16 vintage Kohler kitchens — and an important kitchen sink still offered today

Let me take you on a little stroll though kitchen design history from the 1930s though the 1950s — with this terrific series of images from Kohler. Vicki Hafenstein of the media relations team at Kohler is really helpful and responsive, and quickly supplied these vintage kitchen photos and illustrations to help with the etsy.com video. She is also hunting some pink bathroom illustrations for my talk in Charlotte. I really appreciate your help, Vicki! 

I also wanted to take this opportunity to remind everyone that Kohler makes one hudee-rimmed porcelain-on-cast-iron sinks still available today — it would be my top choicesfor a Retro Renovation kitchen:

Oh, and have I ever mentioned that when I found my 67 vintage Geneva steel kitchen cabinets, the former cooking-school set also came with four vintage, 42″ wide, double-bowl, hudee-ringed Kohler sinks? One is now installed in my kitchen.

These first three images show old, farmhouse style sinks. I don’t really understand the design evolution of sinks. I am pretty sure they were all heavy cast iron, because that was the dominant metal-making technology. Honestly, these have kind of a “trough” feel to me, I am guessing they are in fact derived from designs originally used on farms. I need to do more research… The design above shows how the sink was not necessarily integrated with the cabinets.

Here we have a little evolution – the sink at least is tucked along the same wall as the cabinets, and it has legs. Look at the deep bowl, which also has a hinged top.

This looks like a bungalow kitchen. You see further integration of the sink into the cabinetry — a clear line in the evolution of “fitted kitchens.”

I love this illustration, which I am guessing comes from the 40s, I’d say. The way the linoleum (probably) counter is fitted to the sink — with that stainless steel strip — is a giveaway that this is an earlier-postwar-era kitchen. Did you know that Kohler also made steel kitchen cabinets at one point? I am pretty sure these are theirs.

This looks to be the same sink as the one above – without the drainboards. Late 40s and early 50s kitchens were much more likely to have built-in banquettes or dinettes and such. Kind of a carryover from bungalows. As kitchen design progressed, it seems we moved to stand-alone dinettes. Maybe this derives from the fact there could be less craftsmanship as housing construction boomed. Bungalows were part of the “arts and crafts” era — a return to hand-made and craftsmanship in a backlash response to mass industrialization during the Victorian era. With the etsy.com handmade movement today, I think we are seeing a bit of this same sentiment.

The same kitchen, perhaps — but in a real-life installation (as opposed to an illustration).

Same kitchen as above, it appears – with Shirley Temple lookalike. Hey, and notice all the mid-century modern geraniums. 🙂

Ahhhh, notice that the sink has “lost” its integrated backsplash, and it’s set into the laminate countertop with its metal hudee ring. More design evolution. It’s like… monkees losing their tails and becoming… human!

We are into the heart of 1950s kitchens now, I think.

Woah, look at this beauty! Early 50s? Honestly, I don’t cook much, BUT it still seems that I am doing dishes all the time. I would REALLY love to have drainboards like this to the left and to the right. So practical for managing the dishes piling up, going through production, then over to drying.

Like this! Except that today, we compost all of our carrot peelings. Right, people?! Obviously, it’s impossible to say because this is a black-and-white photo, but: That sure looks like a colored sink to me. Let’s guess.

This is one of the two images from my collection of vintage Kohler ads. Gorgeous mid-century kitchen, isn’t it?

And this colonial modern Kohler kitchen (also from my collection) — one of my favorites of all time, truly.

Modern! Can anyone give me a date based on the oven?

Finally, I want to remind everyone that Kohler still makes ONE metal-rimmed, cast-iron-on-porcelain kitchen sink available today — The Delafield sink with two bowls. (The single-bowl Bakersfield is discontinued.) The list price from Kohler’s website is shown in the images above — but talk to your local retailers, I bet you can do better including on Amazon:

You can see all my product finds to design a mid century kitchen over on my Kitchen Categories.

  1. BK Bobb says:

    Just an FYI, the third sink down, with the legs–the right side is an early version of the dishwasher. The lid and buttons on the backsplash, as well as the mechanicals underneath are all tip offs.

  2. Perry says:

    Me, too. I live in the middle of the country (Missouri) , so am hoping that expands my list of buyers, without my having to let a dealer sell it for 2395.00 as I have seen (my exact sink) go for an resale sites. It just takes a little longer because most people aren’t usually searching Craigslist for high-end items–antique or not. Mine came with the house, where some idiot had “updated” the kitchen, and has been garaged, in pristine condition, waiting for me to finish grad school, so I could afford to reinstall it. Instead, due to illness, I am selling the house, and having to leave my sink behind. I want it cherished by someone who appreciates beauty, quality and the best of the past. Maybe these guys can install it for my buyer, who will want their skills level.

  3. Pam Kueber says:

    I think that folks looking for hard-to-find vintage stuff like sinks and appliances are watching craigslist like hawks.

    The reason that resale sites can get more money is that they are generally legitimate businesses that invest a lot of time and money aggregate stock, repair it, etc., then have a lot of options to choose from — if you are looking for something specific, they do the work for you, including holding inventory. Running businesses like that costs money…. so the products for sale need to reflect those costs. On the other hand, it costs literally nothing to buy/sell on craigslist, so folks expect a deal.

  4. Evan Degenfelder says:

    I wish I could get someone to explain integrated drainboard sinks to my husband. We are restoring a 1947 ranch style home and need to find a period sink. I want a double sink with two drainboards and he believes that’s a mistake for ‘resale value’. Yes, we plan to sell in a few years because we’ll be moving but I think many women–and even men—can appreciate the usefulness of integrated drainboards. I just can’t convince him. He thinks an original sink is a turn off. How do I convince him?!

  5. Kimq says:

    It might be of interest to your husband to know that some of the stone countertops are now being fashioned with integrated drainboards. The reason for this is that it is just such a great idea, and folks are starting to realize that sometimes the best ideas happened back in the day.

  6. Devora says:

    I had a sink like that in Chiefland Fl. They are great, I just bought an old 1940s rooming house with a cast Iron double sink boy, I miss those side drain boards!

  7. Rachelle says:

    I purchased a 1929 Standard Sanitary double drainboard wall mount sink (no legs) for near future new build. I need help on installing it. I would like to have it incorporated into a cabinet. Are there any insturctions/illustrations on how to out there?
    Thanks in advance.

  8. Pam Kueber says:

    Hi Rachelle, on issues like this I recommend readers consult with professionals. One company that may be able to help you is deabath.com. Good luck.

  9. JenP says:

    That sink where you mention the “deep bowl” and “hinged lid” – and the next picture below it (the “bungalow” one) – I bet those are the “electric sink” (dishwasher) that I only recently learned was a thing!
    Google image search for “Kohler Electric Sink” and you’ll see…and in almost every picture you’ll see that little hose looped over the faucet and the garbage disposal under the deep bowl of the dishwasher side of the unit.

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