1980s Provence style kitchen with apothecary drawers – 13 photos

apothecary drawerI think this is the first story on the blog truly celebrating something that is 1980s style — which is not always and oxymoron. At this weekend’s Berkshire’s estate sale of the year, it was love at first site for this 1980s kitchen that Dear Husband (DH) and I are guessing is what was part of the 80s megetrend of Provence style kitchens. In particular: adoration goes to the random incorporation of week-front base cabinet drawers decorated to mimic antique apothecary drawers. Okay, someone correct me if this is 1970s, or 1990s style, or if it’s not Provence, or if it’s not apothecary…  Timeline notwithstanding, Rose Pink et.al. by any other name would smell as sweet. Click on through for 12 more photos –>

1980s kitchen provence styleJust to get you situated, here is a longer angle on the kitchen. As you can see, the cabinets are basic white wood, slab door style. The backsplash are what I’d normally call a Delft style tile, but I think this also was considered French: Provence, Provencal, provincial — I thinks these terms are all considered one in the same and mean “from the region of Provence” but even more generically, “from the country-side. Of course, we see French Provincial style a lot throughout the 1960s. The Provence style kitchen were all the rage in the 80s and 90s. HELP! Am I right with this timeline?

apothecary drawers in a 1980s kitchenSame drawer (it’s one, not three) as in the first photo. In a followup visit to this estate, I discovered that the wood countertop above this drawer hinged upward from the back — so, if you wanted to get into the drawer directly from adjacent countertop, you could. I don’t know why you’d want to design it this way, but it was cool nonetheless.

apothecary drawer in a provence style kitchen

I think the simplicity of this kitchen is just wonderful. These drawers are an inspiration.

French apothecary drawers in a provence style kitchen
Who speaks French? What are the translations? Any wood experts out there? What is the wood – cherry?

The patina of the drawers is just lovely. Keep your patina, peoples!

apothecary drawersDetail shot so you can see the apothecary drawers are affixed to the base cabinet drawer/box. I kind of wonder if the drawer fronts are true antiques. This was the house of extremely wealthy people. They had beautiful, eclectic, well-traveled taste. They could easily have devised this.

hinges on 1980s kitchen cabinetsI tried to get a shot of the hinges on the base cabinet drawers. I think you call these “piano hinges.” It could well be there were custom made on site?

More construction detail. What do you think? Custom made?

apothecary drawersIf these drawer fronts were salvaged for an antique apothecary cabinet, then these narrower drawers would be have been on the upper part of the original cabinet…

stainless steel sink in a 1980s kitchenI don’t recall ever seeing this style of stainless steel sink – but then, I haven’t gone to look for it. It fills the space from the front apron all the way to the backsplash… and is integrated flat with the laminate countertops. Hmmm. I still think that if you’re going to go stainless — and to be sure, if you have this kind of room — get one with a drainboard, or two.

sub zero refrigerator in a 1980s kitchenSub Zero, doing its thing in the ’80s, same as today.  I have the side-by-side Sub Zero — pretty much the identical same styling cues, and the same appliance white color as this vintage model — in my kitchen. Today, these things cost as much as a used car. In fact, I chose to put off replacing my clunker for a few years so I could splurge on my fridge. See more vintage Sub Zero advertising here.

jenn-air range top

They had a Jenn-Air range top. The built-in double oven was Thermador. Sorry I did not take even more photos of this lovely space. I have to admit, my head was spinning with all the estate sale frenzy going on around me.


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  1. daniel says

    i love the apothecary style drawers, there are antique cabinets that have up to 20 of these. what i don’t love is combining three drawers into one so it’s a façade— shopping around for furniture in the past 10 years i have found hundreds of these supposed reproduction shelves that appear to have many drawers from first sight, but on further inspection only have a couple. i really don’t see the point in this— lots of drawers are great for organization— if you want one big drawer, just get one big drawer that looks like a big drawer.

    i think it’s part of a general trend over the last maybe 20 or so years to have things that look real but are fake— it’s to the extent that we don’t even think about it anymore. fake dormer windows, brick facades and plastic siding on houses are an example— i’ve seen this on new $800,000 houses around where i live, so it’s obviously not a price issue. it’s some weird cutesy thing… why not have the real thing?

    the “shutters” everyone has on their house these days are another thing— take a look outside at the windows on your house, they have these wood things glued to the wall next to them, right? those actually served a purpose at one time, they closed the window. i just don’t get it, if you’re not going to have shutters, don’t have shutters!

    • Olivia says

      I feel the same way about shutters. My neighborhood is full of shutters on window that are too big or there are two small window next to each other and one shutter on the outside edge of each. So each window gets one shutter? Weird.

