Retro is good for kitchen design. It uses classic and vintages design features, which is great for people who want a kitchen that will last. Retro themes and features give you an older look or can be timeless too. You can design your retro kitchen however you want. You can make it authentic or combine old and new to make it modern. All of the possibilities are there for your retro kitchen. No matter what choices you make, you can get the retro kitchen of your dreams.
Inspiration is easy to find too. You can find ideas and develop your design as you learn. Your kitchen can be customized to your wants and needs, or those of your clients. From color scheme to appliances, it's all up to you. We've looked at some top considerations and what to include in your retro kitchen to help you out.
Retro vs Vintage?
The words retro and vintage are both used to refer to older objects, ideas, and styles. And then there's antique, which is usually used for even older things. But is there a difference between retro and vintage? These words have similar meanings but often are used in subtly different ways. However, some people use them pretty much interchangeably, depending on the subject matter. This can make it all a little confusing, but the difference may not matter all that much.
Essentially, vintage is used to describe authentic items that are at least 20 years old. Many people won't use the word vintage for anything younger than 30, 40, or even 50 years old. You will also often see "vintage-style", which denotes that something looks vintage but isn't actually from the specific time period. In fact, vintage style and retro are used in similar ways. Retro is usually used to describe anything designed in the style of vintage items that are not actually authentically vintage. You might also see it more specifically applied to 1950s-80s styling. Finally, antiques are typically at least 100 years old.
- Vintage: authentic items at least 20 years old
- Retro or vintage-style: items made to look like vintage
- Antique: items at least 100 years old
In this article, retro, vintage, and vintage style might be used interchangeably. While these words can have distinct meanings, sometimes it's more about the overall effect than how old something actually is.
Picking a Period
So now you've considered the ins and outs of vintage and retro interiors, you might want to think about different periods and styles. There's no need to stick to one specific style or decade if you don't want to, but it's helpful to know your options. Plenty of styles can combine beautifully, especially because lots of design trends come back around in different periods. With a little bit of knowledge about certain styles, you can make the most of them in your vintage-style kitchens.
You can explore many different styles to design a retro kitchen. Choose one to focus on, or mix and match to get that retro feel without having to settle on a specific time.
Some of the options you might want to consider include:
- 1950s Americana — make the most of Coca-Cola red, 1950s ephemera and space-inspired decor for a '50s-diner-style kitchen
- Mid-century modern — get inspired by the contemporary trends of the 1950s-1970s for ways to use organic shapes, natural materials, functionality, and simplicity
- French country vintage — head to Provence with classic French styling for a rustic and cozy look in your kitchen
- Scandinavian folk — ditch modern Scandi design for a more traditional style with folk elements
- English heritage — go for a refined look with smart tiling, a beautiful range cooker, and perhaps even a styled fireplace (functional or not)
Updating Retro Kitchen Designs
One thing to keep in mind when designing a vintage or retro-themed kitchen is that you don't have to stick to one distinct style. In fact, what many people aim to do with a retro kitchen is give it an update. By combining vintage elements with more modern tastes, you can ensure your kitchen is retro-chic rather than just looking horribly outdated. Of course, you can go all-in on a retro theme if that's what you want, but not everyone desires the complete authenticity of a 1970s kitchen.
When you combine retro ideas with more modern kitchen features, you can get the best of both worlds. It allows you to choose your favorite things about the periods you love, while also doing away with the things you're not so keen on. Plus, you get to enjoy all of the modern conveniences that today's technology offers, together with vintage style. You can design a timeless kitchen that will continue to look stylish for many years thanks to featuring the best elements from your chosen time period(s).
So how can you create a balance between vintage style and more modern features? There are no hard and fast rules to follow but there might be some tips you want to keep in mind.
Mix Old and New Pieces
A mix of old and new obviously makes sense when you want to update retro kitchen design. This can be something that you do with both the age and style of the features you choose. Some pieces might be real vintage or even antique, perhaps reclaimed or recycled. Other features might not be genuine vintage but can still make use of the style if you want to. And with those, you can mix in modern fixtures, fittings, and furniture.
Take the Best of Timeless Design
It's not always easy to tell if something is retro-cool or just looks old. If you want to avoid an outdated kitchen, one way to do it is to look at enduring design features. Anything that's too out of date has probably been left in the past. But styles that keep coming back or never went away are safer bets for a timeless kitchen design. You can create a design that both won't go out of style and has that distinctive retro feel that you're looking for. Consider looking for timeless cabinetry styles, making use of neutral colors, and making sure your kitchen is functional.
