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.

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Color Your World


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


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

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

Swell Pastels


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


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


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

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

Milk It

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

The Perfect 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

Diner Finery

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

Contain Yourself

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

Fabric Finds

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