Creating a Vintage Kitchen: Tips and Ideas for a Unique Design

Jenny Cazares| Dean Cabinetry

By: Jenny Cazares

Whether you live in a circa 1600-1900s home, you can remodel your kitchen with new cabinetry while keeping with the original aesthetic, or create this look in your new construction home.

What details make a vintage kitchen?

There are several unique features to think about when you want to create a beautiful vintage kitchen that looks like it’s been there for 100+ years. Some classify Victorian kitchen designs as part of the vintage era.

If you are remodeling your vintage home, and ready for new cabinets, you may want to remove and reuse any vintage pieces you can (if they are in good shape). These might include hinges, knobs and pulls, glass doors, lighting, and countertops. 

But don’t fret…if you need to purchase any of these items new, you should be able to find vintage replications online.

Can I create vintage kitchen cabinets style with new cabinets?

Painting and distressing cabinets will make your cabinets look older. You can even add glaze, burn marks, or dents on the cabinets for a vintage effect.

Many custom cabinet providers work with artists to create a distinct vintage look on new cabinets, like aging and patina.

This would give your “new” kitchen an older feel; it just depends on how vintage you’d like your kitchen to look. The age of your kitchen can be adjusted to your taste. It is a good idea to consult your custom cabinet partner.

What hinges should I use on my cabinets?

Butt and strap hinges were most commonly used in vintage cabinetry. They are visible on the outside of the cabinets, unlike the hidden hinges used today. With the Butt hinge, you will see the barrel on the outside of your cabinetry.

The Strap hinge adds a really nice look to your vintage kitchen and is very popular in recreating the look of that era.

vintage hinges
Vintage Cast Iron Butt Hinges-Pinterest / Vintage Strap Hinge-This Old House

Are glass cabinet doors common in vintage kitchens?

It was very common to see leaded glass or obscure glass doors in the wall cabinets of vintage kitchens. You may remember seeing hand blown glass with imperfections, like “bubbles”, in kitchens years ago. 

This look can be recreated in your kitchen remake or new kitchen. There are many different styles of glass options to choose from to create a vintage look; look for leaded glass professionals in your local area.

Should I add open shelves for a vintage kitchen cabinets look?

Open shelves are practical and convenient and provide easy access to your dishes. Vertical racks, for storing plates, were a popular item seen in older kitchens. 

For a vintage look, you could wallpaper the inside back surface of a wall cabinet. For simplicity, choose a vinyl, peel and stick wallpaper, with a vintage print. You can easily remove it if you want to change the design.

Bead board can be added to the back of your open shelves for a beautiful look. You can also use painted bead board as a backsplash.

vintage kitchen cabinets
Custom, Distressed Vintage Cabinets-Pinterest

Should I choose painted cabinets?

Vintage cabinets were often painted; finishes of white, cream, blue, green, and yellow were very popular. These variations can range from very rich and dark, to very light shades of these colors. 

I personally feel the lighter colors look better distressed than the darker colors. Collaborate with your kitchen cabinet partner to determine the overall look you’d like to achieve for your vintage kitchen. They should guide you in how to customize the best finish for your new kitchen.

vintage kitchen
Custom Vintage Green Cabinets-Pinterest / Blue Vintage Colonial Pinterest

Was it common to blend painted and natural wood together?

Many vintage kitchens have a natural wood element in their kitchen. These might include a stained or natural wood piece of cabinetry, like a pantry, glass hutch, retro kitchen countertops, or butcher block island.

Blending natural wood and painted cabinets is a common element of vintage kitchens. It adds a beautiful, warm, and rustic feel.

Should I use butcher block countertops?

Wood countertops were the only option for kitchens for centuries, until 1913 when Formica was made. 

Today, we have many choices for counters. If you want, though, to create a true vintage kitchen, choose a butcher block countertop.

To care for your butcher block, disinfect with vinegar (or bleach in extreme cases). Allow it to dry completely, then refresh with mineral oil. With proper care, your butcher block countertop will last for years.

Should I choose a farmhouse sink for my vintage kitchen?

The farm sink is a staple for the vintage kitchen. Farm sinks were a “must have”, created in the 17th century for its ergonomic design. Its design was crucial, when women would spend hours at their sink, and even had to haul water inside for cooking and cleaning dishes.

The typical farmhouse sink (Apron sink) is white porcelain, however, cast iron farmhouse sinks were also popular for their durability. I would recommend choosing a self trimming farm sink, as they make installation much easier.

antique kitchen hutch
Farm sink, butt hinges & blending painted & wood cabinets for a vintage look - Pinterest

How do I choose vintage hardware?

Vintage, cast iron, “Cup” handle hardware were very common years ago. It is easy to grip, you can choose a simple smooth cup or a more elaborate design.

These cast iron cup pulls also come in a Patina Finish.

You can also choose glass knobs, which were also very common in vintage kitchens.

What lighting fixtures go with a vintage kitchen?

Typically, vintage light fixtures were of a very simple design. If you prefer a more elegant light fixture, you can dress your vintage kitchen with a reproduction vintage fixture. Even if you are on a budget, you should be able to find the perfect lighting fixture that fits the look you are trying to achieve.

vintage lighting
Reproduction lighting – WayFair

What decorative items should I add to my vintage kitchen?

Fabric window shades with a vintage print, are lovely, and add privacy if needed. An antique kitchen hutch can add style to your vintage kitchen style.

Large pitchers, containers, or vintage racks will add a nice touch and are convenient for storage.

retro kitchen countertops
Vintage Kitchen Containers – Dillard’s

What about a vintage kitchen faucet?

You shouldn’t have any issues finding a vintage kitchen faucet. There are a multitude of companies that replicate vintage faucets.

Be sure to have your faucet on site when your countertop professional comes to install your countertops. They will need them to know the location and sizing of holes. 

If you choose a high back farm/apron sink, the faucet holes should already be cut in the porcelain sink. 

I hope that this blog has given you some great ideas for replicating a vintage kitchen design. Talk to your kitchen cabinet partners for more ideas on customizing the cabinets for your vintage kitchen, to create a beautiful kitchen for years of enjoyment.