21 ideas for your 1940s ranch, bungalow or cape – 40s kitchens, living rooms, bathrooms and more


Quickly after World War II ended, Americans plowed right into making a wonderful new life for themselves – starting with building their dream kitchens, dream bathrooms – dream houses. Looking at periodicals from 1946, I can see a few distinct trends – this was a transitional period…you still see many Deco influences…you see a lot of primary colors…and definitely, interiors were “sweet”, although in ’46 homeowners certainly would have declared them “modern.” Read on for ideas from each of six great interiors, including a bathroom, two living rooms and a bedroom. 1946 was a very good year!

Tips from the first kitchen image — isn’t the “life through a Pyrex pie plate” awesome?:

  • This color combination: Dark cherry red linoleum countertops, primary green linoleum floor, white metal (or wood cabinets) with deco pulls seems to have been very, very common.
  • In this image, you also see a light chartreuse green on the wall – this, or yellow, also seem to have been popular secondary colors.
  • And flowered fabrics… These kitchens are pure prettiness. Image: Pyrex, of course.


Isn’t this Briggs Beautyware bathroom just gorgeous.  To be sure, there is a lot going on. Observations:

  • Great color combination: beige – almost salmon tile, light baby blue (ala today’s “spa blue”), brown linoleum floor. The darker floor in both this image and the kitchen above “anchor” the rooms.
  • Very ’40s: the fringy rug in front of the tub, striped and monogrammed towels, chenille-scalloped rug in front of the sink, tufted dressing chairs, and all the Carrera glass (used instead of tile on the walls).
  • Last time I checked, today’s linoleum is not recommended for bathrooms – but if you are dedicated to keeping standing water off the floor – or want to use it in a 1/2 bath, go for it.
  • Notice the full length mirror behind the dressing table at the far right.
  • That full length drape – and of course, the glass block – both add to the luxe feel. Image: Briggs Plumbing.


  • Blonde wood – similar to Heywood-Wakefield’s classic champagne (I believe) finish. This room definitely has a primary color feel.
  • The lampshade: I’d call that “40s”…”waxed foil”?
  • The patterned rug – definitely promoted heavily in the 40s.(You can see it in my header!)
  • The built-in couch … a continuation straight of of 20s and 30s moderne designs


  • Oh my gosh, oh so ’40s: lavendar walls, emerald green floors. Combining these “secondary” colors of the color wheel is always on the “recommended” lists that were so common during this period.
  • Chintz draperies – scalloped valance
  • Notice the Staffordshire dogs on the mantel – very classic.
  • Not a ton of furniture in 40s interiors. (Today, our interiors are way jammed compared with the immediate postwar period.)
  • Note the style of the deco club chairs. And, there’s a colonial wing chair in the foreground. Image: American Home.


  • Here’s the purple/green color combo again.
  • I’m calling the bedding: dove gray, although it’s hard to tell from this image.
  • The wallpaper – very sweet, simple…and combined with the chintz curtains and scalloped valance (again…) even more so. Note: I’ve found some not-too-expensive wallpaper in this vein and will feature it soon. Image: American Home.


  • Cabbage rose chintz pinch pleats with frilly undercurtains. American Home.


Remember this palette? It’s from the Church toilet seat company – and it captures the 40 palette very will indeed. Happy decorating all you owners of 40s homes… Jason K…Carleton Heights Girl… Neil.. and more! Ad: Church Plumbing.

  1. Adam Douglas says:

    Wow a rose colored bathroom was quite the thing in suburban California late-40s (and early 50s) tract homes. My grandparents had a 1949 built house with a rose colored bathroom. Even the toilet and bathtub were made out of this dusky rose porcelain. The countertop was ivory blonde formica with gold flakes in it. Phew. When they sold the home, the new owners couldn’t rip it out fast enough.

  2. Melissa Welch (@WelchWgrapes) says:

    Was a styles of home furnishings in the 1940’s,50’s and even early 60’s that were called ‘Chinese Modern’ and the other being.’Hawiian Modern’? I know of the Chinese Modern although I can find neither of them on the internet..

