10 Essentials for a Retro Kitchen

Kitchens decorated with an eye to the past bring us back to simpler times, when cheerful colors and playful patterns dominated the domestic scene. Whether your interest in a retro kitchen stems from an affinity for all things vintage, or from, say, fond memories of a grandparent's home, the look can be easily put together today, thanks to myriad modern products that harken back to bygone eras. Here, browse ten elements that introduce the best design of yesterday to your kitchen today.

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Bright Colors


Retro kitchens are distinguished by bright hues—turquoise, tomato red, avocado green. If your struggling to choose colors for your space, be guided by the time period you’re seeking to recreate. After all, different decades favored different palettes. Pick one dominant paint color, then place coordinating accents as highlights throughout the room.

Glass-Front Cabinets


In any kitchen, glass-front cabinets make for a timeless addition. Their appeal is twofold: They possess old-fashioned charm unto themselves, but they also serve as a display space for vintage dishes, glassware, and collectibles. An alternative are solid-wood cabinets, whether they are whitewashed or painted to match the colors of the room.

Related: 14 Reasons to Paint Your Cabinets Today

Playful, Colorful Fabrics


An affordable way to introduce color and pattern to your retro kitchen is with tablecloths, dish towels, and curtains. Opt for convincing reproductions or scour architectural salvage shops, flea markets, and thrift stores for items made during the time period that inspired the design theme of your kitchen.

Period Appliances


Period appliances are a fun touch in a retro kitchen, certain to delight your guests. Homeowners today can purchase new designs that resemble older models, or they can search for refurbished originals. If your budget does not allow for appliances that match the era of the room, opt for simple designs that let other retro details command attention.

Vintage Hardware


Replacing existing hardware with salvaged originals or new products that replicate a nostalgic look is an easy and inexpensive way to bring retro style to any kitchen. Some popular options include polished nickel half-moon drawer pulls and glass cabinet knobs in fun colors like green, yellow, or red.

Laminate Countertops


Although marble, granite, or stone counters are among the most coveted countertop materials in today’s kitchen, homeowners of the past preferred brightly colored, easy-to-clean laminates. Fortunately for anyone looking to revive this style, Formica introduced a line of retro colors and patterns to celebrate their company’s 100th anniversary in 2013.

Pendant Lighting


Pendant lights have been common in kitchens for generations. Finding one that complements the style of your renovation is going to be an important step. Glass shades, like the one pictured here, date back to the early 20th century.

Chrome-and-Vinyl Seating


Chrome chairs (or stools with vinyl seats) are as popular today as they were in the past. These can be found in many hues, from simple black to bold red, to match any room’s color scheme. You can shop around in vintage shops, but many home furnishings stores carry new products that capture the classic style. 

Checkerboard Flooring


Like no other floor type, a checkerboard design works wonders to underscore the retro kitchen theme. Vinyl flooring, ceramic tile, and floor paint are all options for creating such an effect. New squares of linoleum—a mainstay of many yesteryear kitchens—can also be found today in a variety of vibrant hues.

Retro Dinnerware


Positioned in a glass-front cabinet, perched on an open shelf, or laid out on a table, retro-style plates, platters, bowls and cups add an extra dash of eye-catching color. Fiestaware, popular as far back as the 1930s and 1940s, is just one type of nostalgia-steeped dinnerware still in production today.