1950s kitchen at the Wisconsin Historical Society

1950s pink kitchen at the wisconsin historical societyAnother 50s kitchen in a museum. (Last one was saw was aqua, in Massachusetts.) Very fun to read, and another good explanation, “Why pink?”!

1950s Pink Kitchen

Pink kitchen with General Electric appliances and custom built cabinets from a Waukesha, Wisconsin ranch home, c. 1958.
(Museum object #2006.82)

This pink kitchen, with nearly all of its original components, comes from a suburban Waukesha, Wisconsin home and represents the explosion in the demand and consumption of decorative domestic products in the decade from 1955-1965. The kitchen components were installed in the 1958-1959 ranch home built for Everett and Ione Stats in the Seitz Estates, a housing development in southeastern Waukesha.

The Stats’ kitchen consisted of a pink General Electric oven, range and hood, and refrigerator, a pink porcelain sink, as well as custom built cabinets installed on site from plywood, particle board, manufactured drawers, and Formica wood-grain laminate made by Cyanamid. The countertop, with its pink Formica laminate , linoleum floor, pink tile backsplash, and decorative wallpaper completed the kitchen.

In the decade following World War II, a growing American middle class enjoyed both peace and prosperity and took the opportunity to purchase new products for the home after decades of economic depression and war shortages. The following decade saw an even greater economic abundance allowing families to spend money on goods previously considered luxuries. Americans sought a higher quality of life through the consumption of better quality material goods such as decorative kitchens, sleek chrome toasters, and cars with stylish tail fins. Never before had so many Americans possessed the means to acquire such a wide choice of consumer goods.

By the late 1950s, designers began to apply color and styling to everyday, functional items, and American kitchens exhibited rich colors compared to previous appliances. The influx of color was a reaction to the antiseptic white of the previous decades, and it allowed homeowners to coordinate the kitchen with other rooms as well. General Electric first made colored appliances in 1954, and competing manufacturers introduced other colors to American homes such as fern green, buttercup yellow, and lagoon blue. In 1958, the year of the Stats home’s construction, the home appliance journal Electrical Merchandising summed up the demand for pink appliances — “If forced to pick one color as leading this year, most industry men say pink is tops.”

The form and shape of appliances also saw a remarkable change in the decade from 1955-1965. Kitchens were designed as an integrated unit which was, in theory, more appealing to the homemaker. The sleek appearance, flat surfaces, and right angles of the appliances and cabinets gave the impression of a clean, efficient laboratory. Coupled with the increased capabilities and efficiencies of the new appliances, homemakers could enjoy spending large amounts of time in the kitchen tending to family and guests.

The Stats’ affinity for pink décor extended throughout the house. All three bathrooms were finished in a pink palette. The exterior woodwork and garage interior were painted pink. Heather and Jeffrey Hein, who purchased the home from the Stats family in 1994, remodeled the kitchen and bath in 2006. Being historic preservationists, they kept much of the home’s original 1950s stylings in place, and they offered the discarded elements the Wisconsin Historical Society.

As the Baby Boomer generation approaches retirement, everyday objects from the 1950s and 1960s are seen in a different and sometimes nostalgic light, and items – such as a once common pink kitchen – end up in a museum.

[Sources: Hine, Thomas. Populuxe (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1989).]

JEK

Posted on December 14, 2006

http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/museum/artifacts/archives/002547.asp

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Comments

  1. says

    I cant tell you how excited I am to read these fabulous retro posts! Thanks so much for the tips on my pink bathroom. It was one of the reasons I wanted to buy our house. My grandmother had one just like it, with big cabbage rose wallpaper. That was my initial plan, but poor husband begged for no wallpaper. He has a phobia. 🙂

    Can you believe I actually had someone tell me “You know, you can paint that tile.” It’s good to find someone who really appreciates the 50’s.

  2. Femme1 says

    Somehow, somewhere, I’ve got to use this quote:
    “…most industry men say pink is tops.”

    I have to say that the mosaic tiles in the backsplash really float my boat. Just this weekend in my thrift shop wanderings, I found a great little booklet from the 60s about the different things you can do with mosaic tile. It was put out by the manufacturer (which I don’t remember–I’m posting from work) and on the back cover was a sample sheet of all the colors available in 1-inch tiles and the little 1/4-inch tiles like the ones in the backsplash. So many of the samples had splashes of gold in the tiles, too. I wish they were still available! I’ll send Pam a scan of the booklet.

  3. Femme1 says

    Oh yeah, one more thing. The light pink color of these appliances is exactly the shade my grandmother had in her kitchen (stove, fridge, washer and dryer). I’ve always called it carnation pink.

  4. 50sPam says

    oooooo Femme1, I can’t wait for the scans! And yes, I adore the quote, too: “…most industry men say pink is tops.” Can we get that into an episode of Mad Men???? Finally – yes, I think that ‘carnation pink’ is right! I’ve now made a draft post to work on: What are the all the marketing names (and differences) of the pinks and other cool colors we all love? I’ll start the collection as I go through all my multitudes of materials. Everyone: Send your finds: This will be fun!

  5. maddy123 says

    Fun to read. Glad to see others who appreciate the era. Yes, “Most industry men say pink is tops” is perfect for Mad Men!

  6. says

    I love love love your blog!!!!!

    Speaking of 50s house museums, have you heard of the 1950s house in Stowe, Vermont at the Shelburne Museum?

    I have some pics I took of it on Flickr here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/spaceagetiki/2141379737/

    and here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/spaceagetiki/2141379731/in/photostream/

    It is an actual post-war Vermont house typical of the period. The website is here: http://www.shelburnemuseum.org/buildings_and_grounds/detail.php?id=1

  7. Palm Springs Stephan says

    That tile backsplash is to die for! When it comes time to restore my kitchen, I want to put in one just like it. My range-top and built-in wall oven are polished stainless steel, but the metal cabinetry will be pink. And the existing Formica countertops (with stainless steel edges) are “dusty rose,” so a pink backsplash will work. Thanks for the inspiration!

  8. says

    Just love the 50s! Have you seen the Prairie Splendor Farm B&B? Just north of Madison, WI. 50s from floor to ceiling including perfect vintage appliances in the kitchen. Just like Grandma’s house!

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