Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My New Retro Kitchen: Formica and Chrome and Colours, Oh My!

So Beau and I found the perfect home. It was built in 1949 and not much about it has been changed. For a vintage lovin' gal like myself, an unaltered 40s home is a kind of paradise. I'm excited about decorating the whole place, but, right now, I'm excited about my new kitchen. 

No, this isn't it.

This is it. 

In 1949, it would have been the latest and most modern of kitchens, anticipating the space age 1950s to come.

Our new kitchen is very much the same -- except it looks like it's been white washed. The landlords were very kind in repainting the whole house in a very tasteful, up-to-date off-white. But it's totally wrong for the period in which it was built.

I'm thinking lemon yellow for the cupboard doors.

White-washed or not, our kitchen has all its great, original elements, from its "peninsula" separating the dining area from the area for good preparation...

... to that weird grill thing below the sink.

What is that grill thing for? Ventilation to prevent rot?

I'm not sure, but, at any rate, it's ubiquitous. 

We even have those brick-a-brack shelves and a window over sink. I plan to put a hummingbird feeder on the window. Beau saw the shelves and immediately thought we should use it for garlic and herbs. 

I thought of chalk-ware birdies.

I think I've been unconsciously accumulating stuff for this kitchen for years -- like this bird and tea towel. I've always wanted to have chalk-ware birds on a kitchen wall.

I assume it's because of my grandmother. Like me, she loved birds. She wasn't much for the tchotchkes and the kitsch (two fine Yiddish words if I ever heard them), but she did like her bird stuff. Cardinals were her favourite and I've been on the lookout for some forever. They're not easy to come by on the west coast, the bird itself not being indigenous to my part of the world.

I do have this, given me by some friends for my birthday this year, and I will put it up in the kitchen, but I still need ...

... some really tacky chalk-ware cardinals ...

... as evidenced by my fridge right now.

I think I'm going to have to reign myself in a bit, for Beau's sake anyway. I'm starting to like the tackiest of 50s kitchen kitsch. Well, not exactly like... I find it amusing. I think I'm still a bit camp after all. Maybe I'm still a lot camp.

And I just can't have a kitchen so quintessentially late 40s and 50s in design and not splash it with 50s colours and baubles. 

They all had the same basic elements, and my kitchen's got 'em ... 

... in white and cream. Frowny face.

As you've seen so far, the 40s and 50s kitchen was all about the teal, green, yellow, pink, and red -- NOT the white and cream.

So where to start? The first thing I thought when I saw our kitchen was: Formica table! It will go in the breakfast nook on the other side of peninsula and it will look fabulous!

When my new home was built, Formica was the wave of the future and its crazy, bright colours were everywhere. 

It went well with the crazy linoleum floors.

Since our house is a rental, we can't redo the floors or counter-tops...

... but we can get a Formica table -- in green, yellow ...

... or red. Personally, I favour yellow or green, but Beau and his two sons (who live with us) favour tomato red. I may be outnumbered here and I think I can live with that.

I think it might also be fun to mix and match the table with yellow and green or even pink chairs meant to go with different tables.

Yes, pink. Of course, there were kitchen trends that are a bit much even for me (though I might need a starburst clock too). 

I mean, that is a lot of pink! And that wallpaper is hideous. Beau just walked by and said, "That's awful." I agree.

But I might add a few pink elements, like these canisters with their groovy font ... 

... or these more understated ones, with their chrome-like details to match the kitchen table we don't yet own.

If you know what you're looking for, such details aren't that hard to find second hand. As some of you know, I'm already a genius at finding amazing costume jewelry second hand. I mean, have you seen my Trifari and Sherman brooches? I think I'm up to the task of finding 40s and 50s kitchen stuff too.

I'll probably avoid the turquoise and teal, because they're dangerously close to a trigger colour for me, but I surely will go for those fun atomic elements so popular in the 50s.

Indeed, I already have some appropriate stuff, like these atomic shot glasses ...

... this strawberry jar ...

... and these Betty Crocker measuring cups.

Because what's a 50s kitchen without tacky plastic products in the palette of the day? 

And loads of tomato red ...

... even if the cat is using it right now. (And do note that great, old filing cabinet. I think I'll be giving that to Beau for his office space.)  

Colour we need and colour we shall have!

It's not all beautiful, but it's all very exuberant and great fun.

I can hardly wait. 


To be continued...


  1. After I showed my Husband the tamoto red table he said he had it pictured by memory.I have looked at all the photos and I am happy to see whats next.

  2. I too love this shabby chic and I tried to decorate my room an old way, with things people were about to throw to rubbish dump. It's a real fun to turn old things into modern :)

  3. This was fun reading!! I know you are having sooooo much more fun actually doing it!!!!

  4. Such a cute picture of you at the end!

    We live in a 1940s rental cottage, and our kitchen actually looks a lot like the first picture! We have red countertops, white, yellow and teal cabinets lots of natural wood and linoleum floors. :) It's lovely, very homey. I'm glad that you like your kitchen! Bright accents definitely will make it even more fun. xxx