Creating a cheerful retro style for a 1913 kitchen can seem like a daunting task, but with some thoughtful planning and strategic design choices, it is very achievable. A vintage 1913 kitchen evokes images of simpler times with charming details like painted cabinets, porcelain sinks, and antique hardware. With the right approach, you can create a space that feels nostalgic yet fresh and functional for how we live today. This article will explore ideas for designing a 1913-inspired kitchen that celebrates the best of vintage style with a dose of modern convenience.

Researching Popular Design Elements from the Era

When embarking on a period-inspired kitchen design, it’s important to start by researching popular styles and trends from that time. Here are some key elements that defined kitchen design in 1913:

Color Palette

  • Whites, creams, and pale pastels were widely used to create a light and airy look. Robin’s egg blue was particularly popular for cabinetry.
  • Deep jewel tones like emerald green or sapphire blue added pops of contrast.
  • Warm metallics like brass, copper, and nickel gave a subtle shine.


  • Painted wood cabinets with visible brush strokes for texture were common. Distressing techniques added vintage character.
  • Glass-front upper cabinets displayed dish collections.
  • Simple Shaker-style doors with recessed rectangular panels were predominant.
  • Unadorned countertops, like white marble or butcher block, kept the focus on cabinetry.


  • Black and white checkerboard tile was a classic kitchen flooring look.
  • Hexagonal tiles in colorful or neutral hues were also popular.
  • Hardwood floors extended from adjoining rooms into the kitchen.

Lighting & Hardware

  • Pendant lights, often with milk glass lamp shades or exposed bulbs, illuminated work areas.
  • Porcelain dials and knobs in simple shapes created vintage appeal.
  • Cast iron and enamel pieces added durability and retro styling.

Planning a Layout for Functionality

While it’s tempting to adhere strictly to how a 1913 kitchen was originally laid out, today’s lifestyles require some modernizations. Adapt the space for how a family lives now while preserving the nostalgic charm.

Allow Room to Gather

Incorporate a breakfast nook or casual dining area so the kitchen accommodates family meals and gatherings. Open shelving can display serveware.

Update Storage

Increase storage space with drawer inserts, roll-out shelves, and smart organizers to accommodate modern cooking gadgets. Conceal appliances in cupboards with ventilation.

Improve Workflow

Position the sink, stove, and refrigerator in the optimal triangle workflow pattern. Add workstations like a baking center or coffee bar for convenience.

Hide Messy Spots

Distract from unavoidable modern needs like garbage cans and recycling bins by tucking them into discreet pull-out cabinets or contained areas.

Upgrade Function

Consider innovations like tip-out trays, soft-close hinges, and pull-down faucets to blend seamlessly into the vintage style.

Selecting the Right Materials and Finishes

Choosing materials and finishes that evoke the 1910s era but still withstand everyday use requires careful consideration. Prioritize vintage good looks paired with modern durability.

Painted Cabinets

Painted cabinets suit a 1913 look, but opt for a high-quality enamel that resists staining, yellowing, and chipping. A smooth satin or eggshell finish is ideal.

Alternatives to Marble

Genuine marble countertops require diligent sealing. Quartz or solid surface materials provide a realistic look with more stain resistance.

Updated Tile

Classic black and white octagonal tile flooring looks period-perfect but can be slick. Consider a slightly textured version for better traction.

Eco-Friendly Flooring

Hardwood floors suit a 1913 style but reclaimed, distressed, or engineered wood types are more sustainable today.

Vintage-Inspired Hardware

Seek hardware that mimics early 20th century styles but is made from durable, updated materials like ceramic or sturdy metal alloys.

Referencing Nostalgic Kitchen Elements in a Fresh Way

Certain iconic kitchen features help establish a vintage 1913 aesthetic while also serving practical purposes. Find creative ways to incorporate these signatures in a current, livable kitchen.

Glass-Front Cabinets

Display dishes and glassware in upper cabinets with wire glass fronts that obscure contents slightly while still showcasing colors and shapes.

Butcher Block Island

A butcher block-topped island makes a charming prep space and casual dining spot. Opt for a moisture-resistant engineered hardwood finish.

Period-Perfect Sink

An apron-front porcelain sink looks authentic but has limited counter space. Consider a farmer’s-style sink for traditional charm with more functionality.

Pendant Lighting

Hang pendant lights over prep zones or an eat-in dining nook to emulate early 20th century illumination. Seek electrical hardwire or hybrid options.

Open Shelving

Keep frequently used serveware, glassware, or dishes on display with wall-mounted open shelving. Install as stand-alone features or above counters.

Blending Old and New Decor Accents

Achieving a retro kitchen ambiance doesn’t mean the space has to feel like a vintage time capsule. Mixing old and new decorative details creates comfort and character.

Vintage Finds

Search antique stores, flea markets, estate sales, or online auctions for charming period accents like a enamelware canister set or wall-mounted telephone.

Modern Updates

Incorporate modern art, sculptural lighting, or sleek kitchen tools as contemporary juxtapositions to the old-fashioned surroundings.

Meaningful Memorabilia

Display nostalgic family kitchenware passed down through generations, like pie plates or rolling pins, for personal connections.

Collections on Display

Arrange collections of white ironstone pitchers or colorful Fiestaware in glass-front cabinets for eclectic style.

