The Fifties – the era of drive-in movies, classic American diners and modern living. It was an innovative age whose distinctive interiors style lends itself well to contemporary kitchens. Add a touch of the Fifties American diner and your kitchen will still look modern, but with an individual twist. Nell Darby explores how to give your kitchen a little American Fifties flair.

A key influence for the American diner Fifties-inspired kitchen are lots of pastel or bright coloured formica and chrome accessories. If you want a Fifties diner kitchen, these materials are key. Formica tables and worktops, vinyl flooring, chrome tables and chair legs will all add a vintage feel to the room.

Avoid the more over-the-top Fifties vintage such as fake fur, animal prints or kitsch – unless you’re just going for a touch of it, such as animal print cushions on your kitchen chairs. Too much will only give your room a ‘fancy dress’ look rather than the authentic vintage feel.

tablesAuction sites such as eBay are a good source for Fifties formica kitchen tables in a range of pastel colours. When I was looking, I found an original Fiftieskitchen table in aqua blue with its original chairs – a snip for just £25! I prefer the plain colours, but if you want something more bold, you can also find formica tables with cute floral patterns.

Again, be careful not to mix and match too many patterns. The classic black and white chequerboard vinyl flooring of Fifties diners looks great with a plain table but too busy with a floral patterned one.

Although you can get the odd original Fifties fridge at auction, it might be worth considering a modern alternative. Smeg do great American-style fridges in a range of Fifties-inspired colours – although be warned, they are pricey. However, if you can save money getting the majority of your kitchen second-hand, it might be worth splashing out on this one item.

kitchenWhen it comes to kitchen equipment authenticity is important so you may want to avoid the Fifties-inspired designs popular at the moment. You can find original Fifties designs at auction.

However, as with all vintage electricals, it’s worth getting them checked out by a qualified electrician before you use them. If this seems like too much work, then Dualit offer a good range of Fifties-inspired toasters, blenders and1950s_wurlitzer_juke_box kettles.

My dream retro look would include a genuine American jukebox. Unfortunately, though, these are much in demand and prices are high as a result. An alternative is a Fifties radio, a more affordable way to have music in your kitchen.

Brown Bakelite radios were popular at the time, but I prefer the cream coloured ones as they look cleaner and more modern. However, don’t be tempted to buy a new Fifties-style jukebox. The modern copies don’t look as good as the originals! Another  cheap way to get a musical feel in the kitchen is to find some old vinyl records, frame them and put them on your walls.

So get decorating and remember: using the best of Fifties decor will give your kitchen that vintage look without losing its 21st-century practicality.

3 Responses

  1. Harry & Edna

    Love this article. Simular to what we have been trying to recreate but Its made us understand it is time for a confession.

    All is not as it seems in our 1940 postal district; indeed under the surface of our retro paradise, hidden away is a dark secret.

    In our kitchen, under the sink, hidden by a yellow gingham curtain is a dishwasher. There I have said it, a dishwasher.

    What’s more it does not even look like one of those lovely look-a-like 1950s styled dish washers. It is a big white metal box with modern world written in a big flashing neon light.

    To keep our allusion it is hidden behind a curtain, but it died a few weeks ago. I did think great now I can go and buy one of those 1950s styles dish washers, but that is not really living by the ethics of our ‘make do and mend’ retro lifestyle.

    So a quick search of the internet & it says says the problem could be a stuck lever thingy, solution to disconnect, pull the unit into the middle of the floor, turn the dishwasher upside down, let ½ a gallon of really yuck water pour onto the kitchen floor, turn the right way up and finally re connect.

    Sounds simple, but has taken about 1 ½ hours, partly because we had a little helper, who kept wanting to lick the rancid water, (weird child). But guess what? The dishwasher now works.

    We feel really chuffed, that is the second white appliance I have managed to fix in one year, saving pennies and mother earth says thanks for not chucking that into her.

    Come Christmas entertaining we will have a robot doing our dishes. I guess to keep the 40s allusion and keep people off the track of our hidden secret we could call give the dishwasher a name. How about calling the dishwasher the same name as the cleaning lady in “This happy breed”? Mind you cannot remember her name, have to get the DVD out, No, we don’t have a DVD player honest. I mean I have go to the picture palace and watch the film.

    Harry & Edna

  2. Ulrika / The Freelancer's Fashionblog

    I’ve been waiting for years to get a mint green smeg and this summer my dream will finally come true when I will get a kitchen big enough to suit one. And it will all go in pastel 🙂
    Like Harry & Edna commented above on hiding the dishwasher behind a curtain, I do that too. I think it’s a nice and easy way to hide away what does not suit ones aesthetic eye. (And thumbs up for fixing the dishwasher themselves 🙂