22 vintage kitchen ideas you don’t see much anymore

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Vintage kitchen ideas
When you look back at photos of old-fashioned kitchens from the 1940s to the 1980s, the reason you don’t see certain features anymore is clear. (Retro styles could be described many different ways, but the word “practical” was not always applicable.)

Some other vintage kitchen ideas, though, still seem to make some sense. Sure, the concepts may not have been perfectly executed back then, but maybe there was something more to them that we can see now — beyond the element of kitsch.

Like what? To find out, take a trip back with us to see 22 retro kitchen concepts — from funky fridges to creative cabinetry — that we don’t see much anymore! Whether their relative rarity now is a good thing or a bad thing is really all in the eye of the beholder.

Vintage kitchen ideas you don't see anymore


1. Ovens with lift-up doors

This kitchen range featured oven doors that lifted up and over instead of down. Plus the doors were all glass, so you could easily keep an eye on what was inside.

Vintage kitchen appliances from 1961 - Frigidaire Flair ovens with glass doors that lift up

Here’s the lift-up door from a different angle, and also showing the handy slide-out burners on the range:

Slide up oven doors - Retro kitchens from 1965

2. Pull-out ranges

There were several pull-out cooktops like these in the ’60s — including the one shown above — but this one from Tappan also came with a cutting board along the front. You could use that space when the range was closed, and have it as a bonus work surface when the burners were in use.

Cool retro kitchen features from 1960s - Pull out range with cutting board

8 vintage sixties kitchens with Flair ranges: Pull-out electric stoves and glass oven doors that opened upwards

3. Upper stove/oven controls, plus a bonus warming shelf

This one’s a double: First, just below eye-level controls for both the stove and oven, and then this Tappan electric range also has a built-in warming shelf. Hot stuff!

Cool retro kitchen features from 1970 - Range with a warming shelf

4. The swappable Jenn-Air range

“It offers 5 interchangeable cooktop units. Char-grill, griddle, deep-fry, shish-kebab and spit-roast, all on top of the range.”

1970s Jenn-Air range - Vintage kitchen


5. Trash compactors

Before curbside recycling pickup was a thing, lots and lots of people relied on trash compactors to crush their garbage so it could fit into the trash can or bag.

While the compactor definitely did its job, it only compressed things so far. This ad from 1981 says it “squeezes a week’s trash into one small load,” but that was probably only true of small households. The biggest downside was that the crushing mechanism itself would get smelly.

trash compactor

6. Wall-inset hand mixer

From the late sixties, here’s a mixer tucked into the wall, making it quick and easy to use when it’s time to whip up a cake or some waffles. (The closest thing we could find today is this wall-mounted version.)

Cool retro kitchen features from 1969 - In-wall space-saving mixer


7. A refrigerator with swing-out shelves

This looks like it was a pretty awesome fridge back in 1960. Look at all those swing-out racks and drawers!

Cool retro kitchen features from 1960 - Refrigerator with swing-out shelves

8. Retro refrigerators with lots of different colors & styles

Bored with white, pink and blue appliances? This set of DIY patterned fridges was just one of many that gave homeowners a way to personalize their kitchens.

Refrigerator designs kitchen

9. Make that kitchen unforgettably snazzy

Now here’s taking patterned kitchen decor to the next level.

Wild black and white kitchen and appliances 1968

Crazy, colorful retro kitchens from the ’60s, with bright & bold decorator appliances

10. A two-sided refrigerator that sits on the countertop

“Island refrigerator is brand new — not yet on the market, but holds great promise. It opens from both sides, accessible from two rooms. Freezer components are in handy pull-out drawers, each clearly labeled as to contents. Stylish, modern, and so practical.”

1959 retro kitchen two-sided fridge on countertop

And here it is, as seen from the other side:

Retro two-sided refrigerator from 1959

How to be a perfect ’50s housewife: Love your refrigerator!

11. A wall-mounted fridge

Imagine most of your refrigerated food at eye level — and then you could put in a pantry to hold the canned and boxed food — or dishes — that would normally go in the cabinets in this space.

