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June 14, 2021

20 Wonderful American Kitchen Designs From the 1950s

It’s the 1950s. The war is over, and the United States is enjoying a wave of unprecedented prosperity. Millions of GIs returned, eager for the comforts of home that they had been missing, and everyone settled down to a kind of nationwide nesting. Record numbers of homes were being built in the newly developed suburbs, and the center of all those homes was the kitchen.

The new, modern American kitchen took the form that had been established at the Bauhaus way back in the 1920s — built-in cabinets, with a long, continuous countertop above, and appliances integrated into the cabinets for a seamless look. People who couldn’t afford to buy a new house, or to replace their kitchen all in one go, were encourage to modernize their kitchen bit by bit, replacing their old piecemeal kitchens with new, modern cabinetry — starting with the sink unit.

By the 1940s, refrigerators had become a common feature in American kitchens. Appliance designers in the 1950s experimented with some refrigerator designs that might seem rather unusual to us now, like the 1952 GE wall-mounted version, which replaced a section of upper cabinets. The pink unit above, grandly titled the ‘GE Refrigeration Center’, combined a wall-mounted fridge with pull-out refrigerator (or freezer) drawers that were designed to match the rest of the cabinets.

Steel kitchen kitchen cabinets were very common in the 1950s, as manufacturers looked for ways to turn steel factories that produced weapons for the war to more domestic purposes. There were quite a few different manufacturers, including GE, who made both appliances and cabinets. GE also made the “cabinettes” you see above — little tiny metal cabinets made to mount under an upper cabinet (or on the backsplash).

Throughout the 1950s, designers and homeowners embraced color in the kitchen, although these colors were softer than the ones commonly seen in 1930s and 1940s kitchens. While kitchens in the 1930s and 1940s often featured bolder colors like black, red, or green, the 1950s was dominated by soft shades of blue, pink, and yellow — candy-colored cabinets with appliances to match.

1951 Western Style Youngstown Kitchen – This modern kitchen shows the steel cabinetry so popular during the post-WWII period as well as the prevalence of the Western theme with the knotty pine walls and yoke light fixture in the adjacent breakfast booth.

1951 Armstrong Picture Kitchen – In addition to the flooring, this kitchen is visually active with cupboard doors that serve as cooking inspiration. The idea was to introduce low-cost design with inexpensive materials ... in this case pages from magazines.

1951 Early American Kitchen – One of the design trends of the early 1950s was wallpaper. Not only was wallpaper used abundantly throughout the house, but ceiling treatments were common in the magazines of the period. How many homeowners actually undertook the daunting task of doing this themselves is anybody's guess, but it looks like a heck of a lot of work to us.

1953 Armstrong Kitchen – This kitchen has tons of storage ... a common feature in Armstrong linoleum ads. Other common trends included the modern light fixtures and pinch pleated café curtains.

1953 Brown & Green Kitchen – This modern mid-century kitchen has a brown, orange, and apple green scheme, and an eat in kitchen. Wallpaper was a common wall treatment and during the early 1950s was often used on the ceiling as well.

1953 St. Charles Steel Kitchen – This was a small ad for St. Charles steel cabinetry which was very popular during the post WWII period. This kitchen reflects the affinity Americans had for blending the modern lines with early American furniture ... in this case a trestle table and Hitchcock chairs.

1953 Cover Kitchen – A modern take on the popular Early American style that people favored after World War II. Steel cabinets and copper in the hood and fixtures were a few of the trends during the early 1950s.

1954 Armstrong Kitchen With Copper Accents – The jury is still out on this Armstrong linoleum floor. Guaranteed to hide dirt and though it's the point of the ad, we are more taken with the chairs, George Nelson clock, copper hood, and louvered windows.

1954 Armstrong Suessian Kitchen – At least one viewer thought this kitchen was straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. We won’t argue; the color and odd angles on the divider make it distinctive.

1954 Duco Paint Ad Kitchen – The scallops and wrought iron hinges give this little kitchen some Early American flavor.

1954 Republic Steel Kitchen – This modern candy-cane themed kitchen has everything the 1953 homemaker desired including the stainless steel range top, wall oven, chromed toaster, and of course, steel cabinets by Republic. Of course, it was the George Nelson Saucer Pendant that caught our eye.

1954 Plaid Armstrong Kitchen – During the 1950s, there was an affinity for covering everything including doors and ceilings with matching materials. Even refrigerators could be covered! This Armstrong kitchen needs to be given credit for its design restraint.

1955 Kitchen Dinette – This dinette has all the elements we think of when we think of midcentury modern. The light fixture, coral pink walls, and casual wrought iron furniture attest to the new informality in many interiors.

1955 Eat-In Kitchen & Counter – The eat-in kitchen, always a popular feature, really took off in the years after WWII. This one is typical for its patterned linoleum flooring, pastels, and barkcloth curtains. Stenciling ties the pink, yellow, and aqua color scheme together.

1955 Geneva Kitchen Cabinets – This Geneva kitchen covers all the bases with a pink and light turquoise color scheme, eat in kitchen bar, and lots of copper highlights. The tan cabinets take it down a notch to make it cool and modern without seeming too sweet.

1953 American Gas Association Kitchen – Other than tracking down a vintage Magic Chef range and Servel gas refrigerator, it wouldn't be difficult to replicate almost everything in this kitchen. We particularly like the bank of drawers next to the range with the combination of birch, wrought iron pulls, and chrome banding. Tres chic!

1956 Armstrong Corlon Kitchen – Of the many Armstrong ads, we really like this fresh bright blue and white scheme with a pop of lemon yellow. The floor is their new Corlon product and the pattern is brightly spattered. Easy to keep clean. Check out the mirror image stoves and wall refrigerators.

1956 Mondrian-Style Armstrong Kitchen – Mondrian paintings were an avant garde statement during the 1930s. For the majority of American homeowners, modern design was a feature of the 1950s. Leary of faddish designs at first, it took a new post-War generation to embrace the new style.

1956 Hotpoint Kitchen – This 1956 kitchen featuring Hotpoint appliances is so modern, we can imagine installing the entire kitchen now. If only we could lay our hands on the curvaceous stainless steel refrigerator.

1956 Youngstown Kitchen – We really like the mid century style of this kitchen with its floral wallpaper and modern light fixture. The color scheme is mostly pastel but with a surprising red floor. We like the drainboard too!

(via Apartment Therapy)


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