Find a Connecting Thread
Retro kitchens can easily become rather eclectic, especially if you're mixing old and new and getting inspiration from different places. If you're worried it could end up looking a bit too disorganized, pick something that will connect it all. This is a good way to create a coherent look for your retro kitchen that allows you to have some fun with the design.
Designing Different Elements of Your Retro Kitchen
You can consider so many different elements when you're designing a new kitchen. From the floor to the ceiling, there are lots of things to plan. And a kitchen needs to be more than just beautiful, too. It's also vital that it's functional and serves the needs of the people who use it. Fortunately, a retro or vintage kitchen doesn't have to be just one thing. You can design it your way.
Plan Your Kitchen Layout
The first step to designing any kitchen is thinking about its layout. There definitely isn't one layout that will give your kitchen a retro feel, but there are some options that you might want to consider.
One thing to think about is built-in furniture versus freestanding furniture. A lot of modern kitchens make use of plenty of built-in cabinets and even kitchen islands for built-in seating. However, some use of freestanding furniture, from china hutches to kitchen tables, can be useful if you're going for a vintage look. Getting a balance between the two can create modern convenience while delivering retro style. Integrated or hidden appliances can look sleek, but freestanding appliances can work better for the style that you want to create.
Retro Kitchen Cabinets
Kitchen cabinets are a prominent feature, so it's always important to plan them carefully. There's no ignoring them, and they make up a big part of the overall look of the kitchen. Luckily, this means that you have some excellent ways to recreate old fashion kitchens with just one design choice. Your cabinet selection can really set the scene for the rest of the kitchen, and there are plenty of ways you can choose to style them.
- Classic cabinets — keep things simple with timeless cabinet styles (like shaker cabinets) that will look good in any vintage or modern kitchen
- Use vintage furniture — look for either vintage cabinets you can build into your kitchen or something freestanding that can be repurposed as kitchen storage
- Choose glass-fronted units — add both character and light to your kitchen by picking cabinets with glass panels
- Keep it natural — the natural grain of wooden cabinets is a great look for a vintage kitchen
- Pick a retro color — whether it's the bright red of the '50s, pastels of the '60s, or browns and oranges of the '70s, colored cabinets can have a fantastic retro effect
- Don't forget about the hardware — the handles and drawer pulls that you choose can have an impact on your cabinets too, so look for retro styles and shapes for that finishing touch
Choosing Retro Appliances
After your cabinets, your kitchen appliances are some of the most prominent features in your kitchen. The great news here is that there are so many retro and vintage-style options so that you can get the look you want. And, even better, while many retro kitchen appliances look the part, they have great modern technology inside them to make them not just beautiful but also functional.
There are lots of appliances to consider in the kitchen, including both large appliances and smaller countertop appliances. Starting with the large appliances, you'll want to find the right matches for your stove, range hood, fridge, and dishwasher. Functionality is, of course, as important as getting the look you want, so finding the best brands and manufacturers to meet your needs is important. When you're looking for smaller appliances, you might need to think about things like coffee machines, toasters, food processors or blenders, and stand mixers.
To find the right appliances, you might want to begin by looking for brands that make retro-style appliances. Here are some of the options to consider to help you get the right look:
Our heritage-style range hoods are the perfect match for your vintage kitchen, with options in copper, brass, and stainless steel. Hundreds of ways to customize our products mean that you can design a range hood that meets your exact specifications. Using our 3D rendering tool on any of our product pages, you can choose different options and see what they look like in real-time. A range hood is a must for good kitchen ventilation, and the vintage style of our products blends together with superior fan technology for efficient performance.
Smeg is a well-known brand for retro kitchen appliances, having featured on various TV shows such as The Great British Baking Show. Their refrigerators have a recognizable 1950s style, and they also offer other appliances on the same theme. Their products include ovens, blast chillers, coffee machines, toasters, electric kettles, and more, so you can use them for both large and small appliances.
Like Smeg, Big Chill also became popular for retro 1950s-style refrigerators and has since applied the style to a range of other appliances. Popular with celebrities, their appliances are on the pricey side, but worth it for the looks and functionality. Big Chill offers ovens, microwaves, dishwashers, and more in beautiful retro colors.