Cool retro kitchen features from 1956 - Wall-mounted refrigerator

Forget kitchen cabinets – install a wall-mounted refrigerator! (Yes – this was really a thing in the ’50s)

12. Refrigerator supreme

And here’s the super-duper version — the GE Refrigeration Center from 1957. it had 11 cubic feet of fridge-freezer space on the wall, and 5 cubic feet in each of the two roll-out freezers. (“Also features Textolite countertop and storage cabinet with sliding glass doors.”)

Old-fashioned GE vintage refrigeration center - upper and lower fridges for the kitchen


13. Bonus storage below the cabinets

Similar to those shown above, these little cubbies underneath the main cabinetry (shelving with angled sliding doors) were apparently pretty popular in the mid-’50s to mid-’60s.

Bonus under-cabinet storage areas from the 1950s - 1958

This set looks like little cubbies with a shelf on top. Get a little bonus storage in a dead space, but you can still see over it into the next room.

Cool retro kitchen features from 1957 - Bonus storage area

How to be a perfect ’50s housewife: In the kitchen

14. Storage that was functional, not fancy

If your sink isn’t against a wall, there may not be as natural a place to keep your dish soap and sponges. The designers of this kitchen solved that problem by creating a little cupboard with sliding doors, painted or laminated to match the countertops.

Cool retro kitchen features from 1965 - Place to keep your dish soap, sponges etc behind the kitchen sink

15. Pull-out cutting boards

Why did these go away? These pull-out cutting boards used to be standard in many kitchens. They were good for more than actually cutting food — they also offered some extra counter space you could create in an instant, and slide away just as quickly when you were done.

Cool retro kitchen features from 1960 - Pull-out kitchen cutting boards

Glorious vintage designer kitchen remodels (1978)


16. Sinks with a splash of color

Sinks today tend to be either white or stainless steel — but for a while in the ’60s and ’70s, bright and bold enameled sinks were popular. They certainly added a splash of color to a kitchen! There are fancy matte kitchen sinks available today from a few companies — but stainless steel is the most popular finish nowadays.

Here are some of the colors that were available back in 1966 from Kohler: Antique Red, Blueberry, green and yellow.

Cool retro kitchen ideas from 1966 - Colorful kitchen sinks

Bold & brightly-colored kitchen sinks (’60s & ’70s)

17. A sit-down sink from 1954

This Elkay Pace Setter sink looks like it had shallow bowls and a wide stainless steel surface that drained to the sink.

Vintage kitchen ideas with a 1954 Elkay Pace Setter sit-down sink - stainless steel


18. Retro floating kitchen cabinets from 1954

Apart from making the room feel lighter and less cramped, just think about how easy would it be to keep the floors clean if you didn’t have to worry about all the gunk against the cabinet baseboards. Your broom, mop or Roomba could keep it clean without a lot of maneuvering.

Retro floating kitchen cabinets from 1954

Cool retro kitchen features from 1953 - Easy-clean floors from no-base cabinetry

19. Kitchen/dining room pass-throughs

It used to be really easy to get the dishes to and from the dining table — you just put them on the kitchen countertop, and picked them up from the open wall on the dining room side! (The island here was cute, too, even if the stove was maybe a little too close to the eating area.)

Mid-century kitchen in pink with pass-through area - vintage home design

Glam up your home with vintage ’60s kitchen cabinets

And here’s another one squeezed between a freestanding refrigerator and freezer.

scans-mar-1965-bettr-homes 0034

20. Fold-down kitchen countertops from 1951

Tight on storage space? Here’s one solution. While the center sink section stays in place, the two red side pieces fold down when not in use.

Fold-down kitchen countertops from 1951

Pink & yellow kitchens of the fifties

21. Vintage pull-out kitchen storage and countertop from the early 1950s

This secondary storage access you can pull out also offers bonus counter space.

Vintage pull-out kitchen storage and countertop from the early 1950s

22. Angled cabinetry

Yes, it’s a different look, but it also a purpose. One way to create extra space in a small kitchen is to make the cabinets narrower at the bottom — for foot space — but have them normal width at the countertop level.

Retro angled vintage kitchen cabinets from the 1950s

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