House Project : Getting Vintage Kitchen Cabinets Clean

Posted by on Aug 1, 2013 | 0 comments

House Project : Getting Vintage Kitchen Cabinets Clean

I spent the weekend running around trying to outfit our new house with stuff.  I thought the hard work was over once we bought the house – we had sold our houses in New Zealand, sold off our lives, moved, fought to buy a house in the crazy market in Seattle – surely from now on was all the easy stuff!

Walking into a big empty house with little stuff to our names, was daunting.  It has been fun going crazy at garage sales trying to fit out a kitchen and garage with all the gadgets and utensils you’d rather not buy full price.  I got a huge box of kitchen equipment for $8!  A steal when you think the brand-new looking colander would have cost more than that full price.  We also have IKEA here, which makes a huge difference (come on IKEA come to Auckland!  There is all that land on the South Western motorway that would be perfect for you! ).  Every time I walk into the house I have to take some deep breaths as there is some work to do.

The orignal mid-century kitchen – beautiful but grimy!

One of the biggest jobs is the kitchen.  It is a fabulous mid-century kitchen, with a stainless splashback, ply cabinetry, and wood and formica countertops (in amazing condition – like they didn’t cook).  But the cabinets are old and they are dirty!  Ick.  Years of grime still there for me to work out how to get rid of.  I can see why people rip out old kitchens as this is going to be a time-consuming job.

Normally I would use sugar soap (in the US, it is called  Trisodium Phosphate (TSP)) and a microfibre cloth to get painted surfaces clean (killer on your skin, so make sure you wear gloves) – I had great success with this combination when getting my old house ready for sale.  Walls and doors I was sure needed a repaint came up sparkling.  I also used a magic eraser to get the stubborn marks off.

This is ply though, so it might need gentle treatment.  There are quite a lot of vinegar/baking soda/dishwashing liquid recipes I am going to try.  Easy ingredients you always have on hand sound like a cheap method!  Then there is Murphy’s Oil Soap – which you can get in NZ through Fishpond here (expensive!), or try importing it yourself through Amazon here.

Finally I found recommendations for Simple Green to get the leftover grime off with a toothbrush.  So I will also give that a go.  I will be donning my rubber gloves this weekend, so expect a full report back on what works and what doesn’t.


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Table Project: Basic to Mid-Century Modern

Posted by on Jul 18, 2013 | 0 comments

Table Project: Basic to Mid-Century Modern

I’ve been looking for a cool table, and although I love Danish-designed 50s tables, having  a veneer table isn’t always the best idea with a 2 year old around.  I’d prefer to have something sturdier.  A farmer’s table isn’t really going to cut it in a mid-century house.  I found this site IKEA Hackers, and although this project uses an IKEA table, you could use any solid wood table top.  In fact I’d rather use something I might pick up at a garage sale.  The legs were removed and replaced with metal hairpin legs.  Our dining room isn’t very big so I imagine that having the see-through legs, will add to a sense of space.

Hairpin legs on a normal table top.

You can see a full description of her project here – seems simple enough, even for me!  But I think the American will probably want to take over this one, being an engineer and all.


You can get the hairpin legs (and they do ship internationally) here.  I did a quick search on google for the legs in NZ but couldn’t see anything – does anyone know if you can get them?  Of course you could always combine the legs of a mid-century table with a sturdier table top as another project!


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Trade Me: Amazing What Sells

Posted by on Mar 1, 2013 | 0 comments

Trade Me: Amazing What Sells

We are selling our lives on Trade Me in preparation for the big move later this month, and it always surprises me what ends up having all the attention.  I have had these two wrought iron gates stored under the house for so long.  They used to be part of an outdoor wall that I had to remove.  I love them and always intended to use them in the garden again, but that time has come and gone so I put a crappy photo up on Trade Me and listed for $20.  I had thought about just selling them at the garage sale next week, but I had time, so why not?

The gates from my Spanish Mission house.

It was worth putting them on.  There are still 4 days to go, I have 54 watchers, 7 bids and they are up to $51!  I didn’t expect it.  I guess vintage gates are hard to come by, and if I love them, maybe other people have similar taste to me.  You can see the listing here.

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Retro Renovation: Seagrass Matting

Posted by on Dec 3, 2012 | 0 comments

Retro Renovation: Seagrass Matting

While doing our big retro renovation, I decided I wanted to get a mat for our kitchen floor.  As it’s a narrow space, I wanted something like a runner carpet, but being a food zone it needed to be practical.  I love the squares of seagrass matting – seen recently in my post about the Marlborough Sounds bach here – they remind be of baches and growing up in the 70s, but they were surprisingly hard to find.  I guess they are not in fashion any more.

Retro bach with seagrass matting squares on the floor

I did end up finding one mat store online that sell the seagrass matting tiles.  The squares are 30.5cm squares and come off the roll in 9 square widths – at $40 each row.  Then you just decide how many rows you want.  You can see more here.

