Classic colors for a 1940s kitchen: Ming Green, Ivoire de Medici, T’ang Red, and White

1940s-kitchen-ideasIdeas for a 1940s kitchen are always popular on the blog. I’ve completed three 1940s kitchen design boards and now that I’m decorating my own vintage 1940s A. Neely Hall dollhouse, I’m eyeballs deep in 1940s design colors and patterns and concepts for that. What a delightful era! Continuing my research, today I’m sharing all the images from a 1938 brochure fro “Standard” brand sinks and cabinets now in my personal collection. The four colors that the company was promoting:

  • Ivoire de Medici (soft yellow, I presume)
  • Ming Green
  • T’ang Red
  • White

Let’s take a look — these delicious illustrations are full of wonderful design details and ideas…

1940s-kitchen-1-2Above: Interesting to see that in these two views, the sink cabinet was still sitting separate from the countertops. I hypothesize: The company wanted farmhouse wives and others who had other pieces already firmly in their kitchen to know / see that they could just buy and install the sink cabinet, for that touch of modernity.

1940s yellow kitchenAbove: Ivoire de Medici cabinets and sink with soft blue floor and countertops. The countertop and flooring surely were linoleum. Light colors were not possible for early-days linoleum because of the materials and methods used. As a result, original linoleum floors were usually pretty rich in tone. 

1940s-kitchen-7Above: Do you love these sinks? You can still get this style in cast iron or now, acrylic, today.

1940s-kitchen-4Above: I speculate that black lineoleum countertops were the most popular color.

1940s-kitchen-1-4 Ivoire de mediciAbove: Be sure to includes some polka dot fabric in your 1940s kitchen!

1940s-kitchen-2 Ming green

Above: Ming and white… lovely!
t'ang dynasty red Above: Be still my heart, what must surely be the rare and wonderful T’ang Red, with cabinets in ivory. And more polka dots, can you spot them? I have to say, the Ming Green is usually my favorite but today, I’m lusting after the T’ang dynasty Red!


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  1. Karen says

    Gotta love the forties kitchens! Reminds me of my Gramma! I especially love the Blue and Yellow (Ivoire) theme!

  2. Ranger Smith says

    Pam – If I go out today and buy a few gallons of Butter Yellow aka Ivorie de Medici, it will be your fault! 🙂 Currently my kitchen walls are what I refer to as School Bus Yellow (similar to the cabinets in the last picture) but I’m a likin Ivorie de Medici. And then I need turquoise polka dot plates and…

  3. virginia says

    So love these illustrations — just classic. Great colors — I’m partial to both red and green as house colors. Last picture would qualify as a dream kitchen for me. And polka dots!

    Amusing to see the gauzy transparent curtains over the Venetian blinds. Such a no no today.

    Ivoire de Medici would be a great name for a femme fatale soap opera spoof.

    Would so love to have that archway in my kitchen scenario. Thanks for unearthing these.

    • Mary Elizabeth says

      I DID have the simple curved archway into my breakfast nook in my former late 1930s house. So interesting to see the built-in banquette in that picture. If mine had one originally, it had been taken out during the St. Charles kitchen remodel.

      And I remember sheer cross-draped curtains like that over blinds. The blinds were for privacy and blocking sunlight when needed. The curtains were for decoration.

    • Ranger Smith says

      Allen this book that you’ve linked to is an amazing resource! I like how they point out that the “bathroom can be the most distinguished as well as the most essential room in your home”. Um, well, yeah!

    • Carol says

      Thank you for posting this Allen. What spectacular eye candy and unexpected color combinations. In 1967 when our family home was built, everything was very modern except for the electric washer in the basement. It was just like the one in the photo with a wringer. Within months we had a new Kenmore set. My Father apparently thought it was a good idea to repurpose my Grandmother’s washing machine. My Mother was not amused. I found a red art deco toilet for sale in Asheville, NC on craigslist for $50. Post id 4971133096. Hope I’m not breaking any rules here, but I’m sure these are very rare and it looks mint. T’ang red? It doesn’t appear to be an 80’s deco reproduction.

    • Jay says

      Thanks for sharing. Beautiful illustrations – pure fantasyland; any baths I’ver ever had were not much bigger then the illustrated 5 x 5. Especially liked the washer and dishwasher.

      • Kathy says

        Thanks so much for the link! Really deluxe for the times. The illustration colors are inspiring–take a gander of how lux even the basic white fixtures look with jewel tones. Also note the double bowl bathroom sink on p. 17 and the various accessories. Wonder how many telescoping porcelain waste containers were sold, or have survived. Judging from the clothing and hairstyles I would guess the catalogue is late 20s to early 30s, about the time colored porcelain fixtures were introduced to the market. Do you know what year it is from?–I couldn’t find it in the document.

    • claire says

      The Standard plumbing fixtures brochure was just beautiful. I want that little 5 foot square bathroom. I used to paint on china, why not over tile? Thanks for sharing.

      • Kathy says

        Whoops, the file name says 1930.

        I’m not sure what the most popular linoleum countertop color was back in the day, but I have seen a lot of survivors and illustrations with red countertops–not fire engine red, but a slightly darker color to a color almost maroon/burgundy.

  4. Robin, NV says

    Love the inlaid linoleum floors. Maybe you could mimic it with paint in your doll house?

    How did you figure out that your doll house is an A. Neely Hall?

