Just as mid-century modern decor has seen a resurgence in recent years, the kitchen has followed suit and retro kitchen appliances have been making a comeback for the young, eclectic and style savvy set. However, what you see may look like the appliances of years past, but a quick look under the hood tells another story, as they are equipped with today’s cutting edge technology, which is a far cry from what was offered in the 1950s. Vintage styling equipped with today’s technology – the best of both worlds!
The first few months of 2014 I spent traveling around the country to various trade shows and I observed that even though much focus was on the large high end luxury kitchen, equally as important these days is the hip, stylish (and much more affordable) kitchen that reflects the personalities of today’s more affluent and style savvy first time buyers and young families.
Big Chill – Retro Kitchen Appliances
While at the Architectural Digest Home Design Show in New York with Blogtour, I came across Big Chill, which specializes in “modern made classics” for the kitchen. They have a choice of 8 standard color finishes, but if you are looking for something a little bit more special, 200 custom colors are also available for order, so you are bound to find a very close match.
The styling is similar to what we saw back in the 50s, down to the logos, rounded corners, polished chrome knobs and handles, and amped up color. However, unlike the appliances back in the 50s, these retro kitchen appliances utilize today’s modern technology. For example, the Big Chill refrigerators are Energy Star efficient and come equipped with automatic moisture control and a temperature management system, among other things.
Also in the Big Chill line of appliances are microwaves, dishwashers, ranges, refrigerators, wall ovens, hoods, and under counter refrigerators.
Northstar by Elmira Stove Works – Retro Kitchen Appliances
Northstar, a division of Elmira Stove Works out of Ontario, Canada, also has an extensive offering of retro kitchen appliances. In response to consumer demand, they have added a french door refrigerator and modified it so that looks like it would have in the 50s had a french door option been available at that time.
Northstar has an entire fleet of retro kitchen appliances including microwaves, ranges, hoods, dishwasher panels, beverage fridges, and keg fridges. Did I say keg fridges? Yes I did. Beverages seem to be a major point of interest in the Northstar line of retro kitchen appliances, and no, I’m not complaining. I think it’s brilliant, but I think most wives would probably shoot down the idea of a keg fridge in the main kitchen, don’t you?
The nice thing about this new breed of retro kitchen appliances, is that they fit in with their surroundings perfectly. They don’t overwhelm the space but provide a bright and cheery pop of color. The are probably not what I would choose for the 10,000 ft McMansion, as they are better suited for the cozy beach cottage, an early 1900s Craftsman bungalow (there are many of those in Pasadena, where I live!), or perhaps a cool downtown loft. Big style, for cozy and charming spaces.
Smeg- Retro Kitchen Appliances
Smeg even has a line of small retro kitchen appliances which will be available soon – the perfect compliment to the retro kitchen.
Merillat Cabinetry – the 1940s kitchen
One thing I stumbled across while at the Kitchen and Bath Show (KBIS) held in Las Vegas in January was the Merillat Cabinetry booth. There, the period correct kitchen that company founder Orville and and his wife Ruth Merillat hand built for a friend in 1946 was reassembled, down to every last detail. In1996, in honor of the company’s 50th anniversary, Merillat employees tracked down the house where the Merillats had installed their first kitchen. They pulled out the original cabinetry (and replaced it with Merillat cabinets from the current line), then reassembled the original cabinetry and kitchen as a surprise for Orville and Ruth Merillat. Notice that from the outside, the appliances you see in this picture do not look much different than the retro kitchen appliances that are being offered today. But look inside and there is a world of difference in energy efficiency and technological advances.
As the options are expanding and customization continues to be a major selling point for kitchens, more and more manufacturers will be shifting to offering a bigger selection of colors. Stainless steel has experienced a long run, but the consumer is starting to look towards other alternatives to customize their kitchens. As much as some manufacturers are concentrating on moving forward with modern design, there are a growing number of companies that realize that we always need to look back in order to move forward (think of all the period revivals in architecture and how each subsequent architectural period was more exuberant than the revival period that preceded it.) This is exactly why I see the demand for retro kitchen appliances continuing through at least the next few years – we have much greater things coming in our future.