Vintage interior design refers to the furniture, fabrics and other elements that create a nostalgic feel in a room. Generally speaking, vintage designs may draw from a number of periods, including the Victorian and Edwardian periods; the 1920s and Art Deco era; the post-WWII era and the 1950s and the psychedelic 60s and the 70s disco era. More specifically, vintage refers to design elements and style that recalls the look and feel of the 1940s and 50s.
Incorporating vintage design into a room, for example the kitchen, may begin on a small scale. Simply adding in vintage canisters, an old-fashioned bread box or advertising imagery can create a vintage 50s look in a modern kitchen. There are a great variety of furniture pieces and accessories to be found in specialty stores, antique stores and even at local sales and flea markets, to help create the look. With the addition of popular paint colors and finishes from the era and some simple window coverings, a vintage-style kitchen is easy to achieve.
Vintage kitchen accessories and furniture
Furniture designs from the 50s made use of many, at the time, new materials; one of the most popular and iconic being chrome. A mainstay of the 50s-era diner, chrome can be used to form the base of a Formica-topped kitchen table, vinyl-covered chairs or swivel bar stools. Caned-back chairs are a slightly more formal way to go when paired with a coordinating table.
Appliances from the 50s are still to be found and some may even be in working order; however, many of the old designs for these durable metal machines have been reproduced to blend well with vintage kitchen designs, among them lever-handled refrigerators, ice boxes and Chambers cook-stoves.
Vintage 50s accessories include red and white enamelware dishes and cookware; glass milk bottles and vintage milk cans; bread boxes and vintage and reprinted art designs and advertising images.
Vintage colors and finishes
The color palette in the 50s was characterized by a wide array of hues, ranging from natural stains and white to Mackinac green, a soft forest green. In addition, golden yellow, light gray, medium gray-blue, desert sand and pale mist green were also popular throughout the period. Enamel paints and finishes were widely used in 50s era kitchens, from the furniture and cabinetry, to the walls and even the floors.
Directional design was a popular and functional choice during the 50s. Using the direction in which a particular room faces as a guideline, directional design guides the choice of color to be used, based on how much natural light enters the room and its overall temperature. On account of their exposure to the sun, south and west facing kitchens tend to be described as “hot”, so cooler blues and greens are the best choice. North-facing kitchens tend to be “cold”, so choosing “warm” or “hot” colors, including yellow, orange and red, work best. East facing rooms are flexible and can pull colors from both palettes.
Vintage window dressings
Vintage 50s-era window coverings are both simple and decorative. Full window panels in gingham fabrics, with clean white tie-backs; valances featuring charming and animated motifs, such as teapots, fruit or vegetables; white curtains edged in colored bands and custom shutters painted in period colors, are all great examples of the style.