How I Fixed Up My 1950s Refrigerator

A couple of months ago I found a busted down vintage GE refrigerator freezer combination with original ice tray online for about $100. The owner told me it didn’t work but that it should be an easy fix, so I took the risk and drove a couple of hours to San Diego to pick it up. It was in muchhhh filthier condition than the pictures lead on, and had some old wires sticking out of the back, but I figured I’d already invested the time and money to rent a pickup truck and drive out, I might as well just lug it home and see if I could bring it back to life. It’s hard to find the right sized vintage appliances to fit apartment kitchens, and this one was the PERFECT size for mine so I didn’t want to give up. I should note I also drove to Newport Beach, another couple of hours from San Diego, on the same day to pick up a 1950s gas stove that didn’t end up fitting my kitchen. More on that later, but I was extra determined to make the fridge work after that defeat.

Here’s what I was working with.

1950s GE refrigerator Refurb before

Rust, scratches, dirt, grime, and slightly corroded chrome. Not terrible.

But inside was much worse. Rust, mildew, a weird smell, so much grime. What did I get myself into?

1950s refrigerator before

Since this was going to be the place I stored our food I wanted to be cautious about what I used to clean the inside. I didn’t want to use anything that would leave a lingering chemical smell or residue so I turned to the following products and methods, and used A LOT of elbow grease.

First, I removed all of the shelves and drawers and soaked them in my sink and scrubbed the hell out of them. Then I did a whole general scrub down with Simply Green and let it air out with the doors open. I did this a total of four or five times until it was clean enough to move on to the rust and mildew.

For the mildew and rust I used a mixture of good old baking soda and vinegar, a Scrub Daddy sponge, and a toothbrush. The gaskets were still supple and the seal on the doors were good (test with a sheet of paper, if it slides out get new gaskets), so I just I applied the baking soda and vinegar paste and scrubbed over and over until the mildew was completely gone. Some of the rust spots corroded the paint, but I was able to use extra-fine sandpaper to buff it smooth and applied appliance touchup paint over the smaller chipped spots as needed. On the bottom the rust was too extreme so I used a couple of coats of white automotive spray paint. I wouldn’t recommend painting the whole thing that way, but it worked for this small part.

1950s refrigerator Refurb After inside

Now onto the outside! The original paint was mostly in ok condition, so I just wanted to fill in a couple of scratches and bring some lustre and shine back to it. For this I used automotive detailing supplies. I applied several layers of a buffing cream and car wax with an electric orbital buffer. Just as you would detail an old car. I used a chrome polish and superfine steel wool to bring as much shine to the chrome as possible. 1950s Refrigerator Refurb After

And there it is! The only thing was it still had a lingering smell. Not a horrible smell, just that general old freezer smell. The only thing that worked was these miracle Arm and Hammer Fridge-n-Freezer Packs. They’re super cheap so we replaced them every couple days until the smell was completely gone. That took about a week and now we replace it as needed.

The last thing I needed to tackle was the mechanics. After all of that cleaning the damn thing didn’t work. I consulted a few vintage message boards, and spoke to a repair shop, and was confident it just needed a new relay. The problem is the replacement relay for this model is long gone so I had to rewire it with a new universal relay. This was way easier than it sounds, you literally just follow the directions on the package. Definitely consult with a repair shop or the manufacturer if you have questions though.

As soon as I plugged it in the compressor kicked on and I jumped up and down and ran around in circles because WOW WHAT A PAY OFF! IT WORKS!

I know old refrigerators have a reputation of being energy suckers, but our bill and usage hasn’t gone up at all compared to our modern fridge. From my understanding the high energy consumption comes from older models that incorporate an automatic defrost system. This model needs to be defrosted every couple of months, but I simply use a blow dryer and old towel and it takes me about 15 minutes. Another issue of concern for some people is size. It is smaller inside than a modern refrigerator, but we don’t store very much food at once, so that hasn’t been a problem for us.

