Thursday, January 31, 2013

Kitchen Remodel: Floors

One of the selling features of my house was the fact that it was in almost untouched condition.  Lots of the original features are still present - flooring, paneling, lighting, cabinets, and bathroom fixtures.  It wasn't exactly a time capsule but it retained enough original features to qualify as a "granny ranch."  When I first saw my house on a real estate web site, my eye was immediately caught by the kitchen.  It has the original birch wood cabinets, which exude a wonderful warm vibe.  The kitchen also included Harvest Gold appliances and darling "falling leaf" Formica countertops.  On the down side, it also had (and still does have) low pile  indoor/outdoor carpeting and half bricks mortared to the backsplash.  From the beginning, I've wanted to get rid of both the carpeting and the half bricks.

I've been in my house for a little over 3 years now.  The only change to the kitchen I've been able to make is to replace the Harvest Gold appliances with newer stuff.  I actually kept the old appliances for about 6 months but first the fridge died and then the range/convection oven combo went shortly thereafter.  I did all of this before I discovered the world of MCM and realized that any true retro kitchen remodel should retain, if at all possible, the original appliances.  Oh well.  Now I'm "stuck" with white appliances from Sears.

But I digress, this is about the flooring specifically.  I have a love/hate relationship with my kitchen flooring.  The low nap carpet is nice on a cold day to keep my feet from freezing but it's just so darn DATED looking. I hate to use that word because I like old stuff. But I firmly believe that just because stuff's old doesn't make it cool, attractive, or to my taste.  And not only is it dated, it's also hard to keep clean.  I like that I can vacuum it but it soaks up liquid spills and the spot by the coffee maker is starting to look pretty stained.

Here's a photo of my kitchen shortly after I bought the house:

The flooring isn't awful looking but I think it could look a lot better.  Plus I'd really like to get something that's easier to clean.

I've been hearing about Azrock VCT on Retro Renovation and having looked at the Azrock website, I have to agree that it's the perfect flooring for my house.  The patterns have a nice retro look to them and there are lots of great colors to choose from.  I'm planning a pretty major kitchen remodel for the near future, so I've been thinking and thinking about what I want as far as wall treatments, countertops, and floors.  My basic color scheme will be yellow, white, and green.  Yellow countertops, green floors, white subway tile for a backsplash, and a plaid wallpaper on the soffits.   

The flooring is actually what I'm struggling with the most.  As you can see, my kitchen isn't very big but aside from the cupboards, the floor is the biggest space.  It's a prominent surface (more prominent than the counters, for example) and visible from two other rooms.  The color really needs to work or the whole  design will fall apart.  I'd like to go with a darkish color for the floors rather than a pale color.  I'd also like to have some kind of patterning.  

So today I went a little crazy. I visited the Azrock website and downloaded nearly every shade of green they have plus a few neutrals so I could play with patterns.  I then made my own template to try out the colors and patterns.  Lacking any real design software, I merely made a table in Word and then filled in the cells with the Azrock samples.  I even made sure that every other tile was turned 90 degrees, which is how VCT is commonly installed.  Here's what I came up with:

#1. I've more or less settled on the green (Azrock Rygrass) and I'm quite fond of the neutral (Azrock Salt and Pepper).  I'd much prefer to have a pattern to just a single color.  I also don't want a checkered floor.  There are so many other interesting patterns out there and if you look through old design books/catalogs, imaginative patterns in multiple colors were very popular in the 1950s and 60s.  Unfortunately, I'm a little hampered by my relatively small floor, so I can't get too wild with patterns because I simply don't have room for them.

#2.  This is a variation on the first one, obviously.

#3. I'm really enamored with the idea of using a dark red accent.  In looking at photos of homes from the 1960s, dark red or burgundies were a popular color.  It wasn't generally used in large doses but I like a touch of it here and there.  What I'd really like is a dark blue floor with burgundy accents but Azrock doesn't seem to make a super dark blue.

#4. For this one, I played around with the tile sizes to create a sort of check.

#5. This one may be too busy.

