Kitchen appliances have come a long way over the years, with new technologies and innovations making cooking easier and more convenient. However, vintage and retro appliances have made a major comeback in recent years. There is an undeniable charm and nostalgia associated with mid-century modern and retro-styled appliances. Their colorful, sleek designs can add a fun, decorative element to your kitchen. Beyond aesthetics, many people enjoy using vintage appliances for their durability, quality craftsmanship, and unique features not found on new models. This article will explore the resurgence of retro kitchen appliances, the best places to find vintage pieces, and tips for styling your kitchen with a retro flair.
The Return of Retro Kitchen Appliances
Vintage kitchen appliances never fully went away, but they have seen a major resurgence in popularity over the last decade. Some key factors driving this trend include:
Nostalgia and Retro Design Elements
Mid-century modern, atomic age googie, and other retro design styles are back in fashion across home furnishings. People want to recreate the bright, cheerful look of 1950s and 1960s kitchens. Vintage appliances in turquoise, pink, yellow, and other retro colors are an easy way to inject this aesthetic. Their curved, space age styling and charming logos hearken back to this era.
Durability of Older Models
Many vintage appliances were made with metal exteriors and quality craftsmanship that lent them incredible durability. Brands like O’Keefe & Merritt stoves, Sunbeam mixers, and Chambers refrigerators were built to last lifetimes. This durability appeals to sustainability-minded consumers today.
Unique Special Features
Vintage appliances often have special features you cannot find on new models. For example, some 1940s-50s refrigerators have metal freezer compartments with latching doors, while certain stoves have broilers built into the lower oven. These unique traits make vintage appliances appealing.
While some highly coveted vintage pieces command high prices, many retro appliances can be purchased inexpensively from classified ads, estate sales, thrift stores, or auctions. Fixing up an old stove or refrigerator you acquired on the cheap can be more budget-friendly than buying a new appliance.
Where to Find Retro Kitchen Appliances
If you love the retro look, where should you start searching for vintage kitchen appliances? Here are some top places to look:
Sites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace feature thousands of vintage appliance listings. Search under terms like “vintage,” “antique,” or “retro appliances.” Act fast on good deals.
Thrift Stores and Consignment Shops
Search thrift stores in affluent areas to score great donated retro finds. Many consignment shops also carry a selection of vintage appliances that have been cleaned up and repaired.
When families liquidate property from a deceased relative, they often sell vintage kitchen appliances via estate sales. Arrive early and be prepared to transport large items.
eBay and Etsy
eBay has an enormous selection of vintage stoves, refrigerators, stand mixers, and more. Etsy is great for more unique, decorative pieces like 1950s kitchen canisters. Exercise caution when buying online sight unseen.
Check auction houses and online auction sites for vintage appliances. Inspect items thoroughly before bidding. Factor in the buyer’s premium when setting your max bid.
Garage and Yard Sales
Searching local garage and yard sales can turn up great retro appliance finds. Go early for the best selection. Make sure items work before purchasing.
Restaurant Supply Stores
Commercial restaurant supply stores often carry discontinued commercial appliances, some vintage, at reasonable prices. Call ahead to ask what retro appliances they currently have in stock.
Some brands like Big Chill sell refurbished or boutique new production vintage-style appliances. These come with modern warranties but retain retro design elements.
Tips for Styling Your Retro Kitchen Appliances
Once you have collected some charming vintage appliances, how do you incorporate them seamlessly into your kitchen design? Follow these tips:
Mix Vintage and New Pieces
Blending vintage appliances with some new, modern conveniences creates an eclectic look. Use your vintage refrigerator and keep your dishwasher updated.
Select Matching Colors
Choose appliances in matching or coordinating retro colors like turquoise, yellow, mint green or pink. This creates a more uniform look.
Add Era-Appropriate Accessories
Use 1950s-style kitchen canisters, atomic wall clocks, and other decorative accessories to complement the vintage vibe.
Style with Retro Materials
Pair vintage appliances with other elements from the era like chrome and Formica cabinets, linoleum floors, and laminate countertops.
Update Old Finishes
Freshen up paint colors, exchange old knobs for more modern ones, or add new hardware to give vintage appliances a stylish facelift.
Position as Focal Points
Treat appliances like a stove or fridge as artistic focal points. Set off with accent lighting or decorative tile backsplashes.
Maintain Period Correctness
Research era design when remodeling your retro kitchen. Keep styles consistent for appliances, cabinets, colors and patterns.
Incorporate Some Modern Updates
While embracing the retro look, update some elements for convenience. Add modern kitchen faucets, under-cabinet lighting and electrical outlets.
