What I want in a kitchen is … lots and lots of colour

Turquoise and white kitchen with Northstar appliances that you see here.

I absolutely adore this photo, though I hope I don’t sound like a grump if I say it could stand to lose the little boy. A bright turquoise-and-white kitchen is exactly what I dream of for the Manse. This photo comes courtesy of a blog by the folks at Elmira Stove Works who make those brilliant (and brilliantly coloured) vintage-style appliances.

This past week, and not for the first time, I have been inspired in my Manse-renovation fantasies by something I found on the blog Retro Renovation. (If you’d like to check out the previous times when I’ve given a shoutout to this fantastic blog, a couple of them are here and here.) The women behind Retro Renovation, founder Pam Keuber and her managing editor Kate Battle, are my heroes. They post almost every day, and their love of all things midcentury is contagious. As you’ll see if you’re a regular reader, they love to shine the spotlight on renovation projects that give, or bring back, a gorgeous retro vibe to a home. (They are particularly fond of pink bathrooms.) They’re terrific locaters of sources of cool stuff; just recently I learned from them (thanks to a post here) about a company in Winnipeg (of all places), unbelievably named Acme Chrome Furniture (I can just hear the Roadrunner meep-meeping) that continues to make the glorious dinette sets we all remember from our childhood. And Pam and Kate do it all – and it’s got to be a ton of work – with a great sense of fun and encouragement to would-be renovators like Raymond and me.

Something they posted last week really got my attention, because it spoke to me – or more precisely, it helped me feel vindicated. You see, I seem to be one of the few people who can look at pictures of so-called dream kitchens, on places like Houzz, or Pinterest, or a million other renovation and design sites, and most of the time go: “Meh.” I’m talking about pictures like this:

Brown dream kitchen

“Dream kitchen” in brown and white, brought to you by Pinterest.

And this:

Beige and black dream kitchen

“Dream kitchen” in beige and black.

And this:

Beige and white dream kitchen

“Dream kitchen” and beige and white.

Why do these beautifully appointed kitchens fail to do anything for me? Me, the person who is so desperately in need of a kitchen renovation?

Because they’re beige. Or at least, that’s how they look to me. If you Google images for “dream kitchens,” you’ll get a screenful of brown and white and grey. Here – I’ll show you what I mean:

"Dream kitchens"

I’m afraid my eyes just glaze over.

It seems Pam and Kate feel the same, because they included this sentence in their entertaining report (which, once again, is here) on taking part in this year’s Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (an absolutely monster annual event in the renovation industry) in Las Vegas this month:


A super-cute yellow Aga oven (also available in other great colours) that caught Pam and Kate’s eye. Readers might remember that an Aga is my dream appliance for the Manse. Photo from Retro Renovation, retrorenovation.com

“Surrounded by a sea of quartz countertops and grey kitchens — yes, low-chroma greiged out everything still appears to be the ‘aspirational’ mass market norm — any booth that used color magnetized us.”

(I will confess I had to look up what “low-chroma” meant. According to one explanatory site I found, chroma is “the quality of a colour’s purity, intensity or saturation. For example: A grey colour is a neutral – an extreme low chroma. Fire-engine red may be a high-chroma red. Brick red may be a middle-chroma red.” To which I say: Hurray for high-chroma fire-engine red!)

I was delighted that one of the examples from the Retro Renovation gals of booths at the show that featured some blessed colour was none other than Elmira Stove Works of Elmira, Ont. Here’s Pam appreciating it:


Retro Renovation’s Pam Keuber enjoying Elmira Stove Works’ great retro-style Northstar appliances line, in Buttercup Yellow and Robin’s Egg Blue. Photo from Retro Renovation, retrorenovation.com

Red Northstar fridge

The vintage-style red fridge in the window at Bush Furniture in Tweed that stole my heart.

Now, I’ve had my eye on those Elmira Stove Works Northstar appliances for the Manse for quite some time. It was back in September 2013 that I spotted a gorgeous bright-red retro-style fridge in the window of Bush Furniture in the village of Tweed, just down the road from Queensborough. When Raymond and I made inquiries of friendly proprietor Robert Bush, we learned that the Elmira folks also make stoves, dishwashers and microwaves in that great vintage style and in an array of fabulous colours – including the one you can see in the photo with Pam, which is called Robin’s Egg Blue but that I prefer to call – yes, you guessed it: turquoise! The colour that the kitchen walls of the Manse were painted in my childhood in this house (you can watch a video here of my brother John exposing them after many a year of them being hidden behind 1970s “wood” panelling), and the colour that I would like to bring back to our kitchen. Turquoise and bright white, like the photo atop this post; I love it! Perhaps with some red accents thrown in for good measure, something that, again thanks to the Retro Renovation team, I’ve learned might work beautifully.

If you’d like to see lots and lots of photos of real-life kitchen renovations that feature wondrously bright colours, I strongly encourage you to spend some time poking around Retro Renovation. For starters, click on the posts here and here and here and here. All that colour will cheer you up, I promise.

And finally, I also want to share yet another way that Pam and Kate have made my life better. You see, the reason they were at the huge Las Vegas kitchen and bath show in the first place was to help the Wilsonart company promote a new line of retro-style countertop laminates that they designed for the company! And they are beautiful!


The countertop laminates produced by Wilsonart in collaboration with the folks at Retro Renovation. How cool is that? Photo from Retro Renovation, retrorenovation.com

Here are a couple of closeups that allow you to see the great colours and the funky boomerang pattern:

First Lady Pink, Retro Renovation

First Lady Pink, which the Retro Renovation folks describe as “a warm pink colour popularized by Mamie Eisenhower in the 1950s.” Photo from Retro Renovation, retrorenovation.com

Retro Renovation Delightful Jade

Delightful Jade, inspired by the jadeite kitchenware we surely all love and some of us collect. Photo from Retro Renovation, retrorenovation.com

You can read all about these funky laminates (and where to get them) in the Retro Renovation post here, but I wanted to share three reasons why I think they will be perfect for our Manse-kitchen renovation.

  • They are not quartz, or marble, or granite. I know that kitchen countertops and islands made of those materials are all the rage at the moment. But I would be terrified of installing them because, to put it bluntly, I am a klutz. There would be endless breakage of crockery and glassware in our kitchen if it contained those supremely hard surfaces. Also: quartz, marble and granite tend to fall into my generalized non-preferred colour category of “beige.”
  • Just look at this photo that Pam and Kate posted featuring the Aqua Ripple option!
Aqua Ripple Retro Renovation Wilsonart laminate, with Blue Heaven plate

Photo from Retro Renovation, retrorenovation.com

People, the pattern on that saucer is none other than Blue Heaven, a popular midcentury style that was produced by the Royal China Company of Sebring, Ohio. Thanks to our love of antique barns and flea markets, Raymond and I have a pretty good collection of Blue Heaven plates, bowls, cups and saucers, and we use those sturdy and funky dishes at almost every meal. I had to smile when Pam and Kate used Blue Heaven in their photo of the Aqua Ripple laminate. Can you say: “Meant to be?”

  • They are all about colour. Colour, colour, colour. Which is what our kitchen needs. And will have – eventually. I can’t wait to show you!