Six kitchen designs from 1953 — Avco American Kitchens

kitchen salesmans sample kitI scan, therefore, I am. For our reference and enjoyment today –10 photos — six kitchens — excerpted from a 1953 American Kitchens catalog in my personal collection. American Kitchens was the brand name for steel kitchen cabinets made by Avco Manufacturing Corp., of Connersville, Indiana. Avco American was among the major brands of the day, and we see these cabinets fairly often in the wild — in their natural habitat or on craigslist, etc. This brand also is noteworthy for its porcelain drainboard sink with the unique faucet — I get questions regularly about to get this faucet, new, which until quite recently was possible, can you believe it.

1950s-kitchen-111950s-kitchen-1“Postwar” design really is split into two periods

When we talk about design in post-World-War II America, we really need to split those years into two distinct eras.

Postwar Design – The Carryover Years — In the immediate aftermath of World War II — 1946 through to 1953 — colors and designs were more pre-war-carryover in look and feel. There were still material shortages. Manufacturers were still using designs created before the war (they had not innovated on consumer goods during the war, when all efforts were channeled to building America’s arsenal.) Also, people were still quite tight with their cash; those Depression years still weighed heavy, and folks liked their savings accounts. These Avco American Kitchen designs? I would describe them as prewar-carryover style. In addition, the Avco American Kitchen cabinets themselves have a very streamline look. I need to check authoritatively, but my aging brain is leading me to recall that they may have been designed by Raymond Loewy and/or his firm!

Postwar Design – The Populuxe Years — 1953 is recognized as the start of the “Populuxe” (*affiliate link) years — a term invented by author Thomas Hine. Beginning around 1953 and running through 1963, colors and designs in America became more exuberant, more experimental; these were heyday years for America in a variety of ways, and our rising affluence was communicated in our interior design and architecture.

1950s-kitchen-9Back to the catalog.

All of the countertops in these kitchens are “vinyl plastic bonded to steel,” it says. Colors were quite saturated, quite rich:

  • Greenwich Green
  • Grenada Gray
  • Baltic Blue
  • Redwing Red
  • Yosemite Yellow

I’m thinking they must also have offered black. To replicate this look today, check out linoleum sheet — check specifications, though. And there may occasionally be a laminate to mimic the look.

The catalog also promotes a hard maple cutting board — note the adorable roll-out serving cart shown under it in many of the kitchen designs. This is a classic Avco American kitchen feature.


That faucet is a specialty item, and you can still get a replacement today — see this story for info on where.


Above, the brochure asked:

TV or not TV… that isn’t the question in a house of today with this beautiful L-Shaped kitchen as modern as tomorrow. Here the busy homemaker can watch TV without disrupting her regular kitchen activities….

This TV kitchen was promoted as an “ultra-modern kitchen.” The first image (where the walls look so bright red) was on the cover of the brochure. Golly, could you even get a TV this small in 1953?

1950s-kitchen-13The catalog shows six kitchen design styles. Can you match the title with the photo(s)?:

  • Westward Ho!
  • TV or not TV
  • To Grandmother’s House We Went
  • Southern Hospitality
  • City Gal
  • Down on the Farm

A few years later, Avco American gave us the famous wood+coppertone Pioneer Kitchen, color-styled by Beatrice West.


1950s-housewiveSome of the images toward the back of the brochure (where product details are outlined) are quite amusing — and graphically interesting in that they appear to be combinations of photography and illustration. And of course, we get the occasional “Caption This” opportunity. Because, oh my gosh, new kitchens for America! New kitchens for America!

  1. Veronica Budihas says:

    My kitchen is furnished with these cabinets that my grandparents had put in. I was trying to find out what year they were made and am happy that this was the first site to pop up! I love these cabinets! They are still in great shape and I intend on redoing my kitchen but keeping the retro cabinets and tile. Unfortunately the sink was replaced a few years back when I was told a new faucet would not be able to be put in so I had to get a new one. I wish I would have had a second person look at it because I liked my old cast iron sink much better than the stainless steel one I replaced it with.
    I am grateful for this site which gives me some historical information on my home. My home has been in my family since it was built in 1927. My great grandparents and grandparents have passed but my father and his siblings grew up here and know some history. It’s really neat to see these illustrations of the cabinets that are still in my kitchen!☺️

  2. Teresa Robinson says:

    I have a 2 sided kitchen sink I want to replace with a new one just like it. It is cast iron and one side is about 12″ deep and the other side is about 8″ deep. Any chance I could find another one? I have bathed 3 generations of babies in the deep side and love it for many reasons.
    Mrs. Robinson

    1. Pam Kueber says:

      Hi Teresa, check out this page, which is all about drainboard sinks — https://retrorenovation.com/farmhouse-drainboard-sinks/

      You could also look at companies like Kohler,American Standard and Ceco , which may have dual-depth sinks.

