Want a checklist of key elements to create or recreate a 1940s style kitchen? Reader Carolyn recently wrote to us asking for ideas to help repair and decorate her 1947 kitchen. Long story short: I think that Carolyn has the need for a significant remodel on her hands. If she goes this route, to help I put together a list of key items for her to consider to get an historically appropriate look.
Carolyn’s kitchen looks pretty adorable in these photos, but she told us that 60-year-old tile countertop has “twisted, cracked and the wood underneath has bent to expose the grout more than an inch on 2 sides of the sink. We had our grout cleaned and re-grouted just last year!”
In addition, the sink needs to be reporcelained… the lazy susan is broken and impractical… they need a new refrigerator… the cabinets need a new paint job… and the floor needs to be replaced.
But two pieces of good news: Carolyn loves her 1940’s Wedgewood stove. “It is large for our kitchen but, it is a work horse, and I love how it looks”…
Carolyn, once you pull out that tile countertop and backsplash, I think you are going to be left with an enormous mess. In addition, your cabinets are not sized correctly to match up with your stove and a modern countertop-depth refrigerator. Since you are planning on replacing so many elements already, I’d say: Save your dough re mi and plan for a gut-remodel or near gut-remodel — and recreate a 1940s style kitchen set to endure for another 70 years. Just do what you gotta do.
Pam’s Design Formula #1 to Create a 1940s Kitchen
I think that the basics of a 1930s and 1940s kitchen are pretty easy to identify and pull together. I would even go so far as to say this is a “formula” — one that’s very adaptable, though, in particular as it comes to selecting colors, patterns and of course, decor. In addition, there are other alternatives (above and beyond those shown today) for sinks, flooring, countertops and appliances — I’ll do another design board with Formula #2 and maybe even Formica #3 soon…
But for this one, the impetus was Carolyn’s wants and needs. In our email exchanges, Carolyn indicated an interest in a yellow-and-black tile color scheme. I also think that yellow tile works well with her yellow Fiestaware. So that’s where I started with this Design Formula:
- Wallpaper — This vintage wallpaper from Second Hand Rose looks like it would coordinate nicely with the yellow-and-black tile scheme… and, it picks up the other colors in the Fiestaware — but without competing or adding too much extra pattern to the small space.
- Tile edging — You can get black bullnose tile right from Home Depot or other big box stores.
- Backsplash and wall tile — Yellow 4″x4″ tile from B & W Tile. You can see all the color for B&W Tile at Clay Squared. You can buy from either place. Or, choose this lovely soft yellow tile from Classic Tile, I think it’s even less expensive. Note: It’s gonna cost more — but in a 1940s kitchen, in addition to tiling the backsplash, I would likely lean toward tiling the entire room. That is, tile about halfway up the walls, with bullnose trim.
- Cabinetry — White cabinetry is appropriate. This example is from Barker Doors, which can custom-size you anything. Yes, Carolyn, you can have glass in the wall cabinets — just know: You must keep what’s behind it super tidy — even “staged” — or else it will just look a mess. Note also: Soffits, please, above all those cabinets and the refrigerator, too, for a built-in (and easier to keep clean) look. I even believe: Soffits make a kitchen look bigger.
- Countertop — Linoleum. That’s what they used in the 1940s, along with tile and wood countertops. Shown here: Marmoleum linoleum. I believe that black linoleum countertops were the #1 most common color in the 1940s. They would look great in the color scheme of this kitchen, I think.
- Kitchen sink — Kohler Delafield with hudee ring. The kitchen sink o’ choice here on Retro Renovation. I did not specify a kitchen faucet — but peoples, enough with those goosenecks that sit super high — they are too splashy once the water hits the base of the sink. Me no get it. Here’s the faucet I have in my kitchen (affiliate link), and I love it, the spout is 10″ long so it sticks well into the center of my sink, and it is not high like a gooseneck, so I get minimal splashiness outside the sink:
- Countertop edging — For linoleum, I would likely go with stainless steel edging from New York Metals because this edging has a big lip to grab onto the linoleum.
- Refrigerator — Okay, it’s not retro looking — but I like this size and color of the this Fisher Paykel refrigerator I discovered when researching this story. It’s counter-depth, not too tall, not too wide. The think about small kitchens like Carolyn’s is that if you have too big a fridge, it just takes over like a big white elephant in the room. Yes: A vintage fridge from the 1940s or early 50s also would be great, if you have the patience and tenacity for it.
- Decor — When designing a kitchen, it’s always great to start with an inspiration item — a curtain fabric, a rug, whatever — to drive a color palette. In this case, Carolyn’s Fiestaware does the trick quite nicely. That said, I would pick only one color — in this case, the yellow, as described — to ground the whole look.
- Flooring — Carolyn said that the rest of her house has wood floors. So yes, continue them into the kitchen.
- Stove — Yum. This vintage Wedgewood stove = The star of your show. Lucky Carolyn! Be sure to consult with properly licensed professionals about placing and installing it in your kitchen in accordance with local building and plumbing codes.
Other 1940s style kitchens with useful ideas for Retro Renovators:
- Lauryn and Dennis’ sunny 1940s kitchen makeover
- Dave and Frances’ 1938 kitchen
- See how the tile is done on the wall in Kristen’s original 1940s kitchen.
- Maile displays her dishware beautifully in glass-front wall cabinets in her 1940s style kitchen.
- Vintage metal cabinets are appropriate too — and lookie the best cafe curtains ever in David’s kitchen.
We hope this is helpful to you, Carolyn, and to other readers working to design a 1940s style kitchen. A few more Formulas yet to come!