How to embrace retro style in your kitchen

Old kitchens are full of character but can lack modern functionality. Fi shows us how to enjoy retro style and make the best of dated decor

How to embrace retro style in your kitchen

A few of us here at YH&G have vintage kitchens, and not entirely by choice. A cramped kitchen with small, awkwardly placed cupboards and drawers often comes with the territory of an older home, and while the aesthetic can be cool, it’s not usually the most practical of spaces.

I love the quirky features that characterise kitchens dating from the 1930s to the 1970s (breakfast nooks, serving hatches and built-in, slide-out chopping boards, for example), but a spacious pantry is one modern innovation I’m happy to succumb to. Many of my larger plates, platters and appliances don’t even fit in my tiny cupboards. If you’re really lucky, your older kitchen will have a walk-in pantry.

We do have the 1950s to thank for many design elements that have become kitchen staples, such as prefabricated cabinetry, built-in appliances (like ovens and dishwashers) and suspended cabinets. Open-plan kitchens and living/dining spaces, as well as kitchen islands and peninsulas to gather and eat around, were also first introduced in the 1950s, although they weren’t popularised until the 1960s and 1970s.

If you’re renting, not yet ready to renovate or just like the vintage vibe, the tips below will help make your older kitchen work. On the flip side, you may have a modern kitchen that you want to add a vintage touch to, through accessories or a change of colour palette. If you’re renovating an old kitchen or building new, you can still reference an earlier era through colour and hardware, while opting for modern materials and storage solutions.

How to make an older kitchen work

  • Simplicity is key with a busy kitchen that features lots of cabinets – the less clutter you have on your bench the better.
  • You will also need to organise your appliances, pots, pans and crockery to ensure cupboards aren’t too cluttered.
  • If you need more storage space, upcycle a sideboard or cabinet to store special-occasion glassware and crockery – if your kitchen is too small you could keep this in the living room, dining room or entryway.
  • A simple coat of paint or new handles can help cupboards look fresher and brighter.

How to bring vintage flair to a modern kitchen

  • Look to surfaces such as Formica, linoleum and melamine when renovating.
  • Try out vintage colours such as mustard, orange, red or avocado as accents.
  • Hunt for retro appliances or accessories including blenders, kitchen scales, stools, fridges, doorknobs, tapware and light fittings and switches.
  • Display some vintage storage canisters, crockery or glassware on open shelving.
  • Retro stools in cane or steel would look good if you have a breakfast bar.

Words by: Fiona Ralph.

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