16 vintage Kohler kitchens — and an important kitchen sinks still offered today

Let me take you on a little stroll though kitchen design history from the 1930s though the 1950s — with this terrific series of images from Kohler. Vicki Hafenstein of the media relations team at Kohler is really helpful and responsive, and quickly supplied these vintage kitchen photos and illustrations to help with the etsy.com video. She is also hunting some pink bathroom illustrations for my talk in Charlotte. I really appreciate your help, Vicki!  I also wanted to take this opportunity to remind everyone that Kohler makes two hudee-rimmed porcelain-on-cast-iron sinks still available today — they would be my top choices for a Retro Renovation kitchen. Oh, and have I ever mentioned that when I found my 67 vintage Geneva steel kitchen cabinets, the former cooking-school set also came with four vintage, 42″ wide, double-bowl, hudee-ringed Kohler sinks? One is now installed in my kitchen.

These first three images show old, farmhouse style sinks. I don’t really understand the design evolution of sinks. I am pretty sure they were all heavy cast iron, because that was the dominant metal-making technology. Honestly, these have kind of a “trough” feel to me, I am guessing they are in fact derived from designs originally used on farms. I need to do more research… The design above shows how the sink was not necessarily integrated with the cabinets.

Here we have a little evolution – the sink at least is tucked along the same wall as the cabinets, and it has legs. Look at the deep bowl, which also has a hinged top.

This looks like a bungalow kitchen. You see further integration of the sink into the cabinetry — a clear line in the evolution of “fitted kitchens.”

I love this illustration, which I am guessing comes from the 40s, I’d say. The way the linoleum (probably) counter is fitted to the sink — with that stainless steel strip — is a giveaway that this is an earlier-postwar-era kitchen. Did you know that Kohler also made steel kitchen cabinets at one point? I am pretty sure these are theirs.

This looks to be the same sink as the one above – without the drainboards. Late 40s and early 50s kitchens were much more likely to have built-in banquettes or dinettes and such. Kind of a carryover from bungalows. As kitchen design progressed, it seems we moved to stand-alone dinettes. Maybe this derives from the fact there could be less craftsmanship as housing construction boomed. Bungalows were part of the “arts and crafts” era — a return to hand-made and craftsmanship in a backlash response to mass industrialization during the Victorian era. With the etsy.com handmade movement today, I think we are seeing a bit of this same sentiment.

The same kitchen, perhaps — but in a real-life installation (as opposed to an illustration).

Same kitchen as above, it appears – with Shirley Temple lookalike. Hey, and notice all the mid-century modern geraniums. 🙂

Ahhhh, notice that the sink has “lost” its integrated backsplash, and it’s set into the laminate countertop with its metal hudee ring. More design evolution. It’s like… monkees losing their tails and becoming… human!

We are into the heart of 1950s kitchens now, I think.

Woah, look at this beauty! Early 50s? Honestly, I don’t cook much, BUT it still seems that I am doing dishes all the time. I would REALLY love to have drainboards like this to the left and to the right. So practical for managing the dishes piling up, going through production, then over to drying.

Like this! Except that today, we compost all of our carrot peelings. Right, people?! Obviously, it’s impossible to say because this is a black-and-white photo, but: That sure looks like a colored sink to me. Let’s guess.

This is one of the two images from my collection of vintage Kohler ads. Gorgeous mid-century kitchen, isn’t it?

And this colonial modern Kohler kitchen (also from my collection) — one of my favorites of all time, truly.

Modern! Can anyone give me a date based on the oven?

Finally, I want to remind everyone that Kohler still makes ONE metal-rimmed, cast-iron-on-porcelain kitchen sink available today — The Delafield sink with two bowls. (The single-bowl Bakersfield is discontinued.) The list price from Kohler’s website is shown in the images above — but talk to your local retailers, I bet you can do better. You can see all my product finds to design a mid century kitchen over on my Kitchen Categories.


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  1. Brittan Mitchell says

    I just bought a house built in 1957 in Gainesville, FL. I have the sink above with the drainboards to left and right of sink. Out of all the kitchen bids, only 1 contractor was willing to work around it and build a kitchen that incorporates this giant sink. He’s obviously the one that we are using! I am excited for it!

  2. Kurt Carlson says

    I have two double drain board farmer sinks and a single drain board sink I am trying to move out of my garage. From Cape Cod Massachusetts.

  3. Dottie says

    J am trying to find some one to reporcelian a steel sink from 1950. I have called Independence Porcelain Enamal in Independence MO and Custom Ceramics in Lentberg IL and neither company will call back. Does anyone know of a company that I can call?

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