Here it is living happily in our kitchen! Perfect fit. I love it.

1950s GE refrigerator in modernized kitchen.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

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Our Pink, Gold, and Green Atomic Meets Glam Inspired Bedroom Reveal

I finaallllyyyy get to show you guys our bedroom before and after reveal! Yay!

I didn’t think it would turn out to be my favorite room in our apartment, but I think it totally is. I was inspired by mid-century atomic and glam styles, and used green, pinks, and lots of gold elements as my palette.

Here’s what it looked like before:

1960s bedroom before1960s bedroom vanity (before)

Here’s after!

Mid-century Bedroom with bed from Joybird.jpgPutting a bed in front of a window like this can look a little awkward, so the first thing I did was hung wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling shimmery coral-pink curtains and sheers from Target to frame the bed and disguise the window, while still letting tons of light in.

Vintage vanity with sputnik light from Lucent Light ShopI used a fabric in a similar color to do a wall treatment in the vanity nook. I changed the built-in’s hardware to a vintage 1950/60s set that I found on Etsy and also changed the light to a beautiful brass Sputnik from Lucent Lightshop. The vanity chair is from Nate Berkus for Target. Vintage Pink and gold Bedroom

Gold geometric wallpaper from Tempaper.jpgI installed a beautiful metallic gold and white wallpaper from Tempaper (the same brand I used in my bathroom)! It’s so easy to work with and adds a lot of shine and pattern to the room, but isn’t overwhelming.Mid-century lampLamps are a vintage find from Etsy! Shades are from the Project 62 line at Target. Mid-century style bedOur bed frame is from Joybird. You know I love me some Joybird. DIY Renter Friendly Closet Idea.jpgWe had our tv mounted in front of the bed for our viewing pleasure. To jazz up the boring closet doors I used metallic gold tape and changed the knobs out to starburst ones from Etsy. The oval starburst mirror is also from Joybird.

And there it is! Can’t wait to show you more rooms soon.

Make sure you’re following on Instagram and search the hashtag #Melodramaville to see more!

 

How to Restore Vintage Brass Fixtures

Have you ever found a vintage piece and hesitated to buy it because the brass or metal looks scratched, discolored, or tarnished? We all have! But don’t hesitate. Cleaning vintage metals is actually fairly easy, and totally worth it. In fact, you can save a lot of money by buying the more junky pieces and restoring them yourself at home.

I’ve seen some people just take a can of spray paint to pieces, and that’s fine if your metal is beyond repair but you still cant live without it, but most of the time that isn’t the case. Besides, you’ll never get a true shine like you would with real metal. Instead of reaching for the spray paint, reach for a rag and some polish and see what you reveal.

I got this set of 50s drawer pulls on Etsy for a really great price. At first glance they’re junk, but if you’ve ever restored metals you’d see the treasure underneath that tarnish and “scratches” immediately.

IMG_0200

What you need is a metal polish product, like Brasso, and an old rag or two. Oh and some gloves.

How to Restore Vintage Brass Drawer PullsCover the brass in metal polish and rub into the metal.

How to Restore Vintage Brass Drawer PullsThen use a soft cloth to buff and massage the metal, you’ll notice black and green residue coming off on your cloth. That’s the tarnish! Keep going.How to Restore Vintage Brass Drawer PullsKeep polishing until there is no more residue coming off on to your cloth and the metal is sparkling new. Reapply more product if needed. This can take awhile depending on how tarnished your pieces are, but be patient.

How to Restore Vintage Brass Drawer PullsOnce all the tarnish is removed, give it a nice little polish with a clean cloth to remove any remaining residue or product.

How to Restore Vintage Brass Drawer PullsTada!! Good as new. Now put down the paint and pick up the polish!

Mid-Century Inspired Refrigerator Makeover with Peel & Stick Wallpaper

The only thing that really bothered me about my new kitchen was the way the refrigerator looked in the space.