Top Retro Appliances to Look For
If you want to revel in the retro kitchen trend, these are some of the best vintage appliances to seek out:
Some of the most iconic vintage refrigerators include General Electric, Philco, Hotpoint, Frigidaire, Kelvinator, and Westinghouse brands with 1950s styling featuring pastel colors and sleek chrome trims. Many have charming design details like rounded corners and door handles. Unique features to look for include retractable coffee dispensers and removable freezer compartments. These eye-catching fridges add artistic appeal and functionality.
Brands like O’Keefe & Merritt were pioneers in offering 1950s ranges in delicious colors like turquoise, pink, yellow and robin’s egg blue. Their streamlined, rounded silhouette embodied mid-century style. Brands like Wedgewood and Tappan also made brightly colored, retro-styled stoves. These vintage ranges offer both form and function when restored. Look for models with original bakelite or chrome dials for extra appeal.
Stand mixers really came into their own in the 1930s-50s with popular models by KitchenAid, Sunbeam, GE, Kenmore, and Oster. Their sleek, streamlined shapes and glossy enamel finishes epitomize the era. These workhorses still perform with power and reliability today when properly restored. Look for iconic mid-century mixers on eBay, Etsy, or Facebook Marketplace.
Toasters from the 1950s-60s featured fun colors, sleek lines, and space age details like the Atomic brand models with nuclear symbols. Funky 2 slice toasters made by Sunbeam, GE and Oster add retro flair to countertops. Search thrift stores and garage sales for these charming vintage toasters.
Many 1950s kitchens incorporated wall ovens paired with a separate cooktop. Brands like Hotpoint, GE, O’Keefe & Merritt and Frigidaire made colorful, stylish models. Look for design details like dial knobs, arched tops, and curved chrome doors. Restore these to working order for a cool focal point.
Frequently Asked Questions About Retro Kitchen Appliances
- Are vintage appliances harder to repair and find parts for?
Vintage appliance parts may be harder to source today, but often original manufacturers or third party companies reproduce popular parts and components. Joining retro appliance enthusiast groups can help locate parts and technical advice for restoration.
- Are old appliances energy efficient?
Many newer appliances are more energy and water efficient. However, with restoration and new parts, many retro appliances can be adapted to run quite efficiently. Adding insulation, replacing worn gaskets and faulty parts improves efficiency.
- Is it safe to use vintage appliances after restoring them?
With proper restoration by a professional, and with updated electrical hookups, vintage appliances can absolutely be safely used. Always check for recalls or known issues with any vintage brands or models prior to purchase.
- How expensive is it to restore vintage kitchen appliances?
Costs vary widely based on the appliance condition and how extensive the restoration is. Minor restorations may cost a few hundred dollars, while major overhauls with re-chroming or stripping and powder coating can run into the thousands.
- Where do I find replacement knobs and other small parts?
eBay and Etsy shops carry a wide array of replacement knobs, handles, feet, and other small vintage appliance parts. Shop based on your appliance make and model. Local antique stores are also great resources.
- What should I look out for when buying vintage kitchen appliances?
Carefully inspect any appliance before purchasing. Check for faulty wiring, corroded parts, leaks, damage, or missing pieces. Ensure the appliance powers on and operates properly where possible. Factor in restoration costs.
Bringing the Past into the Present with Retro Appliances
Embracing the retro style trend in your kitchen is an exciting way to infuse decorative flair and nostalgia into an essential space. From whipping up smoothies in an atomic turquoise mixer to storing fresh produce in a gleaming mid-century refrigerator, vintage appliances add artistic function. With proper restoration and styling, they create a cheerful, unique look. Breathing new life into durable, quality-crafted retro appliances allows you to revel in their enduring charm while keeping kitchen conveniences updated. With so many great vintage pieces available, everyone can experience a taste of the past through their present kitchen today.
Vintage kitchen appliances offer the perfect way to add nostalgic retro flair to your home. Their colorful, durable designs stand the test of time and bring joy whenever you cook. With some searching, restoring, and styling, you can revel in retro appliances that blend the old and the new seamlessly. Finding these hidden gems connects you to previous eras in unique ways. Experience the artistry, craftsmanship, and history offered by these charming appliances. Let vintage pieces transport your kitchen to the atomic optimism of the 1950s or the swinging mod style of the 1960s. Bringing the past into the present through your kitchen creates a space that is distinctly yours, telling the story of your style and passions. So embrace the retro trend and happy hunting for the perfect set of vintage appliances that speak to you!