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.

  1. 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

  2. Go With the Grain

    1960s wood cabinets


    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

  3. Benchmark Style

    Mid century modern

    Zillow Digs home in New York, NY

    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

  4. Swell Pastels

    Pastel kitchen cabinet


    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

  5. Match Point

    Green kitchen


    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

  6. The Right Light

    Kitchen pendant lighting


    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

  7. Out of the Closet

    Cup and plate rack

    etsy.com via modernarchaeology1

    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

  8. Milk It

    Milk glass bowls

    etsy.com via TwoBeContinued

    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

  9. The Perfect Table

    Vintage kitchen table


    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

  10. Diner Finery

    Checkerboard kitchen floor

    Zillow Digs home in Palm Beach, FL

    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

  11. Contain Yourself

    Vintage kitchen canister

    etsy.com via Twelvetimesmoreteeny

    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

  12. Fabric Finds

    Vintage curtains

    instagram.com via peps_sandstrom

    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

  13. See the House of the Week


    Discover and admire beautiful and innovative home architecture, from grand Victorians to quaint cabins and all the styles in between. Take a look at the latest images and inspiration!