You can see a peek of the mat in front of our fridge

I got 3 rows wide and it fits our kitchen perfectly.  It’s a practical choice as the bits of food and muck don’t stick to the matting, instead it falls through, so you can just vacuum it up every couple of days.  It’s soft under foot, and helps to stop things breaking when you have a 2 year old rummaging in the cupboards.  I wish I’d done it before!

Seagrass matting squares are perfect for grubby areas.

Photo: A Simple Life Afloat



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Retro Renovation: Home-Office Study Nook

Posted by on Oct 16, 2012 | 0 comments

Retro Renovation: Home-Office Study Nook

I thought you might like to see the home office study nook the American built into one of the alcoves on the side of our fireplace in our living room.  Our house is a 1940s Art Deco/Spanish Mission style house and that means we have arches everywhere – and I love them!  So my first request was to keep the arches next to the fireplace.  In keeping with my love of all things retro, we decided to build in a study nook.  It isn’t fabulous Danish wooden joinery,  instead it is white – and it works with our house.

Retro house renovation, study nook, built-in desk, home office

The built-in desk and shelves fit nicely in next to the fireplace

The desk folds up so I can tidy my usually messy desk away if we have company.

The desk part folds up and hides my mess

The hinges holding my desk together

If you are interested in reading more about the art deco fire guard the clever American designed, I have written about it before here.  We bought the chair off Trade Me new from this seller, we use them as dining chairs mostly.  They have a curved back and a cushioned seat so are super comfortable and stable.  I see they have them in white vinyl now – I am coveting!  We looked for a long time for chairs but they were either too expensive (these have gone up a little since we bought them) or too uncomfortable.  These ended up being a great solution – until I found a vintage Danish dining suite in an op shop…but that is a story for another day.

Birch ply dining chairs $125 on Trade Me

My white ware collection has a place and is lit!

I have some little pieces of art that I hung on the strip of wall next to my desk.  The chalkware woman’s head I bought many years ago.  It has a crack, but I still love it.  The gold lacquer picture is from Vietnam from my mum and the seed pod is by ceramic artist Renee Boyd.  We get a photo calendar sent to us every year from the American’s parents, which is really sweet.  This years one is full of pictures of the kid.

study nook renovation vintage

My little pieces of art next to the nook

Some of my pretties: the acrobatic clown book end is stamped “Japan’, the dish is Sylvac, and I found the Maori warrior bust in my local op shop. My sister gave me the picture of my grandparents.

And of course right now, it is tidy!  A minor miracle in itself as it is a dump zone for papers and junk.  I set the timer for 1 hour when the Kid was being looked after and dealt to it.  Amazing what you can get done in an hour.

 Mid-Century House Book – On Sale!

Atomic Ranch: Mid-century MarvelsAtomic Ranch: Mid-century Marvels

This fab book is only $34 (that’s a $74 discount!) at the moment – perfect gift for the mid-century lover. Get ahead with your Christmas shopping.

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Retro Renovation: Grasscloth Wallpaper

Posted by on Oct 10, 2012 | 0 comments

Retro Renovation: Grasscloth Wallpaper

The 1950s house I featured yesterday had grasscloth wallpaper in its living spaces and it made me wonder if it is still around.  And it is!  It is so perfect for a retro renovation, and actually fashionable again as it is a natural wallpaper.  It’s not the cheapest wallpaper around as each drop is a unique handmade panel – which is why it is so great.  I have a room I would love to wallpaper in this, but I’ll have to think carefully about it as it isn’t completely low maintenance – it might not go well with a toddler!

For some inspiration, you only need to go as far as the sets of the show Mad Men:

The Draper living room has both wood panelling and grasscloth wallpaper.

Grasscloth wallpaper as seen in Bert Cooper’s office

Resenes stocks a grasscloth wallpaper, which I have sent away for a price – so will update this post when it comes in.

Resenes stocks this grasscloth wallpaper

If you do like this look, here are some key points though about grasscloth wallpaper to think about:

  • This textured wallpaper is not as hard wearing as other wallpapers – it is not suitable for particularly heavy traffic areas like hallways
  • Grasscloth wallpaper is absorbent, so not good for high humidity areas like bathrooms, or places that need wiping down like kids rooms
  • The best way to clean this type of wallpaper is usually vacuuming as it shouldn’t come in contact with water due to its natural  dyes and finishes
  • One of the great things about grasscloth wallpaper is that you can get it undyed , and that means there are natural differences in colour
  • Grasscloth wallpaper doesn’t come prepasted
  • This wallpaper is like a fabric, so it can retain odours from things like smoking – and it isn’t like curtains that you can have cleaned.
  • Might not be the best choice for someone with a grass alergy!

It doesn’t look like the easiest thing to hang, perhaps a job best left to the professionals.  Although if you are interested in doing it yourself take a look at the article here (PDF) for tips on hanging grasscloth wallpaper.

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