    • pam kueber says

      Sometime later Friday I updated my dollhouse story — I *think* it’s an A. Neely Hall… I’d say I’m pretty darn sure. Here’s what I wrote:

      UPDATE: I dug in online and *thought* I found it — an A. Neely Hall from 1937 — an early design, published in Science and Mechanics Magazine. It’s the Colonial Dollhouse — and the floor plan for the lower floor looks similar…. but not quite. In addition, my house is a Garrison Colonial (looking at the front of the house, the second story protrudes over the first story a bit.) Okay, so mine is not an A. Neely Hall Colonial — but, I really think mine is an A. Neely hall design. See the Cape Cod here — it is the same height, and the windows and doors seem to be in a similar scale to those in my house. Also fascinating: A 1905 book, The Boy Craftsman, by A. Neely Hall, digitized by the Gutenberg Project. Now I also need to research the seemingly prolific work of A. Neely Hall. Here’s betting that he and Royal Barry Wills were buddies!

      Read more: Vintage dollhouse experts: I need your advice – 3 questions – Retro Renovation

  5. Carol says

    I have to share this since we are on the subject of 40’s kitchens. The “sweetest” little kitchen is listed on Trulia at 104 158th Ave. Redington Beach FL 33708. My Grandmother had the exact same cabinets in her 40’s kitchen minus the “frill”. I ran across this last month looking for a house in the area. This kitchen really is sweet and the photos are great. Also, H&M has jacquard towels with fringe and bath mats in white, dove gray, and pale pink. Check out everything under bathroom heading for a few more retro inspired goodies. Maybe this is the kitchen for Pam’s dollhouse?

    • Mary Elizabeth says

      Carol, I had to look up that house to see the kitchen. It is adorable! And did you see the pink and gray bathroom? And what’s up with the beige tile in the other bathroom and then the mint green only in the shower? Glad the house sold.

      • Carol says

        I don’t know what happened to that bathroom. It was “remuddled”. Did you see the terrazzo floors and the cove ceilings in the living areas? Glad you liked the little kitchen. I’m so in love. Did you notice to the left how a new stove and countertop was added? I wish I could have seen it with the original wide stove in that space.

  6. Sabrina says

    Classic and lovely indeed! Those T’ang Red and the Ming Green sinks, great and practical even today…I wish drainboard sinks like that were de riguer today. And the sep sink cab…cool idea!

    One question about the linoleum countertops…are they all right to install around a sink? Are they DIYable? Also considering tile…love the retro tile countertops but many complain about the grout…thoughts? If the linseed linoleum is ok by water that’s a good option, yes?

  7. says

    I can’t help it – I love the yellow! I really want the yellow! (Of course, that’s been my favorite color since the days when I could only say lello!)

  8. lorraine says

    Im drooling over these pictures. I looked for months to find an old sink i could refurbish. Gave up finally and got a Kohler stages sink. we had to modify our cabinet to fit it. its a beast. i have black soapstone counters with white porcelain mosaic floors with green accents and a red stove to keep the color feel of the era. I am also going to add some gingham accents.

  9. Josie says

    I love the Ming green – would look stunning with some display dishes/canisters in jadeite.

    And I love the Ivoire. Would nicely offset dark green lino floor and I’d tie them together with a wallpaper with green leaves and yellow-and-white flowers probably. I’m assuming I can askew polka-dots if its in service of floral wallpaper? 😉

    Now, I’ve not thought about black countertops. Being honest, I do not really want them. But if I wanted the accurate ‘most popular colour’ what would I put them with? I think with a white tile walls with black trim, and checkerboard floor. Cabinets and freestanding sink in Ming. White stove. Probably cafe curtains in green and white *polka dots*, with a black ribbon trim?

    • pam kueber says

      Josie, I’d go with a rich colored floor (not checkerboards, they were not common in kitchens as far as I know and certainly not black-and-white checkerboard). Then, on the walls, probably another color.

  10. Nei; says

    Every element in every one of these images is absolutely Divoooone (to paraphrase Jayne Mansfield). Having begun my domestic experience in the 50’s, among a tribe who were short on funds and were therefore cooking in lived-in kitchens from the previous decade, all these kitchens feel comforting and magnetic.

    All those 40’s shapes and materials and colors had an aura of being substantial and dependable, but at the same time appealing to the senses and redolent of pleasure. They were body-friendly; in those days, before synthetic chemicals took over the world, most household materials still conveyed a “natural” signature that felt familial and embraceable, and like a jovial grandmother they seemed to promise to get more dear with age.

  11. Marilyn says

    I love anything 40″s….am I odd? These kitchens just feel more homey and comfortable….and ready to be cooked in….not just ogled…

  12. Neil Ramski says

    Sabrina, my partner and I remodeled our 1947 house in Jacksonville 5 years ago. We installed a Forbo marmoleum floor in a turquoise color to match our 1955 GE Deluxe refrigerator and also the same color on our upper cabinet doors. We designed an inlay in the floor using yellow and red marmoleum and then used that same yellow color on our countertops, trimmed in stainless steel. We never thought about any problem with water!!!! After five years, we have not had any problem with water and counters. We love having that product on the counters! Marmoleum is an all-natural material and is anti-bacterial. It is most commonly used in hospitals! Cleans wonderfully with water and vinegar!!! So for anyone considering it – Go For It!!! Yu won’t be disappointed.

  13. Carol Curtiss says

    The sink with the double drainboards, mounted on the metal cabinet, is exactly like the sink in my 100-year-old house, except that my sink is white!

  14. kathy says

    Just last night, I was on line saw a house for sale with these same ivory/yellow cabinets! Such an unusual color, I thought it was the lighting in the photos. Now tonight, I amble over here and there they are! What are the odds?

  15. Dan Hermann says

    Hmmm . . . I’ma think those polka dots are actually a gingham check pattern on those plates.
    Anyhoo, I’m suddenly in the midst of an emergency counter top replacement (don’t ask) and I’m gonna go with a red WilsonArt laminate, and try to simulate that snazzy design as closely as possible. Should go perfectly with my 1939 Deco apartment in the Bronx, and my 1951 caloric stove and 1940 GE fridge.

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