Textural Touches

Add layered textures with elements like vintage-style ceramic chicken canisters, fruit-adorned dishtowels, or a cozy knit blanket on a chair.

Achieving the Overall 1913 Aesthetic

Each design choice contributes to creating the desired cheerful retro atmosphere. Keep these strategies in mind as you select fixtures, finishes, and styling details.

Opt for Timeworn over Pristine

Distressed paint, visible woodgrain, crackled plaster walls, and mottled surfaces suggest aged appeal. The well-worn look adds cozy authenticity.

Warm up the White

Crisp bright white can feel sterile. Soften it with cream, pearl, or pale blue-gray hues on walls, cabinetry, and larger surfaces.

Pick Playful Patterns

Cheerful motifs like gingham, floral prints, or color-glazed tile inject personality. Use sparingly as accents against neutral backdrops.

Source from the Past

Seeking out salvaged or genuine antiques, from lighting to cabinet hardware, brings vintage spirit. Reproduction pieces are more affordable alternatives.

Handmade Imperfections

Items showing handcrafted qualities like visible brushstrokes on cabinets or uneven edges on tiles enhance the old-fashioned vibe.

FAQs About Designing a 1913-Inspired Kitchen

What are some suitable flooring options for a vintage 1913 kitchen?

Checkerboard tile, hexagonal tile, or distressed wood floors suit the era. For durability, consider porcelain tile made to mimic hexagons or reclaimed oak planks. Define kitchen zones with patterned area rugs.

What type of sink is most fitting for a retro 1913 design?

An apron-front porcelain farmhouse sink looks suitably vintage. For more functionality, try a deeper double-basin version. A porcelain-coated cast iron sink offers durability. Add vintage-style metal drains and strainers.

How do you infuse color into a 1913-inspired kitchen in a period-appropriate way?

Use color thoughtfully in small doses. Paint upper cabinets or the island a light pastel hue like robin’s egg blue. Bring in colored glass vases, dishes, or kitchenware. Pick tile or linens with cheery vintage patterns. Paint the walls a soft color for subtle background color.

What kind of lighting works well in a 1913-style kitchen?

Pendant lights over the central work zone or sink provide directed task lighting. Sconces flanking a window backsplash offer ambient lighting. Undercabinet lights illuminate countertops. Indirect cove lighting adds a soft glow overall.

What type of cabinetry details evoke an early 20th century look?

Shaker-style cabinet doors with a visible square or rectangular frame and recessed center panel. Distressed painted finishes in pale hues. Glass-front uppers to display dishware. Unadorned butcher block, marble, or concrete countertops. Porcelain knobs and bin or cup pulls in simple shapes.

How can you incorporate vintage character while still meeting modern kitchen functional needs?

Adapt the layout to support current lifestyles. Add organized storage solutions. Conceal small appliances in cabinets with ventilation. Install subtle modern conveniences like soft-close hinges. Choose materials like porcelain or engineered wood for durability.

What are good ways to display collections or memorabilia in a 1913 kitchen?

Glass-front cabinetry or open shelving showcases vintage dishware. Frame antique kitchen tools and utensils as wall art. Display handed-down rolling pins or ceramic canisters. Decorate with nostalgic printed ads or signage replicating early 1900s brands.

How do you prevent a 1913-style kitchen from feeling like a stale vintage recreation?

Incorporate meaningful antique finds and family heirlooms alongside modern art and accents. Allow signs of natural wear and tear like nicks, scratches, or stains. Use the kitchen; don’t just preserve it. Add handcrafted ceramic, wood, or textile pieces made by current artisans.

Creative and Inspiring 1913 Kitchen Design Ideas

If you’re seeking to create a kitchen with quintessential 1913 charm, the following creative examples demonstrate how to achieve the look successfully:

Soft Green and Antique White

Painting the base cabinets in a weathered antique white and the uppers in a soft sage green faux-finish evokes vintage flavor. Hexagon tile flooring and an apron-front sink maintain period styling. Open shelving, brass accents, and a marble-topped rolling cart blend old and new.

Vintage Blue with Pale Yellow Accents

Robin’s egg blue cabinets with glass-front uppers set the nostalgic tone, complemented by a vintage-inspired chrome gooseneck faucet and schoolhouse pendant lights. Pale lemon yellow walls and an antique butcher block island provide cheery contrast.

Retro-Patterned Floor Tile

Alternating black and white tiles in an intricate floral motif express a 1913 sensibility. Crisp white shaker cabinets, an oversized porcelain farmhouse sink, and an heirloom harvest table enhance the old-fashioned ambiance.

Classic Black and White

A black and white color palette creates striking vintage attitude. Charcoal cabinets play off bright white pendant lights and subway tile backsplash. Pops of brass and an antique rolling cart provide a retro finishing touch.

Rustic Farmhouse Style

Reclaimed wood open shelving and flooring offer rustic appeal, while painted shaker cabinets and porcelain hardware keep the aesthetic rooted in the era. A vintage cookbook collection provides nostalgic decor.


Designing a kitchen inspired by the style of 1913 can transport you back to simpler times while still meeting the needs of present-day living if executed thoughtfully. Through careful research and blending of materials, colors, layout, and decorative details, it’s possible to strike the right nostalgic tone. Keep the vintage vibe consistent but don’t be afraid to integrate modern updates as well. With an authentic period look and a good dose of livable function, your cheery retro kitchen can be a heartwarming gathering spot for years to come.