Can 1940s kitchen cabinets mix with a 1960s refrigerator, Laura asks

Laura writes in to ask a perennial question: Is it all right to mix and match mid century eras? Readers — What do you think?

Laura writes:

Pam – I’m at my wits end re: what to do in my kitchen. Over the last 18 months, I’ve collected all the fabulous Morton cabinets I need.

I LOVE the curves on both the uppers and lowers – to me, they really evoke the cozy 50’s look that resonates with me. I also acquired a great ’54 GE combination two-door refrigerator/freezer in beautiful condition, but unfortunately it does not cool and I can’t find a repair service inside 1,000 miles. These cabinets and this fridge are a perfect combination, but with the fridge not working I had to keep looking for something comparable.

vintage-ge-refrigeratorsJust last weekend I snapped up a great 1957 GE brown fridge with the revolving shelves I love, but it is a much sleeker design with very straight edges. After a little more research I realized that it is one of those that blends right in with the cabinets – it’s only 24 inches deep. It works great and the features are amazing – pull out bottom freezer drawer, rotating fruit & veggie bins, butter keeper, etc…..but the style doesn’t fit with my cabinets!!! I’m really torn, because I love them both, but combining them just feels very awkward.

I’m using the brown fridge now and sold the (non-functioning) white 1954-55 GE Combination to a fellow vintage-lover with a good friend in the refrigeration business.  I love the features of the mid–mod brown fridge (1957) but feel it just doesn’t fit the early- to mid-50’s era look that I long to recreate. And mostly, both the cabinets and the fridge make great individual “statements”, but combining them sort of diminishes both, if you get my drift. To really do justice to that fridge, though, I would need to trade in my Mortons and get a set with flat fronts and go for the built-in look with soffits and everything.  If the Retro Gods would bring me a left-hinged early-50’s fridge with lazy-susan shelves, I’d snap it up and sell the brown fridge, but it seems those left-hinged ones are about one in a hundred, or thousands of miles away….no luck so far.

I suppose I’ll have to choose between them, but which to give up (and find more appropriate versions of), and which to keep?!?!   So, the question is….is it possible to live in two different eras in the same kitchen??? If you have time to consider my conundrum, I’d really appreciate your advice…. and I’d LOVE for you to post it and draw on all that creative energy from your readers.  I drool over the photos of the gorgeous vintage COORDINATED kitchens on this site. I don’t want my own kitchen to fall short if I can help it.

“I’m at my wit’s end…” Yup. That’s where Retro Renovating gets us all, at one point or another, Laura. So happy you wrote in. I love your question, because it underscores that there were numerous waves of “mid century” and “mid century modern.” Not one look, but a variety of looks that evolved over the “mid century era,” which most historians bookend from 1946-1963. In fact, your Mortons, I’d say, are quintessentially late-1940s… while your fridge is quintessential early 60s (the GE experts on this site — Patrick? — will know right away.) So, your question neatly juxtaposes “the beginning” and “the end”. Oh and Laura: 18 months to collect your cabinets? A vintage stove (Chambers?) in the pickup truck? YOU GO, GIRL!

Readers: What do you think?

Matchy matchy mid mod? Or mix and match mid mod mad? I’ll pipe in tomorrow after reading your comments — which always give me new things to think about!


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  1. Jim says

    The truth is someone who spent 18 months looking for round cabinets is never going to be completely happy with a square fridge. And there’s no point in thinking you’re going to replace the cabinets; they’re flawless!
    So all you can do is make due with the refrigerator you have until a better one pops up. If you’re not a vintage purist you might want to check out the many reproduction refrigerators on the market. There’s Big Chill Fridge, Smeg Fridge, Northstar Retro Refrigerator, and I’m sure several more. Just google retro fridge new or refurbished 50’s fridge or something like that. I’m sure you’ll find something you like.

    • pam kueber says

      + I’ve identified many of the retro style refrigerators — see my category: Kitchens / Appliances

  2. Jana (Berniecat) says

    I agree with the comments about the cabinets — KEEP THEM! Be pragmatic and keep the architectural and decorative styled items that you invested the most time and money into and that have your highest level of emotional attachment. Hmmm… cabinets or fridge? I think the cabinets win that one hands down!. That is certainly where your heart is. They are beautiful! I especially like Gavin’s suggestion – choose a general approach to the design. You already have told us that the early 50’s style of the cabinets appeals most to you… so go with that. Mix and match around that idea. I think that a lot of us boomers grew up in homes that were some kind of hodge podge of different styles and decades because our parents (who were Depression era kids) never threw anything away until it lost its usefulness. As long as you have an idea about the time (late 40’s early 50″s) that will be the style influence that ties everything together. For now, I vote for the suggestions to strip off the brown paint from the fridge, and go with white. That seems to be the most thrifty approach – then be patient & keep looking for a replacement fridge that fits the earlier decade style. I am confident that the vintage fridge gods will smile upon you! 🙂