      I also have this story on where to find discontinued Kohler — https://retrorenovation.com/2013/08/08/discontinued-kohler-kitchen-bathroom-sinks-faucets/

      And all this said, there are sooooo many sink companies, you may just have to search like crazy, I bet one is out there…

      Finally, my apologies for not responding sooner. I sat this one in moderation to think about but then I just let it sit there. Good luck, Pam

  3. Fauneil Purcell says:

    I am looking for a vintage metal cabinet (wall mounted). Specifically, one made by Avco American Kitchens in Connersville, IN in the 50s. Model #26951, serial # LW-3630. You would think I could find one with these details, but I still can’t. Anyone have a lead?

    1. pam kueber says:

      Fauneil, needle in a haystack, you need to rigorously search craiglist and ebay… setting up a google word search might work

    2. nikarys says:

      my house has this original cabinet. Simce most people modernized their kitchen after buying an old house i suggest to check on Realtor, look for old houses with not updated kitchen n send a letter to the home once is sold to offer removal of the cabinets if is what ypu are looking for.

  4. Lydia Sweetland says:

    Does anyone know where I can find pricing references for an AVCO kitchen? I have one in a home I’m remodeling in Phoenix – would like to sell it, thanks!

    1. pam kueber says:

      Lydia, we have a story on pricing, although it’s a bit old. See our stories in the Kitchen Help / Steel Kitchens subcategory.

    2. Melody Fulk says:

      Lydia, have you sold all of the Avco cabinets from the house you are renovating in Phoenix? My grandmother had a set of these cabinets and I would love to have a set in her honor.


      1. pam kueber says:

        Melody: No buying/selling here on the main blog or it would be chaos. I think that most people put these on craigslist, ebay etc.

  5. Heather in Colorado says:

    Fascinating stuff!

    I’ll have to share some photos of our bright orange & chocolate brown kitchen (1972) before my DH and his friend get around to “renovating” it. It’s absolutely h******[edited], but in a charming way.

    There is also a pink bathroom, and a yellow bathroom. I think the builder was using older materials, as the medicine cabinets appear to be featured in a Montgomery Wards ad from the 1960’s.

    Thanks for your great site!

  6. techpeak says:

    Thank you for posting this! I just purchased a set of these cabinets on Saturday at an auction for $25 (“purchaser must remove cabinets from house”). They are white cabinets with black counters. However, that brochure does not show the upper cabinets I have which all have glass fronts (can’t imagine how I’m going to replace the one glass piece I am missing).

    I have a brochure that came with them as well. If anyone is interested I suppose I could scan it in and post it somewhere.

    Personally, I am hoping to find a source for replacement glass, a replacement knob for the faucet and replacement cabinet knobs.

    1. pam kueber says:

      Dive into the categories on this site — you may find just what you need. For example, we have a story on the one place you can get a replacement faucet.

    2. Mike says:

      I just purchased a 1958 home with these cabinets / cupboards. I can’ see how they’re secured to the wall. I’m saving them for another remodel but am afraid I’m going to harm them getting them removed. Do you know how they’re secured to the wall?

      1. pam kueber says:

        Hi Mike, there were at least 80 brands. We don’t know the answers to questions like these by brand.

  7. J.E.Wells says:

    I’m looking for information on the dimensions of the hanger bars,
    for the upper wall cabinets. The brochure I have only calls them,
    4″ Hanger bars, with wall mounting heights. Any information would
    be helpful. Sincerely J.E.Wells.

  8. JP says:

    There are a few companies the www tells me are renovating them in Amsterdam–https://www.facebook.com/Americankitchen.eu

    1. pam kueber says:

      ah, so my memory was close – it’s The Netherlands. Dang. I was there a few time in past years…. I shoulda visited! Thanks for tracking this down!

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