20 years of mid century kitchen history — in 24 favorite images

Tips to using the slide show: Click on the first thumbnail… the image will enlarge… move forward or back using arrows below the caption… you can start or stop at any image.

Can I describe the history of kitchens from 1946 to 1966 in the captions of 24 photos? Here is a cheerful cliffs-notes attempt that includes: Modular sink bases for thrifty farmhouse homemakers… The importance of sanitary kitchens… A short history of steel kitchen cabinets… The ubiquitous knotty pine… The brief popularity of pickled wood… Remembering 40″ stoves… Wishing for appliance centers… Wishing for drainboard sinks… Lingering over Mondrian kitchens… Celebrating coppertone… and more. Honestly, I can’t say which of these kitchens is “my favorite”. They each reflect a particular point in history, so in many cases it’s impossible to judge any one “better” than the next.


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  1. Francesca says

    My grandparents had modernfold doors (or something very similar) in their summer cottage when I was a child. They didn’t really seem all that practical. They are too thin to provide much privacy and frequently got jammed or came off their tracks, although they may have just been showing their age, as this was in the 80s.

  2. says

    Pam, this is an awesome post, thank you! You must have seen my plaintive tweets Sunday about the kitchen in our new house…LOL

    I adore #2. It reminds me of the cheery retro kitchen we created in our last home, though it was definitely more in the patriotic spirit of #3 with turquoise walls, white cabinets and red accessories.

    You need to write a book about this stuff. You’re collecting little pieces of our history.

  3. magnarama says

    That wonderful double wall oven in #21 is the oven portion of a Frigidaire ‘Flair’ Imperial range, I believe. They’re usually a full one-piece range with a pull-out cooktop in the lower half… I never knew they made separate wall ovens! Gawd, I’d love to have that.

    Note to Pam: a local TV station just started running the old “Perry Mason” TV series with Raymond Burr, and I think of you every time they show the interior of Perry’s legal office — the whole thing is paneled in pecky cypress!

    We haven’t seen much of that lately, have we?

  4. Janet Nagel says

    Probably not really noticed by others, but I saw a couple ads that look like Club Aluminum saucepans were on the stove….that is another mid-century love of mine, Club Aluminum cookware, often in pastels or avocado colors……..I just purchased a 1 quart saucepan on eBay last week.

  5. says

    Oh yeah! Wouldn’t #4 have been so modern looking in the fifties. Personally I love the white metal cabinets. Maybe too sterile for some but just seems clean and crisp to me.

  6. says

    I found a built in similar to the Fridgidaire in the pic at an estate sale in Arapahoe Acres yesterday. I was *this* close to saving it for my own kitchen! I’m sort of regretting not picking it up.

  7. Holly Kohler says

    Wow, Pam! We just took out a “Modernfold” door. It was between our two back bedrooms…and bright yellow (like the bedroom walls.) While we loved it in theory, say if one had 2 kids who might want to connect and play sometimes, and have their privacy at others…we felt that a wall would better suit our needs. We have the door if any of your readers are interested…thanks for sharing! Holly

  8. Laura says

    Great Pictures!! Love that old advertising.

    We just bought a 1961 house, that’s darn close to being a time capsule. Our kitchen looks very much like #8, as far as lay out and cabinetry goes. There was a renovation in the ’70’s and they removed the wall oven and replaced it with a terrific ’70s Frigidaire range with a cool and useful “Heat Minder” burner. I am sure it’s going to be a bear to fix if it ever goes… sigh. I love that my house is very stylish, but in a way unlike most others. 🙂

    These pictures brought back great memories!! About 20 years ago I lived in a post-war kit house outside Washington, DC. The kitchen there had original steel cabinets, porcelain sink with drainboards and a big beautiful old stove. I LOVED that kitchen… it was so convenient to work in and using a magnet to hold your recipe card at eye level was super handy!

  9. Nancy says

    Kitchens used to be such happy spaces with color and light. Now they are dark with dark woods and rock (granite), steel and greige. When did we get so cold and humorless?

  10. Sarah says

    image 12: we have two modernfold doors in our house, and one is off the kitchen. If only they were pink!!!!!! Kitchen was last updated in the 50s, and I guess these doors were marketed up here in Western Maine, LOL!

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