Take a Look at These 1930s - 1940s Kitchens

Interior view of a 1940s kitchen

Joan Vanderschut / Courtesy of BHG

The 1930s and 1940s were unique decades marked both by war and hope. The overall feeling of sentimentality and a brighter outlook for the future was evident in many interior design trends, including the style of the kitchen. While the first half of the 1940s was defined by the same design trends found in the 1930s due to WWII, the second half of the decade ushered in new technology, new style, and new materials that otherwise were not available during wartime. 

These two decades are characterized by bright colors, a juxtaposition of familiar items with sleek, modern pieces, and unique, innovative material choices. By learning more about key features of kitchen design in the 1930s and 1940s, you can incorporate an authentic, vintage, or retro feeling into your own kitchen. 

Linoleum in 1930s and 1940s Kitchens

Linoleum was a very popular material choice in both the 1930s and the 1940s. Linoleum flooring was especially popular and could be found in many designs, patterns, and bold colors. Aside from flooring, linoleum cutout detailing and even linoleum cabinets can be widely found throughout many 1930s and 1940s kitchen designs. 

Linoleum flooring frequently featured a checkerboard pattern of two alternating colors. It’s one of the most significant and bold kitchen design choices you can make for a vintage feel in your kitchen. The advantages of linoleum flooring include the fact that it’s a natural material that is easy to install and maintain, although it does need periodic resealing.

Checkered linoleum flooring in a 1930's 1940's kitchen

Laurie Black / Courtesy of Remodel

1930s and 1940s Kitchens with Enameled Appliances 

The 1930s or 1940s kitchen wouldn’t be complete without their iconic enameled appliances. The most popular enameled appliance is the stove. Often seen in white, enameled appliances in the 1930s and 1940s were also found in bright colors such as red, blue, and green. Besides appliances, enameled metal tables, sinks, and other kitchen fixtures were also popular.  

Today, you can shop for enameled appliances that have a retro appearance with modern technology. Enameled, brightly colored refrigerators are the most popular option to make a vintage style statement in your kitchen. You can complete the look with smaller enameled appliances, as well—like a toaster or electric kettle. For a DIY update to your kitchen appliance package, you can also purchase appliance enamel paint and give your kitchen range a fresh coat of 1930s and 1940s-inspired color. 

View of bright red enameled refrigerator in a 1940's kitchen

Troy Campbell / Courtesy of Kitchen and Bath Ideas

A Mix of Old and New Elements

As new technology became available in the 1940s after the war, a blend of new and old design elements began to emerge in the kitchen. Familiar, nostalgic items from this time era sat alongside new advancements, such as the toaster, electric stove, and electric tea kettle. 

Because the 1930s and 1940s were known for freely integrating old and new pieces, don’t be afraid to adopt this same approach for your own vintage kitchen design project. For example, modern kitchens might include a wine cooler while still incorporating retro elements, like an enameled two-door refrigerator and a vintage color scheme. This intentional mix of old and new paves the way for incorporating modern technology with retro design, allowing the space to blend harmoniously while serving a functional purpose.

Bright, Cheerful Color Palettes 

No 1930s or 1940s design scheme would be the same without this era’s iconic vibrant, cheerful color palettes. Kitchens of this time period were often seen in two-tone color palettes, with both colors repeating throughout the space in different patterns for floor or wall coverings or as an appliance finish. Popular color choices included cherry red, pink, deep blues, white, bright yellow, and a wide range of green tones. 

To bring the kitchen design of the decades to your home, opt for brightly colored patterns, appliances, and window treatments. When choosing a color scheme, try to keep it to two or three colors that continually repeat throughout the room. This will not only keep the space from becoming too busy but will also tie each aspect of the room together in a harmonious way. 

Bright cherry red color repeating in a 1940s kitchen

Troy Campbell / Courtesy of Kitchen and Bath Ideas

Green color scheme in a 1930s 1940s kitchen

Nancy Nolan / Courtesy of Do It Yourself

Popular Patterns in 1930s and 1940s Kitchens

Just as certain colors were popular during this time, so were specific design patterns. Checkered patterns, gingham, polka dots, florals, and designs with fruits and vegetables were often prominently featured in 1930s and 1940s kitchen designs. Paired with the above-mentioned colors, these patterns added to the cheerful, bright feel of the spaces during these decades and reflected the hope that people were striving for in the post-World War II era. 

Today, vintage patterns and design elements are popular across a variety of materials and styles. You can easily incorporate these patterns in window treatments, flooring, wallpaper, artwork, tablecloths, or other items that tie the space together. Whether or not you are ready to do a complete kitchen renovation or are looking to add a few retro details to your existing kitchen, adding a 1930s and 1940s-inspired pattern to your space is a great way to incorporate this iconic retro feel. 

Gingham and fruit motifs used in a 1930s 1940s kitchen

Laurie Black / Courtesy of Kitchen Makeovers

Gingham and fruit motifs in a kitchen from the 1030s 1940s

Laurie Black / Courtesy of Kitchen Makeovers

Furniture of 1930s and 1940s Kitchens

Kitchen furniture in the 1930s and 1940s reflected a simple, practical aesthetic. A table and chair set provided seating for meals, but banquettes were also a popular pick. An upholstered bench, usually built-in to the space with a padded backrest, provided plenty of space for family and friends to gather. The aesthetic of a banquette can be modernized with the style and upholstery choices you make, but the practical design carries an appealing retro flair. 

Meal in 1940s kitchen at Mid-Atlantic Air Museum

Joseph Sohm / Getty Images

Modern Day Look at Kitchen from 1930s
Ellenm1 / Flickr / CC BY 2.0