Use peel and stick wallpaper to cover a refrigerator (before) (2)

Now don’t get me wrong it’s a nice brand new refrigerator, but the way the side of it created a big black rectangle in in the middle of everything bothered me.

I bought a peel and stick wallpaper a couple of years ago with the intention of covering my old refrigerator, but never got around to it. Luckily I found the paper when I was unpacking and since I’m still renting I decided to put it to use!Use peel and stick wallpaper to cover a refrigerator

I like the shape of the refrigerator door and I don’t mind the stainless, so I decided to only apply the wall paper to the sides and top to cover all the black. I was also inspired by the two-toned refrigerators that were popular back in the day.

The paper I used is a light minty blue with a metallic silver cross-hatch pattern. It looks very vintage to me and reminds me of mid-century upholstery fabric. I knew it would work perfectly for what I wanted to attempt.

All I had to do was pull out the refrigerator and apply the peel and stick the paper, carefully matching the seams and making sure to smooth out any air bubbles. This type of paper is very easy to work with and made the job extremely simple.Use peel and stick wallpaper to cover a refrigerator (before) (3)Use peel and stick wallpaper to cover a refrigerator (1)

To finish off the edges I used a thin washi tape in the same color and similar pattern. This gave it a more finished look and helped make sure all of my edges were properly secured.Use peel and stick wallpaper to cover a refrigerator 1.jpg

Use peel and stick wallpaper to cover a refrigerator 3.jpgWhat an improvement! The refrigerator no longer stands out like a sore thumb and adds a nice subtle color and more retro flair to the space. It also gives it a nice smooth texture which makes it way easier to clean than the bumpy texture that it had before. I love it!Use peel and stick wallpaper to cover a refrigerator 2.jpg

Now I’m going to use a different peel and stick wallpaper to cover that back wall as well. Stay tuned!

 

Home Decor: Spray Paint Makes A Big Difference

DIY Lamp Makeover - Spray paint makes a huge difference!

These made-over lamps are my new favorite things.

I was shopping for lamps for my living room and couldn’t find anything in the right size or price. This was around the time I decided to get a new sofa and was on a serious budget to finish off the rest of the room. I desperately needed end tables and lamps to frame said sofa, and didn’t want to go broke over it, so I was determined to find something great for as little investment as possible. I shopped and shopped, until I stumbled into a random Ross and checked out their home decor section. Ross is pretty awesome for budget pieces and it’s a great place to find things to fix up or hack.

I found lamps. Well, the size and the $15 price tag were right, and I liked the artichoke shape, but the finish and the shade were a big NO for me. Easy fix though! I bought them, and then stopped at the hardware store for a couple of cans of gloss white spray paint. I also snagged new shades at Ross for $4.

$15 Lamps from Ross - Before and After - What a difference spray paint makes!

Look at what a difference a little spray paint made. They’re so chic now. Totally Jonathan Adler or something, and they go with my living room PERFECTLY. I don’t think I could have found anything more perfect, especially for under $20 per lamp.

My #1 budget decorating tip is to take a look at what you do like and try to figure out how to change what you don’t like. It can be as easy as a can of spray paint.

DIY: Cast Iron Reconditioning or That Time I Surprised Us All By Not Injuring Myself

There’s something about dealing with cast iron cookware that has always been very daunting to me. It always seemed like so much. The seasoning, the cleaning and caring for it. It all seemed overwhelming. But, so many swear by it, and claim that everyone should have one in their kitchen. So, I decided to conquer those fears and take cast iron head on. Now, of course by now you might have noticed we’re not like a normal household around here. Any reasonable person would have gone and bought a cast iron skillet at their local store, maybe looked up how to do some extra seasoning on it, and gone on with their lives. But we’re The Melos! I had to go and find an old, rusty cast iron pan that I could rehab and bring back to its glory days! Otherwise, where’s the fun? So I did just that.

