Our 50s Kitchen Renovation - The Final Weeks

In the weeks since our last weekly update, most of our time has been spent waiting on various odds and ends.  We didn't want to post photos because to do so would detract from the final product.  However, since the last update this space really has been put through its paces.  We spent the days around Christmas with multiple people variously baking, doing dishes, and just hanging out watching each other bake and do dishes.  It was hectic, but no one was in anyone's way, while in the old space this would have been tortuous with people bumping into each other, whacking the cook with the fridge door, drinks would be spilt, tears shed.  So performance and ergonomics wise, everything is as near to perfect as we could have hoped.

Since the last update, we had several wooden trim items built and installed, including a shelf and scalloped trim above the sink, and a door to enclose the massive long-term storage area above the fridge.  The door of the fridge surround was designed to match the look of rest of the cabinetry and we installed one of the extra cabinet door handles to match.

The scalloped shelf above the sink was an homage to both of my grandmothers who also had decorative trim above their sinks. My Grandma Connor had scalloped trim on the bottoms of her cabinets in addition to the trim over the sink and so after trying out a bunch of different designs, I settled on trim that very closely matched her design.

My Grandam Connor, in her kitchen.

Grandma Connor's kitchen in Vermont.

My Grandma Marsh's kitchen in New Jersey

Neither of their scalloped trim had a shelf above it, but I have such a large collection of vintage kitchen items that I wanted to have plenty of space to display them.


Finished scalloped trimmed shelf.


The big reason we held off on showing photos was because we didn't want to show the counters before the best part was done: Custom stainless steel trim, made to match the original Youngstown Kitchens backsplash and countertop nosing.


Some of the original metal trim made by Youngstown Kitchens.

Same corner, but with new laminate and new metal edging.


Our original Youngstown cabinets had Formica countertops with metal trim, which we loved.  We had wanted to try and use it in our kitchen, but because of how the Youngstown countertop was constructed, we ultimately decided to just have new trim installed.  We'd intended to use the method posted by Pam at RetroRenovations.com to use commercially available trim and tee-molding and build a custom backsplash with that trim and some of our chosen laminate, WilsonArt's Retro Renovation Delightful Jade.

When we first proposed this to our contractor he mentioned that he had a steel guy who did a lot of custom work who may be able to replicate the rounded Youngstown trim.  The samples that he made for us were beautifully done and matched the original extremely closely, so we decided to go for it.  

The metal shop was pretty busy around Christmas and New Years, so they weren't able to get started on the trim right away.  But once the trim was ready to go, Jeremy came back to install that and finish off the final pieces of the kitchen.  As he was working by himself and I was home, I volunteered to help with the trim installation.  By "help", I mean I held the pieces steady, while he lined them up, he did most of the work.  The front trim was glued onto previously routed countertops so it fit perfectly. The backsplash was mounted on a wooden base that was installed all along the back of the countertops. 

The routed countertop edge and trim ready to be installed

The backsplash framework

The first corner, with the protective covering partially removed

The backsplash shimmed and caulked

Our estimate is that it was probably around triple the cost of doing the commercial molding, but we had it in the budget, and it really looks fantastic.  The outside corners are as close to perfect as we could imagine, and the inside corners line up surprisingly well as well.  They did a wonderful job on an insanely difficult custom request.  Evidently the fact of bending the narrow pieces of steel, coupled with the fact they had to protect the mirror-shine stainless made it prettytricky, but at the end of the day it looks wonderful.  They even made end-caps for the places the end of the backsplash would be visible.

Had this not been mirror finish steel, the corners and end-cap attachment wouldn't have been an issue at all.  They'd just have welded it, ground it back and matched it to the rest of the brushed finish, but in this case it would have blued the steel and probably killed the effect we were looking for, so that was out.  Instead we just used metallic colored caulking and some metal-flake nail polish.  For the seam in the backsplash, Chris and I made a small strap, reminiscent of those on the original Youngstown pieces and caulked it in place to prevent water getting into the joint.

Once the trim was on I helped Jeremy install the quilted metal backsplash behind the stove.  This is a piece that I ordered online from Home Depot.  Originally, I had found a company that fabricated these panels and really wanted one in the sunburst pattern that you see in diners.  That company never responded to my inquiry, so we went with the quilted instead.  I knew it would be a greasy nightmare to clean so we went with a brushed metal finish, rather than a high shine.


The last piece of the kitchen to be installed was the original roll-top spice rack that came with our original cabinet set.  This is a piece that I refinished with the rest of the cabinets, but couldn't be installed until after the metal trim was in place.


After the final touch-up paint was complete I hung wall art and arranged my vintage decorations and our kitchen was, finally,  officially complete!

The finished kitchen

Finished porch, with newly hung artwork