40 Something – A 1940’s Kitchen Make-Over

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In Conversation With Lori Gaiardo (Home Owner) – and Nena Wagner (Publisher Edifice Vintage Home) – Photography By: Christopher Cooper

Nena: When you bought your house in what kind of condition was the kitchen?

Lori: The house had unfortunately not been lived in for almost three years after the previous owner’s death so it was not “move in ready.” The kitchen window was actually boarded up due to an attempted break in. Before we moved in we had to replace approximately 23 pieces of broken glass in the windows. The plaster ceilings in those two rooms were in very rough shape and were in need of repair.

Nena: I have noticed you have collected in the 1940’s style, is this a passion, or just to suit the period of the kitchen?

Lori: I have always been drawn to 40’s kitchen collectibles so I was glad that the kitchen ended up being that era. It gave me a chance to display some of my existing collection and the license to buy more! If we ever renovate the kitchen, I would likely put in one that was more in keeping with the period of the house. In the meantime, however, I really enjoy it the way it is.

Nena: I understand the former owner lived in the kitchen for the latter part of his life, and he heated the room with a wood stove?

Lori: Yes, it is my understanding that the gentleman who lived here before us spent most of his time in the kitchen in the later years. He was 97 when he passed away. I was told he slept on a daybed and used an old Guelph Stove Co. cook stove, I assume for heat. It was still in the kitchen when we took possession.

Nena: Was there any damage from the wood stove?

Lori: The ceiling and wall plaster had taken a real beating from the intense heat of the stove, especially on the chimney wall. There was also a very heavy layer of fine soot on most of the wall surfaces. The stove itself was very rusted out and not safe to use anymore. We have kept it and some day I may attempt to restore it for decorative purposes.

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Nena: I have noticed that you inserted a stove plate rather than plaster over the chimney thimble, what is the story behind this?

Lori: That is just my personal taste. I think it is part of the story of the house and adds character. Rather than fill the hole I prefer to celebrate the fact that it is still there.

Nena: What was the condition of the walls and is the wainscoting original or is it new?

Lori: As I mentioned, the plaster in this room had taken a real beating in comparison to the rest of the house. I prefer to keep the plaster wherever possible so I put up the wainscoting and trim myself just to add interest. Above it I used paintable anaglypta paper which served the function of cleaning up the walls and holding them together!

Nena: Tell us about the cabinets, upper and lower, how did you bring them back to life?

Lori: The upper and lower cabinets were actually built by the previous owner in the early 40’s. I just sanded, primed and painted them. All of the hardware is original. The deco hinges are offset and almost impossible to replace so I took them to a car detailing place and had them re-chromed.

Nena: What did you use for inspiration on this project, old magazines, books etc.?

Lori: I am always studying old house magazines for inspirations but most of it is really just my own personal taste. I love that the old kitchens of the 30’s and 40’s were so bright and cheery. Nowadays everyone is so stuck on neutral colors.

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Nena: The floor is lovely, can you tell me what kind of product it is and the care required for it?

Lori: It was difficult to find a floor that would go with the look I wanted but I found this “linoleum look” corked back laminate which is made in Germany. It is an all natural product. It comes in 12 inch tiles and has lots of great colors so you can even reproduce the checkered look if you like. It is very easy to lay and I liked that it is floating so the original floor underneath is not damaged at all should we decide to restore it. It does tend to show scratches and dents but you only notice the first few. Other than sealing it once in the beginning it is very easy to maintain.

Nena: The Anaglypta (or Anaglypta style paper) really gives the wall texture, was it hard to install?

Lori: No it is just stock paper from a big box store. It was a very inexpensive solution to my poor plaster. It is quite thick and very forgiving to use. I painted it with latex paint to make it a durable, washable surface. The great thing is that it is now pre-pasted. I have used it in the past on a ceiling and it was not pre-pasted.

Nena: What was the inspiration behind the window coverings, did you make them?

Lori: Yes I did – again just personal taste and a way to add color. If you look at old pictures from that era, they never had tailored curtains. They usually had bright, rod and pocket curtains and valances in gingham or bold fruit and floral patterns.

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Nena: Can you tell me about your collection?

Lori: With the exception of the radio (which is a reproduction 40’s model Crosley) all of the pieces are vintage and would have been found in a kitchen of that era. The clock is a china 8-day wind up made in Germany that still works well. Both Jadite and Bakelite were very popular in the 40’s. Bakelite-handled utensils were actually available in the late 1920’s and became very popular because of the colours they came in. They were a cheery refreshing change from the wooden or metal utensils that were being used at the time. You can find a wide variety of cutlery and utensils with Bakelite handles as well as napkin rings, cabinet handles etc. Most of the Jadite I have was made by Fire-King and would have been everyday kitchen wear. The canisters are also vintage glassware from the same era.

Nena: Tell us about the lighting in the room?

Lori: In the rest of the house I have used vintage lighting but due to the amount of use they would get I chose to go with reproduction schoolhouse lighting in the kitchen. They each take 150 watt bulbs so they provide a lot of light.

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Nena: I noticed two very quirky items, the red pencil sharpener looking device and the telephone bell above the pantry door, does it work?

Lori: The red “thing” is actually a vintage retractable clothes line that cranks out and would attach to a hook on the other side of the room.

The telephone bell is an original Northern Electric bell that was hooked up to the phone when we bought the house. It still works but is VERY loud so the electricians wired it to a switch so we have the option of turning it off.

Nena: Do you have any tips for our readership on how and where to source 1940’s kitchenware?

Lori: Luckily 30’s and 40’s collectibles are still easy to find and relatively inexpensive. I have found a lot of my pieces at flea markets, second hand and thrift shops. Ebay also has a kitchen collectibles category that is a good source for seeing what is out there. There are a lot of good reference books available – “Kitchen Glassware of the Depression years” and “Collectible Glassware of the 40’s,50’s 60’s” both by Gene Florence, (published by “Collector Books”). There is also a good book on Bakelite – “Bakelite in the Kitchen,” by Barbara Mauzy ( Schiffer).


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Ellen says:

    I totally love this! It’s so great to see people honoring the original feel and look of kitchens/homes from this era. Beautiful job!

  2. I love the 1940’s styles, also 1930’s and 1920’s. I have found really nice vintage styled furniture and kitchen pieces that can be found at IKEA. It’s kind of ironic since it also has ultra modern. It is good as opposed to some original items that often are great but look it’s age.

  3. Beth says:

    This kitchen was beautifully done. I have a retro-renovated 1940’s home. We had to pad the phone bell to keep from scaring me to death when the phone rang.

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