  3. Neil says:

    I just know my sister in Nashville would kill for a Purple (!) Cracked Ice toilet seat for her 40’s bathroom! Simply divoon.

  4. MissMessy says:

    Where to begin.. I’m on the verge of purchasing a sprawling 1940 california ranch, quite neat she is and I’d love to restore her to a more period-appropriate state, but almost the ENTIRE interior is decked out in 6 inch wide, gold varnished, deep textured wood paneling; it darkens the whole place.. umm.. I’ve been considering stripping & whitewashing the panels in alternating, slightly contrasting light colors, though the wallpaper background on this very page has even given me pause for thought, I could easily hand detail the looping cartoony woodgrain and swirl it around those fabulous 50’s star motifs as knots.. I’m a tattooer and am very open to creative ideas, the more hands-on the better.. What do you readers suggest? I’d hate to see the paneling go.. I’m tacky, I know.. 😉

    1. Anne says:

      Had the same problem with the living room walls in my 1940 cottage in VA – covered in mahogany stained, gloss finished wide pine paneling. Just painted last year, no stripping required, the result was bright and beautiful, with a faint hint of grain coming through to add texture. I used a white primer for stained wood finishes – 1 coat applied with a heavy nap roller and a brush for the grooves between the panels. Then two coats of flat latex acrylic paint in “Sand” – again with the heavy roller nap. Lowe’s has a new type in blue&white that is essentially many individual fibers on the roller, gets into the cracks much better. I left the baseboards and window frame stained as I felt it suited the country cottage better. Wish I could attach a pic, the result was, as friends said, “Like a new room!”

  5. jane says:

    I use regular dishwasher soap to whiten my vintage castiron sink and drain board. I discovered this by accident. dont leave it on too long as I am not sure what would happen. I NEVER wash vintage dishware or glass in a dishwasher because they were not made to withstand the caustic nature of the detergent. over time a film will appear which is really the glaze breaking down. I gladly rinse out by hand my vintage everyday stuff

    I have a set of contemporary (newish)fiestaware which is dishwasher and microwave safe, and comes in great retro colors for everyday use.

  6. Mick says:

    Hey pam! I have 2 questions 1940’s white kitchen cabinets were the norm right? And #2 What are your views on “Burlap” as a wall covering? There is a Mesuem in Kansas I visted of an “all electric 1950’s house” and the entry way was done in tan burlap on the walls. Iv almost talked myself into painting the panelling. For now insted of tackeling the Living room and bedroom, I think im gonna start from the kitchen and go from there. Iv already tracked down a Vintage fridge to put in, and im looking for an electric stove 40’s 50’s if such a thing exsists!
    For the Kitchen, the counter tops are the vintage brown, (just like my other house) I think im gonna paint the cabinets white, and For the walls in the kitchen a pretty Blue. NOT POWDER BLUE!!! but somthing bolder? Maybe somewhere between Aqua and sky?!

    haha I hate starting over!!!


    1. Pam Kueber says:

      Hi Mick. I don’t know from an “academic standpoint” for sure, but from my scanning of vintage periodicals, I’d say that steel cabinets were for sure white… But wood cabinets had typical wood finishes. Here’s a highly reader-commented post on whether to paint wood cabinets: https://retrorenovation.com/2008/11/05/nancys-festive-retro-renovation-kitchen/

      I’ve never heard of burlap being used as wall covering. That’s not to say it wasn’t. And yes, there were electric stoves, you can see some at this site: http://antiqueappliances.com.

      For wall colors, try the Suburban Modern palette: https://retrorenovation.com/paint-colors/

  7. Rikki says:

    CHG & Others —
    If you want stainless steel for your counters or sinks you can easily do that as a stainless steel product called Monel was in use and shown in a variety of ads including a lot of the pre-WWII ads for Armstrong like this one.

    I am torn between a stainless steel sink and a granite composite, but leaning toward the steel. My house is 1948 vintage and mangled so I’m mostly concerned about sustainability.

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