KitchenAid is best known for the brand's stand mixers, which are particularly popular with bakers. It's not just the retro style that appeals to people, but also the high-quality construction. But that's not the only product that KitchenAid offers. They also have many other countertop appliances and large kitchen appliances. Blenders, coffee machines, and food processors are just some of the small appliances made in their distinctive style, while their large appliances include fridges, freezers, dishwashers, and more.
Countertops and Sink
Choosing the right cabinets is important, but you can't forget about your surfaces. You need countertops for food preparation (and to hold your small appliances), as well as a generous sink for washing dishes and various other activities. But what should you go for to make sure these functional elements also work with your retro-inspired kitchen?
Firstly, you could consider some retro materials, such as formica or laminate. These might not be the most glamorous of kitchen materials, but they would definitely give you authenticity if that's what you want. You can choose from a huge range of colors and patterns too, so it's easy to find a style you like. Wooden countertops are another option that could give a nice vintage style.
Another option is to make a more modern choice for your countertops to blend old and new. If you have vintage-style cabinets, it can work well to have a more up-to-date countertop choice. Try marble or another natural stone, or an imitation of one, for a more contemporary look. Even stainless steel could create cool results and blend well with your retro kitchen design.
When it comes to sinks, there are some amazing styles and designs you might want to consider. Try a farmhouse sink for its vintage look and practicality. They also look fantastic in a range of materials. You can get them in copper, stainless steel, ceramic, or cast iron. At CopperSmith, our farmhouse sinks are available in a choice of durable and beautiful metals. With different designs and sizes available, you can customize your sink to complete your kitchen design.
Your sink will also need a faucet, which gives you another opportunity to have some retro fun. There are some beautiful vintage designs for faucets that can bring some interesting shapes and styles to your kitchen. And you can make sure your faucet is functional too, making it easy to use.
Retro Kitchen Island Ideas
What if you want to include an island in your kitchen? It's a good way to have extra storage space, plus more space for food prep and for your small appliances. It can also be used for dining, from breakfasts to snack time, and it provides somewhere to do homework or even work from home.
For your retro kitchen island, consider a freestanding island. This can give you some more freedom to find something you love, especially if you want to source a piece of vintage furniture. Playing with interesting shapes can also be a fun way to approach your island. Why choose a standard rectangular island, when you could have a funky round island inspired by 1960s decor?
Consider how to use the space above your island too. It could be where you choose to install your range hood, which frees up space at the edges of the room. Or you might use that space for storage, whether it's built-in storage or perhaps a rail that you can use to hang your pots, pans, and utensils. You also get to have fun with the seating, with some amazing retro options for bar stools, if you want to use the island for dining or drinks.
Flooring for Your Vintage Kitchen
You can't forget about big design decisions such as the floors and walls. There are so many flooring possibilities for a retro kitchen, but the first thing you need to consider is practicality. Any flooring you choose should be long-lasting and make sense for a kitchen environment. This could also be one area where you want to avoid complete authenticity. Some people might genuinely like linoleum, but it's not for everyone. Today, vinyl flooring offers a similar alternative. However, there are many more flooring choices that you might prefer, especially for a luxury kitchen design.
Wooden floors can look great in the kitchen and give you a vintage look. Tiles are also a great choice and can help you to recreate a variety of different styles. For example, black and white checkered tiles could be used for anything from a 1950s diner look to a kitchen inspired by art deco.
What to Do with the Walls?
Some of your kitchen walls might be taken up by cabinets or hidden by appliances, but they're still important. One of the best ways to give your kitchen a retro feel could be to consider what colors, patterns, and textures you want to use on the walls.
Some ideas for your walls could include:
- 1970s wood paneling
- Period-appropriate patterned wallpaper
- Eye-catching tiled backsplashes
- Bright retro colors as main shades or accents
- Bold pastel colors mixed with cream and white
Lighting It Up
After you have designed a beautiful retro kitchen, you want to make sure you can see it. The right lighting is a must, and there are some amazing vintage choices. You could pick a striking Sputnik chandelier for a mid-century statement, some vintage pendant lights to put focus on your island, or some quirky sconces to up-light the walls. The best thing is that you can choose retro lighting fixtures but get the benefit of modern light bulbs. Your lighting will be beautiful but also energy-efficient.
Get Retro Inspiration from CopperSmith
However you choose to style your retro kitchen, CopperSmith can help with some of its key features. Take a look at our range hoods and sinks to explore our customization options using our 3D tool, and get in touch for a quote to find out more.