Restoring a 1950’s Vintage Kitchenette

I’m in the process of some renovations and have decided to turn one of the rooms in my home into a sewing room. Being a vintage lover, I’ve always thought about how I can include vintage furniture in my home and how I can repurpose it to suit my needs. I’ve always wanted a vintage kitchenette and after a few years of hunting, I decided to bite the bullet and purchase one. I found one that wasn’t in the greatest condition on Facebook marketplace and even though it wasn’t the exact design I wanted, it was good enough for the project I had in mind. My idea was to transform this kitchenette into a sewing room storage unit so once again, my dad and myself set about for more adventures in the workshop.

If you’re familiar with vintage furniture you will know that it is heavy! This kitchenette was no exception but for the price I got it for, I could totally look past the epic effort it was to load it onto a ute with my dad. This kitchenette certainly needs a lot of TLC and the previous owner did say she started restoring her before she ran out of time and decided to move house. Unfortunately, the kitchenette was not going to make the move hence the cheap sale. After getting her onto the ute, we had an hour’s drive home to discuss our plan of attack to get her into shape. Due to her size, weight and awkward shape we realised that taking her to the workshop would be a lot of effort and then transporting her restored may incur possible damage so we decided to take her back to my house and fix her up there. As we were approaching home, we realised that there was no way we could easily get her into the backyard where we planned on fixing her up so our next thought was the garage. Guess who now lives in my garage?

We set aside a week to complete the renovation process as well as set up my new sewing room at the same time. It worked out quite well as one thing was drying or setting in one room, we could work on the other renovation and there was always something that could be done. The first big task we had was prepping the kitchenette for the renovation process. We took off all the doors and removed the drawers ready for sanding. On the backs of all the doors and drawers, we labelled where they came from so that when it came time to reassemble it later, everything would fit exactly where it was originally. We also removed all the hardware such as the hinges and latches and put them into a small container so nothing would get lost. I so desperately wanted to keep the original hardware but after close inspection, most of the screws had rusted out and the hardware itself was pretty worse for wear. We could have cleaned them up and gotten them plated again but after finding out the price for just one hinge to be fixed (over $100), I decided to replace the hinges. With a bit of googling, I stumbled upon a specialised in retro hardware. Amazing! I had a quick browse of their items and not only did I find the exact latches, but the matching hinges too. I was really happy with the price of each item to I ordered what I needed and returned to the renovations.

Once she was down to just the mainframe of the kitchenette and the extras removed it was time to get started. We did debate whether we should use a paint stripper to entirely remove the underlayer of paint but because the paint already on the unit was an oil based paint, it actually sat really well on the piece and we thought just a good sanding would be enough. It took a little while to sand the unit completely as there were lots of nooks and crannies to get into. We used an electric sander to help the process along and it did quite a good job. We made sure to also sand back the doors and drawers as best we could as well.

With her fully sanded, we then gave her a really good clean. She was really dusty and dirty both from the cobwebs she had collected over the past few years and from her recent sanding. We just used old brushes and a slightly dampened cloth to wipe her clean. During the cleaning process, we also removed the plate rail (a thin wooden strip nailed into the bottom of the display unit which stops plates from rolling around when placed on their side) and the cup hooks. I did originally think about keeping the hooks along the top shelf of the unit and using them for scissors and such but I was worried that they would stop me from placing books and other things down below so we removed them. The final step in the cleanup step was the patch up and repair any holes or dents that we could find. This included the holes from the hooks we just removed and a few dents we noticed on the outside. We sanded back the filler to make sure it was smooth. She was looking great.

Once clean, the next step was the prime her for painting. We got some Dulux primer and began applying the primer with paintbrushes. The primer adhered to the kitchenette beautifully and we covered the entire outside and inner shelves of the unit as well. We also primed the doors and drawers ready for painting. After the first coat was applied, we left the kitchenette overnight to dry and in the morning she got another good sanding. Once we cleaned all the dust away, yep, another coat of primer was applied followed by more drying time and then very light sand. During the drying process, we went to Bunnings to get our paint and we left her overnight ready for her big paint job the next morning.

Painting has to be the best part of any furniture renovation. You can see your item coming into its new life and it really makes all the prep work worth it. We began by painting the base of the unit in Antique Lace which was a soft vintage white with a low sheen. I’m not one for shiny paint especially on certain furniture pieces as I don’t like noticing all the finger marks I need to constantly clean off. Whilst the first layer was drying, it was time to paint the doors and drawers pink. We chose Bed of Roses as our pink of choice as it’s a soft vintage pastel pink and it would suit the pink chosen for the new sewing room. We did discuss spraying the kitchenette but opted for brushing in the end and we were happy with our choice. Whilst the kitchenette couldn’t really be moved into the sun to help her dry (she’s super heavy as she’s made from Jarrah), we could leave the doors and drawers out in the sun to dry which really helped speed up the process.