  3. Jana (Berniecat) says

    Hi Laura,
    Just a quick P.S. With the fridge – don’t settle for anything less than exactly what you want. It may seem like it takes forever, but remember the retro renovating equation:
    PATIENCE + PERSISTENCE = PERFECT PAYOFF (in finding exactly what you want)

  4. Katie says

    The cabinets will be there longer than the fridge, so that should be your focus. I think that the color is more of an issue than the lines, so if the brown is paint, strip it off. I think mixing eras is fine, to me, a house with early ’50s cabinets and late ’50s applicances looks more ‘real’, than a house that looks like a 1952 decorator magazine.

  5. Alex says

    I am more a purist when it comes to kitchens, i would love to see a late forties early fifties fridge and range. Although the brown one is cool, it doesn’t do it for me. It would be like mixing peanut butter and strawberries, they’re good alone, but something is just off when they’re together.

  6. Jim says

    There’s a white 50’s left handed refrigerator up for auction on ebay, Starting price $80 and the owner says it was barely used. Auction ends 5/24. It’s in Ohio, local pickup. Search “50’s refrigerator”. If you like it but can’t pick it up, you can have a freight company pick it up for you. I don’t know what that costs.

  7. Patrick Coffey says

    I trhink you need to find a pre 1957 white fridge with the softer rounder corners as the crisp lines of the fridge look very out of place with the round counters. I also think the 1957 GE should NOT be painted as Woodtone Brown (the colors proper name) is somewhat rare…oh and folks this is not the same shade of brown as the coppertone that came out in the early 60’s that color is much darker.

  8. John Taylor says

    I love your cabinets and certainly appreciate the Coopertone Refrigerator, as well. Craigslist seems to be an ideal life savor for many of us. Make an ad and tell the community what you are looking for and more than likely you will find what you need. Good Luck. I am on a crusade now to get my Kitchen to the Turquoise stage. JT

  9. lauramoon says

    HEY EVERYBODY……. apparently the Retro Gods read Pam’s blog because, miracle of miracles, they just brought me my DREAM FRIDGE!!! See:
    This is the exact model of the white one I sold, but it opens on the right, just like I need! Plus it’s fully functional – a definite plus. I’m picking her up tomorrow. Conundrum resolved!!! THANKS SO MUCH FOR ALL YOUR COMMENTS AND POSITIVE ENERGY!!!! I don’t know if I’ll even be able to sleep tonight!!

      • lauramoon says

        The paint IS a nice color, but the job was poorly done, so it truly does need stripping. I promised the guy who bought my other one he could have first-dibs on this one if/when I sell it, so if he passes, I’ll be posting it on CL soon and will also post in the forum.
        Thanks again, everyone, for all your input….I’m glad my issue was resolved so quickly and I’m sure the advice will benefit many others in our mid-mod community!!!

    • Amy in Sacramento, CA says

      CONGRATS!!! Good things come to those who wait, it seems! 🙂 Can’t wait to see the pics of your gorgeous finished kitchen space.
      Retro remodel on, girlfriend! 😉

  10. gsciencechick says

    Wow, congrats on getting the one you want/need! How exciting!

    I love the older fridges, but we wound up getting a Big Chill. It makes me smile every day.

  11. Chris says

    Wow!! What a great problem to have!! I think,if done very carefully you could mix era’s . . .but again, very carefully and most likely not in areas that might be so obvious, as pictured here. Great finds though! Can’t wait to see how it turns out!!

  12. says

    Obviously, the cabinets are perfection & collecting them was a labor of love. I think mixing can work just fine, as long as you keep the look cohesive. Everyone is right about the auto body shop. You should be able to get the fridge repainted on a pretty small budget & since they use a commercial sprayer, the coverage will be wonderful. I am betting that the previous owner did something similar (years ago, of course) if the coverage was nice enough that even your sharp eye didn’t notice it had been repainted. I don’t, however, think I would leave the fridge white. Your original fridge was fantastic in white but I feel like this more modern, streamlined style would like any other boring old fridge in white. If the red countertops are what you will be using, I would personally take a cue from Pam & have the fridge painted aqua. That would make for a lovely and appropriate color scheme!

  13. Danny says


    You mind if I inquire as too the value of the 1954 GE combination fridge that you sold? I have one in working condition that I’ve been using since 1993 when I bought my house. I have always wondered if it had any value if I were to replace it.

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