Decorating a retro kitchen is an easy and economical way to give your kitchen a bright and cheery look. Most families spend quite a bit of time in the kitchen and you’ll want a warm and inviting room that is pleasant to be in.
The first thing you will need to do is decide on your color(s) or a theme. Retro colors can be deep or pastel. Adding them all together will give you a headache from the visual clutter but you can add different tones and contrasting colors for a unique look. But remember that many kitchens of the time may have had a yellow (or other color) theme but that did not mean that every item was yellow. Some popular colors and combinations are:
Blue and White
Blue and Green
Aqua and White
Aqua and Yellow
Red and White
Red and Black
Red and Yellow
Yellow and White
Yellow and Black
Pink and Black/Gray
Popular themes include: roosters, cherries, apples, strawberries, pineapples, cows, pigs, and flowers. Or you may want to go with another theme such as teapots.
Paint is a good inexpensive way to immediately add color but if your walls are white or a neutral color, you may want to leave them as is and add accents in your color theme. Vintage kitchen curtains add a wallop of charm with little effort. If you can sew, use a vintage sheet to make your curtains. Add some vintage tea towels or a tablecloth on your breakfast table.
Next, add your accessories. Vintage canisters and salt and pepper shakers, and a retro wall clock will add the finishing touches. From there, you can add other vintage and retro small kitchen appliances, dishes, a telephone, and other unique items such as wall hangings. Vintage utensils or gelatin molds can be hung on the wall for a unique display. Hang a vintage apron matching your colors or theme on your pantry door for a quick and inexpensive way to give visual impact. Cloth calendars in the year you were born, got married, had a child or other special event will add to the warm feeling in your kitchen.
If you have wall space, hang some sturdy but decorative shelving to display your collectibles that aren’t for use. Many vintage appliances and utensils were built to last and can still be used safely today but you may want to use more rare pieces for display only. You can buy vintage toy kitchen appliances to display on a shelf for a great conversation piece.
You may also want to start collecting vintage dishes. Choose a maker and pattern and then keep your eye out until you can gather all the pieces you need. Drugstore dishes from the 40s/50s/60s can still be found at fair prices, although jadite and some others are getting sky high. Anchor Hocking’s Fire King division made many different patterns that were sold in drugstores and grocery stores and used for promotion with brand name foods. You may remember seeing these dishes in your grandmother’s or mother’s kitchen and you can still find pieces at reasonable prices. Melamine dishes are so retro and still can be found fairly cheap.
If you are a DIY person, you can take the doors off some of your cabinets. Leave some open to display retro kitchenware and others can have inexpensive plexiglass doors. Painting cabinets is another inexpensive way to brighten your kitchen and give it a retro look. Choose light colors if your kitchen doesn’t have many windows or light.
I am one who can’t compromise on light in a kitchen. You can replace lighting with more retro fixtures but you can also just buy a retro goose neck table lamp and place it on the counter. You can adjust it to light which area you are working in.
Vintage signs are high but you can find reproductions at a low cost. I love a sign I found at Bealls that says Homegrown Beans 10 cents and has little green beans hanging from it. The sign was under $10. If you’re crafty, make your own. You can use your scanner to reproduce a sign or vintage ad and then decoupage it on wood.
Bargains can be found at flea markets and garage sales. It may take some time and energy to find what you’re looking for but the “hunt” can be half the fun. Or you can search online for pieces to complete your kitchen. Many good bargains are still available. The wonderful thing about kitchen collectibles, is that they continue to rise in price as they leave the market. In 10 years, your kitchen collectibles may be worth much, much more than your investment.
New flooring is expensive but you can add rag rugs and other vintage look-alikes from most discount stores.
If you have room, try to add some seating so that family and guests can hang out while you’re cooking. An island with bar stools is great. Other ideas are old wicker chairs that you repaint yourself and add a comfy cushion or a retro stool. Even an old ice cream parlor chair with a cushion will work.
Try to incorporate vintage or retro items for different uses. An old Pyrex small refrigerator dish that is missing a lid or has a small chip can be used to hold scouring pads or a bar of soap. Found a retro canister but it’s a single? Use it to store Kool-aid packs or packages of gravy/sauce mixes, hot chocolate, or oatmeal.
Once you start using your imagination, you can many ways to incorporate a vintage look into your kitchen. Most people have fond memories of meals or baked goods their mother or grandma made. You can create new memories for your own family and still keep the old ones.
To view some popular kitchen collectibles at reasonable prices, please visit my ebay store (I’ll be adding much more soon) or Yesterday‘s Kitchens and Collectibles also online (see my About Me page for the link):