      I don’t like the combo white wood with the small wood color drawers. They look out of place. Ditto the piano hinges. It all looks very slap dash.

      • Sally J says

        Olivia, you’re a girl after my own heart! I HATE all the fake stuff that people are so easily sold on! Too many people don’t bother to do their own, unbiased, research before plunking their hard earned cash for plastic windows, siding, fencing, etc. Nothing lasts “forever,” despite what all the salesmen tell you. This definitely includes plastic,

  2. Kate H says

    My grandmother redid her kitchen in this style in either 1985 or ’86. She lived in Dallas, where FP never really died out. Wood floors, blue stained cabinets (woodgrain showed through), tiled backsplash, corian countertops, small-print apricot wallpaper.

  3. Melanie says

    Just looking at the contruction of the cabinets and the age of the frig, I’d say that kitchen goes back to the 70’s at least. Those “apothecary” drawers and the tile were probably added much later.

    I’m with Daniel on not liking the fake drawer fronts that Look like several drawers but are just one.

    Yes, those are piano hinges on the doors. To me those cabinets look more “homemade” than custom made.

  4. Just another Pam says

    Interesting kitchen for sure. The piano hinges are very odd indeed but the interior shot suggests stock boxes as a high end custom job around here anyway would include sleeves in each shelf hole to protect the wood which, for that matter, these don’t appear to be either.

    Some of the drawers look like they were white and stripped, others look like white was put over the brass and wiped off….it’s very odd. Rose Pink isn’t French and Henry is usually Henri and wouldn’t real apothecary drawers be in Latin? Could this have something to do with horticulture? Whatever the case may be they are stand alone sweet.

    Love the wood and the brass as well as the appliances but it looks like a job done by an amateur who really should have at the very least made the cupboard doors wood and not laminate or painted the drawers white leaving only the brass natural. Your kitchen, for example, leaves this one in the dust.

  5. Just another Pam says

    Oh, from what I can see in the photos the wood is too open grained to be cherry, maybe mahogany or teak or, maybe, ramin? If the latter they could be something from the Asian market in, say, the past 10 to 20 years. They did some crazy good reproductions that were very expensive even though a lot of them split when they came to live in our dry air houses which might explain why just drawer fronts survived.

  6. pam kueber says

    Hey, everyone, please remember the #1 rule of commenting on the blog: No One Can Be Made To Feel Bad For Their Choices.

    SOMEONE LOVED this kitchen. Heck – I love it. Please be kind in your comments.

    • daniel says

      oh, i don’t hate the kitchen by any means, i think it’s nice. i just used the cabinets as a jumping off point for a (mostly) unrelated rant… guess i shouldn’t have done that! the french influence in this kitchen is very apparent and it reminds me of kitchens when i was growing up (i’m showing my younger age here).

  7. says

    I think the tile style is regarded as “pas de calais”. French country kitchens really became popular with the introduction of Julia Child’s cooking show The French Chef on PBS in the 60’s. The wood was usually just referred to as “fruitwood”.

    The style of cabinets look more home made 70’s. When I think 80’s cabinets I think of white melamine with the band of oak at the tops as full length pulls. When I redid my kitchen in the early 90’s the technology for invisible hinges was only beginning and was over the top expensive. Maybe that’s why they used the piano hinges.

    • pam kueber says

      Thanks, Bill! “Pas de Calais” — how cool to know that! And yes: Fruitwood, that sounds right! Also interesting to hear about the advent of the technology for invisible hinges!

    • Just another Pam says

      Hi Bill,

      Invisible or European hinges were a product of the 50’s/60/s in Europe though I’d bet Ikea gets a lot of the credit for helping them spread through North America. My parents were amazed by them when we first moved to Germany in the early 60’s but I didn’t see them again ’til Ikea came into my life in the early ’80’s. Still find them hard to adjust but that could just be me…maybe?

      • says

        Yes, I should have said American technology. The European hinges were very expensive at the time. I had to settle for “knife hinges” which had little slits cut into the frame of the door so only a tiny bit of hinge was visible.

  8. Holley says

    Variety is the sPiCe Of LiFe don’t cha know! It’s still fun to look at even if it isn’t always our favorite! Thanks for the great photos, information and blasts from the past! Always fascinating stuff!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! No complaints here!!!!

