We had the good fortune, when doing a major kitchen "unmodel," of starting with a large, empty room. Previous owners had added it, as a dining room, to the side of the house. For us, it was a playroom when our kids were small.

We wanted a large, retro-styled kitchen, straight out of the 1950s. We already had one definitive piece - the pink vinyl banquette that had been in my grandparents' 1955 ranch house in Milwaukee. It was waiting in the basement of that house for us to pick it up and bring it back to Colorado at any time.

Geneva Gives It Shape

I was idling around on Craigslist one day when I came across a listing for a full set of mint green Geneva metal kitchen cabinets. The home they were in had recently been purchased and the new owners planned a kitchen gut job.

Over Memorial Day weekend, my husband and three of his buddies removed the cabinets from their original location. That summer, we traveled to Wisconsin and brought back my grandparents' banquette.

We were ready to begin.


We wanted a U-shaped kitchen layout, with a narrow island in the middle. I could easily sketch out this basic plan. But when it came to actually laying out the puzzle pieces - figuring out where each of our 20 salvaged Geneva cabinets would go - I knew it was time to pass the torch.

We hired architect Bob Garland to draw up plans. I have to hand it to Bob - he figured out a way to logically use every cabinet.

I have to hand it to Geneva, too - you might think slide-out drawers for pots and pans, or tall cabinets with separators for standing up baking sheets and cutting boards, are brand-new ideas. They're not; Geneva and others were making cabinets like this 60 years ago.

Close It Off and Build

I know not everyone can do this, but it's marvelous to build a new kitchen while you still have an old kitchen.

The first thing the builders did was construct a plywood wall separating the room from the rest of the house. This made the project relatively quiet and dust-free for its 5-month duration.

All the while, we still had another functioning kitchen in the house.