We’ve decorated our bathrooms and kitchens in a stark white for the last two decades, but we are now starting to see colour creeping back in, which is perfect if you love the vintage look.
In the 1950s the kitchen moved from being a functional space to a social one. Design was now about ergonomics with efficient layouts and labour-saving devices, as well as great colours. The units were always fitted with streamlined continuous worktops in Formica. This was celebrated for its easy to wipe surface and that it could be produced in any colour.
The kitchen-diner was becoming popular, with homes choosing to combine the old dining room with the kitchen to create a larger family area. Chrome-edged tables with matching chairs or elm ones were popular and had one thing in common: a wipeable coloured top.
Gadgets were an essential item with toasters, blenders and ovens all developed in shiny chrome. The most desired item was the washing machine. This saved housewives precious time, as previously they had to hand-wash everything, using a washboard and mangle.
Patterned fabrics and wallpapers were fitted with images of fruit or Parisian scenes. A curtain would often hang in place of a cupboard to hide anything that didn’t need to be seen. Flooring would be patterned vinyl tiles, often with different flooring for the diner area such as parquet.
Get the 1950s look
Get this look by choosing modern cream kitchen units with a coloured worktop such as red or blue. Team this up with the same coloured tiles as the worktop to create a streamline effect. Some modern cabinets have rounded edges which will add to the 1950s feel.
This beautiful lemon kitchen from John Lewis of Hungerford is based on the original English Rose design, this was the “must have” kitchen of the time, produced in the UK out of stockpiled aluminium left over from spitfire manufacturing during the war. It was also the first modular kitchen with a metal frame that could be bolted together easily.
You buy an original on auction sites such as eBay, however, be aware that restoration isn’t for the faint hearted. They will need to be cleaned fully to remove all grease stains, then gently rubbed down ready for a re- spray. This can be done by spray painting or applying a powder coat. However, the best thing to do is take it to a car body sprayer.
Choose a matching (or maybe a contrasting) American-style fridge with rounded edges in candy colours. SMEG also has a great range of white good to match, such as washing machines.
Key 1950s kitchen accessories
Tala Kitchenware: The 1950s love of baking was boosted by Tala kitchenware. They designed practical metal items, such as icing cones, melon scoops, baking trays and the Cook’s Measure. This was a dry measure made from enamelled metal in a cone shape. It was designed with various popular grocery items listed inside with a line that highlighted the weight of the item once the cone was filled.
Pyrex: At the start of the 20th century, the American company, Corning Incorporated, developed a new borosilicate glass which could withstand extreme temperatures. Originally designed to be used in railway lanterns, they soon discovered that this glass would make great bake ware when one of the executive’s wives suggested it. It was branded Pyrex in 1915, a flan dish was launched and by selling licences to other countries to manufacture the material, this became one of the most successful kitchen brands in history.
Homemaker tableware: After almost a decade of plain-coloured china, people fell in love with modern patterned tableware that would become the norm in the 1960s. The most recognisable design was called Homemaker by Ridgeway, with its black and white hand drawn images of fashionable furniture styles aimed at young people setting up home for the first time.
Melamine: Plastic became a kitchen staple in the 1950s due to improved methods of manufacturing. While Tupperware was changing the way, we stored food, melamine crockery was fast overtaking bone china to become the tableware of choice. So much so, that families weren’t just using them for their annual camping trips but also for their monthly dinner parties. Traditional ceramic companies such as Midwinter even designed their own versions.
Where to buy
For true vintage accessories, check out Etsy online or visit a vintage fair or festival. My personal favourites are The Festival of Vintage held in York and The Vintage Home Show. If you want a modern version, visit John Lewis or Tala Cookware.
Kate’s book Style Your Modern Vintage Home is available online and in bookshops now.
Join Kate on her blog www.katebeavis.com
Images: Simon Whitmore for FW Media for Kate’s book Style Your Modern Vintage Home