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Blast from the Past – Vintage Appliances Add Unique Twist in Today’s Kitchens

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By Jamie Knodel

RISMEDIA, July 24, 2010—(MCT)—Long before granite and stainless steel dominated kitchens, chrome mixed with high-gloss, playful color was the look. These kitchens and their appliances of years past have droves of fans. The owners of vintage appliances are a proud lot, quick to show off a refrigerator’s special features, discuss the steps they take to keep a stove shiny or share a charming story about a previous owner.

Many aren’t afraid to fiddle with this or that part to get their equipment back in prime working order, and the ones who leave repairs to the experts have had little trouble finding a professional to get their appliances humming once more.

While all of the vintage appliances we found are in older homes, there are plenty of collectors who put vintage appliances or reproductions in new construction.

Meet three homeowners who live with appliances that have sailed past the half-century mark.

A red showstopper: 1950s-era Chambers high-back stove

The proud owners: Van and Elsa Moushegian of northwest Dallas

Its colorful past: When the Moushegians bought their house, the seller was sure to tell them about how, when he was a boy, his father gave his mother the stove to mark a special occasion. The seller had moved the stove to a couple of other houses throughout the years, but didn’t have a spot for it in his next home, so it stayed and became the Moushegians’.

Bells and whistles: Instead of four burners, the stove has three. In the place where the fourth would go is a deep well, which works like a built-in slow cooker.

“I’ll do tamales or beans in there,” Elsa says. “I can put them in before I go to bed and cook them overnight or start cooking them before I go to work in the morning.”

There’s also a broiler and griddle. The oven has a retained-heat cooking option that the Moushegians rave about. After preheating the oven at a very high heat, such as 500°F, they’ll put a roast or some other type of meat in and keep it on for about 20 minutes before turning it off. The meat stays in the oven and the door stays shut for several hours. “Steam comes out when you open the oven,” Van says. “Because it’s so well-insulated, it all comes out steaming and super tender.”

Up and running: “The real beauty of the stove is the way that it’s so easy to clean—it all comes apart easily,” Van says.

Sticking with vintage: “The first time I saw it, I thought it was just decoration. I didn’t realize it would still work,” Elsa says. Once she started cooking on it, it was love. “It cooks better, and I’m happier with this stove than I was my previous modern one.”

Pretty in pink: 1956 or ’57 General Electric refrigerator and oven

The proud owners: Lee and Melissa Higginbotham of northwest Dallas

Its colorful past: Lee Higginbotham inherited the pink appliances when he bought the 1957 house from a friend’s grandmother in the ’80s. It was a model home when the neighborhood was first developed. The pink sets the tone of entire kitchen; Melissa’s mother, an artist, painted the cabinets to complement the pastel appliances.

Bells and whistles: “It was the latest and greatest that 1957 had to offer,” Lee Higginbotham says. The refrigerator features a foot pedal beneath the door that opens the door for cooks who have their hands full. The pastel appliance, complete with turquoise lining, has a copper lazy Susan for shelves, and the shelf height is adjustable.

Up and running: Though the oven is 30-50 degrees off and its clock no longer works, the Higginbothams have learned to adjust. The fridge, which Lee’s partial to, has required only normal maintenance, he says. That includes defrosting it every so often and cleaning the back coils.

Sticking with vintage: Lee says he’ll cry when the fridge no longer works. He keeps an even older fridge, which isn’t running, in case he needs to mine it for parts for his beloved pink GE.

History’s in the bag: 1950s-era Electrolux pull canister vacuum and 1954 O’Keefe & Merritt stove

The proud owners: Mitchell and Kristen Kauffman of Lakewood, Texas

Its colorful past: The 500 series stove, which is white with yellow knobs and handles, was in the 1920s East Dallas bungalow when the Kauffmans moved in 15 years ago. The vacuum’s been in the family since Kristen’s grandmother owned it.

Bells and whistles: The maker of the vintage vacuum, Electrolux, keeps up with the Kauffmans and calls to schedule regular in-home tune-ups and to sell replacement bags. The Electrolux folks have replaced the vacuum’s retractable cord.

The stove, with a couple of storage drawers, electrical outlets and a lamp on the high back, also features a griddle. There’s also a “grillevator,” which lets you adjust how close you want your broiler pan to the flame. Under each burner is a crumb tray that slides out from the front for easy cleanup.

Up and running: “The inner workings of a stove haven’t changed much in the last 50 years,” Mitchell says. Anything that has gone wrong with the stove has been easy to fix.

Sticking with vintage: Vintage goes with the look of the Kauffmans’ bungalow, and while there have been plenty of updates, they like the way their vintage appliances fit in. “At the end of the day, you’re just cooking over a flame,” says Mitchell, a restaurateur. “There’s not much difference cooking over a flame coming out of a Viking vs. a flame coming out of my O’Keefe & Merritt.”

(c) 2010, The Dallas Morning News.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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