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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Pandemic projects: Vintage TV consoles become cat condo and retro bar

By Cindy Hval For The Spokesman-Review

Contemporary flat screen TVs bear little resemblance to the models of earlier days when televisions were pieces of furniture. Today’s kids have no concept of a time when you had to get up from the sofa to change the channel, or wiggle the rabbit ears to get a clear picture.

Aleen Warren has fond memories of those bygone days.

“I love vintage things and thrifting, antique shopping,” she said. “Last year when the pandemic first struck, I really needed a project to work on.”

A couple of years ago she had seen a photo of an old TV that had been converted into a cat “condo.” She began looked for a vintage set, and in December she found one on Craigslist.

When her husband, Jerry removed the back of the 1962 RCA Victor, they discovered the original make and model tag within.

While Jerry carefully took out the television’s innards and built walls for the condo, Aleen designed the hangout for her cats, Fluffy, Sophie and Hercules.

“I wanted to create a 1960s living room,” she explained. “I made a pillow and upholstery pieces in ’60s colors.”

Warren painted and wallpapered the walls and then decorated them with a unique fur-family gallery. She created the artwork by cutting cat photos out of magazines and framing them in tiny picture frames.

The pièce de résistance? A nod to the iconic Andy Warhol soup can prints, only instead of Campbell’s soup, her son took a photo of Friskies cat food tins.

She brushed the photo with Mod Podge and hung it in a 3-inch by 3-inch frame. A fluffy, white fur rug atop a piece of foam makes a comfy resting place for kitties, and a thrift store watch face surrounded by the words “Meow Time,” denote the condo’s purpose.

A gold rotary phone, pink memo pad, green glass ash tray, and a set of rabbit ears, adorn the top of the television.

Warren finished the project in January and said until Fluffy’s recent passing, the cat had enjoyed the comfy condo. Now, Sophie has made it her own retreat.

“I had a blast outfitting this condo and didn’t want to stop – hence my second project,” said Warren. “A friend gave me an inspiration photo from Etsy for a cool in-home retro bar using a vintage TV.”

She purchased a 1955 G.E. black and white television from a seller in Coeur d’Alene.

“I loved the knobs!” she said. “It actually worked. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was going to gut it.”

While the cat condo captured the spirit of the 1960s, Warren wanted this project to evoke the nostalgia of late ’50s early ’60s cocktail parties her parents used to host.

“Those parties sparkled,” she said.

A sequined curtain – a thrift store find – frames the interior of her new retro bar. The curtains featured black fabric panels which she used for the back interior and top of the TV.

Warren hung a mid-century mirror she found at the Goodwill on the back wall. The mirror reflects cut glass decanters and cocktail glasses. A Williams and Sonoma leather-lined tray she found for $5, rests atop a scrap of fluffy white baby blanket.

The top of the bar features family heirlooms – her mother’s jeweled cigarette holder and her grandmother’s elegant floral lighter. A crystal ice bucket, a cocktail shaker and a martini glass completes the “Mad Men” vibe.

If that’s not enough to evoke nostalgia, Frank Sinatra crooning from a speaker hidden within the bar should do the trick.

She completed the retro bar in late February and is delighted with the results of both pandemic projects.

“The best part has been successfully creating what I intended to do,” Warren said. “I re-created the vibe and memories of my childhood.”