When a couple in Chicago purchased this early 20th century home in the city’s Humboldt Park neighborhood, they knew their kitchen needed a major overhaul. They decided to turn back the clock when moving forward with modern upgrades, enlisting the help of designer Larry Lambert to rework the kitchen’s layout and update the space with a nostalgic blast from the past.
Kitchen at a Glance
Size: 145 square feet (13.4 square meters)
Designer: Larry Lambert of Chi Renovation & Design
When the homeowners first met with designer Larry Lambert, they had two requests: green cabinets and a retro design. “I don’t do a lot of green kitchens, but I was open to it,” Lambert says. He researched to find a color palette that recalled kitchens from the midcentury era. The winning cabinet color was Jocular Green by Sherwin-Williams.
He then designed the space to feel like a 50s diner. He inserted bar-style seating at the kitchen’s peninsula and installed black-and-white octagonal tile flooring and a ceramic subway tile backsplash to re-create the look of a classic midcentury eatery.
Before: Lambert says it was clear this kitchen hadn’t undergone a renovation in decades. “The kitchen’s finishes were dull, and the cabinets were falling apart,” he says. It also lacked custom design and modern finishes. The kitchen had standard slab-front cabinets and laminate countertops.
After: Lambert revamped the kitchen’s layout to add function and open up the space. He moved the refrigerator to the kitchen’s back wall and coupled it with a new cabinet pantry. He also relocated the stove to the right of the sink to give the homeowners more room to prep food.
Before: The kitchen lacked an efficient prep space. “The stove was tucked in the corner, and there wasn’t any space to work,” Lambert says. The layout also wasn’t functional. Many of the kitchen’s appliances needed to be relocated.
“When you walked in the kitchen, you had to walk around a corner to open the refrigerator,” he says.
After: The new custom cabinets, from Bellmont Cabinet Co., are painted a minty green. They include a wastebasket pullout to the right of the sink, rollout shelves in all the standard base cabinets and six glass door fronts, which Lambert included to make the space feel more open.
One of the custom additions was a built-in cabinet pantry with pullout shelves next to the newly relocated refrigerator, creating efficient food storage.
Lambert replaced both of the kitchen’s blind-corner cabinets with ones that have lazy susans to make the space more accessible and easier to use.
Though relocating the stove and adding new cabinetry were key for the remodel, Lambert says the team hit some obstacles during the process.
“When we ripped up the kitchen, we found a hidden air vent built into the cabinetry,” he says. “It caused a major delay in the project, because we had to get a specialist in to reroute the HVAC.” Installing the stove’s vent hood wasn’t easy, either.
Lambert’s team had to drill through the home’s brick and install an exterior vent cover to ensure the vent was properly installed.
Lambert swapped the kitchen’s laminate countertops for quartz, making sure to select a style that fit the space’s 50s glam aesthetic.
“It has some speckling in it and reflects the light well to give it that retro, sparkly look,” he says. He ensured the space was well-lit with recessed, pendant and under-cabinet lighting, which together give the countertops a bright, glossy sheen.
The homeowners furnished the kitchen with red curtains and retro-inspired appliances and bar stools, all of which add to the space’s vintage feel.