House call | The new retro
Kate Sanderson’s Logan Square home decor is 1950s-meets-now.
Ever since she moved into her cozy Logan Square house eight years ago, Kate Sanderson’s home has been a work in progress. But now the 34-year-old has just a few more tweaks left on her list.
“It was a complete fixer-upper,” she says. “The kitchen was completely rotted.”
Looking at it now, it’s difficult to picture a derelict cooking area. The sparkling, 1950s/’60s-style kitchen looks as if it could be used in a Mad Men scene, thanks in part to the set of light blue Geneva cabinets Sanderson scored on Craigslist for $375. “They were [originally] white and covered in tar from cigarette smoke,” says Sanderson, who works for Motorola.
The renovation of the space really kicked into gear when Sanderson’s boyfriend, Pete Gamen, moved in three years ago. As a side job, Gamen paints cars and motorcycles, so he used auto paint to give the cabinets their current blue hue. The recently applied backsplash is actually automotive metal covered with metal flakes and a coat of clear paint.
The kitchen is a perfect example of the couple’s combined aesthetic. “It’s funny how our house formed. When I had a vision of redoing the house, it was all [going to be] midcentury,” Sanderson says. “And then when Pete moved in, little aspects of him started coming in, which is awesome.” He brought a hot-rod aesthetic to her throwback vibe; just like the cabinets, the old-timey fridge is also covered in shiny auto paint.
The design scheme isn’t entirely a nod to the olden days, though. “People always call my kitchen retro,” Sanderson says. “But it’s really not retro.” Instead, she likens it to restoring a classic car but not sticking to all the exact details. “When you redo a car, and you don’t do it period correct, you call it kustom with a k,” she says. “I think of our kitchen as a kustom kitchen—it’s retro with some new features.”
Speaking of classic cars and modern twists, the painted car hood hanging over the sofa has a postmodern street-art look to it. In addition to renovating their pad, the couple are also restoring a 1963 Cadillac. “Until we need it for the car, that’s where it’ll be,” Sanderson says of the hanging hood.
Finding new uses for items is a strong theme here. The steel entertainment center, which includes a built-in mini fridge, is actually a 1950s prison medical cabinet. Step onto the tiki-flavored backyard patio, and you’ll find furniture made from wood pallets surrounding a hot tub the couple scored for free from a friend of a friend.
The back of the house is a great spot for hosting gatherings. And now that the renovation of the home’s main spaces is close to completion, the couple have been entertaining inside as well. “Last summer, we went out a couple of times a week, just to get out of the chaos of the house,” Sanderson says. “Now we have people over all the time.”