17 Vintage Kitchen Features We Refuse to Abandon
Many well-loved kitchen features have fallen by the wayside in our quest for sleek appliances and high-tech efficiency. We’re on our way to welcoming some of these long-lost gems back into our kitchens—what’s next?
Kitchens have a gravitational pull: Family and friends alike migrate to this space to hang out, eat, and catch up in an intimate setting. As we’ve made our kitchens more practical and high-tech, though, we’ve sacrificed some of the homey touches that used to give the room in such warmth and charm. But was it a good idea to let them go? Amp up the coziness and give your kitchen a retro rehab by incorporating some of these vintage touches.
1. Butler’s Pantry
Homeowners used to use the butler’s pantry, which was typically nestled between the kitchen and dining room, for storing serving items and keeping the silver under lock and key. Though butlers have gone the way of the dinosaur, butler’s pantries are still convenient staging areas for preparing and serving meals in the dining room. It’s a shame that more homes don’t still have them.
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2. Functional Stoves With Storage
Vintage stoves have handy (and unexpected, by today’s standards) storage compartments and give off a retro vibe, but they’re surprisingly well suited for cooking for a crowd. Their many compartments allow you to cook several dishes at different temperatures while simultaneously keeping other items warm, all in less space than a double oven requires. If you can’t find a vintage stove, modern takes on these classics retain the look and functionality of their forebears but operate more efficiently.
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3. Breakfast Nooks
Starting the day perched in a snug little bench with a cup of coffee sounds extremely enticing, which may explain the past popularity of breakfast nooks. Although homeowners rarely include breakfast nooks in their kitchen plans these days, these cozy seats would be ideal for enjoying a morning cuppa or after-school snacks.
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4. Built-In Spice Rack
When built-in kitchen cabinets became the norm, the traditional wall-hung spice rack disappeared. Now that herbs and spices have been largely shut out of view, we miss their vibrant colors and textures, which beg to be displayed as decor. Besides, keeping herbs, spices, and oils close at hand can really speed up food prep.
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The kitchen is the center of the home, where family and friends gather to cook, chat, and eat. Although a fireplace isn’t required for cooking in our modern era, it can make the kitchen more inviting and comfortable.
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6. China Cabinets
Entertaining is far less formal than it was 50 or 100 years ago. How many families still even own “good china” anymore? Though traditional china cabinets are growing obsolete, they can do more than just store and display dinnerware. Today, it’s not unusual for homeowners to use them for storage—for anything from homeschooling supplies to wine—or flaunt them as the focal point of the dining room.
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7. Wood Stove
More homeowners should consider incorporating a multifunctional wood stove into their kitchens. They provide economical, effective heating that won’t fail when the power goes out. Plus, a wood stove can double as a stovetop; because burning wood is considered carbon neutral, it’s environmentally friendly too.
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8. Plate Racks
Yesteryear’s plate racks were a smart storage solution that kept dishes and serving platters tidy and easily accessible. Though their detractors would argue that they expose plates to dust and other airborne debris, we like that they free up cabinet space and add some folksy visual appeal to the kitchen.
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9. Hoosier Cabinets
In the early 20th century, most kitchens didn’t have built-in cabinetry. As a solution, the Hoosier Manufacturing Company adapted their baker’s cabinet to create a well-organized storage center and work area for the home cook. These days, a Hoosier cabinet could be particularly beneficial in a small kitchen because it packs a lot of storage and counter space into a tiny footprint.
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10. Butcher Block
Butcher block has been a mainstay in restaurants, home kitchens, and, of course, butcher shops for centuries. Nowadays, people have embraced countertop materials like granite and marble, but butcher block has several advantages over these trendy stones: It adds visual warmth, isn’t too difficult to maintain, and is usually one of the cheaper countertop alternatives. What’s more, unlike most other materials, you can safely cut on it.
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11. Farmhouse Sinks
Farmhouse sinks hark back to a time when water had to be hauled to the kitchen from springs and wells. These roomy, apron-front sinks have experienced a resurgence over the past few decades. While not as white-hot as they had been, they have much to offer beyond their country kitchen vibe and show no signs of going away. Their deeper bowl is great for washing large pots and pans, and the apron front is ergonomically friendly.
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12. Horizontal Double Ovens
Owing to its generous capacity and cooking flexibility, the double oven has never really gone out of style. But most double ovens on the market today are wall ovens that are stacked vertically, whereas vintage kitchens featured side-by-side double ovens. Now that larger, six- and eight-burner cooktops are rising in popularity, the timing is perfect for side-by-side double ovens to make a comeback.
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Don’t let the name fool you: A dumbwaiter is an ingenious invention. This miniature elevator operates on a pulley system, going up and down between the kitchen and other levels of your home.
Think of the advantages! Instead of balancing a tray of food up the stairs and down the hall to your bedroom or den, you can place a tray of food and drinks in the dumbwaiter, pull it up, and then collect it upstairs. Parents with teens who snack in their bedrooms (and aren’t so good about returning dirty cups and dishes to the kitchen) would also certainly applaud the dumbwaiter’s return.
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14. Countertop Ice Maker
Countertop ice makers were once a must-have for households that needed a steady supply of ice, but over the years they died out, perhaps due to the rise of refrigerators with built-in ice dispensers. These portable devices, however, may be making a comeback. In styles from retro to sleek, these compact machines are terrific solutions when there’s limited room for ice in your jam-packed freezer, or when you want a steady supply of ice poolside, or at your home bar.
RELATED: Buyer’s Guide: The Best Countertop Ice Makers
15. Trash Compactors
Are your trash bins overflowing come garbage pickup day? If you had a trash compactor, this wouldn’t be an issue.
Trash compactors, which debuted back in 1969, use a metal ram to crush up kitchen waste and packaging, turning bulky trash into a dense little package. Although reducing your garbage output altogether would be better for the planet, compactors are a great way to decrease the volume of trash you produce and would be undeniably helpful on occasion.
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16. Bread Box
The classic bread box, once a fixture in grandma’s kitchen, is more than just a place to store fresh bread. A bread box creates a controlled environment that prevents bread from drying out or losing its crispy exterior for several days. It takes up a lot of counter space, but for carbohydrate aficionados, it’s worth giving up the real estate. If you’re a bread baker or want to minimize your use of plastic bags, it may be time to bring back the bread box.
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17. Pull-Out Breadboard
While still an option in custom cabinetry, the pull-out breadboard used to be ubiquitous in all kinds of kitchens. Intended to provide a dedicated surface for kneading bread, it also came in handy as a cutting board or as an extension whenever a little more counter space was needed. It’s a small touch but so practical, especially for a space-starved kitchen.