kitchen renovation
Wood cabinets look like vintage steel, with boomerang pulls. (Philip Marcel Photography)

Painted flat panel wooden cabinets to mimic the style of old metal cabinets that Jason still finds in houses. Vintage look with modern convenience – extends to ceiling, solid maple dovetail drawers  shut with a whisper, two two-tier lazy susans use previously dead corner space, hidden trash and recycling, adjustable shelves, spacious boxes large enough for pots, pans and baking sheets. Undermount LEDs allow us to actually see the food we’re preparing and light up the glass backsplash like Christmas lights at night. Plywood is domestic, formaldehyde-free using soy-based glues. Boomerang pulls are extremely difficult to find vintage, but Rejuvenation makes a reproduction.

Source, cabinets: Columbia Forest Products

Source, boomerang pulls: Rejuvenation

vintage kitchen renovation valance boomerang
Custom cut valance edged in aluminum to echo boomerang theme. (Philip Marcel Photography)

Custom-cut, aluminum-edged valance over the sink and boomerang pulls echo the overall boomerang theme also found in the countertop pattern and backsplash.

The Counters

boomerang counters retro WilsonArt sink kitchen renovation
Boomerang counters and undermount sink by WilsonArt. Laminate and aluminum ledge on window as well. (Philip Marcel Photography)

Aluminum edging wraps around the vintage edition boomerang laminate. Jason also placed aluminum edging on the top of the back splash and custom cut the aluminum for the valance to play off the boomerang theme, also found on the pulls. The WilsonArt sink is under mount, a wonderful touch not typically found with laminate counters. Again, the retro look avoids the drawback of actual fifties kitchens: Because the aluminum edging does not protrude above the counter and because the sink is undermount, sweeping crumbs off the counter is made infinitely easier.

Sources: WilsonArt: Retro Dungaree Counter, Sink. Faucet: Kraus, Amazon

The Backsplash

The backsplash is a glass subway tile, turned 45 degrees, laid in a box weave pattern, subtly picking up on the boomerang theme. Easy to clean, reflects the LEDs like Christmas lights at night.

Source: Subway Tile Outlet


kitchen renovation retro pendants atomic jetsons
Three Astron Midcentury Modern pendants by Rejuvenation illuminate the sink. (Philip Marcel Photography)

Recessed can lights in ceiling, LEDs under cabinets, space-age-looking shop fan. Three Astron Mid-Century Mondern Pendants over sink. Very Jetsons.

Source: Rejuvenation (pendants), white interior, Neptune Blue exterior

The Floor

Sheet of Marmoleum, the precursor to linoleum, made of linseed oil and jute fibers. Easy to clean; hides the paw prints of two dogs who love their muddy yard.

Source: Indigo Green Store, Gainesville, Forbo Flooring. Color: Concrete


Wall oven and microwave (w/trim kit): Kenmore, Sears; Fridge: Whirlpool, Lowes (to be replaced one day with this retro GE model); Dishwasher: Existing

vintage kitchen renovation
Fridge, wall oven and microwave moved to side to open up room. (Philip Marcel Photography)

Stove: Vintage, restored by Antique Appliances in Clayton, Ga. See separate post on stove restoration. 

vintage gas range 1950s Universal retro
1950s Universal gas range restored by Antique Appliances. See separate post for details. (Philip Marcel Photography)

6 thoughts on “How Our Contemporary Kitchen Renovation Went Jetsons Retro

  1. Wonderfully, tastefully, done. In doing retro, we are free to ditch the tacky, kitschy, things we don’t like and keep the ones we do. No need to do a time capsule. No Elvis posters.

  2. Your kitchen is a work of art! Like you, I was having problems planning a “grown-up” kitchen, but once I decided I could allow myself to go “classy retro” and have fun with it, the ideas starting flowing freely! Now I just need the money to start flowing freely, as well! 😉 Congrats on your beautiful kitchen!

    1. Thanks so much! Retro materials, (i.e. laminate) were actually less expensive than contemporary (i.e. granite). Our kitchen was literally falling apart so we had to replace, but I am a big supporter of making what you have work before renovating. Good luck!

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