Some other vintage kitchen design 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 DESIGN IDEAS: HOT STUFF – OVENS & STOVES
1. Ovens with lift-up doors
Here’s a retro favorite! 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.
Here’s the lift-up door from a different angle, and also showing the handy slide-out burners on the range:
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.
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!
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.”
VINTAGE KITCHEN DESIGN IDEAS: THE ALL-AROUND VIBE
5. Step up for your meal! Elevated kitchen-adjacent dining platforms
Dining at ground level wasn’t the mod thing to do in the sixties, so designers created these one-step-high elevated platforms — complete with railings — to complement the kitchen decor.
6. Kitchen carpet, in lots of bold, colorful styles
We don’t know if kitchen carpet was ever considered the most hygienic thing to have in the room full of food and liquids. But it was a big thing back in the sixties and seventies, and featured designs like these.
RETRO KITCHEN FEATURES: SMALL APPLIANCES
7. 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. One of the biggest downsides was that the crushing mechanism itself would get smelly.
8. 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.)
VINTAGE KITCHEN IDEAS: FUNKY FRIDGES & FREEZERS
9. Retro kitchen appliances decor with different colors & patterns
Bored with white, pink and blue appliances? This set of DIY patterned fridges from 1953 was just one of many that gave homeowners a way to personalize their kitchens.
And here’s a look at how the custom refrigerator designs looked in 1965.
“Amana’s Decorator Freezer-plus-Refrigerator. An exciting custom look! Created by Amana craftsmen to tie in with your colors, your plans as no other refrigerator can.
“There are fresh, sunshiny designs, bold designs, sleek sophisticates, too. So many colors, textures and patterns, there has to be one for your kitchen.”
If you wanted to make that kitchen unforgettably snazzy, do this. This was taking patterned kitchen decor to the next level.
10. 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!
11. A two-sided refrigerator that sits on the countertop
Here’s one of several fridge-related vintage kitchen design ideas that really didn’t catch on.
“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.”
And here it is, as seen from the other side:
12. A wall-mounted fridge (or installed in place of upper cabinets)
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.
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.”)
VINTAGE KITCHEN DESIGN IDEAS WITH COOL CABINETS, COUNTERS & STORAGE
13. Bonus storage at the back of the countertops or below the cabinets
Similar to those shown in the pink vintage kitchen design ideas shown just above, these little cubbies underneath the main cabinetry (shelving with angled sliding doors) were apparently pretty popular in the mid-’50s to mid-’60s.
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.
Here’s another idea for pushed-back storage! If your sink isn’t against a wall, there may not be as natural a place to keep your dish soap and sponges.
The folks behind this vintage kitchen design solved that problem by creating a little cupboard with sliding doors, painted or laminated to match the countertops.
14. Pull-out cutting boards were super-handy
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.
VINTAGE KITCHEN DESIGN IDEAS: NOT EVERYTHING, JUST THE KITCHEN SINKS
15. 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.
16. A sit-down kitchen 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 DESIGNS: CLASSIC CABINETRY
17. Vintage kitchen design ideas: Retro floating kitchen cabinets
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. (The decor seen here is from the fifties.)
18. 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.)
And here’s another one squeezed between a freestanding refrigerator and freezer.
19. 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.
20. Vintage pull-out kitchen storage and countertop from the early 1950s
This secondary storage access you can pull out also offers bonus counter space.
This family has cookies cooling all over the place! (We also love the super-retro starburst cabinet door handles.)
21. Angled cabinetry in vintage kitchen designs
Yes, compared to a lot of the other vintage kitchen design ideas featured here, 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.
22. Vintage kitchen design ideas: Curved countertop peninsulas
If you don’t like the angles shown above, what about going around the problem? Many of these retro rounded-off counters included open shelving below, as you can see in these pictures featuring this very popular interior design style from the 1940s and early 1950s.
NOW SEE THIS: Six wonderful, workable kitchen designs from the ’60s