  9. Joe says

    I’m all too familiar with this “style” (Country French). I’ve helped hundreds of people design new kitchens over the past 25 years. If you subscribed to magazines such as Country Living, Bon Appetit and Gourmet back in the 1980’s, this was the new look being touted for country-style kitchens. As a matter of fact, I remember that Kitchenaid dishwasher and Sub-Zero refrigerator in tons a magazine ads back in 1988-92; each manufacturer placed them in kitchens styled VERY similar to the one here. The all-white was a kind of backlash from the dark wood, fake brick/stone, wicker and earthtones of the 1970’s, and ultra-slick hard-edged contemporary look of the early 1980’s. This lasted from about 1986 thru 1992 at the latest. Everything in that kitchen, including the appliances, are from that massive remodel. Those apothecary drawers are not antique; they were repros readily available from any woodworking supply house. The tilt-up wood counter board was intended to be a pastry-making center; underneath was for storing bulky pastry tools and assorted rolling pins (some people used it as a chef prep cutting board with knife storage below). This was a gourmet high-end look for people who either LOVED to cook OR wanted to give the ILLUSION that they cooked. What really hurts THIS particular kitchen is the use of cheap box-store piano hinges for the cabinet doors; they are definitely NOT designed to function as door hinges. What happened here was a so-called contractor (be it licensed or weekend DIY) either wanted to finish the job fast or lacked the skills to install proper “hidden” cabinet hinges and hardware onto prefab cabinet base structures. A nicer and more appropriate door-front would have been beadboard or distressed planking with antique brass hinges and hardware. It’s just a bad contrast between the top-of-the-line appliances and cheap cabinetry.

    • pam kueber says

      Thanks, Joseph, for the primer! The cabinets were in terrific shape — nothing falling apart or splitting as far as I could tell… Looked nice in place!

    • JamieK says

      Joe, thanks for sharing so much of that knowledge! The pastry area is so interesting to me….although it would be unused in my kitchen, LOL. Pam a quick google search for some of the words came back with a myriad of links that definitely should have been censored! haha, so not sure which language it is. I think the kitchen is interesting, even if my tastes fall into the 1940s era, it’s a very interesting mixture of functionality. I can imagine being lost wandering through an estate sale and then checking out all the items and spaces….sounds like a great way to spend a weekend!! Thanks for sharing.

  10. Jay says

    Interesting! How old is the house? The kitchen has a certain retro look from the 60’s that was maybe “updated” in the 8o’s by the homeowner himself. It is interesting and it’s a big kitchen. The sink is unusual, maybe european and designed to sit flush with stone countertops. Thanks for sharing!

    • pam kueber says

      The house was quite old — circa 1890s maybe even. A fascinating home, a labyrinth of additions, with lots of time frames represented, as we often see up here in New England. It is an “estate” home — doubtful the homeowner did it himself. But I do think it is Very Interesting to assume that even though the house was “high end” it did not mean everything was constantly updated. It was a country house. Comfy and inside, quite unpretentious, in my view. The owners seemed to have eclectic, original, well-traveled taste. It was a joy to share a bit of their world.

      • Jay says

        How interesting, I think the decor photos from your earlier post have put the house in a definite 70’s / 80’s time warp. I think the kitchen shows a real New England Yankee thriftiness and that the owners were not trying to impress anyone. The money was spent on items that mattered to them – the appliances.

  11. Michelle Rice Sarma says

    The Provence style kitchen was definitely a 1980’s trend. I had one in my first home and I loved it! We had a Jenn-Air range similar to the one shown. Custom cabinetry in oak with lots of built-ins and open shelving. I had a porcelain double sink in front of a window with a deep sill. I grew herbs there. The best part was the entire kitchen (counter tops and backsplashes) was tiled in white and cobalt blue with fruit and vegetable motifs. Each fruit/vegetable tile was unique. All I had to do upon moving in was hang a blue toile valance above the window and paint the walls a soft apricot. I still miss that kitchen. I’m now living with (sigh) 21st century modern. Depressing!

    • Joe says

      Sure sounds like you had a real nice kitchen! Let’s hope the subsequent owner appreciated what you left them. You have my deepest sympathy for being burdened with an up-to-the-minute-style (translation: BORING) kitchen.

  12. says

    A very interesting kitchen, Pam. I agree with Jay that the sink is likely European, and I really like it! The tile is simple and unassuming. I think at least one of these people was a real cook and loved using her/his specially-designed kitchen. At about the same time this kitchen was probably refitted, my parents redesigned their kitchen for maximum cooking. My dad, especially, was all over Julia Child and French cooking. He was pretty good, too!

  13. Francesca says

    The writing on the drawers is not French. The way it is abbreviated looks a bit like Latin, or if Joe is correct and they are off the shelf reproductions, possibly made up words designed to look like Latin.

    • Joe says

      Let’s hope they’re NOT made-up words! With all the different language variations out there, a homeowner could really be treading on thin ice. Talk about “awkward moment” potential at dinner parties! 🙂

  14. Marion Powell says

    I’m pleased you like this kitchen with the provence or delft backsplash. I had my wallpapered backsplash changed to blue and white delft tiles back in the fall.