Once everything dried overnight, we gave it all a light sand and then a clean before going in for layer two of our paint. With everything drying, Dad brought over a piece of plywood that we found at a scrap yard and cut it to size to fit on the back of our kitchenette. We have no idea what happened to the original but the replacement piece had two sides; a wooden side which was quite smooth and then a textured side. I was originally going to use the smooth wooden side as the back of the unit but ended up liking the textured side so I painted it two coats of pink and left it out to dry. Everything was painted and it was now time to put her back together.

The first thing we attached was the back of the kitchenette. I held the back piece of ply up against her kitchenette whilst dad nailed in a few nails to hold it in place. Once secure, we went around and nailed the backboard onto the unit securely and made sure our shelf was also attached to our backboard. With the back attached, it was time to move her into her new home. As she is a very heavy piece of furniture, we figured it might be slightly easier to drag her into the house before adding all the doors and drawers back. Also, we won’t accidentally damage more glass or dent a door. Using old towels and all the strength we could muster, we tilted her slightly as I pushed the towels underneath and simply gently pushed the unit and dragged the towels into the house and the new room. She was heavy but our dragging and pushing arrangement worked a treat and she was in the room in no time. She was finally in her new home.

We already had all the drawers and doors in the new sewing room already. When we originally purchased the unit, one of the three glass panels was broken and needed to be replaced. Unfortunately, we knew one of the biggest challenges would be getting a piece of glass to replace the broken piece the kitchenette came with. Well, getting some replacement glass wasn’t going to be difficult, the tricky part came when we wanted to have acid etching done to match the other two pieces. The original glass has acid etched palm trees depicted on the inside of the glass which is actually really cute. I wanted to try and keep the new glass looking the same and believe me, I tried. I think I ended up calling over 15 glass specialists asking for anyone who does etchings to match and there was only one place in Perth that did it and their price was unfortunately way out of my budget (we are talking a four figure sum). It was a dream I had to let go so what we decided to do in the end was move the two original etched glass panels to the outside doors and place a plain sheet of glass in the middle door. It’s not the ideal solution but it’s the best we could do. I ended up finding a piece of glass for about $10 and I was happy with that. Adding the glass back in the door frame was basically slotting it into the back and replacing the wooden inner frame pieces with new ones and attaching it all with thin nails very carefully.

As dad repaired the doors and added the new glass, I went about and reattached the original handles back on the drawers and lined them with some leftover wallpaper from our bedroom renovation. I really don’t like being wasteful so I had a few offcuts of wallpaper laying around and thought they would be really cute as liners. I measured them to the right size and used some double-sided tape (it was actually Hollywood tape because it’s all I had on hand), I attached the wallpaper to the bottom of the drawers and they looked great.

Wouldn’t you know it, it was like divine timing; there was a knock at the door and who should it be but the postman delivering our brand new kitchenette hardware. I was so happy to receive my package and dad couldn’t help but be amused at the wonderful timing. After a quick tea break we took our new hardware out for inspection and it looked great. The original was a little thicker and heavier, but the new ones would work really well regardless. Each piece of hardware came with its own screws and extras which was actually super helpful as some of the screws were faulty and didn’t fit. Dad and I set about attaching the new hardware to our kitchenette doors and that evening, we attached all the doors, hinges and latches onto the kitchenette. Dad did say a few choice words I don’t wish to repeat as the screws the hardware came with would sometimes snap during installation which of course is a pain to remove. It happened three times so we will have to fix this at a later date. We noticed that some of the screw heads weren’t even so when we screwed them in, they would skew and have to be replaced with a better one. Some of the screws were also thicker, so dad drilled the original hole a tiny bit bigger for a better fit. In the end, it took a little time but everything was finally on.

Oh my gosh, she was done! She was beautiful and I loved her already. Even though it was late in the evening, I was exhausted and I should have called it a day, I absolutely had to fill her up already. As thing post is already going to be quite long, I think I will leave my sewing room organisation for a separate post so please check back later to see that when it’s out. I am really pleased with this renovation and although I don’t have a lot of experience, I think we did a really good job. This kitchenette was the perfect addition to my new sewing room and I am getting more and more excited about finishing off this space and making it really cute and cozy. I’d love to know what you think of the final result so please let me know.

As I continue renovating my home to be a bit more retro and fun, it’s projects like this that is really exciting. I love knowing I was able to save a piece of furniture and give it a new lease on life. I think the colours we chose were great retro colours that work well and if I ever have to sell the piece, I hope I’ve added a bit more value to her. I am really excited to continue decorating my home and I hope you are enjoying a new kind of post. See you next time!


Note: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions and thoughts expressed are solely my own and not influenced in any way. There are no affiliate links and I do not benefit from any link clicks or purchases made.

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