a new place to cook

You will have to get your magnifying glass out to capture these next two images of our kitchen when we moved in. These are the only ‘before’ photos we have. One of these days I will slow down enough to get my own ‘before’ images. Getting straight to work seems to be my MO.

Apparently the previous owners had redone the kitchen prior to putting it on the market and I imagine they were proud of their work. We took one look at it and said “ick”. We were appreciative of the well-constructed, quality cabinets (not the appearance) and the U-shaped layout. Knowing that the original floorplan was an L-shape, we were thankful that they added a bank of upper and lower cabinets to maximize the use of the space. Cabinets and layout, that was all we appreciated about this kitchen. We were anxious to get the midcentury vibe back and set out to make this happen.

We started by covering up the incredible eyesore of a floor! (Flimsy vinyl sheets with a spectacular 1970s pattern- not our thing).  I’ve had a love of rubber tile for years – something about the geometric shapes, fun colors that it comes in, and modern feel, along with it’s ease of installing and it’s low cost. We knew we wanted colorful accents, with subtle grays and natural wood as the backdrop. Grey rubber it was, sporting my favorite geometric shape: the circle.

Ouch- look at that ugly countertop!

The beauty of the rubber tiles is that they can very easily be replaced should you have an accident.  Each tile interlocks and you simply lay it down over a flat surface. We covered up that ugly floor in minutes. The life of a designer is such that what has been done often needs to be redone- just to keep it fun and interesting. When we tire of rubber, we may be on to VCT (vinyl composite tile)– another very common material in midcentury modern design – one that also has lots of options for color and pattern. That may be next!

Counters next.

Years ago, I came across this Wilsonart cartoon-like woodgrain pattern- Ebon Grain. I knew the second I saw it that we HAD to do something with it in the future. There was a strong pull for concrete for our counters, but the laminate won. And, seeing that our home was built in 1958, it was definitely in keeping with the MCM era to install laminate. I also like the suggestion of ‘natural’ in the fact that it mimics wood. It is not fancy, but it sure is cool looking!

Cabinets were painted turquoise, a perfect choice both for its MCM-ness and the fact that it is one of my favorite colors.

We had been surviving with a half-size dishwasher until the renovation. With kids and friends, this was just not ok. Out it came. IKEA to the rescue, as we needed a new base cabinet to accommodate the larger dishwasher. New sink and faucet in.

Family is invaluable. My stepdad got busy in his wood shop in Goshen, IN and whipped up these solid slab birch plywood doors. There were sprayed with a clear coat to protect them from use and bring out the grain.

As soon as the doors went up, we started to see figures in the grain. Check out the owl lying down.

New IKEA hardware. What would we do without IKEA for some well-designed basics?

To tie in the turquoise of the cabinets with the gray floor, we chose simple grey subway tiles accented with square, turquoise, glass tiles as our backsplash.

White appliances (not really white anymore!) were swapped with stainless.

Ahhh, now it feels right.

photo by CJ South
photo by Bob Foran

curb appeal

tiny size photo because that is all we have from the listing!

This was our house in 2009 when we moved in. A very modest midcentury modern ranch in a superb neighborhood in Ann Arbor, MI. We bought it because of the proximity to downtown, the walk to the three schools our kids would attend and the apparent friendliness of the neighbors. We were confident we could make this little box into something special!

Through the years, it has transformed. We knew at the onset that we wanted to pull the porch off and start over, but we also knew we had hundreds of projects to work on. Where to start in the interim?! A fresh coat of paint and a few orange accents. We found an original midcentury, diamond cut-out, door at the ReUse Center in town and immediately took the metal door off. That door was later replaced with an all glass door, as we were aching for more light in the main living area. We were sad to say goodbye to the diamond, but the glass has been even better!

The peach tree that we transplanted took over and soon blocked the house (oops, didn’t realize it would get that big), but it took care of itself and fell over with the weight of the peaches one day!

In 2016, we had a huge incentive to finally get to the porch. The magazine Atomic Ranch liked what was going on in the inside of our house and requested a photo shoot. First thought ‘but the porch’!

The final version in 2017. photo by Bob Foran

Let me walk you through the process. We made the porch work for a while, replacing the rotting deck. We were not crazy about the shoddy built railing, but it served as a perch for the kids to sit and it gave us a little privacy.

It was pleasant, and very well used. My husband and I enjoyed coffee every morning during nice months in these two vintage chairs given a new life with a favorite color of ours.

We improved the landscaping and built a cement board clad planter, keeping with the clean lines of the midcentury aesthetic, while adding a modern touch.


When the magazine contacted us in the Fall of 2016, we asked if we could push back the photo shoot date until we could rework the porch.  Sarah Jane Stone, the editor at Atomic Ranch, was happy to wait, so we got to work designing.

My stepdad is amazing in the wood shop and whipped up a cute little model- just like a doll house! Computers are not his thing, but I am not complaining. This little jobbie is adorable. 🙂

Work began. The windows were brought back to their original state. A few years back, the son of the original owner stopped by our house while attending a garage sale next door and came in for a tour. He said, “Oh yeah, my parents took the original windows out and made them smaller when they thought we would fall through the glass as kids”. We were not as fearful, so out they came. The light that streams in is amazing and in true midcentury modern style, the outdoors have come inside- we love feeling like the plants are creeping inside.

Off came the roof and the deck.

A new concrete pad was poured, expanding the original footprint of the stoop simply because we use the front porch SO MUCH and wanted a bit more space for additional seating.

We wanted the porch to have the appearance of floating, so designed the 4-inch pad to cantilever a bit.

Winter set in. The photo shoot was to take place at the end of January. We had to keep working.

The winter months made it impossible for us to build the entire porch outside. If we could put it together like a kit, rather than from the ground up we (or my husband and stepdad, rather!) could keep out of the cold a little less while building.

Up drove my stepdad from Indiana with our entire porch in the back of his van!  I joke that our porch was like a Sears Kit Home.

This is quite honestly the entire porch, sans concrete!

Record breaking temps set in. I am pretty sure 7 degrees was on the thermometer this day. Yikes! Poor family.

With lots of hot chocolate and tea, the porch took shape.

A neighbor asked, “Are those poles to hang plants from?” Me, “Well, I guess you could. We were intending for it to just be a design element. I don’t expect everyone to understand it”. 😉

Happy that the porch is completed. photo by Bob Foran

You may notice that as we stand there, the planters have been ‘planted’. And how did we do that in the middle of winter you may ask? We drove around the neighborhood looking for used Christmas trees on the curb. We disassembled them and laid the branches in the planters. Magic- they are presentable and ready for the photographer!

And just this past week, we found this stone slab to serve as the step. Complete, that is until Spring when we get live plants!