After searching on Craigslist for a couple of weeks, I didn’t find the standard 10″ Deep Skillet that I had in mind. Ok, lies, I found one but it was in South Pasadena, and at that point I wasn’t committed enough to this project to get on the 110, and risk my life to get the skillet. But I did find something that I think is even better! I found this handy dutch oven/griddle pan combo, it was around the corner in West Hollywood, and I haggled it down to $15, can’t beat that. I liked this piece because it was rusty but not too rusty, it just needed a bit of care. And so the process of bringing it back to life began.

Some rust, some grime, no rat poop.
Thought it was rat poop but it was just some pitting.

The first thing I learned about reconditioning rusty cast iron pans is that, there’s more than one way to do it. So after a lot of YouTube watching, and Google finding, I narrowed down the methods I wanted to try, and maybe even combine.

castiron5
Tools to get the job done. Also gets the job done if you want to make potato salad.

The first method that really caught my interest was the Salt and Potato scrub. It’s just that: you take your dry, rusty pan, you sprinkle a liberal amount of salt on it (I use Kosher, YouTube uses table), and you use a potato cut in half as your scrubber. This method worked well. It did require a lot of elbow grease, which was expected. It did get a lot of the surface rust out, and from what I’ve read, after several treatments, it gets all of the rust out. However, I still had our second method to try. Vinegar and a ball of foil. Yes, a ball of foil. Apparently, the ball of foil is more abrasive than steel wool, so it gets the job done. And guess what? This was my most favorite way of cleaning this thing. The trick is to let your pan soak in vinegar, or a vinegar/water mix, which I kept heavy on the vinegar. For how long? Who knows. Sometimes I let it soak for 10 – 15 minutes, others for 5. But the more I did it, the more rust came out, and I even was able to get rid of some nasty pitting. At one point I threw salt in with the vinegar, and scrubbed it with the foil, but to be honest, I can’t say that I noticed a huge difference. Once all the rust and nastiness was off, I gave it a good rinse in hot water with a small amount of dish soap, and made sure it was completely dry. Completely dry is key here, to avoid it rusting all over again.

Ooooh so fresh, so clean.

So now it was time to season the cast iron. Seasoning is the process of coating your cast iron to begin building the layers that will eventually make it super slick and naturally non-stick. The naturally non-stick part is very important in all of this because Krys has an irrational fear of the Teflon Flu, and thus, no Teflon is allowed in the Melo household. The seasoning had always been the most overwhelming part for me, so I was excited and nervous to try it out. My first resource for information on how to do this was of course, Alton Brown. He’s my culinary hero and God. He has taught me virtually everything I know about cooking and food. At first, I was surprised to not find any information from him readily available on seasoning cast iron. But I wasn’t giving up, so after much Googling, I found an old chat with him from 2000, in which he suggested seasoning cast iron by coating it with Crisco, and leaving it in the oven at 350 degrees for an hour. Easy enough! This is where things get really sad, everyone. The results were disappointing to say the least. My hero had let me down! The pans just didn’t look black enough, not cast iron-y enough, and after doing the fried egg test, they weren’t up to par.

Getting ready for the failed egg test. This pan is obviously not ready. Why Alton? Why?

To be fair, his advice was probably geared to store-bought pre-seasoned pans. So after going through the grieving process, I did some more research on the subject. And I found a way that made a lof sense for me. The basic concept is this: Heat the pans in an oven preheated to 550 degrees for 30 minutes. VERY CAREFULLY remove the pans from the oven, and rub with a paper towel soaked in really good extra virgin olive oil. I used kitchen tongs to avoid getting my hands so close to the really, really hot pan, because I’m notoriously prone to injury. Once you coat it, turn the oven off, and return pans to the oven with the door cracked for about 10 minutes. I then lightly wiped off any extra oil with a clean (dry) paper towel, again using kitchen tongs, and returned to the oven (which is off, but still hot), and let it sit there for about 30 minutes. Then, I removed them and let them cool. Apparently really hot heat, with a fat that has a really low smoke point does really great things for something called polymerization. Alls I know is that MAGICAL THINGS HAPPENED! The pans came out beautifully black and shiny, like cast iron is supposed to look like! So much better than my first try!

