Photos by Jaimee Itagaki
The kitchen was a woman’s domain, back in the day; ninety years later, I was only too happy to stake my claim there when we moved into our 1912 bungalow in Pasadena. My husband, a serious Arts & Crafts collector, outfitted our living and dining rooms with the era’s metalwork, furniture, and pottery. But the kitchen was all mine to use as a backdrop for my quirky kitchen collectibles and retro advertising graphics, Mexican kitsch, and saturated Fiestaware colors of the 1930s and ’40s.
Bungalow kitchen guru Jane Powell says that the kitchen is the room least likely to be intact in an old house. This house was an exception: The rest of it had suffered merciless modernizing, but the kitchen miraculously had its original cabinets, hardware, windows, and California cooler. Granted, the cabinets were painted a dingy white, countertops were tired beige laminate, and the floors were filthy. But those historic “bones” were unmistakably still there.
In 2004, we embarked on a kitchen project with the intention of stripping away paint and grime, leaving us bare surfaces to bring back with color. Based on our research and visits to countless bungalows, we knew that period kitchens typically featured white-painted cabinets, thanks to that era's fixation on sanitation. Our plans called for ivory cabinets and, to satisfy my need for zing, a linoleum floor in a color we called “tomato-soup red.”
We commenced stripping—and were surprised when our scrapers glided effortlessly under the paint layers. Glowing wood underneath almost reflected our stunned faces, the old varnish obvious and triumphant. Vertical grain Douglas fir—lumber never intended to be painted—ended the dream of an ivory kitchen with a red floor. Time for Plan B.
We chose a playful jadeite green and sunny yellow checkerboard pattern floor to complement the reddish cabinets. We also reconfigured the awkward galley format to a U-shaped workspace and added antique lighting fixtures. We added glass to the doors of the upper cabinets to show off my collections. Who knew Douglas fir could be so colorful?
Marmorette Linoleum Tiles by Armstrong (commercial flooring). Purchased through Linoleum City, Los Angeles: linoleumcity.com
Vintage fixture from Old Pasadena Vintage Lighting, Pasadena: (626) 396-0843 Similar fixture is ‘Baldwin’ with chain and opalescent closed shade from Rejuvenation: rejuvenation.com. Also ‘Hampton 6’ with shade # OP 2258-10-6 from Schoolhouse Electric: schoolhouseelectric.com
Owners’ collection. See also Retro Redheads: retro-redheads.com