#6. This is what an all green would look like.  This is actually Azrock Mossy.

#7. One more with a lot more red.

I'm not enthralled by any of the options I've come up with.  I'm liking the red and green together a lot, especially in #3.  But the search continues.

I played around some more today, trying to copy some of the vintage patterns I've seen.

#8.  This one is sort of an interesting ripple effect.

#9.  Long diagonals.  This one at least packs a lot of pattern in a small package, which is what I need in such a small, narrow space.

I'm clearly leaning toward keeping the red in there.  I just wish it was a tad darker.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Around Town - Commercial Mid Century Buildings

Commercial architecture isn't the most glamorous thing and old commercial architecture is viewed with a certain amount of distaste by some.  I, however, really enjoy it.  I like how commercial buildings can still reflect the design aesthetic of the time.  I went out this morning and got photos of some of my favorites.  I live in a small town, so the pickings are few but I like them.

This building actually has a pretty long history.  Underneath the 1950s paneling and wavy awning is a stone building constructed sometime around 1900.  It was the I.H. Kent Store for a long time.  I.H. Kent had a lumber yard and this general goods store.  Back in the 1910s, it was one of the few places you could buy gasoline - by the container, pumps wouldn't be common until the 1920s.  The store was damaged in 1954 during the Fairview earthquakes, so they covered up the damage with the pink enamel paneling and tiles.  Sadly it's vacant right now.

The architecture of this liquor store intrigues me.  I know of at least two other examples with the same shed roof and projecting beams - both of which are liquor stores in Reno.  It's on my list to do some research to figure out what the deal is with them.

Churchill County Library, mid 1960s.  The County wants to replace it with a larger, more modern library.  I like it just the way it is.

Ok, so technically the Fallon Theater isn't a mid century building.  It was constructed in about 1914 and the red "Fallon" sign was added in the 1930s.  It was the largest theater in Nevada when it was built and was such a big deal, people were bused in from Reno and Carson City on its opening night.  It's been for sale for a while (still operating, however).  It's my dream to form a non profit to buy it, fix it up, and run it as a both an art house theater and a first run movie theater.  I'm working up the courage to talk to the owner.  It was originally a Vaudeville theater - I'm wondering if there's still a stage.

This is the Churchill County Communications Building.  Truly only a mid century maniac like me would like it.  The cool thing about CC Communications is that it's the only county run phone company in the country.  It goes way, way back in Fallon's history.
Ok, so this one is neither mid century nor commercial but it's one of my favorite buildings - Hariom Apartments, an 8 plex.  I think it goes back to the 1930s.

I loves me an old motel.  I'm super glad the owners haven't tried to modernize the exterior of this one.
I'm not entirely sure this one is occupied.  I'd love to think of a business to run out of it.  Cute little masonry building with clerestory windows.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Found Stuff - Flooring Remnants

I'm an avid reader of Retro Renovation and I share the same strange obsessiveness with original materials that most readers of that blog have.  So anyway, I thought I would share some photos of original materials I found right here in my own house.

One of the odd things about my house is the array of drawer and cupboard liners in the kitchen and bathrooms.  I counted seven different patterns. It appears that the liners are mostly laminate flooring remnants, although one is probably a countertop laminate.  Where they came from, I have no idea - do they represent materials used in my house?  I don't think so because my ENTIRE house is floored in the same tan and brown streaky laminate floor tiles.  Literally every room in my house is covered in the same flooring - although most of it is covered up by carpeting now.  So I'm a little at a loss about where the cupboard and drawer liners came from but I thought I would share them because they're just so darn weird.

To start with, this is the flooring that can be found throughout my house.  Not very glamorous but typical of the 1960s.

This splotchy yellow and brown pattern lives in my silverware drawer.  It's the only piece in my, erm, "collection" that has a manufacturer's mark on it.  It's an Armstong pattern.

This is one of my favorites.  I like the little gold glittery bits.  It's the most commonly used liner in my house.   

