Any kitchen design ought to be centered around the semi permanent fixtures such as appliances and cabinets. Remember all those regrettable choices of avocado and maroon colored bathroom suites from the 70s? It is also important to have a firm idea of the look and feel you wish to achieve to avoid your kitchen looking like a thrift store back room.
Kitchen Cabinets and Countertops
In most kitchen designs this is the most expensive part so make sure you get this right and build from there. For most people this means wooden cabinets. Choose carefully and consider the overall look of your house. Natural pine or light oak works well in an older house while a dark rosewood may be better for a more contemporary look. We recently bought a house built in 1956 which had been left pretty much unchanged since then. The kitchen cabinets were hand made by the original owner. We replaced the pea green countertops with dark granite and the beaten copper handles with porcelain fittings from Home Depot and the result is stunning.
Major Kitchen Appliances
As with cabinets, your appliances represent a significant cash outlay so choose wisely. Ignore the currently fashionable finishes and stick to the traditional look. We kept the original 1950’s General Electric wall oven and matching Kenmore burners both of which we are slowly restoring to their original condition. Their build quality and classy elegance just can’t be matched. There are several vintage appliance specialists who offer sales, service and restoration. The 1950’s vintage stuff is becoming more expensive but you can still find a full set of quality appliances for considerably less than the modern equivalents.
For retro look kitchens linoleum is making a comeback as an alternative to vinyl but for our traditional kitchen look we wanted something more durable. We decided against any kind of wooden floor as they look best when freshly waxed and polished which is not ideal from a safety angle. It came down to a choice between ceramic tiling and terracotta. We choose the terracotta with a dark grey grout and a light glaze which we hope will prove a little warmer underfoot.
Kitchens generate a lot of heat, humidity and grease so your wall covering choices should reflect this. Wallpaper should be washable, vinyl coated is best. For the areas around the stove we choose a dark grey ceramic which blends with the dark granite countertops and is easy to keep clean. The remaining wall space was simply painted off white to match the appliances.
Avoid over ornate and fussy designs which will prove to be grease magnets. We use two fluorescent lights with diffusers over the cooking and preparation areas and small form lights under the cabinets. The ceiling light is a combination dome and fan which are easy to clean.
Now here you can get creative! Not only can the shelving itself contribute to the look of your traditional kitchen but you fill them with eye catching relics of yesterday. We keep the shelves closest to the actual working areas for things we use daily, spices in matching containers, salt and pepper, plus matching utensils on rows of hooks. It looks good while still being functional. We have a set of antique canning jars and an old kitchen scale with brass weights on an oak shelf just for their ornamental value.
We used red gingham check tiered curtains which are easy to maintain. When they inevitably become dirty or tired looking they go into the washing machine and are back up the same day. Lace curtains are pretty and rustic looking but are not as robust.
To add to the vintage kitchen look we have begun collecting the old fashioned two tone brown stoneware and brown willow pattern crockery. Individual pieces can be picked up at junk stores and yard sales for pennies.
Pots and Pans
Like most people we use modern teflon coated non stick pans which add little to the eye appeal of our kitchen. They live out of sight when not in use unlike the cast iron cookware which stays on display. The skillets and chicken fryer hang from robust straight hooks and the dutch oven sits nicely on the ample windowsill. They look great and you don’t have to break your back trying to get them out of a floor level cabinet!
General Tips on Creating a Traditional Kitchen Look
No matter how hard you try to maintain a traditional look to your kitchen you will almost certainly have to make some concessions to the 21st century, especially in terms of the modern small appliances which save so much time. You can’t hide them as they tend to be used often so the best option is to try to choose a non intrusive color and stick with it. We opted for black and silver which is pretty easy to match and most product lines come in this color.