SO MUCH SUCCESS!

Something to note about that low smoke point/really high heat situation. Our apartment got REALLY smoky when I did this. I mean, the dogs were ready to jump off the balcony and save themselves. So please make sure you have proper ventilation.

Once these bad boys had cooled it was time for the good ole’ fried egg test. This is the part where you test your work to see how well you’ve done. The goal here is to drop some butter on your pan, fry the egg, and have it not stick. In fact, you want the egg to glide around the pan with ease. This time it was a complete success!

castiron15
The egg slid around!

Now I’m desperately searching for some cast iron recipes, since the more I use this, the more well seasoned it will become. Do you have any to share?

DIY: How to Clean Paint Brushes and Which to Use

Unfortunately I didn’t get as much done as I planned during the weekend. I’ve been a bit under the weather causing everything on my to-do list to be pushed back. I’ll hopefully be working on some dining room projects later this week, but for today’s post I’m going to answer some readers’ questions about paint brushes!

Brushes

Q: Do I need different brushes for different types of paints?

A: Yes! Technically. Natural brushes are recommended for oil-based paints while synthetic brushes are recommended for latex and water based paints. I use brushes labeled for ‘ALL TYPES’ of paints. My personal favorite brand is Purdy.

Q: Why do I keep getting loose bristles in my paint?

A: My best advice for this is to invest in a really good quality brush. Most people think that all brushes are the same and try to be thrifty with their tools. They end up shelling out more money trying to continuously replace cheap brushes, until they get frustrated enough to start investing in better quality tools. A good quality brush set can literally last you years if taken care of and cleaned properly after each use. Your local hardware store should have examples of different quality levels. Buy the best you can for your budget!

Q: How do I clean my brushes? I’m having a hard time getting the paint out.

A: This depends on the type of paint you used. Latex and water based paints can be washed out of brushes using simple soap and water, which is why I like using them. They can be washed out in a bucket or sink and rinsed thoroughly with warm water. I use a plastic detail brush or old toothbrush to get any dry paint pieces out. You can also soak your brushes in hot vinegar to remove old stubborn paint. Let hang to dry, cover, and store.

Brushes used for oil based paints need to be cleaned with turpentine or mineral spirits. This is a much more hazardous and tedious clean up process. Swish brushes around in the cleaning solution until all paint is removed and allow to dry thoroughly in a well ventilated area. Turpentine and mineral spirits have irritating fumes and CANNOT be poured down drains. This goes for the paint as well. Dirty turpentine and mineral spirits can be stored in jars and taken to an appropriate hazardous waste center. Please refer to the instructions on these products for proper disposal.

Q: My brush keeps drying between coats. Should I leave it sitting in the paint?

A: My answer would be probably be no to letting it sit in the paint. It makes cleaning your brush harder because it had time to absorb so much extra paint. I find the best thing for me is to cover the bristles to keep them from drying out. Wrap the bristles in a piece of plastic wrap, a sandwich baggy, or even a piece of foil for longer breaks. For shorter breaks, between 10-15 minutes, I simply use a wet paper towel.

Q: How do you recommend storing paint brushes?

A: A lot of brushes come with a plastic or paper cover. Keep those! They will protect your bristles from damage and dust. If for some reason yours didn’t or you lost them, use the same materials I mentioned in the last question. Use foil, sandwich baggies, or even DIY a new cover out of lightweight cardboard. Just make sure you keep those delicate bristles covered! Protect them from moisture and weather by storing in plastic storage boxes or set aside a drawer in your home.