When it seemed like everyone was outfitting their kitchens with granite countertops and Sub-Zero refrigerators, Pam Kueber was on the hunt for steel cabinets.
Ten years ago, Kueber and her husband bought a 1951 ranch house in Lenox, Mass., with ugly plastic tiles in the bathroom and a 1970s kitchen that was showing its age. But rather than bringing the house up to date, she wanted to take it back to its mid-20th-century character.
A communications professional with a degree in journalism, she put her reporting skills to work on ferreting out sources of vintage materials to renovate her midcentury home. Five years into her search, she struck gold: a set of aquamarine Geneva steel cabinets in what was once a cooking school run by nuns in New York City.
Her experience prompted her to start a blog to share her research with like-minded souls. Today her Retro Renovation blog (www.retrorenovation.com) attracts about 220,000 readers a month and is the go-to site for homeowners with a passion for restoring midcentury homes.
Kueber shares resources and tips on great finds, like the stash of 1960s tile a guy in Mansfield found recently when he was cleaning out a contractor’s house. “It’s like Whac-A-Mole,” she said of the constant chase of the latest bonanza.
The blog celebrates what Kueber calls “midcentury modest” homes, houses like hers that sprang up across the United States in the wake of World War II. Unlike the chic, glass-walled atomic ranches that are revered as the epitome of midcentury modern style, these are the simpler Colonials, ranches and split levels that housed a much larger segment of the postwar population. Now many of them are housing young homeowners, who can afford their modest prices and appreciate their vintage style.
Her blog sometimes addresses high-style midcentury homes, but “I write about pink bathrooms and knotty pine kitchens more,” she said in a recent phone conversation. And more than write about them, she touts their appeal.
“It’s OK. It’s fine,” she said of the vintage look. “Your parents and grandparents loved it.”
Indeed, Kueber argues that midcentury modest homes have a lot going for them — high-quality materials, excellent craftsmanship and attractive appearances. She even loves what she calls the “’57 Chevy colors” that were common in bathrooms of the era, which she sees as cheerful.
Kueber said she’s found a following among younger homeowners, as well as middle-aged people who feel nostalgic about the era. The popularity of the ’60s series Mad Men hasn’t hurt, either. Because of it, “midcentury modern has penetrated the mainstream in a big way,” she said.
Kueber admitted that for her, the appeal lies partly in the thrill of the hunt. One of her coolest finds, she said, was an Electro Sink Center, an electrified faucet that also has bases for a blender, a meat grinder and other appliances. Rob and Laura Petrie had one in their kitchen on The Dick Van Dyke Show, she noted.
She can hardly go to an estate sale without filling her car with midcentury furniture, accessories and other home elements. “I just get all like saving puppies about it,” she said.
She also loves the community that has grown up around her blog, a group of midcentury-home fans who bond over sunburst mirrors and tension pole lamps. With so much cumulative knowledge, she said, it seems there’s always someone who can answer the questions posed by her readers.
And someone to ooh and aah over that electrified faucet.
Mary Beth Breckenridge can be reached at 330-996-3756 or email@example.com. You can also become a fan on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @MBBreckenridge and read her blog at marybeth.ohio.com.