How to decorate a '50s-style kitchen

Written by nina makofsky
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How to decorate a '50s-style kitchen
Space-age chairs add style to a '50s kitchen. (Diner at the shopping mall image by TekinT from

You have two choices when decorating a 1950s kitchen. Either embrace its design features and love the room in all its retro glory or add elements that tone down the design features that make it appear dated. Remember that not every original appliance needs to remain in your '50s kitchen. Go with some clean and simple updates that increase the functionality of the space without sacrificing the kitchen's signature style.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Paint
  • Finishes
  • Furniture
  • Textiles
  • Lighting
  • Accessories

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  1. 1

    Set the tone with paints and finishes. For a full-on retro revival, nothing beats aqua and cotton-candy pink. Lighter pink with black and silver accents gives a '50s kitchen some vintage Hollywood glam. Go in a mid-century modern direction with a sunny yellow. To tone down the palette of a '50s kitchen, stick with white or cream for a streamlined look.

  2. 2

    Highlight or camouflage 1950s design features. Formica counter tops, vintage appliances, open shelving and other '50s kitchen decor standbys get a subtle update with shiny surfaces provided by stainless steel appliances, chrome accents and glassware. On the other end of the spectrum, deck out your kitchen with a Formica table, diner chairs, Fiesta Ware dishes and a retro electric range. For a futuristic angle, go with bubble shapes on chairs and light fixtures and pedestal supports on tables and chairs.

  3. 3

    Integrate textiles that extend the look of your 1950s kitchen decor. Bark cloth curtains may feature atomic age patterns of abstract blobs, geometric shapes or Tiki-inspired plants. For a simpler retro look, use vintage tea towels as cafe curtains, chair cushion covers and napkins. If you prefer a more contemporary look, stick with monochromatic pieces that lighten the palette of the room, typically white, cream, pale yellow or a faded earth tone.

  4. 4

    Illuminate your 1950s kitchen to show off its attributes. Pendant lights or globe lights can give your kitchen funky style, while a modernised version may feature stainless steel pendant lanterns in sleek shapes. For a more streamlined look, use recessed or track lighting.

Tips and warnings

  • Personalise your 1950s kitchen by lining a floating shelf with a collection of vintage dishes, bottles or canisters.
  • Fluorescent lighting provides too much glare in retro kitchens filled with Formica or modern updates with stainless steel and other metal fixtures.

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