It started with an old dinner plate.

Sometime in the 1950s, my creative, colorful, California-loving mother purchased Gladding McBean Franciscan dinnerware with an “Atomic” starburst pattern. My brothers and I grew up eating breakfast, lunch and dinner off this dishware, and I always loved it.

In 2007, my new husband started systematically purchasing this “antique” dinnerware from eBay, until we had amassed a full 12-piece place setting. And then two years ago, we bought a 50+ year old house to match the plates.

Despite the passage of five decades, our brick ranch looks much like it did when built (which is part of the reason I found it so enchanting). Stepping into the kitchen was like walking through a portal back to 1962.

Unfortunately, my beautiful old kitchen had one glaring defect: Boring walls. Despite an intense search, I couldn’t find a wallpaper pattern that seemed “right” for the kitchen.

Whilst researching “Mid-Century Modern Homes,” I discovered a delightful website called “Retro Renovation,” and fell in love with the many well-written articles and dazzling photos posted there. And more recently, a guest writer at Retro Renovation wrote a piece about creating her own “Atomic” design for her kitchen walls, using the Gladding McBean dinnerware as a guide.

As soon as I laid eyes on the pictures of her newly painted walls, I was elated: I’d found my pattern, and better yet, re-creating that pattern would be a lot less expensive than the $100+ a roll wallpaper I’d been considering.

Two weeks ago, I started work on the project and I must say, it went more quickly than I’d anticipated, and I am tickled pink with the end result. It’s not a flawless duplication of the pattern on the plate, and it’s also not a perfect copy of the design featured at Retro Renovation, but I am DEE-lighted with the way it looks.

Every time I walk into the kitchen, I find myself staring at the walls and grinning from ear-to-ear. And that’s a mighty good feeling.

And as always, please leave a comment if you enjoy the pictures!

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Even as a child, I admired the unique pattern and colors on this Gladding McBean Franciscan Dinnerware. And best of all, its Oven Safe!

Even as a child, I admired the unique pattern and colors on this Gladding McBean Franciscan Dinnerware. Today, it's more commonly known as an "Atomic" starburst pattern, and can be purchased on eBay. According to Wikipedia, Gladding McBean created the Franciscan dishware line in 1934, and it was named in honor of the Franciscan friars who established California missions in the 1700s and 1800s.

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Wayne and I both loved the kitchen in our 50-year-old house, but the walls were rather drab. This photo shows the first dab of Sherwin Williams Duration Extra-White on the wall.

Wayne and I both loved the kitchen in our 50-year-old house, but the kitchen walls were drab and dull. This photo shows the first dab of Sherwin Williams "Duration Extra-White" on the wall.

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For a cleaner, non-textured look, I applied the paint with a brush. Much to my chagrin, the Duration paint did not cover the existing flesh-colored with a single coat.

For a cleaner, non-textured look, I applied the white "base coat" with a brush. Much to my chagrin, the Duration Extra White paint did not cover the existing flesh-colored paint with a single coat.

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dots

Following the suggestion at Retro Renovation, I created the dots by cutting out circular bits of sponge. After much consideration, I went with three sizes: 3", 2" and 1-1/2". I found that dampening the sponge and then wringing it out thoroughly made it *much* easier to work with (as opposed to using a dry sponge). I placed the round sponge on the wall and then gently rotated it 360 degrees.

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house

The end result was just what I'd hoped it would be! One of the reasons I love the "atomic starburst" design is because it's fun and fanciful, and almost child-like with its many imperfections. That's my kind of artwork!

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Figuring out the size of the dots needed for the large expanse of wall took some time, but in the end, I used three sizes of dots: 3, 2 and 1-1/2 dots.

Creating the templates for the starbursts proved quite difficult. After several hours of studying the patterns and trying to solve this puzzle, my buddy Milton helped me "see" the pattern on the plates in a different way. With that fresh insight, I was able to create a template, and drawing the starburst became quick work.

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We trekked up to the

We trekked up to the Sherwin Williams store in Ghent (on 21st Street in Norfolk) with a couple dinner plates in hand, and asked the clerk to create a paint color from the colors shown in the three starbursts. Unfortunately, the computer was not able to pick up the color from the plates, so we were forced to match the colors up the old-fashioned way - with our own eyeballs. The blue shown on the dishware is tad more gray than the blue we selected. As a fan of the 1950s, I had a decided prejudice toward turquoise. However the yellow ("Humble Gold") and green ("Baize Green") were a very good match. The blue/torquoise was "Aquaduct."

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dots

I was so pleased with the look of my polka-dotted wall that I almost stopped right there. It was such a joy to see the flesh-colored, food-stained wall transformed into something colorful and bright and clean. But once I finished my first "starburst," I was immediately in love.

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Looks snappy, doesnt it?

Looks snappy, doesn't it?

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rretro

By contrast, the "undone" dot (upper right) looks almost blasé!

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dots

Lots and lots of dots. As mentioned above, my hand-crafted starbursts are not a perfect match to the dinnerware starburst, but it captured the retro look that I had longed to find. I was quite pleased with the look.

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It did take a lot of pens

I did go through a lot of pens. For the lines within the starburst, I used the Sharpie Ultra-Fine point markers, and for the dots at the tips of the starburst, I used the Sharpie Fine-points. For drawing on painted walls, the "Industrial" sharpies were far superior to the regular markers. And it was wholly delightful to finally be able to DRAW ON THE WALLS without anyone yelling at me!

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house

These were the templates that I used for the starbursts. If anyone is interested in more information on how I used these to create the larger starburst pattern (blue), send me a note and I'll give you all the details. It involved some free-hand work, but it was darn fun - and easy - once I could "see" the pattern.

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house house

The space above the cabinet was painted with the "Aquaduct," and the "Humble Gold" was used below the cabinet. The end result was really stunning, and most pleasing. Best of all, it looked "period appropriate."

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Kitchen

The turquoise color really highlighted the details around the window valance.

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dots

This angle shows off the "Humble Gold" above the back splash.

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dhica

This is a shot of the small space over the kitchen door and beside the refrigerator.

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end result

The only downside of our "old" (un-remodeled) kitchen is the limited space. This small pot-rack has been a huge help and freed up much needed storage under the cook-top. The cabinet next to the pot-rack was found at a salvage store (ReStore) in Newport News, and has also helped alleviate storage woes.

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drab

That formerly drab flesh-colored wall is looking pretty good! Unfortunately, the ceiling isn't quite finished yet. And I'd love to hear suggestions on the floor, as the existing floor has GOT TO GO!

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dots

Several times a day, I saunter into the kitchen and admire my pretty dots. They always make me smile.

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Finis!

Finis!

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To read the original post at Retro Renovation that captured my fancy, click here.

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