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Retro kitchen ideas: how to get the vintage look whatever your budget

Bring a vintage vibe into the kitchen with furniture, appliances and accessories inspired by the colours and styles of the mid-century

Retro kitchen ideas

The retro look is always popular in kitchens and, whether it’s 1940s post-war nostalgia, the pastel pop of the 1950s, the swinging Sixties or the oranges and browns of the 1970s, many homeowners are seeking out the comfort of a bygone age.

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The latest trend for a familiar, cocooning feel is all about creating a room that feels warm and homely with cabinetry, tiles, flooring, appliances and accessories that can be used either to create a full-on homage to times gone by, or to inject a bit of character to an otherwise classic or contemporary design.

The best way to tackle it is to choose an era that appeals to you visually, then stick to that period – try not to combine retro styles, as this could end up as a confusing mix. Use statement appliances, decorative tiles and flooring, and vintage-coloured units for an eye-catching scheme that’s practical too.

The best retro-kitchen ideas

retro kitchen

This 1950s-style kitchen by John Lewis of Hungerford screams American diner, thanks to its high-gloss cabinets in soft shades with curved details, chrome accents and contrasting red worktops.

‘A lot of people really buy into the American-diner style, look and feel of a kitchen. It’s not just the cabinetry, it’s the whole space – chequerboard flooring, kitsch bar stools and appliances,’ says Ellie Jackson, Kitchen Designer at John Lewis of Hungerford.

‘Retro kitchens usually involve big, bold colours, which is exciting and different in comparison to other styles on the market. They bring the space to life and are more vibrant.’

Patterned retro tiles
Adorne Santiago porcelain tiles, £50 per sq m, Tile Giant

Combining a traditional pattern with a clean, modern finish turns a plain wall into a retro statement. Pick out some of the colours with your small appliances and accessories to tie it all together.

Retro flooring

For a Sixties vibe underfoot, think geometric patterned vinyl and team with a monochrome scheme. Pair white cabinetry and stools with black accents for lighting, small appliances and accessories. Vinyl is slip- and water-resistant as well as being warm and comfy to walk on, like the Starfloor Tile Cube 3D Luxury Vinyl shown above in Grey, £36.99 per sq m, Carpetright.

Retro wallpaper

Choose retro wallpaper to add a vintage feel to the kitchen or dining area of an open-plan layout. You can recreate any look from the 1940s onwards as there are so many different prints available – including this 1970s-inspired Groovy Baby pattern from Lust Home, £40 per roll.

Smeg retro fridge
FAB28 fridge in Pastel Blue, £1,439, Smeg

One of the easiest ways to get the retro look is to invest in a Smeg appliance or two. Its iconic refrigerators have the curvaceous Fifties-style look and come in a huge choice of colours, from pastel blue and pink to white, black, cream and red

‘The retro look is popular for its nostalgic style that harks back to a different time. The curved, spacey look of Fifties-inspired appliances injects timeless appeal in small doses without overpowering both traditional and contemporary kitchens,’ says John Davies, Head of Marketing at Smeg UK.

Buy and source original retro kitchen furniture

Search for original retro pieces of furniture on eBay and Gumtree as well as car boot sales. Someone else’s junk could turn out to be your next big purchase! Then shop for retro wallpaper and tile reproductions to complete the look, like this Hoja Silverbirch wallpaper, £76 per roll, MissPrint.

Retro tile splashback
Heritage Sky Blue self-adhesive glass splashback, from £175, splashback.co.uk

One-piece glass splashbacks can add a hit of decorative retro style in an instant, and they are quick and easy to wipe clean. Look for a colour palette that either complements or contrasts with your cabinetry depending on whether you want a co-ordinated feel or something that stands out. 

Retro pendant light
Rise & Fall School light, £589, Original BTC

Rise-and-fall pendant lights are given a modern twist in a polished copper finish. Hang in a row of two or three over an island or breakfast bar so you can adjust the light, depending on whether you’re prepping food or kicking back with a coffee. 

Retro kitchen blind
Orla Kiely Rosebud Orange roller blind, from £54.23 for 60 x 60cm, John Lewis and Terry’s Fabrics

Get an instant 1970s feel by hanging a retro-inspired roller blind at the window. Orla Kiely’s designs are perfect for this, as they feature large curvy leaves and buds in bold, bright colours

Fusion Studio TIFF File
White and Labrador Green Slim Shaker kitchen, from £10,000, Trend Interiors

‘The 1970s were all about the early days of the fitted kitchen and the Shaker style was hugely popular. Moving from post-war Britain with larders and modular furniture to having a fitted kitchen was a real luxury and homeowners were keen to make the most of the look,’ says Mark Mills, Managing Director at Trend Interiors.

Keeping the kitchen simple stays true to its Shaker origins and using a darker colour gives an authentic 1970s look. You can always lighten up the room with wall units in a contrasting white finish.

6 must-have retro kitchen accessories

Retro tea towel
  • Misteratomic – Tomato Power tea towel, £9.50, Home Landing
Retro egg cup
Retro traditional school milk bottle
  • Traditional School Milk Bottle, £1.95, Rex London
Retro-inspired slow cooker
  • Swan Retro slow cooker, £29.99, Wayfair
Retro teapot
Retro kitchen chairs
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  • Dutchbone Scuola chair, £436 for four, Cuckooland

More retro kitchen ideas

Need more inspiration? Check out our colour schemes hub to find your perfect style