    The salesperson at the fancy tile store where I bought the round tiles as well as the borders and the over the stove tile picture said she had never sold any of these tiles. She said everyone wants the stone look now. That’s true but I like my own style. However, it’s nice to know there are others who would appreciate my choices.

    • Joe says

      Congratulations! It’s nice to know there are still people out there who consider real style to be what THEY like, not what others are telling them they “have to have”. This entire wood cabinets / laminate flooring / granite countertop / stainless steel appliances / greige colors “style” we’ve been force-fed is awful (and you KNOW that 5 years from now, these same TV shows will be tearing all this stuff out to worship something new). No one seems to celebrate individual taste anymore.

      • Just another Pam says

        The question for me is what will they do with the millions of tons of granite? Hopefully someone will come up with something clever and stylin’ outside of tombstones. Oh my.

        • pam kueber says

          Granite countertops can be lovely and no doubt, durable. I totally understand why a homeowner would choose them. My goal is to show here that it’s just fine, too, to choose laminate – or to keep what you have in place if it’s in good shape. We’re gonna catch more flies with honey, as they say…

          • Just another Pam says

            My first choice would be laminate though after a multiple month unbelievable series of unfortunate events I went with concrete. I really like it as I live alone but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it for a family. Not to say a family couldn’t be happy with it but it would have driven me mad when I had one.

            I read an article once about how many people decorate their home for resale even when they do no intent to sell so I think everyone should do what makes them happy and if other people don’t care for it, c’est la vie. I forgot that in parts of my reno and regret it.

            • Patty says

              I think some people justify spending big money on their kitchens by say ing they are dong it for resale value. It’s their money, they don’t have to answer or justify spending the money to anyone. Do what you like because it will all go out of style some day any way.

  15. Char says

    Martha Stewart was big into this style, although on a much more sweeping and total level. If you go back through her earliest published books, you will see her kitchens with these kinds of details, but in darker colors and natural woods. I believe this style went into the early 90’s as well.

  16. Marion Powell says

    Thinking about the words on the drawers, I’m pretty sure they are typical abbreviations for substances found in an old fashioned pharmacy.

    One of my doctors has bottles with this type of wording. He has lots of things from a great uncle’s pharmacy which dates to the late 1800’s.

    He also has a exam table with stirrups, all made of wood. Shades of the inquisition.lol

  17. Gavin Hastings says

    This looks like a quick 1980s makeover wiith the $ being spent on the appliances. The “guts” of the room looks 30s-40s, with some tricks thrown in to pull everything else forward 50 years. Those are piano hinges…and answer the need for contemporary seamless cabinetry makeover “on the cheap” – but the drawerfronts are completely fake.

    I think the whole French Gourmet Kitchen scheme began in the early 60s and got a big push from Julia Childs’ programs.

  18. Bonnie says

    Jenn-Aire was popular in higher end kitchens back in the 80’s. I’ve lived in two houses that had Jenn-Aire ranges. While it seems like a great design to have integrated downdraft venting and interchangeable modular burners/grills, the downdraft didn’t work well and it was a frustrating experience swapping out the modules (especially the grill option which was hard to clean). The Jenn-Aire in the picture shows the modular insert with the cast iron type solid elements. I speak from experience when I say that those solid elements were a horrible idea — they were slow to heat up and slow to cool down which made for a very frustrating cooking experience.

    • Elaine says

      I have the same Jenn Air cooktop. The glass part wore out on one side so I replaced it with the cast iron. Since I have electric anyway, the time between heat up and cool down isn’t that bad. I use a wire star on the burner for when I want to cool down quicker, it lifts the pot up a little. I believe the original Jenn Air is early 80s, the cast iron part was early 90s.

  19. Elaine says

    The names on the drawers are botanical names of plants that have medicinal properties, so from an old time herbal pharmacy.

    E. Sapon = Euscaphis Saponica (aka Japonica). The Korean Sweetheart Tree from Japan

    Aloe Cap might refer to Aloe Vera Capsules

    Gelatine was used for making capsules

  20. Jordanna says

    The apothecary drawers would be interesting in a steampunk design, especially with the brass labels. Are we allowed to talk about steampunk on this site, Pam? 😉

    I know my sister daydreams about a serious apothecary cabinet with myriad tiny drawers for spices and teas. And really it seems like I’ve seen sillier organizational tricks in kitchens.

    I apply the wardrobe rule to my own colour schemes – I don’t wear blue so I don’t decorate with blue because I don’t look good in blue – but Delft has a wonderfully timeless classic look to it when used correctly. And certainly it goes with MANY vintage styles and collectibles.

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