12 Ideas to Steal from Vintage Kitchens

Back when every meal was cooked from scratch and every dish washed by hand, kitchens had to work hard, clean up easily, and keep moods bright through long hours of toil. Life is a whole lot more convenient today, but you can still find tons of inspiration in the practical, cheerful style of old-school kitchens. Here are 12 time-tested ideas to try.

By Debra Immergut | Updated Jun 07, 2016 05:35 PM

Color Your World

Red Vintage Kitchen

Kitchens painted in perky shades such as lemon yellow, turquoise, and cotton-candy pink were wildly popular in mid-century homes. Make a modern nod to this mood-boosting approach by painting a kitchen accent wall in a gorgeous, unexpected hue.

Related: Awesome Accents—17 Ways to Make Any Space Pop with Color


Go With the Grain

Kitchen with Yellow Backsplash

Interior designers of the 1960s often used streamlined wood cabinetry to add texture and warmth to modern rooms. This trick works wonderfully in contemporary kitchens as well—especially when combining lighter woods with bright accents and plenty of natural light.

Related: 9 Simple DIY Ways to Reinvent Your Kitchen Cabinets


Benchmark Style

Midcentury Modern Kitchen

A clever space saver from years gone by, this galley kitchen is efficiently designed for smaller spaces and the island is the perfect spot for family meals. If your layout allows it, equip the benches with hinges to provide hidden storage for board games, table linens, or even homework supplies.

Related: Trending Now—Banquette Seating

Zillow Digs home in New York, NY

Swell Pastels

Pastel Yellow and Blue Kitchen

The easter-egg tones of the 1950s suddenly look fresh again, and colorful appliances are trending as an alternative to ubiquitous stainless steel. For a look that’s both old and new, consider painting your cabinets a pretty, pale color, and accenting with a retro-design dishwasher or fridge that features all the latest tech inside.

Related: 7 Kitchen Trends You Might Regret


Match Point

Green Vintage Appliances

Take the colorful-appliance trend one step further, and spring for the whole color-coordinated set. Even ventilation hoods come in bright tones these days. The green and white color scheme in this kitchen provides visual unity while still adding loads of fun to a practical space.

Related: Going Bold—10 Kitchens That Pop with Color


The Right Light

Kitchen Island with Pastel Stools

Task lighting is key in a kitchen, and that’s why pendant lights have been in fashion for decades. Suspend a few over your countertop to evoke the workaday kitchens of your grandmother’s era—and to shine a spotlight on your own culinary creations.

Related: 7 Ways to Skimp on a Kitchen Renovation


Out of the Closet

Vintage Plate and Cup Rack

Today's trendy and minimalist Euro kitchens are sleek and chic, but there’s something to be said for the no-nonsense approach of old-school cooks who kept their dishware on display. Old-fashioned plate racks and cup hooks make it easy to grab what you need, and give your kitchen a casual, welcoming vibe.

Related: 12 Bite-Size Projects to Rescue Your Tiny Kitchen

etsy.com via modernarchaeology1

Milk It

Milk Glass Bowls

Milk glass might just be the perfect kitchen collectible: it’s cheap, easy to find, adds charm without fussiness, and is a practical workhorse too. Pick up white glass bowls like these for a song, and use them everyday. You can even throw them in the dishwasher.

Related: Over a Dozen Things You Didn't Know You Could Clean in the Dishwasher

etsy.com via TwoBeContinued

The Perfect Table

Yellow and White Kitchen

Back in the day, smart homeowners prided themselves on finding the perfect little dinette set to tuck into a corner so they could brag about their eat-in kitchen. Whether reproduction or vintage, a midcentury-style dinette still fits the bill perfectly for a small space.

Related: 13 Seriously Doable Ways to DIY a Kitchen Table


Diner Finery

Vintage Kitchen with Checkerboard Floor

Take a cue from 1950s diner decor with streamlined chrome-trimmed counter stools. The vinyl and metal are super-durable and easy to clean, and the comfy tops provide an ideal perch for enjoying a donut and a cup of joe.

Related: 10 Total Kitchen Makeovers—and What They Cost

Zillow Digs home in Palm Beach, FL

Contain Yourself

Vintage Kitchen Canisters

No twentieth-century homemaker would be without her set of kitchen canisters close at hand, ready for coffee-making and cookie-baking. Equally practical nowadays, cool vintage canister sets are easy to find online or at thrift stores and flea markets.

Related: 10 Design Essentials for the Perfect Retro Kitchen

etsy.com via Twelvetimesmoreteeny

Fabric Finds

Vintage Window Treatment

For an easy way to add a major dose of charm, hit up flea markets for vintage kitchen textiles, splashed with crazy-colorful prints of flowers and fruit. Hang up some cute cafe curtains, or display a few fabulous tea towels on a rack.

Related: 13 DIY Window Treatments to Dress Up Your Space

instagram.com via peps_sandstrom

Don't Miss!


Get the help you need for the home you want—sign up for the Bob Vila newslettertoday!