There is nothing quite like a real dinette set — a table, four chairs — preferably “vintage” — to anchor a kitchen design. A kitchen island? I had one once, and it was nice. But we still spent our best times, fee firmly planted on the ground and lounging around the kitchen table. There is something — democratic — about the kitchen table.
If you have a kitchen built in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s or 1970s, it was likely designed to hold a dinette set. So this page focuses on where to find dinette sets — vintage and new, how to clean up a vintage dinette, how much they typically cost, and we have a fantastic slide show of 200+ dinette sets in readers kitchens.
Where to buy vintage dinette sets:
I am cheap. Used stuff is usually cheaper. And I think old stuff is usually better quality. Put these all together, and I vote: If you want a dinette set, shop for one vintage. Here are some ideas where to look:
- Craiglist — Anything bigger than a breadbox is going to be easier to buy locally. You can go look at it. You can throw it in your car and avoid shipping costs. So tip #1 is to start watching craigslist like a hawk. Read this story for 4 tips on finding great furniture deals on craigslist.
- Estate sales — These are my #1 favorite place to shop. They are ground-zero, houses full of lifetimes’ worth of possessions. If you are really hot on the trail for a vintage dinette, get there early and expect no discounts. These days, lots of dealers are also seeing the value in dinette sets, so you may have some competition, depending on your local market dynamics and the beauty of the set. See my story 8 tips to shop an estate sale.
- Garage sales — These can be hit or miss, but if you town doesn’t have many estate sales, you may have to cruise these.
- Thrift stores — Shop local thrift stores, including Salvation Army, Goodwill and the like. Think about branching out to smaller towns further from your house. In particular, look in smaller towns that were once thriving — maybe there was a factory that’s now closed? Any place that was thriving during the 1950s and 1960s likely has vintage stuff in it that is still coming out of houses built and furnished during those years.
The value of vintage dinettes:
- Expect to pay a few hundred dollars, more if the set is really special and more if you live a “hot” market for vintage.
- However, if you are willing to wait it out… you may find a set for as little as $50. I still do see deals like that on craigslist and at estate sales.
Cleaning the Formica top:
- See this story for the products that Formica recommends to clean its laminate. I am presuming these are worth testing on antique and vintage laminate, including those of other manufacturers. However: Be sure to test on a small spot first. I have heard from one reader that a cleaner “clouded” the shiny finish.
Reupholstering your dinette chairs:
- Here’s a great story — and video — about how to reupholster your dinette chairs — affordably.
- There are numerous places to find fabric for dinette chairs, I archive them in this furniture category, scroll through to see the stories.
Vintage dinette sets — 1930s and 1940s:
Above: Before World War II, I think it was much more common to see dinettes built with metal tops painted in porcelain (baked on) enamels. We recently saw this New Old Stock table top for sale. It was from 1947, marketed by Sears. It sold on ebay for $229 plus shipping.
Vintage dinette set styles — 1950s:
I tend to think that 1950s dinette sets were usually similar to the one above — laminate top, wrapped with aluminum edging, fat upholstered chairs. But unusual or rare: Inlaid designs like the apples in the photo above. Also rare-ish to see chairs with built-in scrollwork or handles at the top of the seat.
Above: Daystrom, 1953.
The coolest vintage dinette ever — the Daystrom Playdine:
Yes, this vintage Daystrom PlayDine dinette set may be the coolest dinette ever. The laminate table top opens to reveal a poker table.