This one came as a complete shock to me because it was only used in the highest cupboards in the kitchen and I didn't realize I had it until I was investigating for this post.  Don't adjust your set!  That's what it really looks like.  I'm pretty sure this one is a countertop laminate, it's much thinner than the others.  Notice the "10'" mark - must be a builder's mark or something.

I almost didn't recognize this one because it looks a lot like another one I have.  It's pretty wacky, in my opinion.

This one seems almost sedate compared to the others.

Classic 1960s flooring.

This one is actually a pale green, I just couldn't get the right lighting on it to get the colors right.

This one is the laminate on my countertops.  I added it just because I think it's adorable.  Unfortunately, it's not in the best shape so when I remodel my kitchen, it's going to be replaced.  Sigh.

Around Town - My Neighborhood

I thought it was somewhat fitting to start my blog with a short tour of my neighborhood.  I think where I live and the houses I like say a lot about me.  I'm an archaeologist and historian, so it goes without saying that I like old things.  I also like things with character and that feel authentic.  My neighborhood isn't fancy but it feels lived in.  It's not necessarily a perfectly preserved mid century neighborhood but it is cared for and although the homes tend to be older, they're generally in good shape.

My neighborhood dates mostly from the 1940s to the 1970s.  Streets to the east tend to be populated by older houses, and as you move west, the houses get progressively newer.  I live on a street that used to be the end of town.  My house was built in 1962 and, for the first 10 years of its "life," it was at the very limit of town with a farm across the street.  But in the early 1970s, the farm was developed and a new crop of tract homes sprang up.  The only upside of this 1970s development was that a park was put in just three houses down from me.  I can view it from my picture window, which I love.

Anyway, that's the long way of saying, I like old things and I'm thrilled to live in an older but reasonably well kept part of town.  A part of me even enjoys the slightly scruffy character of my neighborhood.  I guess a better way of putting it is that it's unpretentious - just an honest to goodness neighborhood of middle class, mid century homes.  Aside from the 1970s tract houses, most of the houses in my neighborhood are unique and there are some good examples of mid century architecture sprinkled here and there - albeit mostly in the "mid century modest" realm of things.

Let's start with my house:

I like to refer to my house as a "Federal Ranch."  That's a term I made up and I think architectural historians would be more likely to refer to it as a traditional ranch.  But there's something about the symmetry of the dual front gable roof lines that make me think colonial or federal.  Anyway, I plan to put a federal eagle under the carport gable to seal the deal.  My house is a bit odd in that it's actually a typical long ranch house but bent into an "L."  That's why my picture window faces into the courtyard - but lucky for me, it also faces toward the park.  I'll never close in my carport for that reason alone.  Besides, I like carports. 

This house is just around the corner from me.  It's the ranchiest of the ranch houses in my neighborhood, in my opinion.  I LOVE the awnings and the two tone garage door (not shown, I'll have to get a pic of it). 

 I like this house for the fact that the owners have kept the original two tone color scheme and siding.  I'll have to get a better picture now that it's winter and the trees don't have any leaves.

 This one is  a little ranch, probably from the 1940s.  I think it's really cute.

This little pink guy is part of a mid 1960s development a couple streets south of me.  Most of the houses have the projecting beams under the eaves, which I really like.  I wish someone would buy this house and love it up.

This house is one of my all time favorites.  It's really classy with multiple shed rooflines and a unique little built in patio.  It's such an odd form to see here.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find the right angle to get a good picture of it.

Super cute little itty bitty ranch - the carport is almost as big as the house!  I like the cantilevered porch support by the carport.
I'm a sucker for shed roofs.

This is my very favorite house in my neighborhood.  I love hipped roofs.  It's one of the few houses in this area with a basement.  Plus it's on a double lot.  Plus it has a built in patio.  Plus it has a detached two car garage.  It went up for sale about 2 months after I bought my house.  Sigh.  

And finally, what neighborhood wouldn't be complete without an elementary school?  West End School was built in the 1940s and added onto in the 1950s.  This is the oldest section of the school.  Sadly it's closed for now.

That's it for now.  There are more houses I'd like to showcase but they'll have to wait for next time.