Is a Retro Kitchen a No-No?

After 23 years of marriage, my wife and I have met our Waterloo: Our kitchen’s remodel. I’ve always dreamed of having a 50s-style diner kitchen. My wife says they’re tacky and wants a modern, chef’s kitchen. Neither of us are chefs by-the-way.  We’re turning to you to mediate. Are 50s kitchens tacky? - Paul & Marie in Sedona, Arizona

You seem like a hip couple. Let me see if I can help you out.


Paul, you’ll be happy to know that my answer is no, 50s and/or retro kitchens are not tacky as a rule.  But like any bold design choice, a retro kitchen can go sideways quickly. Your wife’s fears are valid. Here are my thoughts on how to include some kitsch in your kitchen without rocking and rolling your marriage.

50s retro kitchenPhoto (c) HGTV, Jennifer Designs

It’s important to see a return on your investment. One of the reasons your wife might be hesitant to go full 50s is that buyers might not like it whenever you decide to sell.  That being said, there are several ways to incorporate some swinging style into the contemporary bones of your space. This kitchen’s gorgeous white cabinets and black countertops will work with a variety of future styles.  The sweet sea foam appliances and hardware, however, are much easier to swap out and give this space a wonderfully nostalgic feel.

Retro 50s KItchenPhoto (c) HGTV

Maybe your wife is into calmer colors and worries you’ll fill the heart of her home with neon lights and bright red vinyl.  As this kitchen demonstrates, a clean, calm cookery can still be given a kick in the 50s with vintage touches and a simple graphic backsplash.  The gorgeous farmer’s sink and use of natural light keep this space feeling cozy and serene.

50s Retro KitchenPhoto (c) HGTV

Maybe your wife just really loves modern kitchens and stainless steel.  That doesn’t mean your style shouldn’t be represented. What is it about 50s kitchen that appeals to you? Is it an attachment to the classic diners all of us love so much? Adding banquette seating to any kitchen design can give you the thrill of going out to eat without ever leaving home.

50s Retro KitchenPhoto (c) HGTV, SPI Design

In the end, Paul, while your wife might keep you from your dream kitchen, she can never rob you of your right to accessorize.  Consider some glass jars filled with nostalgic candy, diner style glassware or some of the amazing vintage-inspired small appliances available now. These retro toasters from Crate & Barrel might help fill your 50s void and will look great in any modern chef’s kitchen.

50s retro toasters

Photo (C) HGTV Marketplace

Comments (2)

  1. Bonnie says:

    Sea foam colored appliances, who knew?? Awesome kitchen and geat ideas on how this couple can each get what they want most in their kitchen remodel.

  2. Karen says:

    Great photos and great advice,,,, person's idea of 50's -Diner might be way too kitschy….but these well thought out examples are timeless should appeal to both homeowners.

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