While the term “retro” commonly hints at contemporary refabrications of 20th-century aesthetics, it can also reference the appreciation and longing for the interior styles and visuals of decades past. One living space in particular that allows for the adoption of a retro look is the kitchen. Besides the nostalgic charm it exudes, a vintage kitchen can also be rather inexpensive and easy to set up. This is mainly because most retroelements such as gingham tablecloths are commonly available, whereas certain fixtures such as farmhouse sinks can be salvaged from yard sales at a bargain. With the variety of design ideas offered by the past decades, in addition to the availability of the elements that go into achieving these designs, your vintage-styled kitchen can be a few tweaks away.
Built-in china cabinets were all the rage back in the roaring 20s and the years that followed. Both luxury homes, as well as modest ones, featured these fine pieces of carpentry in their kitchens, dining rooms, and butler’s pantries.
The glass doors of the cabinetry allow you to showcase your collection of vintage china while the framework itself emits a nostalgic appeal. While many built-in cabinets ended up in junkyards, a good deal of them were fortunately salvaged. You can probably find a specimen at a flea market, thrift shop, or a reuse store. Should you not find retro kitchen cabinets at any of those places, try your luck at an architectural salvage shop.
Another common element of a retro kitchen is a farmhouse sink. The unit features a porcelain body nestled into the existing cabinetry. This creates an eye-catching contrast with the rest of the countertop. Alternatively, you could go for a drainboard sink which is similar to its farmhouse countertop but somewhat bigger. Drainboard sinks are usually mounted on the wall and may or may not feature decorative front legs. Consider shopping for either type at salvage yards, thrift stores, or Craigslist.
Nothing says nostalgia more than grandma’s old gingham tablecloth. We’ve all come across that red and white checkered pattern at one point in our lives. Simply picture a freshly baked apple pie laid atop a gingham tablecloth. Luckily, this pattern is still widely available today and you can easily achieve its retro aesthetic in your own kitchen. Consider shopping for a table cover that features the gingham pattern at textile shops or department stores. Although it’s usually in red, you may also find the pattern in blue, green, or yellow.
The once old-fashioned fridges have recently made a huge comeback — and are even available on the market today. If you still have one and it’s functional, consider accentuating its retro look by pairing it with other vintage elements such as a checkered floor. The variety of colors that retro refrigerators are available in, as well as its curved edges perfectly revive the 50s diner aesthetic. Since many brands today are manufacturing these vintage fridges, you don’t have to worry if you don’t have one already.
The color palette of a retro kitchen consists of pastel hues with undertones of cream or white. Although pastel colors are generally muted, they still feel bright in most kitchens while the offwhite cream gives off an aged look. Common pastel tones range from turquoise, mint green, salmon, baby pink, and pale yellow. If pastel isn’t your cup of tea, however, you could go for a classic 1950s cherry red and complement it with black and white undertones. Consider matching either color scheme with chrome accents such as cabinet handles and countertop edges.
Tilework was a common choice among homeowners for protecting their kitchen walls from spills and splashes. This was before the introduction of washable kitchen paint. The coverage of the tiles can range from the lower third of the wall to the entire surface. In the former case, the border between the tiled wall and the plain upper wall creates a visually appealing contrast. Backsplashes are also ideal places for tilework as it can beautifully accentuate a drainboard or farmhouse sink. If your walls aren’t already tiled, consider going for an installation that exhibits an aged look.
While you can't go wrong with linoleum tiles or hardwood flooring for a vintage look, the checkered floor never fails to steal the spotlight when it comes to a retro aesthetic. This black and white pattern named after the checkers board was a popular flooring option back in the mid-20th century. Its recent comeback is a testament to the timeless aesthetic value it offers to an interior. Consider pairing a checkered floor with retro kitchen fixtures and tiled walls to materialize the vintage style.
Vintage Gas Cooker
A kitchen fixture that is truly antique in both form as well as function is the vintage gas cooker. Aside from the aesthetic value, it adds to an old-style kitchen, the unit itself is a novelty item to own in this day and age. Try your luck at finding one at vintage shops, yard sales, or Craigslist. You may, however, want to make sure the antique gas cooker is functional before purchasing it; bear in mind that you're designing a vintage kitchen, not a museum of antiquities.
Retro Copper Faucet
In the 1950s, people were fascinated with the aesthetics of the future. This fascination was reflected in living spaces including but not limited to kitchens. You can see retro-futuristic elements in certain details around the kitchen. One notable feature is the copper faucets that look like something out of a Sci-Fi movie of that era. Due to the widespread interest in retro aesthetics, such faucet models are nowadays largely available on the market. Another common detail that prevails in the vintage kitchen is chrome. Combined with the shape of retro appliances and fixtures, chrome celebrates the look of that era’s popular car models.
You can make your vintage kitchen all the more authentic with 70s kitchenware. Everything from saucepans, teapots, bowls, and cups can serve as elements of decor. The floral patterns and endearing colors of the vintage tableware offer a charming visual that ties the old-fashioned kitchen design together. Consider showcasing your collection by arranging the pieces to form a delightful array of patterns and colors. Enriching the display with brass items such as a vintage coffee grinder may incorporate an even older era. You can find a wide range of antique kitchenware at flea markets, thrift shops, as well as Craigslist.
Classic Pantry Display
To contrast the rest of the room's colors and textures, you could go with a subtle yet pleasant pantry unit. A weathered wooden shelving unit brilliantly captures the main essence of the retro kitchen. Consider going a step further by filling the retro pantry with vintage canning jars containing your baking essentials. You can most likely find a set of these jars at yard sales, flea markets, and thrift stores. As for the pantry shelving unit, vintage shops, as well as yard sales, may have it available at a bargain price. Alternatively, you can make a new one look aged by giving it a weathered finish.